Public Libraries: Patrons, Users, Customers, or Members. Does it matter?


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Do the names we use to refer to the people we serve matter?

It’s a question libraries are grappling with (or at least, should be) in an increasingly consumer-centric industry where libraries need to think and act like consumer brands.

Many libraries still shirk at the idea of sidling up to anything that looks like for-profit marketing. After all, libraries are institutions. They’re stalwarts. They hold the keys to information, collectible treasures, and one-of-a-kind documents. They’re steeped in free service and adding culture to communities.

Marketing adulterates libraries. Or does it?

It’s time to turn that idea on its head because not marketing libraries is far more of a disservice to communities than broadcasting introductions to library services, education, and information.

Because that’s what marketing really is. It’s not selling. It’s telling.

It’s not forcing things people don’t want. It’s showing them they can get to what they need.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Salespeople close deals. They turn products and services into cash.

Libraries guide knowledge. They add power to resources by leading the charge in information literacy.

Libraries must market themselves.

In a time when generous benefactors are aging out of AARP and younger generations turn to Google searches and 1-click e-book downloads, they must show that value in new and relevant ways if they hope to stay funded, increase usage and services, and survive. Insisting that people know you’re there and what you have ignores reality.

The truth is, not everyone knows. And if they do, they have no idea how you’ve changed to accommodate the 21st century. Time to get the word out.

Have an honest conversation about who you serve

Understanding who you serve, and adopting a consistent and organization-wide term for them, will help personalize and frame thoughts and messages toward them.

Let’s break down the most common choices:


PatronWhile patron has been librarians’ preferred nom de rigueur—some will fortify troops to defend its use—it’s stuffy, dated, and, according to research by Joan Frye Williams, the people who use libraries don’t like it. Given the changing nature of libraries, where libraries kept and controlled information to the internet now pre-empting the library’s domain, it’s a highbrow term that feels exclusive. People don’t need us like they did and bristle at the librarian-knows-all positioning this reference alludes.

Try calling a 20-something a patron. It’s akin to Ma’am. Polite, maybe. But not trendy. Not hip. Not cool. And not winning anyone over.


UserUsers use and consume. That the law defines use as the continued enjoyment of a right implies an all-take relationship. Who hasn’t heard the phrase use and abuse? That’s not what we work so hard to accomplish. We’re not here to be used up.

Drug addicts are users.

Software developers design for users and user experiences, but the term implies abstract entities, not people. Our people have hearts and brains and reasons that motivate them to seek and learn.

Libraries are here to help, to inform, and educate. And we’re here to learn from the people we encounter.

People who use libraries are readers, learners, researchers, students, and parents cultivating next generation literacy. Sure, they use the library, but they aren’t users.


CustomerIn business, customers are the lifeblood of survival. They hold power in their independence to research, shop, compare, and make purchasing decisions. Businesses who don’t deliver or respond with the most value, best products, or stellar customer service won’t last.

For libraries, customer service has become much more of a “thing” but the overall relationship departs from traditional consumerism. The people who use libraries aren’t shopping around for the best price and they’ll come back for what’s free, even if not ranked high on Yelp or delivered with flair.

True, libraries are competitive, with Amazon and Barnes and Noble for instance, but the overall service relationship and the who is serving whom and for what reasons differ. Customer just doesn’t quite fit.


MemberAn individual belonging to a group.

A piece of a structure.

A subscriber. An associate.. A card-carrying member.

Who doesn’t want to belong?

And isn’t that what libraries can and should cultivate? — A constant exchange of what do you need, here’s what I want, and how can we work together?

The term “member” gives members a nod toward their part in something bigger. It acknowledges their ownership in this altruistic and inclusive service.

Getting library teams to adopt Members

If you adopt members as your new library who, how do make that change within your teams?

Marketing is at least 35% internal and getting your team to adopt the new name will require effort. As a leader, here are three things you can do:

  1. You use the term.
  2. You explain more than once or twice why it matters (Feel free to share this article!).
  3. You enforce its use. Make it light-hearted but not.

Does it matter if your team is on board with using member? Yes, it does. And here are three compelling reasons why:

  1. Professionalism. If everyone on the team uses common terminology, it shows proactive thought and displays vision. It’s catchy and good for team building.
  2. Mindset. Adopting a consistent moniker for those you serve helps everyone get on the same page. It is helpful to remember that members can be young or old, a huge benefactor or not, an avid researcher, a weekend reader, movie buff, or teen creator. Cultivate an environment (and team) that knows the people who walk through the door are all part of what you do.
  3. Member-service. Probably no one will wonder out loud why you no longer call them a patron or customer, but they will notice the shift toward subtly inclusive language and ensuing adjustments in the team’s attitude toward them.

What do you think? Have you adopted members? How did you do it? What was the response?

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Tip the Scale to Sales with Case Studies

Case studies powerfully demonstrate claims made through a sales funnel.

It’s nitty gritty time and prospects want proof.

Keyword-rich webpages did their work. The sales team made their pitch. You might have what they need. But one critical step remains. Proof.

That edge between interested, convinced, and purchase order is one-sided. Your side. And it begs for proof.

Social proof.

Proof your prospect will get what they think they will.

Proof that others got what they thought they would.

Proof that you’ve really addressed and solved similar problems.

Proof they aren’t about to waste their money.

Proof to convince their boss your solution is worth the investment.

Proof they won’t look like an idiot for not doing their homework.

And they don’t want to hear it from you.

Show. Don’t Tell.

9 out of 10 people want social proof

For B2B companies, where the buying cycle and potential relationship is much more complex than a one-click e-commerce transaction, simple product or company ratings won’t hold much value. Your prospects need to know who you’ve helped and how.

On the brink of a decision, case studies are invaluable for telling your stories, building feature awareness, proving your value, and offering proof that you are and will be the real deal.

What is a case study?

Case studies document the development of a situation over a period of time.

Educators have used case studies for years to present real life applications of theory. Instead of just talking about ideas, case studies show them in action, helping readers make connections between  opening scenarios and the process of moving toward outcomes.

Early B2B case study adopters used the same situation/process/outcome model to record, remind and train internal teams of company successes.

SMBs use case studiesMarketers recognized the power of those stories and, coupled with the explosion of digital marketing channels offering instant distribution and access, made them a key ingredient to content marketing strategies. In fact, case studies are the fifth most important element of B2B content marketing strategies for small business marketers. Fully 76% of small business marketers include case studies as a tactic.

What do case studies look like?

Case studies can range from a few simple sentences to technical and in-depth but good ones include:

  • Some context regarding the company and industry.
  • A brief outline of the problem that needed to be solved.
  • How your company specifically addressed the challenge.
  • A statement regarding the experience or value. Was it the product itself or the implementation process or meticulous follow-up?

Case studies can be short and simple.

Brief testimonial quotes are powerful when used alongside corresponding website pages. The good news is that short customer testimonies are the most informal and easiest to get.

Case studies can look like feature articles.

Instead of presenting a case study as a mere business proposition, write it as a narrative story, similar to a feature article in a magazine.

  • Feature article case studies entertain while informing and position your brand as more personable as they depart from industry-speak and employ a more informal tone.
  • Feature article case studies work well for weekly or monthly newsletters and custom publications.

Case studies can be in-depth and technical.

If your product, service and buying cycle is complex, it may make sense to write more in-depth case studies. Be sure to develop a template so all case studies follow the same format. For instance:

  • Benefit-specific title
  • Company and scenario introduction
  • Challenge
  • Solution
  • Key features (or value propositions) used in solution
  • Outcomes or results

Getting case studies written

We hesitate to ask for them because:

  • It seems like a burden — we look at our own to-do list and figure, who has time?
  • We’re not sure who to ask — do we ask the CEO, whom we suspect barely writes emails?
  • We fear the answer — will they say something nice?
  • We think customers might not want others to know what they are doing.

Any of these could be valid hurdles but none are so detrimental as to avoid asking, but be sure to make your ask as simple and easy as possible.

Send a follow up email thanking customers for their business and ask if they would take just a minute to write two to three sentences about their experience with you.

Develop a simple template prompting the answers you need. For instance, We sought out your company because we needed _________; Your company helped us by __1) 2) 3)__; What we most appreciated about the experience was ___________; We would recommend your company because ___________.

Assign an internal customer experience representative to contact customers and ask for a verbal testimony (using a similar pre-scripted template as above).

Hire a contract writer to write your case studies. A copywriter can be more objective and is often better received by a customer who may feel more comfortable offering their experience opinions to an outside party. A copywriter will write professionally and should be able to deliver your case study in any format — short, feature narrative, or longer form.

Plan case studies around business objectives

No matter who writes your case studies, be sure to have a plan or you’ll end up with vague case studies that will not meet your brand or sales objectives. Here are three strategies for making case studies more powerful:

Highlight specific value propositions. Which aspect of your brand, product or service do you need to build awareness for? Who has benefitted from that aspect? Approach them for stories.

Write case studies for key industry verticals. Companies want to read about companies like theirs. Produce a library of case studies highlighting different problems within one industry.

Build case studies around particular pain points. If you solve the same few problems over and over, write case studies around those. Case studies will highlight the different ways you’ve approached a similar problem for different sized companies or industries.

Once you have a pile of case studies, use them! Produce an email campaign introducing one company or problem per email. Add a call to action click-through to the story on your website or blog. Add a case studies tab to your website and use key quotes on appropriate pages. Post teasers to case studies on social media and be sure to print them in a one-page format for sales teams.

Take your cue from 76% of SMB marketers and make them a critical piece of your content arsenal.

Design thinking content marketing

Design thinking informs content marketing process

Design thinking made its mark in education as a structured approach to generating and developing ideas.

At the design thinking core are five phases:

  1. Discovery — I have a challenge. How do I approach it?
  2. Interpretation — I learned something. How do I interpret it?
  3. Idea — I see an opportunity. What do I create?
  4. Experiment — I have an idea. How do I build it?
  5. Evolve — I tried something. How do I evolve it?

In education, design thinking is based on empathy, or needs, with a bias toward action. For a leader, that might mean discovering what teachers want and need before planning for professional development solutions. For a teacher, it could mean polling students before deciding how to design a classroom.

Design thinking assumes a need or challenge, moving parts and a circular cycle of thought, try, measure, and change. Kind of like science. And marketing.

Design thinking IS content marketing

Marketing, and more recently, content marketing, has always followed this design thinking process.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 8.50.36 AMDiscovery

Marketers start with a challenge. From a company perspective, challenges often starts with internal objectives such as procuring qualified leads for the sales team, increasing brand recognition, and positively impacting revenue.

Design thinking marketers know challenges start with prospects, their pain points, what they need, and why. Their discovery journeys glean important nuances that will answer query search questions and deliver solutions, sometimes before prospects ask.

Discovery activities might include market research (formal or informal), participating in LinkedIn groups and discussions, following key Twitter influencers, talking to current customers, networking with prospects at trade shows and conferences, and grilling field representatives for the latest wave of objections and insights.

Interpret content marketingInterpret

Design thinking content marketers must then make leaps between company and business objectives and prospect challenges. Healthy companies will not leave this important step to the marketing department as a match-up between product or service and need is essential for survival and growth.

Assuming a company has viable and needed solutions, it is the design thinking marketer’s job to interpret how to build and tell a story that will be found, be interesting, and encourage cycles of engagement. Interpreting the best way to tell and deliver a brand story includes determining the best mix of medium and channels. For instance, marketers must determine which social media channels targets use most, whether they would prefer to download and read white papers, short blog posts or weekly newsletters, how they might search for information relating to their challenge, the tone of voice that will most resonate, and the best, most direct calls to action as well as whether targets will consume information at their desks or on-the-go, through desktop computers, tablets or mobile devices.

Historical analytics can help make these decisions but often companies embarking on a content or digital marketing journey do not have sophisticated analytic tracking in place. Knowing how to apply and use tools such as Google Analytics will be crucial, if not in the first iteration, in the second interpretation as the cycle comes back around.

Design thinking ideaIdea

Once a design thinking marketer interprets and connects objectives and needs, they get to work generating ideas for campaigns, outlining how and when each channel can and should be used in the process.

For instance, along with writing a white paper, a content marketer will make decisions such as whether or not the white paper will be a gated resource (requiring opt-in trade-off such as contact information) and where it will live on a website or landing page as well as how to pique interest in the topic through a series of short, well-written teasers on social media and how to optimize email headlines and messages for the most opens and click-throughs. Savvy marketers will research keywords and add campaign tracking codes to pay per click and social media ads to source web traffic for later analysis.

Experiment with design thinkingExperiment

While marketers would love to know their research and carefully designed campaigns will always result in a positive ROI, they (and the C-suite) can take a lesson from scientific method. After all, Viagra began life as a heart medication and Playdoh, as a wallpaper cleaner. While not every activity achieves its desired results, we can reap lucky consequences or, at the very least, learn what not to do through experimentation.

At some point, design thinkers, scientists, and content marketers must release their work into the world and let it fly.

Evolve with design thinkingEvolve

Today’s marketers have dashboards and analytics to monitor and measure nearly every aspect of content marketing. Email service providers report statistics such as deliveries, opens, and clicks at a minimum. Most drill down to detailed stats as to which targets opened an email, when, from where, on what device, and which links they clicked. Social media channels offer proprietary analytics, while Google allows for highly sophisticated tracking of nearly everything a marketer can imagine about visitors’ sources and browsing behaviors. Marketers can also use platforms that streamline and help manage the complicated web of channels and activities using automated marketing software such as Hubspot or Eloqua.

Design thinking marketers will use these tools to check results, discover what worked, and test future activities against lessons learned.

And thus, the cycle begins anew. Each marketing discovery leads to a higher degree of sophistication in message, method, tone and process, an evolution that allows ideas to be born, tested, and adjusted to achieve the ever-changing and evolving prospect pain points, business goals and objectives.


What Hansel & Gretel teaches content marketers

Content marketers can learn from Hansel and Gretel. Finding your way home is where it’s at.

From breadcrumbs to business

Done well in content marketing, leaving a trail of tasty tidbits turns strangers into readers into prospects and, ultimately, into customers. Readers consume each breadcrumb and make a decision. Will they look for the next?

Each crumb consumed edges them closer to your blog or your lead magnet (such as an ebook or white paper) or to sign up for your mailing list or your website or whatever you determined as your call to action.

It’s called inbound marketing by some, permission marketing by others, and content marketing by others still. Content marketing can be disconcerting to those still steeped in methods of traditional interruption marketing.

What is was interruption marketing?

Interruption marketing was known for interrupting. Think about watching Kevin make a move on Winnie on The Wonder Years — instead of a steady slide toward gratification, Crest interrupts to tell you your teeth are dingy.

Interruption marketing still has its place, but technology changed the way prospects can, and therefore want, to access solutions to their problems.

In the old days, consumers waited for information to be served to them. That was the choice. It was all they could do.

Today, consumers rent Netflix, opt out of Facebook ads and pay subscription fees for mobile apps to avoid advertisements.

They Google it when they have a problem.

Your job is to be there with your breadcrumbs when they do.


People don’t know they have a problem until they do. But when they do, they embark on a fact-finding mission.

90 minute PD for Common Core search resultsFor instance, google 90 minute PD workshops for Common Core instruction and breeze through the first page of results. You’ll discover questions, strategies, and theories. Notice that none match the query precisely, but many pose intriguing lead-ins that might be relevant.

The first result that looks more like a product than news is PD in Common Core Literacy Based-Instruction at Discovering this site had less to do with the search terms as it did with Max Teaching’s use of key words — Common Core, PD, instruction — optimized through the headline, the meta tags, and in the content in article itself. They know what principals need and made sure they were findable by using SEO best practices. They earned a visitor.


Once a searcher finds a site, it takes 50 milliseconds — that’s 0.05 seconds — to determine whether they’ll stick around. Website Magazine cites load speed, design, interesting content, and an active blog as reasons visitors leave in a hot second.

Hire a web development team to ensure your graphics are up-to-date and mobile responsive. 80% of internet users use smartphones and nearly 50% use tablets to search the internet. Make sure your site translates to mobile and then, address the content.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.10.14 AMMax Teaching’s click-through page gets right to building thought leadership. They outline a Common Core implementation problem, offer industry thoughts, and then guide a reader into their company’s solution philosophy before asking readers to Click to find out why Max Teaching is a good solution. Though the article is a tad wordy and site’s design is outdated, they’ve done the work of giving visitors another breadcrumb —they clearly know something about the original search problem and invite visitors to come inside.


Unfortunately, Max Teaching’s example falls apart on their click-thru call to action that leads to a pdf article. Chances are good their guests will exit here as there is no obvious breadcrumb to taste next and, though the promise of discovering Max Teaching’s solution might be buried in the content somewhere, it’s way too overwhelming — too much work for time-pressed principals.

In this example from C2 Collaborative, readers followed much the same journey — finding this blog post through a content marketing strategy of optimizing keywords and social media posts.

C2 science blog

The article offers four points of value before mentioning they have a tool to help readers do what they just read about. It’s a subtle mention that pulls readers toward their solution in the form of a landing page that offers specific product information as well as an opportunity to subscribe to an email list.


Once on the email list, readers will continue to read as long as you provide continued valuable content. Through analytics, you can learn a lot about your readers, apply lead scores, and determine the appropriate amount of interaction required before passing their information to a sales team.

Here, they’ve followed the breadcrumbs to your yard. It’s up to you bring Hansel and Gretel home.


Content marketing has done its job. Nurture your readers and support the sales team with sales collateral to support the mission and the message. Not everyone will convert to customers, but done well, good content marketing builds a reputation, encourages referrals, and stands the test of time in establishing an organization as a relevant, viable player.

Video blogging: Add uumph to your content marketing strategy

When copywriting isn’t enough to jumpstart your marketing

It might surprise you to know that not all content needs to be written. In fact, a Nielsonwire’s Global Report notes that watching video content on computers is just as common as watching video content on television. And mobile video consumption growth is biting at computer consumption’s heels.

Think about it. After a long day in the office, staring at mountains of text-driven documents, you open your Google Reader and have a choice between visually stimulating videos and photos or more text. Add a bustling subway ride and the choice is clear. Video wins. Entertain me. Don’t make me work for this.

Video-driven content marketing, though lacking the ever-important keywords, gives you an opportunity to tell your story. And though Google swears it doesn’t give ranking preference to video content on say, You Tube, my experience has been that it kinda does.

Types of video content

Your video, like your blog, can cover different territory. Changing it up keeps your content interesting and allows you to be creative, straightforward or business-like.

Emotional video content

Emotional video content focuses on experience. What experience does your product or service promise? This goes beyond peace of mind. Think lifestyle. What might your client be doing instead of worrying about not having your widget? How will their life be better. Show this story using texture rich images. Here is an example of a low-budget but very effective emotionally-rich video by Cyclopedia of Redding:

Interview video content

Interview video content can be one-sided or two. For a one-sided interview, activate your laptop or iPhone video and start talking. Do check your lighting and background image but don’t worry so much about it being professional grade filming. Just talk. Tell why you do what you do. Be human. Here is one of my earliest and most popular video offerings.

Testimonial video content

Similar to interview content, ask your happy clients if they would be willing to let you film them using your product. Intersperse clips of them telling why they made the decision to go with your company–what did they get with you over your competition, how did you solve their problems?

Here is a great example of a testimonial video for a local high school:

The Shasta Experience by Carson Schmeck


Disclaimer: The videographer for The Shasta Experience was my son, Carson, who is available for video projects. Contact him at CS Photography.


Instructional video content

How-to video content can be one of your most valuable tools. If your product isn’t tangible, consider how you might show your steps using PDF screen shots. Or, simply make your video using Prezi, a free presentation tool.

Variety is the spice of life. Give your readers some visual delight. They’ll thank you for it and you might just find your video posts, because they are so engaging, inviting, humorous, relevant or interesting, go viral.

What do you think? How might you use video blogging to enhance your content strategy?

Wordle for SEO and Content Variety

Now that you’ve got your web pages optimized with keyword phrases and engaging content, have some fun adding variety. This Wordle tool is a great way to test whether you are using enough descriptive and SEO rich words on your website. Does your Wordle communicate what you do and the values you most want to communicate?

You might find your Wordle is cool enough to use as a graphic for additional collateral (brochures, business card, email signature).

Check out the Wordle website and they’ll walk you through a few very simple steps to get yours. Once it is created, you have options to change the size, shape and color. Here is Bizziwriter Copywriter’s message in a Wordle:

Let’s see your Wordle! Please share it with me.

Writing, Branding & Content Marketing: Blogs Worth Your Time

There are zillions of bloggers. Not all bloggers are focused and informative. Even when they are, only a handful write well enough to deliver their blogs in a form worth reading.

These blogs passed muster this week for me:iStock_000009604087XSmall

Writing Blind: How Blind People Manage to Write, a guest post by Maribel Steel on Robert Brewer’s My Name is Not Bob blog. Talk about inspiring. This woman talks about how she has tackled an industry that would seem to rely heavily on our sight. Instead of letting that scare her away, she found tools to help. We could all learn a little lesson here.

Why Consumers Dislike Corporate Brands that Get Too Familiar I don’t like it when a clerk calls me “Hon.” I’m not their “hon”– I’m a customer. But when my husband calls me Babe, I’m fine with it. Why? My husband has earned the right. Apparently, consumers feel the same about corporate messages that use too familiar terms. Find out if your company is making this off-putting blunder.

3 Components of a Content Marketing Calendar that Works by Copyblogger. Content marketing seems to have been the buzz topic of the week. If we had a pyramid of content, this one would be hanging out on top.

Persuade with Silky Smooth Copy by Neuromarketing. Tactile rich words make more of an impact on your readers. Instead of merely processing words, they’ll experience texture. Who knew?

How to Build a Reputation as an Expert with Content Marketing by Small Business Branding. Copyblogger posted about content marketing. I posted about content marketing. And so did this blog. Each one has a slightly different angle. All worth browsing.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Hope you abandon your electronics for the weekend and have some fun.

Writers Who Rock: Best of the Blogathon

Someone told me this is Memorial Day weekend. What? So soon?Daily blogging ending soon

This weekend also brings an end to my Blogathon 2012 Best of the Blogathon 2012 roundups. You might be glad. You might be sad.

I hope you, like me, have learned something and subscribed to a few of these outstanding blogs on your Google Reader.

Here are my choices from this week:

Hands Off Your Cell! by the Gadget Girl. This lighthearted entry offers tips on how to game-fully leave those phones at the door (literally). This seemed especially appropriate since I joined the smart phone ranks just this week.

Business Writing Elmore Leonard Style at Write Better Faster. I love practical. And practical is what you get with these wisdom gems from Jodi Torpey’s fortuitous meeting with a best-selling author.

How to Brand Content on a Budget by Sara Lancaster at No. 2 Pencil. Sara offers consistently great advice for small businesses. Branding is such a soon-to-be-overused buzz word/concept right now, don’t you want to join the bandwagon, too?

The Cheesiest Jingle and Cutest Monkey Writers Ever. Because she made me laugh so hard, Sara Lancaster made my list twice this week. But please, swallow your coffee before watching her video or it’ll be coming out of your nose.

5 Newbie Mistakes I’d Avoid if I Started Blogging Today… by Michelle Rafter. Wednesday was our If I started blogging today theme day and, of course, when experts speak, it is wise to listen. Considering Michelle is our Blogathon Mama, though she has never claimed to be the expert, she does have the chops to prove she knows what she is talking about. Worth reading, for sure.

That’s it. Have a great weekend. Let me know what you think of these in the comments below.

Content Marketing. What it is and What it Isn’t

You’ve probably heard the term content marketing thrown around. But what is it exactly?

Old school marketing relied on outbound strategies. We put our messages out there via billboards, newspapers, television ads and direct mail letters and postcards. Our hope was that if we got our message in front of enough people, we could entice a response from some.

Inbound marketing for the birds

Content marketing defined

"This feeder has top-notch content."

New marketing relies on inbound strategies. Think of inbound and content marketing as a hummingbird feeder where sweet smelling nectar draws prospects in. The feeder offers free tastes of your offerings and birds can decide to hang around or move on. You refill your feeder daily or weekly and offer different nectars each time. Your consistency and ability to feed their needs trains the birds to come to your when they are really hungry. They know you’ll deliver.

Your feeder is your content. A content marketing strategy offers relevant and educational…er…content that, if valuable enough, will move readers to want more. They will come to know you as an expert in your field–a helpful one, at that.

But I’m giving free stuff!

Yes you are. Ever hovered around a Costco lady waiting for your bite-sized sample of Dubliner cheese or Orange Chicken? How many times have you then tossed the box of whatever into your cart? Sampling works. Inbound marketing is all about give and you shall receive.

Focused and targeted engagement

Inbound marketing has evolved largely due to social media and automated tools such as Mail Chimp and Evernote. With Mail Chimp, for instance, you can automate newsletters, emails and curate your RSS feed at regular intervals. The program merges your contact list with your content and off it goes, implementing your inbound marketing program behind the scenes.

The beauty of Mail Chimp is that you can customize content to different groups. For instance, your messages will be slightly different for prospects and current customers. With the former, you’ll want to offer more informational content that gently reminds readers of their pains and ways to solve them. With current customers, your focus may be on alerting them to trends and value-added features of your service.

In other words, you can engage readers where they are in the sales process.

Content Marketing vehicle options

Blogging is probably the most important vehicle for offering content. For one thing, it is as immediate as you need it to be. Editorial calendars allow you to plan future blog entries but you can post your entry as soon as you press Publish. This morning’s industry breakthrough can be news on your blog to your followers by this afternoon.

Email letters can be curations (listing all your blog posts from the week or month) or custom built. Use custom emails to announce a new product, but don’t just push the product, write a newsy piece showing why you developed it and who needed it. Add quotes from your CEO or, even better, an early user. Make it a conversation, not a sales pitch.

Newsletters are a holdout from outbound marketing but they still work as long as they aren’t loosely disguised “we’re so awesome” regals. Give readers something they can really use–even without you or your product.

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and the rest of social media outlets allow you immediate opportunities to be human. Offer content by sharing links to relevant videos, articles and interesting news bits. Scatter your own comments in between–projects you are working on or excited about, photos of happy customers using your product or simple questions and polls.

The oh-so-magical secret ingredient

All of this activity is nothing if you’ve got no way to seal the deal. Calls to action are your doorbells. No doorbell, no permanent visitor. Be sure you’ve got a contact form, a phone number, a link to your Facebook page…something and some way a reader could, if inclined, find you.

To learn more about content marketing and how a strategy might help your business, contact the Bizziwriter at 530.638.3580.


If I started blogging today I would…

Experience is the best teacher.

As an adult, I look back on my late adolescence and know how things could have been better or different for me if only I knew then what I know now.

Same goes for anything really. Take blogging, for instance. In my early blogs (this is my third topical blog), I thought I was the cat’s meow just to get my words published on a page.

As a teenaged blogger, I’ve learned there is so much more. I’ve had this knocking awareness that there are things I don’t know but want to avoid for as long as possible because they are challenging things to know. Or they mean I’ll have to take more responsibility. Or I just don’t want to know because I want my blog’s performance to be someone else’s fault.

Participating in the Blogathon 2012 has forced me into college and made me decide whether or not I want to be serious about making my blog do the work intended. That is, educate small businesses in the art of copywriting and, ultimately, attract prospects.

So, among the things I’ve learned, now know or would do differently are these…

1. Make sure Google Analytics and Tools are on board

Lucky for me, I’ve formed a working relationship with Matt Morgan from Optimize Worldwide. He has shown me that though WordPress does much of the SEO work for me, there is still much to be done to get found.  While blogging daily, I’ve been working through pages of detailed homework, setting up Webmaster Tools, correcting crawl errors, submitting sites and learning  what my daily analysis means. I wish I had done this work before May. On the upside, now I know that it takes a combination of masterful content AND SEO expertise to make a content strategy really sing.

2. Be a Twitter pro.

I’ll admit I’ve been a Twitter holdout. Michelle Rafter, gotta love her, has been moving me toward a relationship and with her Blogathon 2012, forced me to stop being a hater. I had to learn how to access our “list”–#blog2012–to stay up on Blogathon happenings. I stepped in with a toe and now find myself wading to my knees. The beauty of Twitter is its ability for quick and simple communication. Through it I connected with my guest post partner, Jennifer Fink, and a few others.

 3. Know how to use Evernote.

Every weekend I curate the best of both the Blogathon and the rest of the blogosphere. These, to me, are the most difficult posts. Seems easy–to grab what others have already written and post. But trying to track the best of what I’ve read when I read 40-50 blogs each day is cumbersome. Another blogger mentioned Evernote and I’m trying it. So far I’ve mostly failed but with each failure I learn. Using tags to keep topics separate has been helpful but my goal is to be better organized within the program. I know there is so much more.

4. Have Mail Chimp RSS to email ready to go.

 My To Do list has included “Learn Mail Chimp” for at least a full quarter of the year. My buddy Matt, again, encouraged me to learn it, both for myself and a mutual client. Wow. What power! On Thursday, my mailing list will receive a curated summary of my week’s posts. And all I had to do was choose a template, add a few basic directions and enter my list. Mail Chimp will do the rest. The power in this tool is that it offers an additional delivery system to busy prospects who, frankly, are often too busy or uninterested to click on my blog link and read my daily post. (It can do the same for you.)

5. Write about high schoolers and parenting issues.

Why are there no parenting magazines catering to this audience? Have we all checked out?

Writing my guest post about raising boys who might be criminally clueless, I was reminded I have much to say about this stage of life. With one star pupil, one above average boy and one struggling learner, I’ve been to the rodeo and can empathize, question and offer wisdom. But would anyone read it?

What about you? What would you blog about? What has been your greatest lesson from blogging?