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How to market with less budget, more brains

How to market with less budget, more brains Adam Boyden

A few years ago SEO, banner ads, and affiliate programs did the trick for marketers. With a generous budget, you could buy brand awareness. Now the level of complexity is higher while the costs are much lower. Marketers need to convince today's skeptical consumers to engage -- and stay engaged. The challenge? Jaded consumers expect content to be highly relevant to them and their interests. Marketers whose messages scream about "me, me, me" are quickly abandoned by the very people they are trying to reach. Instead, marketers' best strategy centers on content that is useful, relevant, and knowledgeable.

Achieve SEO the old-fashioned way -- through relevant content
It begins and ends with content. Your audience wants access to information that is germane to their business or personal needs, not promotional pushes of your product or service. Whether you are using newsletters, blog posts, Twitter, or Facebook, one thing is for sure: You want to share information that is unique, engaging, and relevant to your customers. Engaging headlines, real-life stories, tutorials, hints, and tips are all powerful tools in the marketing arsenal. (These all offer readers a chance to be educated.)

Don't forget, for optimal SEO, frequency matters. Create an editorial calendar that marks out what content you'll be sharing and why. Time it to particular events or milestones. For instance, if you're in the food business, poll your patrons on what they'd like to see on the fall or winter menu. Then use your newsletter and blog to share recipes, reader feedback, and other appropriate content. If you're in the gardening business, provide tips on how to manage early spring plantings and identify the plants most likely to thrive in a particular climate. Then pepper in timely, unplanned content that pops up unexpectedly. This will give you the frequency you're looking for while helping to manage the flow of content.

Empower your users/members/fans to advocate for you
Create fans by identifying the subset of the most engaged patrons of your business. Do you have a rewards program in place? Do you notice that certain members of your social circles are more likely to respond to offers and content? These are your advocates -- court them. Fans want a special connection to your company, so provide it. You can create informal focus groups by asking fans, "What do you think about this product or service?" For every fan you create, you are likely to recruit additional advocates through word of mouth. This non-technical, completely old-fashioned approach to expanding your circle of influencers can be very powerful, and it works.
Don't hide your content; make it accessible
So you have great content, but what are you doing with it? Are you getting it out there? You don't want to spend hours carefully crafting a blog post and then have it disappear over time. Think about ways to keep great content alive. For instance, your monthly newsletter can be archived on your blog. Your blog can have a "best of" section on the front page that includes your best content. You can use Twitter and Facebook to call attention to your blog posts, and vice versa. Plus, by making your content accessible, you can improve your SEO and the likelihood that prospects will find your business.

Create an app for reach
Web apps give you constant visibility. Use them to share relevant content. In today's world, web apps are either deployed alongside or in place of more entrenched marketing vehicles. For instance, businesses can share informational content via a web app. And, when it comes to customer acquisition, web apps can be deployed at no cost to existing networks of users, providing serious cost savings over traditional direct marketing methods. It's an open and shut case when it comes to brand recognition. A web app that appears persistently in the browser, no matter where a user may travel on the web, is often more potent than online banner advertisements or SEM. And, for even broader reach, apps can be shared via many online app stores, such as Add-ons for Firefox, Apple Web Apps, Google Apps Marketplace, the soon-to-be-released Chrome Apps Marketplace, and the Conduit App Marketplace.

Don't be afraid to make a statement
Be controversial. Neutrality rarely wins. There is no advantage to trying to please everyone. All it does is produce lukewarm marketing messages that end up pleasing no one. Understand the core of your business and target your messages accordingly. Your headlines, your tweets, and your video content should all be crafted carefully and with an aim to elicit a reaction. Don't be afraid to be controversial or outrageous. The best campaigns elicit a strong response. Laughter, shock, etc., are powerful reactions that mean you've hit your target. Bland content will likely be discarded.

In today's crowded environment it is almost cliché to say that content is king. But, the reality is that marketers need to worry less about pretty pictures and more about content. Distributing information that matters to buyers is a surefire path to success. Focus your efforts on content, and you'll reduce your marketing spend and reap the benefits of a more engaged, loyal customer base.

Adam Boyden is president of Conduit.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Adam is responsible for marketing, business development and U.S. operations. Previously, Adam was the Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, and then General Manager of Xfire a provider of communications and tools to more than 11.5...

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