Any Business Blogging *is* Micromarketing

Shel Israel, co-author of naked conversations had this to say after giving a talk to the Seattle chamber of commerce: What inspired me the most, a little to my surprise, were the folks at the Chamber of Commerce. These were folks, as Robert puts it, who were hungry to learn. I met a wedding planner who blogs, and an architect and carpet cleaner, among others, who plan to soon follow suit. This is heartening for me. The day has finally come where small businesses can use technology tools to elevate and differentiate themselves and it is heartening to find so many in one room plunging into the blogosphere.

Many forward thinking businesses, big and small, are discovering blogs as a tool to connect with customers, and give customers a way to connect with the business. IMHO any business blogging is engaging in a form of Micromarketing, a way to connect with customers using alternative media. I use the term micromarketing as a way to differentiate from mass marketing, because blogs enable companies to literally connect with one customer/prospect at a time, in a conversation and not a sales pitch.

Just remember:

  • Micromarketing is not selling
  • Micromarketing is conversational – if you have comments and trackback turned off it’s not a conversation
  • Micromarketing is about being open and informal – tell readers something they wouldn’t get from a press release
  • Micromarketing is talking about shareing experiences and telling stories

Video Games Aiming For The “Massive Market”

“Brain Age” is here, and yes it’s a video game, but it’s not aiming for what would normally be considered the mass market of boys 18-30 or “gamers”, it’s going for the “massive market” of people who want to “train their brain”. With tag lines like:

For decades Nintendo has been exercising your thumbs. Now they’re going to exercise your mind.

and

Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day

Nintendo is essentially turning market perception on it’s head, positioning the video game as positive “mental exercise”, as opposed to the common perception of it being a pointless, mind numbing activity. Not only does the game act as a diagnostic tool, by testing your “brain age”, but as a training tool to help lower your brain age, the idea being that a younger brain age is better for your mental health.

As was mentioned in the excellent escapist article the gaming community treated the Nintendo DS (dual screen with a stylus) as a bit of a joke, the graphics were sub par to competing systems, and the interface was kind of clunky and the two screens…. well it didn’t fit the handheld gaming mold. But with a game like Brain Age suddenly the Nintendo DS could become a household name with baby boomers that might not have even heard of Nintendo before. Talk about Word of Mouth, if it starts to gain traction in the 50+ market as a way to stave off something as awful as alzeimers people like me are going to be buying Nintendo DS’s for my parents.

(I’m not super keen on the “do you remember what you had for dinner 2 nights ago” line on their Web site, for me it just smacks of the “i’ve fallen and I can’t get up” approach to marketing, but that’s just my gut feeling.)

In a flyer I read today about Brain Age, mention was made of a game called “Big Brain Academy” which could be aimed at the parents of young children (originally called Brain Flex I think, but the addition of the word “academy” sure aims to create position this tool as making you or your kids “smarter”). Another switch, parents trying to get their kids to play more video games.

Update: If anyone thinks this is hyperbole take a look at the top-ten selling video games in Japan on “any” system:

The ten bestselling games in Japan for the week ending April 16:

  1. Brain Age 2 (Kahashima Ryuuta Kyouju Kanshuu: Motto Nouo Kitaeru Otona DS) [DS]
  2. Brain Age: Train your Brain in Minutes a Day (Kahashima Ryuuta Kyouju no Nouo Kitaeru Otona DS Training) [DS]
  3. Animal Crossing: Wild World [DS]
  4. Legend of Starfy 4 [DS]
  5. Guilty Gear XX Slash [PS2]
  6. DS English Training [DS]
  7. Pokémon Ranger [DS]
  8. Final Fantasy XII [PS2]
  9. Pro Yakyu Netsu Star 2006 [PS2]
  10. Pro Yakyu Spirit 3 [PS2]

Marketing vs. Micromarketing – Moving from mass market to the “massive market”

Isn’t micromarketing just marketing but smaller and targeting fewer people? Short answer no, and let me just preface by saying, there is so much to say on this topic that i feel like a general going into battle, you’re not all going to make it. So in the spirit of writing upside down for the web I put a table together with some preliminary ideas on how micromarketing is distinct from marketing.

ActivityMarketingMicromarketing
Overarching metaphorHunting, targeting (shotgun/rifle)Farming, Cultivating, Growing
Budgetbig bang spending after a tonne of planning, big spike and steady drop off until the next big bang. Media and content lose value over time ready for the next big bangSmall budget, media and content get more valuable over time through continued updates and customer participation
Finding CustomersFinding/Identifying targeting demographicsCustomers identify themselves, part of a ‘network’ of prospects and customers
Talking to CustomersTightly controlled messages broadcast 1 way to mass of people who may or may not be prospects or customers. Only authorized agents create and disperse messages from ad companies to PR agencies.Messages, ideas, and news spread through network of employees, customers & prospects
Listening to CustomersFragmented, filtered through numerous channels, for various purposes. Focus groups, customer research, customer service. The result, a fragmented view of the customer and their relationship with your products and servicesBuilt into the process of talking to customers, the advantage of a dialogue, listening is built into the communication medium
Delivering ValueOne way value chain through the company – outputs value for cashA value network that co-creates value with the customers that want to contribute

Marketing – Sacred Cow or Not?

Marketing is a young discipline, you can argue that marketing has been around as long as trade, but modern marketing is a result of the ability to mass produce ie. the ability for production capabilities to outstrip basic demand. It was only after the industrial revolution that marketing became a necessity and replaced accounting as the discipline to lead business. In fact modern advertising came about after world war II as businesses tried to combat societies “post war frugality”, and the fact that companies were trying to do that at the same time as television was becoming a dominant medium was how modern advertising was born. What i’m trying to say is that marketing and advertising are very young disciplines (relatively) and should not be mistaken for some kind of ’science’ with thousands of years of history.

The Irony of the Mass Marketing is a Mass of Individuals

I call it irony because mass marketing treats the market as a mass of individuals that are not connected. Why is this important? Because mass marketing and mass advertising relies on the kind of embellishment and hyperbole that relies on your customers not getting together and comparing notes, that may expose fibs and exaggerated promise. Why is advertising becoming less effective, because you can only get away with the “new and improved” story so many times before the market gets wise. Don’t get me wrong i actually “love” advertising and think it’s an incredibly creative medium, telling a story in 30 seconds is a beautiful creative constraint, but lets say it’s like me “loving” email, despite the spam.

The mass market is dead, long live the massive market

The mass market concept of some kind of homogenious group of for instance adult males 18-35, is if not totally dead, a bit of a red herring. Instead of trying to find and group customers like that it should be about customers self selecting, identifying themselves and recruiting other customers. No longer is it about the mass-market, now it’s about the massive market, the billions of interconnected customers that are just waiting to self select to be your prospect, customer, partner, evangelist. Phew, i’m tingling just writing that, but it’s happening right now. How did 37signals get to half a million users in a year or two with no advertising? Great product that was worth talking about, and a connection into the blogosphere of web developers that were just waiting to talk about a great new tool.

Micromarketing is the opposite approach to marketing

Traditional advertising involves lots of planning, then a big bang, followed by an immediate spike in activity, followed by a steep decline until the next campaign, this is why I really like the hunting metaphor of targeting and firing some kind of weapon. Lots of marketers like to talk about shotguns and rifles, picking off customers, but in the end once the bullets fired it will eventually lose power and plough into the ground. Micromarketing takes totally the opposite approach, and is certainly more akin to farming where you are essentially seeding ideas onto fertile ground, that will be more valuable and be generating more interest in a years time. A blog is the perfect example of this, I mean a blog has essentially no value when you launch it, it’s like a savings account with $1 in it, but over the year every post you make, every comment that a customer makes, every link that comes from another blog is like a deposit of a couple of dollars, and what you end up with in a year is a blog full of ideas and content that is appreciating with compound interest. This is why the whole ROI conversation on blogs is a total red herring until you do something.

Change is Scary

Clearly this kind of sea change is a terrifying prospect for many traditional marketers, but the good news is all this stuff is going to make your jobs easier. C’mon take a look at these points here and then go read a blog:

  • Customers identify themselves
  • Customers transmit your marketing messages
  • Your marketing tools will become more valuable over time
  • You don’t need to talk to the 90% of people that don’t care about or need your product
  • Product development and market development is built in
  • Talking to and listening to customers will no longer require separate channels

16 Tools to Turbo Boost Your Blogging Process

Do you blog regularly?

Are you looking for tools to make the process easier?

Blogging is hard work and it takes a lot of time to do it well. Wouldn’t it be great if you could streamline parts of that process?

In this article, you’ll find a list of tools, apps and advice you can use to find your groove and take care of blogging business.

#1: Brainstorm Blogging Ideas

When you need inspiration for your next blog post, where do you go? You can avoid blogger’s block by trying out these idea-generators to quickly get your creative juices flowing.

How to Use Quora to Cook Up Great Content: Adrienne Erin writes a pretty inspiring post about scanning Quora to find popular conversations and using those topics to create blog content.

Don’t Know What to Write About? Get Ideas From the Blog Topic Generator [Free Tool]: Ginny Soskey introduces HubSpot’s handy new topic generator. You simply put in three terms (nouns) you’d like to blog about and the tool spits out several topics. Of course, the topics aren’t always 100% perfect, but you can tweak them to make them work for you.

Let HubSpot help you find a topic to write about.

Need a Google Alerts Replacement? Meet TalkWalker: Since the future of Google Alerts is unknown, this alternative tool, suggested by Gary Price, might do the trick.

SearchEngineLand.com shares Google Alert alternatives.

#2: Get Organized to Be Productive

You have ideas, but now what? Keep track of them and organize your thoughts with cool online tools you can access from anywhere. Check out these resources that help you manage your ideas so you can make the most of your time.

How to Use Evernote as a Blogger: Michael Hyatt kills it in this timeless post where he shares his personal workflow using Evernote. His suggestion for setting up a blog template in Evernote is definitely worth the click.

MichaelHyatt.com walks you through using Evernote.

15 Tips & Tricks to Get More Out of Google Drive: If you’re not using Google Drive, you’ll be surprised how much you can get out of it! Brian Voo’s article introduces some cool ways to use Google Drive to do everything from mind-mapping to editing images.

How to Use Google Calendar to Create an Editorial Calendar: The best way to keep track of your ideas is an editorial calendar. Some people use spreadsheets, others use pen and paper. Rebecca Livermore explains why you should switch to Google Calendar and even gives you a step-by-step guide for getting started.

Learn to use Google Calendar as an editorial tool on AmyPorterfield.com.

#3: Optimize Your Content

Keywords not only help readers find you, they can also help you flesh out your post ideas. If you don’t know much about SEO (and really, even if you do), check out these posts that give you tips and advice about tools that can get you started.

Google Keyword Planner: The Ultimate Guide: Ask Ian Cleary any question about social media tools and he’ll write you an “Ultimate Guide.” So if you’re wondering about the ultimate tool for keyword research, look no further than his outstanding post about Google’s Keyword Planner.

Find out how to use Google’s Keyword Planner from RazorSocial.com.

Get SEO Tips When You Need Them: For novice bloggers who aren’t sure how SEO works, Matthew Tschoegl does a great job introducing InboundWriter’s WordPress plugin. It’s basically a “consultant on your dashboard.” It’s a paid plugin, but definitely check it out to see if it’s a fit for you.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Moz is the SEO site. Their guide has been downloaded over a million times! That’s a good sign that it’s info you need. Even seasoned bloggers will learn a thing or two.

There’s a great SEO walkthrough on Moz.com.

#4: Find or Make Your Own Images (Fast!)

You know how important compelling images are for your blog, but it’s not always easy or cheap to find them. These articles show you how to find copyright-free images or make stunning graphics of your own!

How and Why I Use Photo Pin to Find Free Images for My Blog: John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing explains why he stopped using iStockphoto, Shutterstock and other image sites and started using Photo Pin. Be careful—you might be persuaded to change your mind too!

DuctTapeMarketing.com shares an image finding option.

Tool for Screenshots: Awesome Screenshot: If you’re still trying to capture screenshots using Command-Shift-3 or -4, stop! There’s a better way. Check out this simple demonstration by Amy Lynn Andrews.

How to Make a Banner for Your Blog Using Gimp (for free!): If you’ve ever wondered how to make cool banners and incorporate them into your blog post, this article by Karen Lewis of Simply Amusing Designs illustrates (complete with screenshots) how it’s done. Give it a try—it’s not difficult at all. [NOTE: This site is in construction until 2/28/14. Check the link next week.]

Creating a Header Image for Your BlogPicMonkey is an awesome free site (with a premium subscription option) to create and edit photos for your blog. Julie DeNeen, from Fabulous Blogging, also offers more advanced tips in her post, 10 Design Tips Using PicMonkey That You Might Not Know About!

Learn how to use PicMonkey over on FabulousBlogging.com.

#5: Tell the World

After all of the hard work of writing and optimizing your blog post, you’d better make sure everyone in your network sees it and shares it with their friends too. Here are some nifty tools and guides to help your blog post go that extra mile.

5 Social Sharing Plugins Reviewed: Dan Norris lays it all out with “what we like” and “what we don’t like” about five popular sharing plugins. Now you’ll know what to expect before jumping in.

Explore some great plugins on WPCurve.com.

Need a New Tool? 3 Social Sharing Tools That Do Something Specific: I like how Amanda DiSilvestro emphasizes the “do something specific” aspect of these tools. Indeed, these three tools are so specific you’ve probably never heard of them, but you should definitely give them a whirl.

Moz.com shares sharing tools.

The Essential Guide to Content Sharing: Yes, another Ian Cleary article (because he’s the tool guru, remember?). This time Ian’s “Ultimate Guide” includes 13 tools you can use to get the word out about new posts. Some of the tools you’ve seen, some you haven’t and some you should probably use more. Definitely check this one out.

What do you think? Which of these tools have you tried? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

6 Ways to Engage Your Patients on Facebook

o you have a Facebook page for your medical practice? Are you looking for fresh ideas to quickly ramp up engagement and participation from your fans?

There are tens of millions of business pages on Facebook. There’re also those notorious, complex algorithms that mysteriously determine what fans can see or not see on their news feed.

Both these factors make it incredibly difficult for page owners like you, to maintain engagement on Facebook. But as a doctor and a business owner you know that Facebook is extremely valuable to your practice.

Here are 6 ways to improve engagement on your page.

1.  Post News articles, stories and current events

As of December 2013, Facebook updated their Newsfeed algorithm with a requirement of ‘high quality content.’ What this means is that Facebook will start to give more visibility to interesting news articles, story links and current events than ever before.

Your response should be to start posting attention-grabbing health articles from news publishers, or compelling stories from your own blog. The goal of course is to create conversation among your fans and clients.

If you can achieve that, your Facebook posts will be bumped higher up on your fans’ news feed and engagement will increase significantly.

2.  Host Video Events

A fun way to increase engagement with fans is by bringing live video events to your Facebook page. You can do this easily by installing a free app such as Livestream, (go to https://apps.facebook.com/livestream/).

The chat feature on Livestream makes it more interactive with your audience. So let’s say you want to introduce a new skin care system. Using the app, you can host an event on your Facebook page to show fans how the program works. They can see you, ask questions, and interact with you right there on your Facebook page!

3.  Offer Contests and Giveaways

Promotions of any kind are fantastic way to increase engagement on Facebook. That’s because everyone loves the opportunity of winning something special.

Use a photo contest app like Strutta that allows fans to upload images. Then encourage them to tell their friends about the contest and open the voting up to everyone who has submitted a photo.

A few things to watch out for when it comes to Facebook contests – follow the rules; keep the contest requirements simple; and offer a special prize that’s relevant to your practice.

4. Games

If you want to improve engagement on your page without spending a ton of money, then social games are one way to go. Social games on Facebook can spur comments, likes and shares and also help to build a community around your page.

The important thing is to choose a game that is consistent with your brand and that your fans will enjoy. For example the “Tell a Story” game is a good one for dermatology pages.

The game is similar to those books you read that let you choose what happens next. It is also appropriate since you can co-create a story with your Facebook fans thus making them the ‘stars of the show’ .” Here’s one version of the game.

Simply create a graphic that shares the first sentence of a story like this: “Once upon a time a young lady called Celia woke up on her wedding day to find a huge zit on her face!”

Then right below the story opener, write down the instructions for participating in the game as follows:

  • What happens next?
  • To participate, simply write the next sentence in a comment below.
  • Make sure you read the comments above yours so you know where the story is leading.
  • Share the story thread with your friends to keep things moving
  • Let’s see where this goes!

5.  Recognize your fans

Your Facebook fans like to know that you appreciate them. Every so often get into the habit of recognizing them for various reasons e.g. birthdays, ‘fan of the week,’ and so on.

If you want to be a little creative you might even consider posting a fan’s picture on your page (with permission of course!) and featuring them for a week. During that time, you can highlight something new about them, or let them give tips and advice about skin care!

 6.  Be Personal

Last but not least, people like to know that they’re interacting with a person, not a business. So when you post an update on Facebook, sign off with your first name so your fans and clients know whom they’re talking to. That way, the next time they stop by your office they’ll know exactly how to carry on the conversation with that person. In the same way, address them individually as “you” and “your” rather than using a plural salutation.

Creating engagement on your Facebook page doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. With some imagination you can use any one of these ideas (or come up with your own) to encourage participation from your fans so they’ll see more of your posts on their news feed.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these ideas on your page? What other ideas have worked for you?

5 Things Highly Effective Content Marketers Do Differently

Are you wondering what the best content marketers do differently?

Why not take a peek into their habits and practices, to glean insights that could take your own content marketing to the next level?

A while back, Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published their latest report, B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America. The report shows two sides of content marketing.

On one hand, the industry is still growing and has a long way to go. On the other hand, things are looking up and confidence is growing as many marketers start to get it right!

Where Are We Headed?

What’s clear from the report is that the most successful B2B marketers are doing more! “More what?” you ask. Well, they’re spending more money, paying more attention to strategy, using more tactics and social media platforms and even producing more content.

Let’s dig deeper into five things that show exactly what the most effective B2B content marketers are doing.

#1. Have Someone to Oversee Content

Seventy-three percent of all B2B organizations have someone in charge of content marketing strategy. However, the majority (86%) of the most effective or best-in-class marketers had someone to oversee content strategy, compared to only 46% of their least effective peers.

Key Takeaway

Don’t kid yourself—you do need someone to manage your content marketing! To be successful in this industry, there should be at least one person in your organization designated to ‘own’ the content marketing initiative. This person is in charge of executing the content goals that you want to accomplish as an organization.

In his book Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi says that a lot of times when content marketing fails, it’s not because your organization lacks good content. It’s because execution has failed.

Even if you’re a small business and don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated person, you can get one of your managers within the company to supervise content production (UPS does this!)

#2. Have a Documented Content Strategy

Among the most effective marketers, 66% have a documented strategy compared to 11% of the least effective marketers. But overall, only 44% of B2B marketers have a documented strategy.

Key Takeaway

There’s no content marketing success without a strategy.

If you’ve been operating without a documented content strategy, it’s time to stop gambling. Most likely, any success you have achieved up to this point has been sheer luck.

Figure out what you want content marketing to do for you. Write down your goals, your plan to achieve those goals and what indicators you’ll use to prove your success. Make sure everyone who’s involved in content production is on board with this document.

#3. Use More Tactics

The most effective B2B marketers use an average of 15 tactics compared to the least effective marketers who use only 10. Interestingly, the use of infographics has increased significantly with 38% of marketers using this tactic last year compared to 51% this year.

Key Takeaway

The most effective marketers understand that they have to keep up with consumers. That’s why they cast a wider net and invest in more tactics (e.g., text, images, apps, video, audio, etc.). Of course the size of your budget also dictates what you can or can’t do.

If you have a small business, why not start out with the most cost-effective tactics such as social media, e-newsletters, articles and blogs and then gradually add other tactics as your budget allows? Always be expanding your content menu; don’t be satisfied with the handful of tactics you were using last year.

#4. Use Social Media More Frequently

B2B content marketers use an average of 6 social media platforms, up from 5 last year. In addition, they’re using all social media platforms to distribute content.

As expected, LinkedIn is the top social media site used by B2B marketers, while Facebook is 10 points behind. The social sites that have experienced the biggest increase in use are SlideShare (23% last year to 40% this year), Google+ (39% to 55%) and Instagram (7% to 22%).

Key Takeaway

No content marketing initiative is complete without social media. That’s because social drives awareness of your content, which in turn impacts lead generation.

In fact, a different report from Brafton stated that 70% of consumers click through to a brand’s blog content after reading stories shared on their social networks. Once they get there, they’re more likely to download more content or fill out a form.

As a B2B marketer, you should try to repurpose your content specifically for each social channel (particularly LinkedIn) in order to capture interest and engagement. Keep in mind too that social signals (likes, retweets, +1′s, comments, shares, mentions, etc.) influence Google, thus maximizing your brand’s online exposure

#5. Produce More Content

On average, 73% of B2B marketers are producing more content than they did last year. Of the best-in-class (most effective) marketers, 78% are creating more content compared to 57% of their least effective peers.

Key Takeaway

B2B marketers are increasing their investment in content creation. Why? Because the ultimate purpose of content is to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Your content has to solve problems and answer all of your prospects’ product-related questions in order to drive those purchasing decisions. That means you have to be a content machine without sacrificing quality. If you’re not convinced that more content is better, here’s some food for thought:

At Content Marketing World 2013, a panel of experts was asked whether producing more content is better than producing less. The most compelling answers came from:

Joe Chernov“Quantity. You can create something awesome, then it takes 3 months to create your next great thing. What happens in the meantime?”

Marcus Sheridan“Quantity is intimidating for people who are too afraid to create content, because they think it must be epic. Let quantity lead to quality. Content marketing is not launching a rocket. Just do it.”

What do you think about these findings? Do you agree with them? Does anything surprise you? Share your comments in the box below.

How Marketers Are Using Social Media for Business in 2012 [Infographic]

Every year, Michael Stelzner and the diligent folks at Social Media Examiner prepare a social media marketing industry report that shows how marketers are using social media to promote their businesses.

If you’re doing social media for yourself or for clients, this 42-page report is one that you absolutely need to download and study.

You will want to examine all the research and charts and discover some of the ‘not-so-obvious’ findings that are contained in the report.

I created an infographic to give you a little glimpse of the actual report. Remember, this is just a tiny sliver of the valuable information contained in the report so do yourself a big favor and go to Social Media Examiner to download the real thing!

Borrowed Relevance: How to Engage Your Audience When You Have a Boring Brand

“There are two kinds of brands – brands that people talk about and brands that people don’t talk about.” ~ Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research Analyst and co-author of Groundswell.

Sexy brands (Apple, Facebook, and Harley Davidson) are ‘talked about’ brands – they sell themselves. Boring brands are tough because people don’t care about them. Marketers of such brands have to figure out how to get people talking about something they really don’t care about.

Is there a way around this?

The answer is “Yes!’ Borrowed relevance is a fairly new concept proposed by Josh Bernoff, in which he suggests that boring brands must encourage people to talk about something – even though the conversation is not about the brand itself.

There are several ways to do this:

  • One way is to identify your organization’s core values and then start a conversation about them. Those values might be community, work-life balance, diversity or empowerment. Liberty Mutual (from the boring category of insurance) launched the Responsibility Project as “the place to discuss doing the right thing.” By creating a platform where moral decision-making was the trending topic , Liberty Mutual shrouded themselves in relevance and (more importantly) social conversation.
  • Another way is to invite your community to talk about their own set of circumstances. Johnson & Johnson for example created a Facebook page for mothers with ADHD kids. They figured that they couldn’t spark an engaging conversation about their ADHD drug. But they correctly concluded that sufferers of the ailment (and their families) have their own set of interesting problems and why not talk about that? Their Facebook audience is a whopping 19,000 fans strong!
  • The other way that ‘borrowed relevance’ could be applied is to start a conversation about an entirely different brand with the intention of ‘borrowing’ some of their appeal for yourself. In 2007 Doritos invited customers to create their own Superbowl ads –  Turns out, that Superbowl (or any ad contest for that matter) are more exciting concepts than corn chips.

So if you’re a business that’s selling a product that doesn’t generate much interest, then the key is to borrow something that is relevant to people (topic, issue or concept), create a platform to discuss it while treading lightly on your own branding. This way, you will be able to identify your own (few) brand enthusiasts who will become very influential in spreading the word about your organization.

6 Must-Have Blogging Tools to Boost Your Productivity

Are you looking for ways to enhance your blogging process?

Do you need some tools to help you stay productive?

Here are six tools that could make your life easier and faster.

#1. Trello

Trello is pretty neat. It is a project management platform that allows users to work on a project from different locations. It provides an interface that can be accessed by all members of a team so that they may complete tasks. It is especially useful for virtual team collaboration.

If you manage a multi-author blog, you can use Trello to assign blog projects to your writers, keep track of everyone’s progress, and communicate instructions or due dates.  Trello comes with boards, cards, lists and labels to maximize communication and productivity.

#2. Dropbox

Dropbox allows you to easily share files between different computers and devices (iPhones, iPads, laptops, and desktops) while integrating seamlessly with Windows and other platforms on your device. If you work with other writers you can easily share files with one another without having to email them back and forth thus wasting precious bandwidth.

What makes this an awesome tool is that your Dropbox account automatically syncs with all your other devices. So if you were to save a file on your desktop at work, it would be accessible from your laptop at home or on your iPhone on your way to work. It is secure and all your files are backed up online where any user can access them on their device just by logging in.

#3. Buffer

As a blogger you rely heavily on Twitter to broadcast your blog posts, share great content and network with peers. But this takes a lot of time, which you don’t have especially if you manage several Twitter accounts.

Buffer app not only allows you to schedule your tweets in advance, but to do so for each account that you manage. Even better Buffer offers many extensions, apps and extras that allow you to schedule and share content on different platforms, devices, and browsers e.g. Chrome, FireFox and Safari; on Facebook and Twitter; from Google Reader or on your smartphone and more!

#4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that helps you to manage all your social media accounts from one central location.

It provides a user-friendly interface that displays all of your social profiles (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)  in an organized way so that you can manage your posts, updates and direct messages more efficiently, in real time.

Instead of having all your social media accounts open at once trying to navigate back and forth, Hootsuite allows you to view and update them all in one place. This certainly qualifies as efficient and productive.

#5. Evernote

Ever forget something cool or important that you came across during the day that you wish you could remember?

Well Evernote is here to help. Evernote is a tool that allows you to save  and store any information you come across online at any time. It is compatible with your smartphone, tablet and computer so when you see something interesting and you don’t have time to read it you can save it on your phone and read it later that day.

As a blogging tool Evernote can be used for managing and sharing your editorial calendar, for storing and syncing your ideas for articles, for storing all elements of your articles (i.e. images, links, keywords, tags, etc.) and more.

#6. Join.me

Join.me is one of the cooler apps in this list. It allows up to ten users to share screens (and even share control of other users’ screens!) while chatting or talking online.

When you type “join.me” in a new browser, a small screen appears prompting you to either share your screen or view someone else’s screen. The prompts are easy to follow and you’re able to join others or have them join you on your screen.

This is a great tool for demonstrating tasks that are difficult to explain verbally. Just remember to log out when you’re done because other users can see everything that’s on your screen as long as you’re logged on. It is simple, practical and easy to understand.

9 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Content Marketing Consultant

Hiring the right content marketing consultant is a significant business decision. Ideally you want someone with whom you will enjoy a great working relationship, but you also want to make sure that the person has experience, vision and business knowledge.

Here are 9 questions to ask yourself when vetting your potential hire.

#1. How much content marketing experience do they have?

To be a consultant of anything, you need a set amount of experience. But with content marketing, the concept, the talent, and the technology are all new (even though the practice of telling stories to promote a business is not).

If you consider that veteran content marketers have been at it for about 10 to 12 years now, that means the majority of consultants have much, much less than that. It’s important to keep this in mind as you decide whether you will hire based on experience.

#2. Do they understand the basics of content marketing?

Even more important than experience (I think) is the understanding of what content marketing is. Most organizations are still confused by the term, so it is even more important that the consultant is able to educate authoritatively on this subject. For instance they should know the difference between content marketing and social media, or similar subjects such as inbound marketing, and digital marketing.

#3. Do they understand the business value of content marketing?

Your potential consultant should also understand that content marketing is business marketing. She should be able to connect the dots between the creation and distribution of relevant content with the achievement of tangible business goals such as customer acquisition and retention, increased sales, reduced marketing costs and even operational efficiencies.

#4. What type of content marketing campaigns have they initiated in the past?

You want to see what kind of content marketing projects your potential consultant has done in the past so that you can evaluate her effectiveness as a professional. Her portfolio is a good indicator of where her core strengths lie and whether her past experience is a good match for your organization’s needs.

#5. How much do they value measurement of content marketing strategy?

The old adage ‘what can’t be measured, can’t be managed’ rings true for content marketing as well. A consultant who neglects measurement tactics cannot be trusted to steer you in the right direction. Find out what methods she has employed in the past for measuring content marketing and watch out for ambiguous answers as these spell major weaknesses in her strategy.

#6. Does their personality match your needs?

People do business with those they know, like and trust. Spend some time getting to know your potential consultant and dig deeper by asking questions that reveal her personality. Ask her how she would handle specific situations. Remember that a consultant is responsible for guiding your business. Be sure that you choose someone you can trust, respect and generally feel comfortable with.

#7. Do you have a common connection or referral?

How did you connect with your potential hire? It’s a wise idea to choose someone who has been recommended by a friend or peer. This way you can find out more information from the one who referred her, and cross-check the information that she has given you about herself.

#8. Do they use content marketing themselves?

The seller has to believe in the product they are selling. So when choosing a content marketing consultant, be sure to check that she is practicing content marketing herself. Does she have a consistent blog, does she send out a regular newsletter, does she use social media, what kind of online communities does she belong to? Remember, consultants are business owners too and they should practice what they preach.

#9. What’s your gut feeling?

After all is said and done, what is your gut feeling about this person? Does she make you feel uncomfortable? Do you trust her? If something doesn’t feel right, your best bet is to ditch her and start over. Trust your intuition to guide your decision and try not to second-guess yourself.

Over to you: I feel like I’ve missed something. What other questions would you add to this list?