Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How Big Is Your Marketing Team? As Big As You Need It to Be!

The first quarter of a business year is a time when many businesses take a hard look at their hiring needs and practices. Are they equipped with the right core team of skilled workers to handle the demands of the coming months or years? This can be a tricky question if their needs revolve around occasional projects instead of a predictable flow of activity. Keeping a full-time staff on payroll often results in businesses paying certain employees to do next to nothing at certain times of year.

That's why cost-conscious businesses are increasingly adopting a nimble business model that relies heavily on outsourcing. The benefits are obvious: Bring independent contractors on board only when you need their services, and you can effectively expand or contract your operation as needed for optimal efficiency. Outsourcing is the new normal for many industries and fields of endeavor -- including (I'm happy to say) marketing content creation and distribution.

Outsourcing Your Marketing Efforts

It's always been a bit of a mystery to me why businesses who feel the need to tighten their belts start by slashing their marketing operations. Of all departments and functions you could eliminate, this is the one most likely to bring in more customers and boost revenue, right? And yet somehow it isn't seen as one of those areas critical for helping to "keep the lights on," so organizations either pull back on it or under-invest in it from the beginning. But if you're outsourcing your marketing to a team of skilled professionals, then you can have it both ways. Hire those freelance marketing specialists on a seasonal or per-project basis and won't have to pay out regular salaries to these individuals. Along the way you'll also save on:

  • Payroll operations expenses
  • Workers compensation premiums
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Social Security and Medicare payments

Outsourcing for Marketing Agencies

The outsourcing model makes even more sense for small marketing agencies. If your agency is just starting out and needs to keep its operations as cost effective as humanly possible, why not outsource the bulk of the "heavy lifting" (copywriting, graphic layout, coding, social media management etc.) to a small group of trusted, experienced freelancers? The longer these folks collaborate with each other (and with you) on various projects, the more solid a team they'll eventually form. Once you're flush with new clients and you're ready to bring on a permanent creative bullpen, invite these professionals into the fold full-time -- or if everyone's happy with the status quo, keep on outsourcing and saving. If a couple of members aren't working out, it's easy enough to swap them out for others until you have the ideal mix.

Don't let your business revenues stall because you're afraid to invest in your marketing engine; instead, take an attractive financial shortcut without selling your marketing quality short. Hire a freelance copywriter, designer or other pros to obtain all the marketing effort you need -- and none that you don't!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Past, Present and Future of Business Blogging

Twenty years ago, the word "blog" didn't exist. Think about that. In the two decades that the Web has grown from a quaint but useful academic aid to a global commercial necessity, blogging has pursued its own dynamic evolution from personal soapbox to marketing must. Where did blogging come from, why it so critical for your business right now, and where can you expect blogging to take you in years to come? Hop into your mental time machine and let's take a quick guided tour.

In the Beginning: Electronic Journalism for (and by) the Masses

The World Wide Web was still in its infancy when Justin Hall set up a personal home page called Links.net in 1994 (and yes, it's still up and running today). As the name implied, it was made of primarily of links to various categories of online content that Hall found fascinating enough to share with the public, strung together by bits and pieces of editorial content. This is pretty much what blogging was for the first couple of years of its existence -- a combination bulletin board and editorial column created by individuals who wanted to share their favorite stuff. But things took a decidedly more professional (and journalistic) turn in 1998, when the Charlotte Observer used its blog to cover Hurricane Bonnie, demonstrating the potential power of this communications medium.

The next logical step was using blog posts to promote products and services. I actually got in on the cutting edge of this trend, even though I didn't realize it at the time, when a promotional products company asked me to write a series of case study articles that they could post on their website's blog page. That was around 1999 or 2000, I think, when businesses were still laboriously hand-posting directly onto their web pages. Soon afterward came the debut of blogging programs and platforms that made it easy for any business to post regular blog entries and get their brands circulating throughout cyberspace.

The Rise of the Thought Leaders: Business Blogging Gets Real (and Social)

Today, blogging is considered an essential method for maintaining a steady stream of marketing content on the vast virtual shopping mall/newsroom/entertainment center that the modern Web has become. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media have created a voracious hunger for engaging, enlightening blogs that genuinely fulfill needs and solve problems. The days of insipid, keyword-stuffed filler are long gone; today's search engines reward relevance, authenticity and trustworthiness of content with higher search result rankings. This is the age of "thought leadership" or "expert" articles -- meaningful editorial pieces that address specific issues while referring readers toward a specific brand or company as the place to go for the solutions. And the more you blog, the better it works; companies that boost their output from 3-5 posts per month to 6-8 posts, for example, enjoy nearly twice as many online leads.

Whither the Business Blog?

Will the humble blog get buried underneath all the other distractions created by so many online media channels, from podcasts to videos? Not likely. Instead, your blog content will see more targeted distribution than ever as online analytics engines get smarter and more powerful. Audio and video presentations can be thought of as just another form of blogging -- and even if you take full advantage of those media, you'll still want to serve the segment of your target audience that prefers reading to watching or listening. I predict that I'll be blogging for all kinds of businesses for many years to come -- and I'll be happy to add you to my client roster!