What is innovation?

Thinking about innovative ideasInnovation defined.

Not surprisingly, innovation means different things to different people.  In one case, your audience might be thinking of a large, breakthrough change in technology or in the way an employee or consumer functions in their daily lives.  To someone else, an innovation may be a small step that seems small to the producer but makes a big change in enhancing the user experience.  In another case, it might be a small change that doesn’t appear to make allot of difference but over the long run and with additional changes makes a big difference. It could also mean a change in system or procedure that affects the employees in your company.  This list could go on and on.

If you read anywhere there’s lots of discussion about innovation to the point where the term seems overused.  So when you talk about innovation, it is a good idea to start by defining what innovation means to you and ask what it means to your audience, what the purpose of a new innovation might be and what lengths you or your customer is  interested or willing to go to incorporate a new innovation.

As an innovator, I hope for and work towards breakthrough innovation.  However, in tough economic times, innovation may require too much risk and expense for an organization.  It is also not uncommon for customers to resist change and therefore companies have a difficult time innovating product changes even if it is clearly a benefit to the customer.

So instead of dreaming about the next big thing for your product incorporate a step-by-step plan to develop and implement the innovation.  Focus on smaller changes and make changes easier to implement and easier for the customer to accept.  Use inexpensive and small experiments to test your new ideas. For example, add or make a small product improvement and test that improvement by watching users try the new feature.  Then evaluate how well, how significant, and how beneficial the audience considers this change to be.  Is it worth the money if the innovation affects your product’s price or the time needed for your customers to learn how to use the new feature?

In many cases, difficult economic times require product innovations that are easily adapted and cannot require a large investment either by the company or the consumer.

If you want to have the best possible outcome, have a plan for product innovation or for a major innovation as a series of palatable building blocks that moves toward and reaches your bigger goal. This approach, if the innovation is beneficial and is communicated that way,  should be met with less resistance from either  the company itself, company employees or their consumers.   This approach will allow for a smoother transition and incorporation of the innovation.

 

 

 

Why is a content strategy really necessary?

network-star-crop-527Because it is the foundation of your marketing program and by creating quality branded content and posting that across your applicable media outlets you can deliver a consistent message which provides your customers and potential customers with engaging material and value added information. This is not only valuable for your target but also for your company. Advantages are many including a positive brand image, the opportunity to build trust, increases sales and the ability to save money and time in the creation of marketing materials.

How do I build a content strategy?

Here is a step by step approach.

1. Outline objectives
First, conduct an audit of your current content strategy program. Is the graphic identity as well as message consistent? Is it the image you want to portray? Does it communicate your unique selling proposition? Is is geared to your target audience? When you have a clear picture of what you are currently doing you can start to evaluate weak areas and needs. Start by defining the over reaching content strategy objectives and then take each media outlet you are using and define the specific objective for each medium.

2. Define your audience(s)
Do you have a good idea of who your target audience is? What do they want to hear? What does this audience need or want from your company? What content would benefit the target as well as your company? This is a time to set objectives that will provide a focus as well as positive results. Include how you are going to measure the success of each program. Research what other communications your customers receive from you and your competitors. Where does your target audience get information about the category that you are involved in?

3. Consider targeting opportunities
Targeting different types of customer through segmented content can make the process much more efficient and cost-effective, so consider producing different versions of your publication and digital content. But if you want to segment, you will need a database or list that offers that segmented information. If you don’t have one, consider what you need and start building the database that allows for segmentation. This can be as simple as utilizing a spreadsheet to begin this process. Once you have finalized what data and criteria you need then you can look for a more sophisticated, productive method of handling your customer database.

4. Establish your distribution strategy
How will your content reach your customers? What combination of media channels best fit your target audience? From print to online, digital to video, there are a huge range of channels to choose from. If you don’t trust the accuracy of your customer database (or you don’t have one), consider buying a list that matches the profile of your customers.

5. Establish measurements
Having regular, high-quality content can be a significant investment of time and money for your company, so establish benchmarks for success based on your objectives. Your objective should include measurable results. If you can plan or estimate how this approach will benefit the bottom line or the brand image of your company. You then need establish a workable budget. Next, get internal buy-in from all relevant departments, especially if you are expecting them to contribute to the budget.

6. Consider contracting with a content marketing agency
Very few client companies have the resources or expertise to create effective content in-house, so you may need to hire an outside agency. Be specific with the agency on what you are looking for and include the items that are important to you and your company including project criteria and potential working budget. Choose wisely not every consulting content marketing agency will fit your needs. Invite several to meet with and learn about all their services and what they can offer your company. For more information on selecting and working with an outside agency read blog post.

7. Create content
Once an agency has been selected, as them to provide a full content plan for your approval before they start creating any content. At these initial meetings you should agree to a communication plan between you and the agency including working arrangements, deciding such issues as how you want the content to be presented and who will approve the content within your organization.

8. Agree to a launch strategy
Do you have a launch date in mind. Are you going to include any research or user feedback from a sample group of your trusted, loyal customers and get their opinion. Also be sure to include introducing the content program to your internal company audience.

9. Launch systematically
Take the time to launch systematically-just in case there is something that you did not anticipate.

10. Debrief/Evaluate
With the introduction of the launch and initial results gathered, you and your agency should now have a debrief meeting in which you go over all aspects of the content. With any new information and feedback, your agency can then start on the next phase of the campaign. Meanwhile, review your targeting strategy and ensure any internal results or opinions are communicated to your agency.

11. Move forward!!

 

6 questions to answer before creating content.

I know it’s a temptation to want to move forward quickly when adding pages or new sections to your website.  But, it is really important to think about content and message before moving full speed ahead.

Before creating content,  take the time to answer the following questions.

  • What is the goal of this page or section?  Thinking through this question will not only help you determine the purpose but also the necessity of adding a page or section to your site.  It is necessary?  Is this information better handled elsewhere?  If this is the best place to add this information, what is the key point that you want to make.
  • What is the one thing that you want your reader to understand after they have read your copy? Skimming and scanning is the way web readers review content online, therefore, make sure that the design and copy of your page focuses on the key point and supporting points in a succinct manner.   Use headlines, subheads and bulleted copy for easy reading.  If applicable, visuals such as photos, video or slide presentations are helpful and can hold your audiences attention longer if they relate to the needs of the audience.
  • Who is the audience that this page or section is targeting? Knowing your audience and their goals, needs, ways of working, and their environments will help your site resonate with your audience.  Research, as much as you can, about your audience including who they are, where they are, major characteristics, their questions and their concerns and ultimately how what you are providing meets your audiences specific needs better that your competitors.
  • What phase of the buying cycle is the page addressing?   The buying cycle includes 6 distinct stages–awareness, interest, research, desire, user and evangelist.   Where does the audience you are targeting fit and what stage of the buying cycle are you focusing on?  I know we would all like users but you may find that your audience is only at the interest stage.  If so, they will need different information and approach then someone ready to buy.
  • Considering the topic you are covering, what is the primary benefits you need to communicate?   Knowing your audience is essential in knowing how to identify the key benefits of your product or service in relation to your audience.
  • What keywords and phrases do you need to include for search engine optimization?   The mentality of create and they will come does not work in any area of social media and particularly not your website.  Learn how to enhance your SEO by researching articles online.  There is a wealth of SEO articles all over the internet.

Taking care to answer these questions first will help make the development of the copy and design of your section or page much easier and more effective.

Social Local Mobile

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SoLoMo is when someone accesses social media on a mobile devise to obtain information on the local area.  I like to have my vacations planned a little better than this but many people don’t.

SoLoMo lends a great deal of help to the tourist or someone new in the area that wants to gain information about places to stay, places to eat and visit. All with recommendations on how others did or did not like their experience.

The hospitality industry has a great tool to make themselves known to consumers quickly and easily. And, with good recommendations, a possible place for the connected consumer to land.  By using the social networks (So), geo location (Lo) and mobile devices (Mo) everyone can find exactly what they need either close to home or when traveling for personal or business.

For example, after touring a few sites, the individual wants to find a place to eat.  Just using their smartphone and an application like Google Maps, Foursquare or Yelp, they can find a restaurant that satisfies their needs in an area that is close to their current location.  In addition, using the rating system, find the one with the best rating.
A recent Google survey found that 51% of mobile users find trip information with their smartphone.

Next time I am in an unfamiliar area, I will try this SoLoMo and see how helpful it is to me.

QR codes and using them in your business.

What are QR codes and how can they help your customers and your  business? 

I recently became interested in how QR codes (Quick Response codes) could benefit my customers as well as my own business. Due to the ever growing expectations of quick and immediate gratification and response, consumers are looking for immediate access to what’s relevant and QR codes allow that.

What is a QR code?

The  QR code is similar to the barcodes that retailers use to track inventory and price products at the point of sale.  The difference between the QR code and the barcode is that the QR code can hold allot more data.  QR codes are two-dimensional, matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Their ability to hold more information and their ease of use makes them practical for businesses particularly small businesses.

With an iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, you can link your customers to your website, activate email or track advertising.  You could look at the QR code as an interactive call to action.  Not only is the QR code excellent to try but you don’t have to be a technical person or hire anyone to do it.  It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into a QR code generator taking just a few minutes.

How does my customer access my QR code?

Of course, it is important to know if your target audience is using QR codes.  However, it is such an easy and free process to try that it makes sense to experiment and track the results.  When using a QR code, you could also include copy with the code that gives some direction such as  “Use your  smartphone to scan this image” or “Scan this” or “Use a QR reader app with your phone to scan this for quick access to details on this promotion.”

As I indicated above,  the user of the phone needs to have an app that allows them to read the QR code.  These are simple and free to access. The QR code reader app that I use with my iPhone is ScanLife but check out the best app that works with your phone.  Mine was free so look for those first and check the ratings that will help you make the right decision which to use.

How to create your QR code?

Simply typing in “QR code generator” in your specific search engine will bring up a list of applicable sites that offer this service.  I selected “QRStuff.com”  because I wanted the flexibility to print on my own sticky labels.  I am experimenting too and I don’t want to pay for the code printed anywhere yet.  QRStuff has a list of 19 different data types that you can select from.  I selected my Website URL.  There is an option to change the foreground color but I just selected black and white to keep it simple.  Then I selected my output type which was printing on my specific labels.  It was formatted for me and printed perfectly.

The process is easy and the ability of QR codes to connect people with each other and to multimedia digital content is very useful for businesses and consumers alike.  As long as your customers or potential customers know how to access the code this is a very useful tool.

Where to use a QR code?

As I mentioned I am experimenting so I am going to try the code in various places.  Here are some ideas you might consider placing your QR codes.

  • On your business card.  (This is where I plan to start and with the ability to print a QR code on a sticky label  I won’t have to reprint my cards without trying this idea first.)
  • Your brochures and other marketing materials. (I would not reprint marketing materials, if you don’t have too, just try the sticky label again and see if it works for you.)
  • Sides of your vehicles or transportation associated with your company
  • Product packaging
  • Convention and event nametags
  • Ticket stubs
  • Sale Receipts
  • A sign hung in your window at your store location

Let me know how you are using the QR codes and if their use is impacting your bottom line.