As we all know, there are various firms and consultants who advertise on newspapers and other media channels about how you can make a lot of money online by developing content i.e. blogging, writing on forums, wikis etc. A lot of them are usually not clear about exactly how you can achieve goals that are specific to business that you already run. They expose you to various specific things you can do without educating you on the right mix and in what sequence you can do these things so that growing your existing business becomes an achievable outcome of your efforts online.
There is no doubt that the internet is fast becoming a resource for consumers in Nigeria to do their research and decide on what to buy or which business to patronize. With the proliferation of smartphones and relatively cheaper internet access, a lot of people are now spending more of their time online. A research done by NITDA in April 2012 estimated a total of 44 million Nigerians with access to the internet compared to 2.4 million in 2005.
That does not necessarily mean every single one of these people have the same quality of access or ability to use the internet productively but that is a huge chunk of our population that is fast maturing and getting familiar with its use. Another important thing about this 44 Million people is that they have a relatively marketable skill set. They can use computers, get on the internet and in the near future, be productive on the internet. This makes them employable to a certain extent, have a potential to earn a decent income in the near future if not already, and will have the ability to purchase products and services through the internet. When better to prepare for them than now?
Our major focus in this series of articles will be how you as an entrepreneur or business leader can take your existing business and achieve growth now and in the near future by developing relevant and highly targeted content for existing and potential customers or clients of your business online. We are going to outline this process in 4 stages; Strategy, Execution, Measurement and Improvement. This whole process is also referred to as Content Marketing. According to Wikipedia, Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
At the end of this series of articles, you should be able to-
- Know the things to do to grow your business exponentially through Online Content
- Know what order to get them done
- Know how to create a process for constantly getting them done
- Know how to measure the impact of your efforts
- Know how to improve, concentrate your efforts on what is proven to work and continue growing
This is the part of the process where you determine what exactly is right for your business, why it is right for your business and how you are going to go about getting those things done. Its a very attractive temptation to go in anywhere or everywhere on the internet, registering accounts, writing articles and poaching people to buy your products or patronize your business but if there is not a plan behind it, you could just be in a futile rat race where you don’t achieve results, get burnt out and get back to your business the way you left it. Frankly, its better to spend your time on other growth initiatives that got you to where you are today than to start getting things done without a plan.
What is right to do and why?
There is no hard and fast process to answering these questions typically. When you are new to this whole online thing, you have to make a lot of assumptions. However, the only thing that makes assumptions okay is if you constantly challenge and validate them during this stage.
Start by doing some research online. Try to find out –
- What others companies like yours are doing (bigger or smaller) – Google the company name and all its variations. What shows up? Take note of them if they are actually content related to the company.
- How engaged are other people with what they are doing – If they are blogging, how many people comment? How many people like their posts on Facebook or Tweet them? If they post on a forum, how many people reply to the thread? If they comment on blog articles, how relevant are their comments and do the comments inspire other people engaged with the content to reach out to them or take action?
- Note all these things down. No matter how silly or unconventional they are. It could be exactly what will work for you.
Next, speak to your tech savvy customers. Are there those customers that come into your business location frequently? Or have come before and just couldn’t get their hands off their smartphones or kept talking about how they found out this or that online? Those are your goldmines. Ask them if you can take 15 minutes of their time and ask them –
- If they use research from the internet to take decisions, be it purchase decisions or life decisions. If they do something except connect with friends, they have good information for you. Even the people who connect with friends have the places where they do so. Take that information. Just maybe being visible to them and their friends in those places will influence them to patronize you? You’ll never know.
- Where do they find the content they use to take these decisions? A surprisingly high number of Nigerians meet each other on Nairaland. They become business partners, patronize other members and get advice or referrals to other businesses, all through Nairaland. That’s one goldmine, but it could differ for different industries. Ask your tech savvy customer specifically if they would buy your products or services through online research. If yes, where would be the most likely place they would find this content? Probe as much as possible and note EVERYTHING down, even if its a chat room you’ve never heard of, or a little South African social network, or a low traffic Blogspot blog. Your customers could be in the most unlikely places.
- Tell them a HUGE thank you and give them a freebie if possible. These people are helping you take your business to the next level. Interview as many people as possible, find correlations and continue doing your research online.
Finally, from your findings, curate list of channels and actions your competitors, customers or clients have helped you come up with. Examples could be –
- They blog on WordPress about their products and subjects related to the use of them
- They discuss on Nairaland on threads related to the use of their products
- They respond to questions related to the use of their products or services on Quora
- They write on eZine Articles about how to use their products
- They share slides on Slideshare about topics related to their products or services
- They chat on Blackberry Messenger
- They direct message on Twitter
- They share on Facebook
- They discuss on Nairaland
- They discuss on Linda Ikeji’s Blog
Be as specific as possible stating the exact actions, the context of their actions and where they take those actions. These are the things that are you ‘could’ do, because your competitors do them, and your customers or clients do them too. Here, you will also integrate all these things and find a way to achieve them with the least effort possible. For example, this is a scenario –
- You write a blog post on WordPress about how to use a product you sell
- You share it on Twitter and request that one or two of your customers or friends on Twitter retweet it as well
- You share it on Facebook
- You chime in on a Nairaland discussion about how to use an alternative or complementary product and refer to the blog post you wrote
- You post a summarized version of the blog post on eZine Articles and refer to your blog post for a full version
Now, that’s a classic example of how one action; writing a blog post, can spiral and help you reach customers or clients on all the fronts that you’ve validated. But we’re not there yet. To be able to streamline all the gathered information, you need to have an understanding of what all these channels are, what they do and how you can get on them. Two things here, First, ask your customers a LOT of questions based on what they tell you, and second, pay attention to detail when researching your competitors. In this exercise, your customers or clients (the more the better) are your most reliable source of information.
A list of all the actions you could take, realistically streamlined and prioritized according to the most accessible to you, and importance based on commonality you saw from your customers, competitors or clients. After this series, we will be releasing a few sample documents from each phase that you can use as your template.
- The Internet
- A few customers or clients of yours who live and breath online
- A lot of your time and creative thinking
We will continue with Execution, Measurement and Improvement on Part 2.