Guidelines for writing great articles

Part of my efforts with the Mississippi Magic Magazine involve setting up guidelines for writing great articles.  If you are wondering why a technologies consultant is posting guidelines on writing great articles then let me explain.  We are in the business of creating success in our constituents that we partner with through consulting and development.  That being said… Mississippi Magic Magazine provides an outlet of expression for people and businesses in Mississippi but it does not employ writers to produce magazine content.  Therefore, all the writing done on the Mississippi Magic Magazine is done by volunteer writers that have a vested interest in the community.  From business owners to pastors of churches, people active in leadership in the community provide all of the content found in magazine.  To make this a profitable venture for each of them, we’ve found it necessary to publish a guidelines for writing great articles.

Benefits:

  • People like to do business with those they are familiar with.   Through connecting with our community through your articles, you’ll lower the barriers that people have to traditional broadcast style advertising communications.  .
  • Articles will be broadcasted to the RSS subscription readership.
  • Articles will be indexed by search engines so that anyone looking the information you provided will find it and you on the internet.
  • Articles will spread in a viral method through through social media sites such as twitter, facebook, and linked in.
  • Unlike traditional media, articles written will be available online well into the indefinite future.
  • Articles will link your thoughts, expertise, and methods to your perceived value as a solutions provider and allow people to reach you.
  • Articles always make the front page when they are published.
Good practices:
  • Offering needed information to make an informed decisions.
  • Offering solutions by showing how to solve a problem.
  • Providing lists of methods or resources.
  • Expounding upon a subject.
  • Offering information about events by featuring information, pictures, and video covering people in the community.
  • Praising and pointing out the good about others.
  • Simplifying complex information, instructions, or events.
Avoid:
  • Slandering others.
  • Defaming others.
  • Advertising your products or services.
  • Soliciting business.
Using these methods, community leaders can provide invaluable content that leads people in the community to them as a provider of services and goods.  Through the relationship formed between the reader and author in the magazine articles these leaders have an inroad to the reader when the reader seeks to find a provider for a need or want that the author can fulfill.
This style of marketing defined in these guidelines for writing great articles are known today as inbound marketing.  By using them you’ll get found on the internet and connect with your customer.
– Joel

Flattening the org chart with mobile web technology – part one the pyramid.

Part one – The traditional pyramid organizational structure

When I was in college (10 years ago!) studying information technology and business one of the hot topics was how information technologies would flatten the pyramid organizational chart of many businesses. Ten years later after graduating and participating in management in several organizations as a corporate citizen of the of the business world I can say that I’ve seen little progress. Many organizations seemingly have invested in new technologies only to primarily use email systems to communicate with most of the information moving from top down with the majority of the decision support technology being leveraged at the top of organizations and not the bottom.

Traditional businesses are built upon a pyramid structure of management that works on a one to many relationship between the highest level leader  / manager or the organization and and his subordinate managers that handle employees and customers.  Here’s a brief story showing how this works.

An illustration:

Our entrepreneur  Joe starts out  with a vision to sell widgets to the world (or at least his home town).  He begins selling and becomes so successful that he must hire employees to help.  At this point Joe has to step back from dealing with customers directly and begin dealing with his employees if he wants to be successful.  Joe must devote some of his time to managing his people.  If he is successful at instilling his vision, methods, and purpose into the people he has hired then his business will continue to grow.

Now lets say that Joe is very successful and must hire or contract 30 people to handle the day in day out operations of his business.  Obviously Joe cannot deal directly with customers like he used to and probably spends most of his time coaching, training, and counseling his people on to success.  He has created a small pyramid structure where each employee or contractor reports to him.  Joe’s business expands and he opens a branch in another town.  He can’t be in both places at the same time so he has to hire another person to help manage.  The new person starts out with several employees and Joe’s plan, vision, and methods for selling widgets.

Joe now has two pyramids to handle,  the one he is directly involved in and the remote location.  This is the small business model.  As Joe continues down the road to success he continually adds more pyramids to his organization eventually creating units that handle marketing, legal issues, human resources, procurement, and financials.  By now Joe’s reached the point where there is no way he can run his original unit and properly motivate, inspire, and lead all the others so he hires another manager to handle his unit and spend all of his time now overseeing all the units.

Sounds complicated?  Well it really isn’t if Joe’s done some smart hiring but Joe does have quite an infrastructure of of people in place and a weekly obligation to do a set amount of sales in order to pay them all.  Joe’s done a great job of scaling up his business but the way he’s done it doesn’t leave him any room for scaling down.  Also, Joe is out of touch with his consumers now because he doesn’t get to deal with them directly so he can’t read market demands like he used to so he has to rely on the people he’s hired or contracted to get this information for him.  Joe’s business model probably looks like the picture below.

The traditional pyramid organizational structure
Joe's business organizational chart

As you can see Joe’s continuing success is placing him further and further way from his customers while his ability to make decisions that affect the outcome of the business has grown in proportion to its scale.  Joe’s answer to this problem would typically be to saturate his decision making process with inputs from the managers he’s hired and empower them to make some of these decisions.  He might occasionally drop in on departments or operations to see what is going on and attempt to get a better perspective of the needs of the business by talking directly to employees that deal with suppliers and customers, but for the most part he’ll be plugged into the network he’s built and be removed from the front lines of the business.  These are the effects of the traditional pyramid structure of business.

Strong points

  • Inherently allows for growth in the scaling of business.
  • Allows for intuitive growth of business
  • Authority and areas of responsibility clearly defined.
  • Clearly defined path for promotions and reward within the organization.
  • Internal units can create group cohesiveness, camaraderie and loyalties.
Weaknesses
  • Leadership is removed from front-line supplier, customer, and prospect interaction and may lack responsiveness.
  • Leadership must rely on subordinate sub leaders to supply information and analysis.
  • Top level decision making can be skewed by group thinking, the overriding desire for consensus, and group politics which do not reflect the businesses actual needs.
  • Front-line employee’s may have limited decision making ability and lack the ability to properly engage the customer or prospect.
  • Innovation may be stifled by top down communication.

In our next article we’ll discuss an alternative structure that could be used to improve responsiveness and innovation through networking.

Joel

 

Simplifying the Sales Process Funnel

The Sales Process Funnel
Sales Process Funnel

A simple version of the sales process funnel

Know: If you want to do business with someone you’ve got to give them the chance to get to know you. That means that you’ve got to have information about your business available and delivered it through the right channels. That’s why its so important to have a good website, a blog, and to utilize social media.

Your website is the hub of your inbound marketing brand. All of your efforts through social media, blogging and participation in industry related blogs act as spokes pointing back back to your website. Your site should tell your businesses story and contain several compelling offers.

Blogging allows you to publish a lot of information about your business that can be catalogued by search engines making you findable and should be the backbone of your seo campaign.

Social media helps change the context of your message and can make your message deliverable to an audience that might not normally view it. 

Like: Once your prospect gets to know you through the channels mentioned above you’ve got a chance to establish a relationship with them. By responding to comments that prospects leave on blog posts, communicating via services like facebook, linkedin, twitter and email, and providing valuable information and resources that helps your prospect gain understanding of a complex issue or solve a problem you’ll open the door for a friendship in which both of you can win.

Trust: This element is the one that often gets looked over in the business world. Once you’ve gained a relationship with a prospect it is critical that you do what you say you would do and that you focus on building the relationship instead of simply going after the sale. I know it may seem counter-intuitive to put the sale off at this point, but if you sell before you have gained your clients trust you will have problems. Before the sale occurs both you and the prospect must have a clear understanding of what your roles will be in the deal. You must determine if you fit the role of a supplier and if the prospect fits the role of an ideal customer before continuing on to the sale. Your prospect might not need your particular solution but may be a great source of referrals. Either way at this point your prospect has become a tangible asset. If you’ve established the trust factor and open communication before the sale then you’re customer is your partner in making the deal go through and things will go much more smoothly.

Try: In the trust phase of the process we talked about determining an ideal fit. Adding a try stage to your process can work wonders for determining that fit and generating referrals because your prospect knows, likes, and trusts you. Allowing the prospect to play the role of a customer by trying a sample of the product offering before purchasing the product can also increase the likelihood that they will make the purchase because the their perception of risk is much lower when they know that they can back out of the deal without a hassle.

Buy: Finally we reach the stage where you get some direct compensation for all of your hard work, but wait… the job isn’t finnished, rather it’s just begun. You’ve now got a customer that knows, likes, and trusts you. They’ve received the benefit of the resources you’ve offered through your inbound marketing campaign, tried your product without risk, and made the purchase. You have both determined that you have an ideal fit in your roles so now it’s time to get some valuable feedback about your product, testimonials, and referrals from your trusted friend. If you can keep the relationship alive then you’ve got a valuable resource to help take your business to the next level and business between you should continue as long as the prospect has a need to be filled as competitors will not have the advantage of  price competition because you have developed product and brand differentiation.

There it is as simple as it can be.

– Joel

Related Posts:

Introduction of The Sales Process Funnel Chart

Remarkable Content: Educating your prospects, leads, and customers.

Thoughts on CRS Funnel Development

Comments are appreciated.

 

Remarkable Content: Educating your prospects, leads, and customers.

The Sales / Lead Nurturing Process Funnel

On an earlier post we talked about the sales process funnel and for our purposes we’ve redefined it here.

A introduction to the funnel. Market issues today and how to capture the consumers attention.

Today’s marketing environment: What makes businesses appealing to customers in today’s media saturated markets? The old ways of blasting a message out to the general public using the “shotgun approach” just doesn’t work with today’s consumer. People have gotten good at tuning out unwanted messages. The human brain peruses information on a subconscious level at a rate of speed that is up to 800 times faster than the concious minds ability to think and serves up to the conscious mind only what is relevant to a person is doing or their set of beliefs. Odds are if the customer isn’t looking for something even though your finely crafted message is hitting them several times a day it’s possible that they may not be aware of it. Customers have gotten good at ignoring and tuning irrelevant messages out.

New Methods of Reach: So how do we reach an audience that is tuned out? The answer to that question is simple. We provide answers when they are tuned in. While consumers have gotten good at tuning messages out, they have also gotten good at searching for information through the internet and they still rely on the old stalwart word of mouth recommendation that has been around since the dawn of civilization. Business’s that wish to reach their audience today must not only have a finely crafted message, but have the channel to provide that message at precisely the time the customer is looking for it. Thankfully this has become much easier with social networking sites and search engines as customers are using them to actively search for things that they want.

The Trust Element: It’s not just enough to purchase ads on the new mediums of communication. In an environment where all types of claims and promises are being broadcast, consumers have become cynical of the true intent of businesses and are not as quick to trust an unknown entity with their time energy and money. Even though a message can be delivered to a customer that is actively searching for an answer, consumer cynicism still acts as a barrier to entry in the market. To overcome this healthy cynicism we must change roles from scrutinized marketer to that of a helpful educator. In today’s information rich and highly connected market consumers have grown accustom to searching for information on almost every commodity before making a purchasing decision. Providing a channel of helpful information that facilitates social networking and encourages interaction and input has become the means by which today’s savy marketers draw consumers into a trust building relationship. By changing the tone and timbre of the communication from high pressure sales pitch to concerned educator prospective customers are able to enter into a dialogue of communication without fear of being sold a useless bill of goods.

Creating educational content: Content for the purposes of educating a market and providing information with which a consumer base can use to make informed decisions must be unique, remarkable, and relevant to your business and the consumers needs. To properly satisfy those requirements, it is important that content meet the following criteria:

  • Content length: short enough to be quickly perused while still providing valuable information.
  • Fresh and up to date
  • Not an imitation of other sites (don’t publish me too work).
  • Searchable, Indexable
  • Provides interaction and a channel for user contribution.
  • Easily shared

A guide to publishing this type of work can be found here.

In Conclusion: Blogs seem to fit this criteria very well as do on-line videos, pod-casts, and downloadable white papers.  What other methods of distribution do you know of and what could extend this model? We’re defining this as the lip of the sales process funnel. The drawing point by which prospects, looking for an answer, are gradually introduced to a business’s product offerings as solutions and trust is built.

Your thoughts?

– Joel

Introduction of Sales Process Funnel Chart

The Sales Process Funnel
Sales Process Funnel

Here’s the first revision of the sales process funnel chart.  I’ll be publishing a series on each stage and element of the process going forward.

Any thoughts?

– Joel