The Problem with Blogging

Fingers on keyboardThere's no point in beating around the bush. The main problem with blogs is that they're hard to maintain.

After the first few months, you begin to understand that like anything else, it's work. And not just a little bit of work. It's a lot of work.


I began blogging in 2007 and have been both a faithful and an unfaithful blogger in the time since. However two years of steady writing at a time is the most I've been able to accomplish before falling off the blog wagon.

Oh, there's tons of excuses. I've used them all. But once you stop writing on your blog, it's easier to stay stopped than it is to start again. I've probably spent more time thinking about NOT blogging than I have about what to write in the first place.

My most successful blog was my children's literature blog –Crazy4KidsBooks Upon reflection, I think the reason that blog was successful comes down to three things.

  • Clarity – I reviewed children's books. Just for the joy of it. Since things on the Internet never die, the blog is still there. The content is mostly book reviews with an occasional rant about funding school and public libraries. I was totally clear on the blog's purpose and function.
  • Community – Once I began, I was almost immediately welcomed into the community of children's literature bloggers. A wonderful ragtag group of teachers, parents, librarians, writers, illustrators, and folks from the publishing industry. And what's not to like about talking books with other readers and finding boxes of books on your doorstep each month?
  • Contribution – Although the most popular books might be reviewed on multiple blogs, there was an interesting lack of redundancy between children's book blogs. Each reviewer had their own interests and experience that colored their choice of titles. So together (at that time roughly 500 of us), we produced a large canon of book reviews and opinions that celebrated our love of good stories. They, of course, have continued to create wonderful content in my absence.

So, can I extrapolate anything useful from this experience and apply to my now third refresh of this marketing blog?

At this point I can tell you that being passionate about marketing or even about helping teachers and students is not enough to keep most people showing up at the keyboard for weeks, months, and years.

I think the three points above are actully key success criteria for any blog. It's not enough to love what you do.

It's about finding clarity, building community, and making a contribution.

In our world of educational publishing, being focused and clear about who our community is and how we can help them is the first requirement. What information do they need to accomplish their goals?

Building a community of people who resonate with what we have to share is another key ingredient. Learning and sharing with others is collegial and fun.

By helping educational companies share their customer stories, we contribute to the body of information called  'What Works' in education.

My goal continues to be helping educational companies tell their stories about changing the lives of teachers and students. In restarting this blog, I'm going to keep in mind the three lessons from above – finding clarity, building community, and making a contribution.

We'll see if I can beat my two-year blogging record by sharing successful marketing strategies with educational publishers and providers.

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3 Reasons to Use Twitter in Your Educational Marketing

twitterMost companies use Twitter the same way they use advertising – as a one-way communication blast. Although it is easy to set up and manage your Twitter account this way, it is limiting and off-putting to your target audience. They quickly see through your self-serving Tweets, and tune you out. Often, for good. If you think of your website as “information central” and your Twitter account as an “outpost,” gathering and sharing intelligence, then you’ve got the right idea.The three best ways to use Twitter in your marketing are:

 

  • Research
  • Building Awareness
  • Establishing Authority

You can think of research in this sense as keeping your ear to the ground. Educators are talking and sharing on Twitter. They share what’s happening in their classrooms and schools, what they think about education issues, and what they need help with. Twitter is a direct channel to the connected educator…the educator who is actively invested in learning how to be more effective by connecting with other educators across the country. Building a community of interest and awareness of your products is the goal on Twitter. It is not a direct sales channel. As you know, educators are particularly sensitive to marketing spiels. Once they determine you are more interested in selling your stuff than in helping them, they’re gone. They’ll pass right over you.

So, how do you build community and awareness without turning off educators?

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Should You Outsource Your Marketing Content?

writer on a laptopMany education companies do not have a fully staffed marketing department. They often have a marketing plan but lack the resources – time, money, or staff – to fully execute their plan. Budgets are tight. Everywhere. In a relationship-oriented industry such as ours, there are many people to turn to for help writing marketing content such as web articles, email campaigns, case studies, white papers, blog posts, sales sheets, and more. Marketing professionals often turn to former colleagues or established consultants for help. When you decide it’s time to reach out for help, what should you look for? Certainly good writing skills, timeliness, professionalism, and the ability to communicate clearly are all important. But even more important, in my opinion, is an understanding of and experience in the education marketplace. Both K-12 education and higher education have their own rhythms, cycles, and priorities. Often, the user is not the buyer. It is important for contract writers to understand how these markets work. Prime examples include:

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The #1 Blogging Mistake and How to Fix It

It's easy to do. We're all so busy in "regular" times that when we hit "extraordinary" times, our too-full schedules quickly come unraveled.

I'm no different, which is why it's been since late May since my last blog post. I have perfectly good reasons. Most of us do. A family wedding, a funeral, a conference, travel, a summer cold and VOILA!! More than a month has passed without a blog post.

If I were one of my own clients, this is what I'd say:

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Do You Know the Difference Between Content Marketing v. Inbound Marketing?

content marketing-inbound marketingAs the terms "content marketing" and "inbound marketing" gain greater traction, it's important to note the ways they are the same and different from previous types of marketing and how they relate to each other.

Smart companies understand that everyone in their organization is in the customer service business and everyone helps market the business through their daily interactions with customers and prospects. So, the end goal of marketing has not changed. We are still in the business of connecting the right people with the right product or service.

While some of the basic units of effective marketing are the same, the strategy and process of getting to the end goal are a bit different. And of course, we're calling it something new.

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Content Marketing IS Real Writing

woman typing on keyboardAs long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. From the time I knew what a writer was, I've wanted to be one. In those long ago days when I wanted to be able to create the kind of adventures I loved reading, I believed that a real writer was a fiction writer.

Turns out that a lot of people felt that you weren't a legitimate writer unless you wrote fiction. Aside from the fact that journalists routinely win Pulitzer prizes and some of the best writing in our culture is nonfiction such as biography, essays and memoir, there has always been a hierarchy of writers with fiction writers at the top of the pyramid.

And business or corporate writing? That was considered beneath notice of "real" writers. It was commercial – as if selling novels, newspapers and magazines were not?

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Case Study Must Haves for K-12 Solutions

 

students and school computersOne of the most common ways to demonstrate product efficacy or to tell a product story in the K-12 industry is through a case study or a customer success story. Case studies are an important component of your content marketing strategy in pushing out content of interest to your community of prospects.

While the general structure of a case study is basically the same across all industries, K-12 stories are usually quite compelling because they strike at the heart of two things our culture holds most dear – kids and education.

Case studies have a four-part basic structure:

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Why Content is the Secret Sauce in Your Marketing Mix

 

secret sauce for your marketing mixWhen developing a marketing mix for a new campaign, not only do we need to ensure that each channel's tactics complements the others, but they also need to stand on their own to move the prospect forward to the next step in the process.

Our marketing mix should include every available channel that makes sense for the product. We can choose from: direct marketing (including email, phone, print), search marketing, social media marketing, advertising, public relations and mobile marketing.

Different products require a different marketing mix, but no matter what channels we use, each should lead the prospect to the product website which is "brand central." It's there that we get to tell our story in detail and prove our authentic intention to help customers solve their problems.

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3 Terrific Resources to Learn More about Content Marketing

content_marketing_diagramMost marketers in the K-12 education industry have now at least heard the term content marketing. Many educational publishers have been doing content marketing for a long time – telling success stories with their customers as the hero.

Content marketing is fundamentally a way to attract or pull your customers and prospects toward you with great storytelling instead of pushing out traditional sales messages. There are many practitioners in other industries that have blazed the trail like Rebecca Lieb who talks about the difference between advertising and content marketing.

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Three Basic Elements of Successful Customer Engagement

talking chairs individualityEarlier this week we talked about the difference between social media marketing and content marketing. What they share at their core is the idea of authentic customer engagement.

So what is the essence of successful customer engagement?

First you must to listen with genuine interest to your customer. You have to hear what their concerns, issues and goals are.

Second, you must understand how to help them solve their concerns with what you have to offer which is relevant to them.

Third, you must respond to them in an authentic and transparent way supporting their need for individual attention, additional information or the move to the next step of the process.

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