A guest blog post from Colin Kennedy at Ironroad Communications

It was 2008 and the world was neck deep in recession – the housing market had collapsed – and father-of-four children, Marcus Sheridan, was grappling with the reality that his pool building business was just weeks away from shutting its doors.

His company, Rivers Pools and Spas, employed more than 20 people, but in just six months they had seen sales decline from an average of six a month to just one or two. As if a metaphor for the economy, houses in the US were abandoned, their pools thick with mosquitoes and algae.

At that point, Marcus decided to overhaul the company’s marketing. First he cancelled their radio and television advertising and started thinking about low cost strategies, like how to use the Internet better.

“I just started thinking more about the way I use the Internet,” he would later tell the New York Times. “Most of the time when I type in a search, I’m looking for an answer to a specific question. The problem in my industry, and a lot of industries, is you don’t get a lot of great search results because most businesses don’t want to give answers; they want to talk about their company. So I realised that if I was willing to answer all these questions that people have about fiberglass pools, we might have a chance to pull this out.”

Within a year, River Pools and Spas was recording record sales and profits. Marcus would later say, however, that it wasn’t blogging or content marketing that saved his business – these are not philosophies in themselves – but the fact that the company began to see themselves as ‘teachers’ and ‘problem solvers’ who could answer all possible questions on pools.

The River Pools and Spas success is very much within the reach of New Zealand SMEs like yours because so few companies here are putting themselves forward to offer solutions, or to answer the real questions customers are asking – like what’s the price? – or making an effort to educate the target market.

Right now, most New Zealand companies still want to talk about themselves instead of the things customers want to talk about.

A good local example making huge strides with the “answers and issues” approach is LoanPlan, a mortgage advisory firm that competes in an industry where Adword spending of $10,000 per month – here in New Zealand – is not unheard of; particularly because the keyword ‘mortgage’ is the third most expensive in Google Adword in New Zealand and the world.

LoanPlan’s budgets are negligible by comparison, but the company ranks first, second or third for organic search results ahead of their big spending competition because they simply answer the questions customers are asking, and address the issues of our times.

For example, LoanPlan was recently featured by Stuff here, Radio New Zealand here, Scoop here, and NZ Adviser here — pure gold when it comes to backlinks, expertise and exposure.

Bear in mind that this is a very crowded editorial space. Everybody has their say on housing and interest rates, from economist and politicians to bankers and property investors.

Your business can emulate that success in your chosen field.

Here’s a five step plan for how you can get the jump on your competition, exponentially increase your profile, website traffic and reputation as the foremost expert in your market:

1. Identify common customer frustration and problems. Research the questions they ask – all of them. To get this information, survey your sales team, your frontline staff and your customer support teams, including the people who deal with disgruntled customers. Every question is a potential blog, article or eGuide.
2. Survey the current environment for issues that could impact your customers now or in the future. These may be legal – like new or pending legislation – or economic, like interest rate rises. Current events, trends and breaking news in politics, the environment, technology or social spheres of life are good sources for stories that are relevant and topical to your customers in the here and now.
3. Think like a journalist and write a press release article highlighting the problem or potential issues and offer some tips on how to overcome them. For example, we recently created a press release article for a client who sells shades and canopies, in response to news headlines about college kids at risk from sun exposure because they refuse to wear hats or sunblock.
4. Distribute the article to media and bloggers you think may be interested. Most media have high authority websites, which means if they publish your story with links you will likely enjoy massive advances in your Google search rankings. It also amounts to ‘third party’ inferred endorsement of your products, services and expertise.
5. Once you’ve sent the article out, rewrite it as a blog and post it on your website. Share links to the article through social media to reach as wide an audience as possible (it’s also good for your search rankings). If the media publishes your article, share those links too. Radio is always hungry for content. After they interview you, capture the sound files and publish those on your website too.

Getting publicity on high profile authoritive news and media websites is not as difficult as it used to be because media teams are shrinking, while the demand for content has never been higher.

Media outlets will often publish your content if it is relevant, newsworthy and adds educational value to the target market – they appreciate good quality content that talks less about you and more about your customers’ problems, questions and issues.

If you would like help with creating and distributing relevant, newsworthy content to media, bloggers and other high authority websites, as well as publishing to your own blog and social media, talk to us about how we can do this for you at a cost of only $690 excluding GST per month.