More and more consumers are asking for personalized experiences. After all, in today’s online marketplace, people are asked to give up more personal information. Therefore, it only seems fair that they should expect this information to be used for their benefit.

Unfortunately, many businesses – especially small businesses – are at a loss when it comes to knowing how to provide these types of experiences. Further, the time, money and resources that are required to develop these types of experiences also can seem overwhelming.

The truth is, however, that creating these types of experiences don’t have to be as complicated as you might think. In fact, you may already be doing many of the things that allow you to customize the overall customer experience.

Below are some the easiest and most practical ways to offer your customers and prospects the personalized experiences they are looking for – without expending a great deal of extra time, money and manpower.

  • Targeted searches. When your customer is searching for something, quality always trumps quantity when it comes to search results. Focus less on volume and more on targeted offers.
  • Specific content. Again, more doesn’t mean better. Nothing is more impersonal than content that is merely sales copy or copy solely designed to drive a reader to a particular website. Instead, make sure your content connects, educates and inspires. Solving a problem for a customer or prospect is the ultimate personalized experience.
  • Do your research. If you aren’t conducting market research it is impossible to know what your market wants. And if you don’t know what your target audience wants you can’t give them a personalized experience. Try to hone in on specific segments of your target audience and market to these particular segments separately instead of using one broad marketing message.
  • Get interactive. Calculators, quizzes and other tools that help you engage with your target audience are more popular than ever. Further, when these tools help an individual determine a product they could use, for example, the personalization factor increases dramatically.
  • Don’t forget to be human. In many cases, the most effective personalized experiences are just that: person – to – person. Don’t get so caught up in trying to give your target audience the latest in digital technology that you fail to really get to know them on a personal level. After all, the most personalized experiences occur when your customers and prospects feel that you really want to get to know them.

Seven Ways to Come Up with Blog Topics. Blogging can do wonders for a business. Driving traffic to its website and converting that traffic into leads are just two important benefits of blogging. Blogging also helps a business become seen as a thought leader in its industry which helps establish trust with current and prospective customers.

While it is easy to see why blogging is so important to a business, blogging itself can be much more difficult. Many times it isn’t the blogging itself that causes issues, rather the ability to come up with blog topics over and over. In order for blogging to successfully promote your business, it must be done on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, coming up with new and fresh ideas can be extremely challenging.

If you feel as if you have hit a wall in terms of blog post topics, rest easy. What follows is a list of ways to spark your creative juices and have you back at the keyboard in no time.

1. Ask questions. These questions don’t have to be profound. Next time you are talking with a client just ask that client what his or her biggest challenge is right now. And customers aren’t the only ones you can get ideas from, either.

2. Interview experts. People love to read interviews with leaders in their industry who have been successful. Interviews are great blogs because you don’t have to come up with the content, the interviewee does that for you.

3. Brainstorm. It seems simple but how many times have you asked your co-workers and sales team to sit with you for a few minutes and just throw out ideas. You might be surprised at how many topics you gain from such meetings. Bring donuts and the room will be packed!

4. Use personal experience. Think of a time when you learned an important lesson from a failure. Or when you stuck with an idea no one else believed in and it paid off. These types of blog posts make for great reading because they personalize the author.

5. Spy on your competitors. What are your biggest competitors writing about? If they are getting a lot of likes on their blog posts see if there is anything you could learn from their methods or topics.

6. Keep up on current events. This is a great way to write timely and creative blog posts. Sporting events are a good example. How about a post on how hiring employees is like preparing for the NBA draft.

7. Take a look back. What were your most popular blog posts? Consider updating those posts or expanding on them. Chances are they will be popular once again.

Blogging can be difficult but is essential to the success of your business. Hopefully the ideas listed above will make the task of blogging a little easier.

Seven Simple Ways to Drive Backlinks. If you are a small business owner looking to improve your content marketing efforts, driving more backlinks to your website is essential to your success. This can be a difficult task, however, if you aren’t sure how to generate backlinks.

While everyone talks about content marketing and all that it can do for a business, it can be difficult to gain traction-especially in the beginning. What follows are some ways to generate the all-important backlinks necessary to get your content noticed.

    1. Guest Post. Writing an article for someone else’s website or blog is one of the simplest ways to drive traffic back to your site. Not only will it drive more traffic to your website, it gets your name out as a thought leader in your industry. Be prepared to return the favor when people ask to publish on your website, however. You also can find guest posting opportunities on Twitter by using Twitter Advanced Search for quality sites that need niche writers.
    1. Practice Link Reclamation. Seek out sites that mention you or your brand and make sure that there is a link back to your site.
    1. Get Listed. Directories are a great way to build backlinks. Write a unique description of your brand and get it listed in one (or more) of the many free web directories out there.
    1. Help a Reporter Out (HARO). When you sign up for HARO, journalists are able to find you if they need a quote for a story.
    1. Publish Infographics. Everyone loves visual content. Find out what is trending in your industry and create an infographic and promote it. The more it’s used, the more backlinks you will enjoy.
    1. Give Testimonials. We all want customers to give us testimonials but your testimonials are valuable as well when it comes to gaining backlinks. Gather a list of products or services you have used recently and visit their websites to see if they have a testimonials page. If they do, write one to be published.
  1. Entice Bloggers. Exchange goods for reviews. Do a search for bloggers in your industry and reach out to them by asking them to review a product or service you will provide at no charge. This is a win-win fo you and the blogger.

Building backlinks is easier than you might think. The key is to always be reaching out to others to gain important backlinks.

Feeling Left Out of the Content Marketing Conversation?. We’ve all been there. Everyone is talking about the latest movie, fitness craze or current event and instead of admitting we have no idea what they are talking about, we nod knowingly and pretend like we do. After all, who wants to come across as out of touch?

Many small business owners admit to feeling this way when the conversation turns to content marketing. While content marketing has been around for a while-and has proven itself to be a powerful tool-there is no shame in admitting that you aren’t exactly sure how it works.

Thankfully, you don’t have to admit this in front of a large group of people. In fact, read the primer below and you won’t have to admit it at all!

    • What is it? Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach in which businesses create and distribute content designed to appeal to a particular audience. Unlike advertising copy that tries to entice a huge swath of consumers to buy goods or services, content marketing helps a business connect, educate and inspire a particular group of people. In other words, it attracts people who are likely to be interested in what a business is selling, and when they are ready to make a purchase, they will think of that business first.
    • Who should use it? Everyone. The best thing about content marketing is that it works for every business, no matter what the industry. Whether you sell hair care products or farm implements, content marketing can work for you. The key is to provide your audience with a steady flow of unique information that helps solve a problem or improves their lives. In the process of helping others you come to be seen as a thought leader in the industry and someone people can trust.
    • How do you get started? The first step in content marketing is defining exactly who your target audience is and what they need. Only then can you begin producing content that will draw your target audience in. You also need to make sure your target audience finds this content. This is accomplished by determining where they hang out online. Do they watch videos on YouTube? Read articles on LinkedIn? Frequent online industry publications? Once you know where they are, you will know where to post your content.

Content marketing isn’t complicated but it does take time and effort. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you won’t see results overnight. After all, it takes time for people to get to know you and learn to trust you.