To really understand content marketing, I find it helpful to go back and look at marketing before the internet. I know, I know, that's like the dark ages. But hear me out.
Before the internet, marketing and advertising was limited in its use of space and it’s access to people. Information had to be crammed into a print advertisement, or a flyer, or on a billboard. There was a limited amount of space to use and it was often priced by the size. The bigger your ad or the longer your commercial, the more expensive it was.
Additionally, the only way to reach individual people was on the telephone or at their home address.
For service-based companies, the goal of marketing and advertising was to get the individual people to contact you. Phone numbers were prominently displayed in ads. The prospective customers had to pick up the phone and call you, or walk into your office.
At that point, the sales process would start. The person who called you or walked into your office had clearly identified themselves as someone who is interested in your services. You would smile at them, and thank them for contacting you. You would ask them about their situation, and answer any questions they might have.
It is in this process when you begin to build relationships with people, earn their trust and see if you are a good fit to work together.
Now, flash forward.
When the internet comes along, all of a sudden there were no more limitations on space or access to people. We had websites and e-mail! You could put as much information as you wanted on your site, and it didn’t cost any extra. You could e-mail people as much as you wanted.
So what happened?
Marketers were so used to the old model, that they used the internet the same way they used other marketing tools. They still provided information and tried to get people to contact you. Even though the tool was very different, the tactic was the same. And for many small businesses, this is still the case!
There is information - more of it - about the company and what they do, and a phone number (or e-mail address) where you can contact them. But the relationship building part of the process doesn't happen until a prospect makes personal contact with you.
The real power of the internet is not in the expanded amount of space to work with, although that is nice. The real power is in our ability to use it to build relationships with people.
Content marketing is what takes things to the next stage. It isn’t about getting people to call you or come to you. When they opt-in, or follow you, or “like” you or subscribe to you, they are identifying themselves as someone who is interested in your services.
The next stage is the conversation. The part where you build a relationship with them, answer their questions, share some of your expertise, and see if you are a good fit to work together. That is what content marketing is about!
You likely have a lot of marketing materials and copy in your business that is intended to inform people and get them to contact you. But do you have content that carries the conversation to the next level?
Many parts of content marketing are slow. It takes a long time to build up an effective library of content. Establishing relationships with people is not a fast process. The sales cycle can be many months, or as much as a year or more.
But there is one part of content marketing that requires speed.
See, the average attention span when people are visiting websites or looking at e-mail is very short. You only have a few seconds to show them that the content you are providing is worthwhile.
If they have to read through several paragraphs before they get to something interesting, it won’t work. They will never get there.
This is where the importance of design comes in.
Words are wonderful, but people cannot take in very many words in a short period of time. We can, however, assess the entire feel of a piece based on the images and the design in just a few seconds. We make a lot of judgments just based on what we see immediately, including whether or not we want to spend more time fully taking in the content that is being offered.
There are two types of design to consider for your content pieces. I’ll call them general design and specific design.
General design only has to happen once, and it will last for a long time. This could be the design of your website, including your blog pages, your e-newsletter template, or other pieces that you will use over and over. Your overall branding, choice of colors, layout, etc. have a huge impact on the impression people get when they first see it.
If your pieces look professional and have a sense of high quality, people will assume that your business has a lot of value to offer. If, instead, your website or newsletter look crummy and cheap, people will make assumptions based on that as well, and you will likely have a difficult time keeping people around long enough to build relationships with them.
Marketing design is not my area of expertise, but I can tell you that it is worth while investing in good design for the platforms that you will use over and over again. I do design e-mail templates based on already existing brands, and I have seen the difference between those that are well-crafted and exude a level of quality and value, and those that do not.
By this, I mean design components that are specific to a particular piece of content. It could be a post on your blog, or an item in your newsletter. Even though these pieces of content are contained within your general design, you want to have something visual to distinguish them from one another.
If you use only words for a blog post, an offer, even a note, it will not have nearly as powerful an impact as if there is an image with it. The image can grab people’s attention and explain what you are offering or talking about in just a few seconds.
Here are some ideas of how you can use design to improve the impact of your content using specific design:
· Create an image of your free opt-in offer. Even if you offer a digital item, design an image of a book or case with a cover that helps convey what it is that people will be getting.
· Use graphics for your articles. Whether you are posting on your blog or including it in your e-newsletter, include a picture that is intriguing and makes people want to read on. It could be a stock image, a picture you took, or even a visual representation of a quote from the article. An added bonus is that you can post that image on your social media sites to promote the content!
· Create a visual brand for your program or package. While it is obvious that there should be a picture of a physical product you are trying to sell, it is also important to have an image to represent a service-based program or product. Since there is no physical item, it is more like a logo that captures the essence of the program. It will help people understand what it is all about.
· Take pictures of yourself regularly. This is one of my favorite visual tools because it is specifically about building relationships with people. By including pictures of yourself regularly, people will more quickly establish a connection to you. They don’t have to be professional pictures. In fact, candid photos of you in real-life context are even better for showing a part of yourself that people can relate to. And if they feel connected to you, they will want to read or listen to what you have to say.
Now, take a look at your use of both general and specific design, and pick one thing you can improve today!
I believe strongly that creating compelling content is the best way to get lots of ideal clients to hire you... eventually.
But too many people come to me and they want to do a campaign for a service they are offering in a few weeks. They expect that by sending out a few e-mails, they will be able to fill their program in a short period of time. Even when they haven't communicated to their list in 3 months!
I hate to break it to you, but that's not how it works.
Content marketing is not designed to produce quick results. What it is really good at is building relationships that will yield amazing results in the long run.
As you probably know, only a very small percentage of people want to hire you right away when you first meet them, or when they first come to your website, or hear about your business. Usually only about 1-2%. However, many of those people will hire you eventually, if you stay in touch with them.
Here's a statistic I often share: 60% of sales happen more than one year after the initial contact is made. A whole year! (And sometimes more!) If you aren't staying in touch with people on a regular basis, you are likely losing a lot of clients who would have loved to have heard from you, and would have hired you... eventually.
Content marketing is all about staying in touch with those people over an extended period of time, and strengthening your relationship with them during that time. This requires creating valuable content consistently.
If you send them two e-mails and then disappear, you will lose them. If you post on your blog once, and then don't put out anything for a couple of months, you will lose them. In fact, I have come to believe that the impression people get from businesses that don't put out content consistently is that they don't have enough value to share.
I'm not saying its true. Of course you have a lot of value to share. But if you aren't sharing it, it is as though it doesn't exist.
So I encourage you to start creating content on a consistent basis. It is a powerful tool for the future of your business. But know that you have to be in it for the long haul.
I know that in the beginning it can be daunting, and many people start out on this path but end of giving up after a few months. But here is the silver lining... the longer you stick with content creation, the faster it will start to work!
Once you establish a library of content (25 pieces or more), and demonstrate your reliability and trustworthiness to share things regularly, your reputation grows. People will start referring others to you. New people can take in a lot of content very quickly because it is already there, and the magnitude of your value can be perceived immediately.
That doesn't mean you get to stop creating content! But it does mean that over time, the results will multiply. And you will see that all the effort you put into was indeed worth it... in the long run!
As a content creation coach, I am often mistaken for a copywriter. I am NOT a copywriter. For starters, copywriters write copy, not content. What’s the difference, you ask?
The difference is huge! And it could be the reason your content isn’t working. Here are five distinctions between content and copy that can help you determine if your business is creating effective content.
What’s the Purpose?
Copy is intended to inform people about something, like a business, a product, a service, an industry, or a person. It can also have the goal of causing the reader to take a particular action around that subject, like buying a product or signing up for a service.
The purpose of content is to build a relationship with the reader. That’s it. To interact in such a way that they get to know you, like you, and trust you.
The Content of your Content
The most important distinction between Copy and Content is what they contain. This is how they achieve their respective goals. Copy is informative, but not immediately valuable. It is based around facts, it is descriptive. It can talk to the reader and evoke a particular response, which is usually a purchase of a product or service. In order to take action, the reader must acquire something that they don’t currently have.
Content, on the other hand, is of immediate value to the reader. It is based in the knowledge, expertise, or opinion of the person writing it. Facts can be used to back up the advice, but there must be something new that the reader will learn that they can use immediately in their own life or business, without being expected to buy something. It is through the personal nature of the content (it is written by someone with particular knowledge) and the value given away that it is able to build relationships.
Perhaps another way to think about it is by using Who, What, When, Where, How and Why. Copy focuses primarily on What, as well as When and Where if they are relevant. These are words that are informative. What does the program entail? When does the event take place? Where do I get that product?
Content focuses primarily on How and Why. How to improve your life or business in a particular way. Why something is important to the reader, or should be. Keep in mind that the immediate benefit to the reader may be a shift in mindset.
“Who” can fit under either copy or content, depending on its goal. Telling a personal story because it will benefit the reader in some way can be content. A biographical statement listing your accomplishments and credentials is copy.
Content can come in a number of different forms. Content is generally either written or spoken, but can be in the form of a video, a webinar, a teleseminar, an audio program, articles, e-books, etc… Copy is exclusively written, and is usually shorter in its format. Common forms of copy include website copy, advertising copy, e-mail copy, and sales copy for printed or digital media.
Who Can Write It
Copy can be delegated. With some basic information, the job of the copywriter is to make a particular thing (product, company, program, etc…) sound as interesting as possible. Content is much more difficult to outsource. It has to come from the person who is building the relationship. It is nearly impossible to write on someone else’s behalf without the knowledge and experience and personality that they have. I’ve seen people try to delegate their content creation, and it is rarely successful.
There is a place for both content and copy in our businesses. In fact they are both important. But too many business have only copy, and no true content.
And here’s the thing. People will read content consistently, but copy only occasionally. If you are sending good content, people will follow you for months and even years. You will build loyalty and strengthen relationships. If you are only sending copy, they will lose interest and stop reading your materials.
It’s not an exact science, but I have seen a recommendation that businesses should send 5 pieces of valuable content for every piece of sales copy. That’s 5 to 1!
So now that you know the difference, how can you start creating and using valuable content in your business?
With the new culture of content, there is a shift in the kinds of skills that are necessary.
Garrison Keilor, who does the NPR show “A Prairie Home Companion” likes to make fun of English Majors for their lack of job prospects. (Even though he is one!) He invented a fictitious organization called POEM – the Professional Organization of English Majors – to support them in their floundering.
But in all seriousness, writing and creative thinking are critical skills in the growing world of content marketing.
I just listened to an interview between my business mentor, Fabienne Frederickson, who has created a multi-million dollar business and Amy Cosper, the Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine and Media
. It turns out that Fabienne majored in French Literature and Amy majored in Art History!
They took some time to talk about the virtues of a liberal arts education, and the value that is gained by learning to look at things from different perspectives, analyze things, and express your thoughts clearly, both in written and spoken form.
I practically jumped for joy!I have a confession to make.
I majored in African Cultural Studies. It was actually a major I pieced together by taking classes in history, music, dance, language, and studying abroad. I often tell people that I am a poster child for a liberal arts education.
The value of learning to communicate and connect is immeasurable.
I understand that everyone isn’t wired like this.
But those of us who are should not be forced to climb the same ladder as everyone else. Majoring in engineering or business may increase your chances of getting a predictable job in a particular field, but it does not mean that you will be happier or more successful.
Now, I realize that we aren’t in college anymore. And I’m not proposing that you go back to school.
But it is never too late to learn these kinds of things and hone your skills of creative thinking, writing, and communicating. I believe the world is your classroom. Your business is your classroom. Experience is your teacher.
Learn by doing. Don’t expect to learn how to do this from a coach, or from a book. We can help you with a lot of things. We can give you direction, we can hold you accountable, we can help you get exposure for your content.
But creating content is something YOU have to DO. And you will learn as you go.
So register for your Content Creation Course now. It takes place once a week, so put it on your calendar, and meet yourself there. You’ll be amazed at what you will discover.
It's the season of giving. We are all shopping for the perfect gift for the ones we love, with the anticipation of seeing their faces as they unwrap the package. They appreciate getting a present, and their joy makes you feel good as well.
The gift doesn't have to be huge or expensive. Some of my favorites are the things people give from their heart, that they thought about and spent time on, like the hand-made gifts kids are making in school right now. When I open that gift and they are looking at me with giddy anticipation, there is nothing like it. It's even better than the ecstatic face they have when opening their own presents.
There is a real connection between the giver and the receiver.
And that is what is at the core of content marketing. Content marketing is about giving. Giving the gift of your knowledge and your expertise. Giving it away for free with the intension of helping others, providing something of value to them and building a connection.
Of course, in the long run, we want that connection to yield a paying client. But that can't be the focus of the gift. Instead, approach it like a real gift when you plan, give, and react to the giving process.
Think about your prospective clients when you are planning your gift. Just like you do when you are shopping for your friends or your children. You wouldn't get your two-year-old a shaving kit. You want to give them something they actually want and need. Something they can use right now.
Whether you are writing an article, creating a white-paper, or shooting a video, keep your ideal clients in mind while you are making it.
Giving the gift
When you give your gift, do it with excitement and generosity. If you put your time into it and you thought about them in the process, it will come across. If you whipped out something quick and you are not proud of it, it will be like handing them something in a Walgreens bag with an ashamed face. "Here. Merry Christmas."
How you give the gift can come across online too. How you write about and how you present it are important. Show your sense of pride and anticipation, just like your children do… in your own way, of course!
After they receive their gift, be gracious. It is not the time to immediately call them up to make a sale or try to get them to buy in. That would be like giving someone a gift, and when they turn to you and say "Wow! Thank you. That was really nice of you." holding out your hand and saying "Okay, now where is mine?" Or a parent turning to a child who is thrilled with their new toy and saying, "Okay, now you have to do the dishes every night since I got you that."
It immediately changes the situation. It means your gift wasn't really a gift. It was more of a bribe. It tarnishes the relationship and gives a negative association to the gift itself.
Instead, follow up with the person to say "I hope you really liked it." Or to ask them "what did you think of it." Or even to say "if you liked that, then you might like this gift as well." Wow!
Now you have given them more of your time and attention, and started to solidify a relationship. Give that relationship a little time before you begin to ask for things, or offer things for sale. This isn't an exact science. And every sales cycle is a little different. Just make sure that your "ask" isn't tied directly to your "give" or you are negating the power of the gift.
While you are in a gift giving mood, start thinking about what gifts you will give to your prospective clients in the new year.
And have a wonderful, joyful and generous holiday season!
I believe in the power of creativity and self-expression to transform our lives and our businesses.
This is one of my core beliefs that has guided the creation of my own business and the work that I do. But I’ve noticed that when I talk about “Creativity” in front of groups of people, I often get blank stares.
There is a phenomenon in which many people think, “But I’m not creative. I’m not very good at that.”
I must disagree! Every person is creative, or has the capacity for creativity. And those people who recognize it and harness it are happier and more successful than those who insist that they aren’t creative.
I want to help you recognize your own personal brand of creativity, and in order to do that, we must first acknowledge what creativity is.
What is creativity?
Many people associate creativity with artistic talent – painting, sculpting, composing, choreographing, etc… While those are most certainly creative activities, creativity is not limited to the world of the arts.
I found several definitions of creativity, and they said things like:
“The ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”
“The use of imagination or original ideas”
And the simplest one that really sums it up: “Originality of thought.”
That means that if you have original thoughts, if you think things that no one else told you to think, if you have ideas that you came up with on your own, then you are creative!
Creativity is part of everyone's lives, especially business owners. Creativity is not a compartmental thing that happens when you write or draw or play music. Creativity happens all the time. It is in every solution to every problem.
There is creativity in seeing a problem and coming up with a way to solve it, which is essentially what business owners do every day! And it goes deeper as well, into the way that you choose to solve a problem, which might be different from someone else’s way of solving it. It is connected to your personality and what you believe about the world that makes you think the way that you do.
Creativity is personal. Each individual has their own perspective, their own way of seeing the world. Ten different artists will make ten very different works of art, just like ten entrepreneurs will create ten different businesses.
Harnessing Your Creativity
The problem that I see is that too many people never express their creativity. They have ideas, but they never share them or act on them. They have a unique perspective, but instead they choose to follow someone else’s path.
These things happen because putting your own unique ideas or creations out into the world is scary. There will be people who disagree with you or who don’t like your contribution. So what?
In a way, that is the nature of the individuality of creativity. Some people will connect with your way of thinking and others won’t. And the beauty of the interconnectedness of our modern world is that we are able to more readily connect to those people who resonate with us, if we are courageous enough to put our original thoughts out there.
Creativity and Content Marketing
That, to me, is what content marketing is all about. Not just finding people you can help with your product or service. But finding those who really connect with you. Who understand your way of thinking, your beliefs, and your approach.
Working with people who are in a similar creative group tends to yield better results, happier clients, and a better experience for the business owner as well.
This is part of what I love about working with my clients. Digging deep enough to uncover their own thoughts about what they do and why they do it. Finding their personal creative approach to their work, and showing it to them through the content we create. And they often react with, “Wow! Did I really say that?”
So I encourage you to start looking for and documenting your original thoughts and ideas. They may pop up in conversation when you disagree with someone. They may come through when you think about why you do something in a particular way. They may appear in your priorities and how you choose to spend your time.
When you are ready, you can begin to put your own brand of creativity into what you do, and see how it transforms your life and your business.
Do you have a free opt-in offer? Something that you give away to prospects in exchange for their information? It is such a critical piece of your marketing because it is how you get the information you need to communicate with people, build relationships with them, and turn them into customers.
If you don’t have one, it is time to create one!*
Perhaps you have one, but not enough people are signing up for it. When this happens, there are usually two primary reasons:
1. The opt-in offer isn’t appealing specifically enough to your ideal client.
2. The opt-in offer isn’t in front of enough of the right kind of people.
Today I am addressing the second reason. (To learn more about the first reason, check out my upcoming teleseminar
Once you have an opt-in offer that you are really proud of, that appeals to your ideal clients and provides great value to them, it is time to get it in front of them. Your opt-in offer cannot build your list on its own. You must actively give it to people.
I think of it like a gift. It is something that you are giving to people for free
that you really believe will help them. You should be excited to give it to people, and it should be part of all of your marketing activities.
Here are 9 ways to use your Free Opt-in Offer: Your website
– Obviously your Free Opt-In Offer should be on your website home page. It should be at the top or in the main body of the site, above the fold (visitors should see it right away without having to scroll down). Don’t squeeze it into a side bar. Remember, it should look as though you can’t wait for them to have it.
It should also appear in other places on your website. For example, be sure it is on your blog pages, so that people who come to your site because of a blog article will see it. Where else do people go on your site? Highlight your free offer there. Landing Page
– Create a landing page, or squeeze page, for your Free Opt-In Offer. This is a page that doesn’t have anything else on it besides the offer. These kinds of pages convert at a much higher rate than an opt-in on a regular website. Be sure to identify who your ideal clients are and give some information about what they will learn or what value they will get from your offer. A video introduction on this page is great! Your Business Card
– What do you have on the back of your business card? This is a great place to put your free offer along with a website address or QR code for your landing page so people can get it. Facebook Page
– Of course you should post your Free Offer when it is newly created. But to give it a longer life on Facebook, you can pin that post to the top of your wall. You can also add an opt-in app to your Facebook business page with an image that leads people to it. Other Social Media Pages
– Whatever social media platforms work best for you, post your free offer there. Pin it on Pinterest, Tweet it out, or do whatever you do. Social media posts have a short lifespan and depend on the depth of your network there. So use the platform you are already most comfortable with and best established on. Your elevator speech
– When you are in a networking group, or even just talking to a prospect at an event or on the street, mention your free offer. After you give your name and what you do, tell them you have something to give them. This works great if your opt-in is also on your business card! Your bio
– Include your free offer in your bio. This is the short paragraph that you put after your articles, particularly when you are posting as a guest or on an article directory. It should also be on your e-newsletters, speaking introductions, etc. Keep your personal information short – no one needs to know all your degrees or accomplishments. Instead, after a brief introduction of yourself, offer them your free gift. When you speak
– Whenever you speak to a group of people, maximize the effectiveness of the opportunity by mentioning your free gift. You can even pass around a sign-up form so people can opt-in right there. Affiliates and Joint Venture Partners
– Get other people to help you give away your free offer. These relationships involve a reciprocal participation. You will either have to pay them for the leads they generate for you in some way or you will have to return the favor and promote something from them. But these are wonderful ways to get in front of new groups of people. Of course, you can also ask friends and colleagues to promote your free offer as a favor to you, which is usually less effective but requires much less formality and organization.
If you have a free Opt-in Offer, but it isn’t in all of these places, pick a few that you can add today.
*If you don’t have a Free Opt-In Offer yet, check out my upcoming teleseminar: “How To Create An Awesome Opt-In Offer”
How do your clients learn about you before they hire you? How do they build the trust that is necessary for them to become a paying client? If the answer is from a couple of paragraphs on your website, that probably isn’t doing the job.
As you may know, the amount of time it takes for someone to make a decision to become your client is pretty long. Weeks, months, maybe longer. It is important for you to stay in front of those prospects during that time.
How do you do that? With content.
You must be creating content that they can take in regularly. These days, the more content you create, the more successful you will be.
The most common form of content is written articles. Articles can be posted on a blog, sent in an e-mail, linked to on social media, used for article marketing, shared on other sites, etc… There are other forms of content as well, including video and audio, which require additional skills and technology. So I’m going to focus on written content here.
Many small business owners have all kinds of excuses around why they can’t produce content regularly. “It takes too much time.” “I’m not a good writer.” “I don’t know what I would write about.”
But here's the deal: "Content writing is marketing and marketing is writing. If you want exposure, you cannot afford to limit your time, effort and budget on writing." That's a quote from Codrut Turcanu. And I agree with him!
It’s time to get past the fear and the excuses. Here are four strategies to help you get started:
Set long-term goals
When you are just starting out creating content, it is slow. Putting out your first article is exciting, but then you have… one article. And one, or even a few articles isn’t enough to build a reputation.
Content is most effective when it has depth and consistency, and that takes time. People who focus on each individual article, often give up before they have established enough content to make a real impact.
So set a long term goal. Perhaps you want to publish 20 articles by next summer. Or 10 articles by the end of the year. Keep your eye on that long term goal, so that every time you sit down to write, you are getting one step closer. Don’t judge your progress by any single article. If you keep at it, you will start to see results.
Write Your Ideas Down
There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like you have to write something, but you don’t have any idea what to write about. Many people wait to be inspired in order to write, but if you do that, you will most likely never do it.
To avoid this frustration, I recommend creating a “topic list.” Before you even write your first article, brainstorm ideas for topics that you could write about. Jot down a couple of sentences about each one. You don’t have to write the whole thing, just enough to capture the inspiration.
Keep your eye out for topics all the time. You will find them when you are talking to clients, when you are at events, or sometimes when you are lying in bed! Are there patterns in what people ask you? Or things that come up over and over? The more you are on the lookout, the more topics you will find.
Have a list of at least 10 topics before you sit down to write your first article. That way, you have some built-in momentum and you don’t have to stare at a blank screen ever again. When it’s time to write, pull out your list and tap into the inspiration you had when you came up with the ideas. (Then keep the list out. I find that once I start writing, I get the more ideas for other articles and add them to the list. I cross one off the list, but add three more!)
Just like everything else, creating content gets easier and better with time. Your skills will improve with practice. Your first article won’t be perfect, and for some people that is causes them to never start. But here’s the thing. This isn’t written in stone, it’s not a book that will be published (yet!). Online content does not have to be perfect.
Set aside time each week to write. I suggest at least 1-2 hours. Don’t worry about being perfect, just write about your topic for that week. Find your voice. Get into a rhythm. By the time you reach your long-term goal, you can look back and see how much progress you have made as a writer and content creator.
Get it in front of people
Lastly, get your content in front of people. A long term goal will help get past the initial inertia. But unless you feel like all your hard work is being seen and used by others, it will be difficult to maintain for the long run. It is important to build your list and send your content out to them, post your articles on directories (article marketing), link to them through social media, submit them for publication on other blogs or media sources.
A collection of good content can build you a great reputation, but only if people see it! So set your goals, create your topic list, and get started today.
On Wednesday, December 11th I am hosting a free Teleseminar on How To Create An Awesome Free Opt-In Offer.
Do you have specific questions about creating an Opt-In Offer that you would like me to address in the call? Have you been struggling to create an Opt-in? Or procrastinating? What is holding you back?
Please post your questions and struggles in the comments below and I will do my best to address them during our call.
If you aren't registered for the teleseminar yet, be sure to sign up here
and join us on December 11th.
Thanks so much and I'll talk to you soon!