In order to build your list, and entice people to give you their contact information, you must have a truly compelling free offer. What are you giving people in exchange for their information?
People will no longer sign up for a list without getting something in return. They are really signing up to get something that they will benefit from. This item - your Free Opt-in Offer - has to have certain characteristics to effectively draw people in and then turn them into loyal followers.
A free offer can take many forms: a video series, an audio training, and a downloadable document are common ones. What must your Free Opt-in Offer have? I call them the 5 Cs: Catchy Title, Cover, Content, Creativity, and Connection.
Cover and Catchy Title
The only parts of your free offer that prospects will see before they sign up are the title and the cover. You can also provide a description. But the title is key in your prospects' decision to sign up.
It is important to have a title that describes what they are getting, but that also draws them in and creates curiosity. One technique is to quantify the information in the report (5 Steps..., 10 Tips for...., 3 things to avoid...).
But, the most important thing the title must do is address the primary struggle your clients have. What do they come to you for? What problem do you solve? Your title will be most effective if it highlights a solution your prospects are looking for.
In addition to an effective title, you need to have a "Cover" or a visual representation of your free offer. Even if it is a digital item, like an e-book or video, you can design an image to represent it. People are visual, and having an image increases your conversion rate significantly. It helps people to understand what they are receiving in a tangible way.
The next component is content. The content of your piece has to deliver on the promise made in your title. Once they have signed up, you have achieved the goal of capturing their information. So the goal of the piece itself is to begin building trust and a relationship with those who read, watch, or listen to it.
Provide them with information they can use, showcase your solution and your expertise. Many people get concerned that they are giving too much away. But the more you are able to give away, the more trust you will build. If you deliver too little, your prospects will be disappointed and are likely to walk away.
Of course, you can't give away everything you know. So, to add to the content that you are providing, use creativity to further engage people.
Don't be boring! Creative comparisons or metaphors, imagery, and humor can draw people into the piece as much as the content itself. Creativity allows you to show more of your personality in addition to just your expertise. And that leads to the last "C"....
To build a connection to your prospects, you have to include information about yourself. Many people are hesitant to talk about themselves in their marketing, but it is a critical part of the process. I'm not necessarily talking about a whole page about you, or "your story." But finding ways to talk about yourself or your experiences in the content of the piece, including a picture of you, will really help people to build trust. They feel like they are "getting to know you."
That connection is what will keep an individual on your list and bring them closer to becoming a loyal paying client.
Creating a good Free Opt-in Offer is worth taking some time to get it right and is something I love doing with my clients. What will you create to offer to your prospects?
My husband is a home brewer, which means he brews beer at home for fun. He likes the chemistry of it, and all the fun gadgets and tools. Among all the tools he has collected for this hobby are a number of different funnels. He has to pour liquid of various kinds into flasks, fermenters and kegs. In order to do that, he has funnels of all different shapes and sizes -- big ones, little ones, metal ones, plastic ones.
In business, we talk about having a "sales funnel." And, as I was watching him brew, I started thinking about how important a funnel really is. Without it, he could pour a ton of liquid in the general direction of his container, but most of it would miss the mark and end up on the floor, lost forever. Not to mention, make a big mess!
This happens in business all the time. We may have some "top of the funnel" marketing activities to get our name out there and drive traffic to our business. But, unless we have a way to make sure people are entering a funnel, they will likely end up flowing right past us.
And here's the thing, it has to be a funnel
. Not just a saucer, or pot, or straw. That may sound a little strange but stick with me.
Some businesses think that having a call to action that leads directly to a sales call is their "funnel." It's not. It is a saucer that will still miss most people, and has a very small capacity to capture people. Some think that capturing people onto a list that is mostly dormant is their "funnel." It's not. That's like dumping people into a pot. You may catch more of them, but the movement stops. They just sit there and aren't moving forward, deepening their relationship, or heading toward a goal. Eventually they will get stale.A funnel keeps people moving forward
, engaging them more deeply with the business. When they come out the end, they will be much more likely to buy from you or hire you. If not, that's okay. You can let them flow into the pot for a while, but don't let them sit there for too long.
It's like the fermenting stage of beer brewing. You have to let it sit for a while, continuing to monitor it. Some might leave through the blow-off tube (I'm not kidding). But after a while, you have to pour it into another funnel.
That's right, one funnel isn't enough! Like my husband, you need to build a collection of funnels and connect them together. It is the most effective way to make sure you are converting your watery prospects into engaged, delicious clients!
Thanks for sticking with this metaphor! Building sales funnels, especially automated ones using e-mail communications, is a big part of content marketing. Find out more about building funnels in the form of Opt-In Campaigns here
Video can be a wonderful form of content. It has a lot of benefits that written content just can't provide. But it has it's own challenges as well.
Because there is a video camera on practically every device, it is easy to think that you can just whip out a video on your own. And you could! I am the first person to say that you shouldn't let perfection hold you back, otherwise you will likely never make a video.
Accept the fact that your first video isn't going to be perfect (mine isn't!). It is going to be a starting point. Everyone who has built a large following using regular video content had to start somewhere. Recently some of them (Marie Forleo and Gary Vaynerchuk) showed some of their early videos just to compare. It was pretty entertaining!
I am not a videographer and this post isn't about how to do great videos. This is about what you need to think about to get a video done - period.
The reason to consider doing video is that it is such a power form of content. It captures people's attention for much longer than written content. It is extremely effective at building relationships with viewers, as well as converting them into followers and clients. This is because we are wired to interact with each other face-to-face. We download a ton of information in seconds when we can see someone's expressions, appearance, and body language.
So, I encourage you to put out a video, even if it is just to post on Facebook at first. And when you do, here are some things to consider:
In a video, there are three components to the location you choose: the background, the lighting, and the sound. Outside videos can be nice for background and lighting, but are often challenging with sound, whether it is other people, cars driving by, birds honking overhead. It is a little less predictable than an indoor location. Decide whether you want a plain background or if you don't mind seeing something behind you. (Although probably not your dirty laundry!)
Your own appearance in the video also plays a role in how you are perceived. Think about what you will wear, your hair and make-up. It doesn't have to be over the top, but it should match your branding, your personality, and how you show up in your business. Depending on the lighting, a little extra makeup can give you more color and make sure you don't look washed out or shiny.
This part is what holds a lot of people up. Being in front of a camera is a skill that must be practiced. Many people seem awkward or flat when they first do it. The best advice I've gotten to lessen the nerves around speaking on camera is to practice, practice, practice! Stand in front of a camera and speak. Do your elevator speech or introduction until it rolls off your tongue. When you are in front of a camera, you have to add a little more "personality" than in normal conversation. And watch how fast you talk, as it is easy to rush.
The first three items need to be considered no matter what level of video you are creating. Here is where you start to have choices. Will you take video with a simple mobile device or computer, or do you have a video camera? How about a microphone? Do you need a tripod? And there is much more as you get higher on the continuum of video quality. I've seen videos at all levels, and I encourage you to use what you have to get started. That way you can make educated choices as you improve. I thought I was doing great with my HD camera and lavaliere microphone, but I ended up with a buzzing noise throughout my video that had to be edited out. So, don't over complicate things unless you are ready.
Do you need video editing software to make the proper cuts and changes? What will you do with your video once it is created? Posting it to YouTube or Vimeo requires a certain amount of technical expertise. If you have tools for this and are reasonably tech savvy, it is possible to take it on. Otherwise, you may need to get some help in this area.
No matter what you decide when considering these things, it is a really good idea to have some help along the way. Having done video on my own, I won't be doing it that way again! If you can afford a professional videographer, then go for it! They have the equipment and expertise to make the whole experience smoother. If not, at least get a video buddy. Someone who can check your hair, press record, and monitor the camera. If you schedule a video day with another person, you are more likely to stick to it. Plus it's a lot more fun!
Consider scheduling a video shoot as part of your content creation plans. I can't wait to see it!
Content marketing is such an incredible tool, and is becoming the cornerstone of online marketing. But it can seem very broad and unclear. It overlaps with many other forms of online marketing, which adds to the confusion. So what exactly qualifies as content marketing?
Well, it's not as complicated as you might think. First of all, it requires the creation of content
that aims to share value and build relationships with your prospective clients. I've spent a lot of time talking about what content is
and what forms it can take
. But, content marketing is the umbrella for all the things you can do with that content. There are many specific ways that you can use content, and that is where the overlapping and confusion comes in. It's a little bit like when I was learning about shapes in elementary geometry, and I was told that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square. The rectangle has a broader definition, while the square is more specific.In the same way, e-mail marketing can be a form of content marketing, but not all content marketing involves e-mail. Blogging is a form of content marketing, but not all content marketing is about writing a blog. SEO is significantly affected by content marketing, but not all content marketing is about SEO.Because there are so many faces to content marketing, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, perhaps it is better to think about, not the specific uses for content, but the broader marketing purposes it can serve.
The ultimate purpose of content is to build relationships with the people who see it. But how you use the content determines what role it will play in your overall marketing plan.In this sense, there are really only three purposes for content marketing: Drive traffic, capture leads, and nurture leads.Drive traffic
The first role that content plays is in increasing traffic to your website and your message. There are several ways you can use content to serve this purpose. First of all, having a significant amount of content on your site improves your rankings on the search engines. If you are using keywords in your content that people are searching for, your site and articles will show up in their results, driving them to your site.
Another way content can drive traffic is when you post it in other places where there is already a lot of traffic. Posting links to your content pieces on social media sites, popular blog sites, or other networks increases your reach and encourages people to visit your website. This could also happen in the form of partnerships during a launch or marketing campaign, when others encourage their followers to visit your site.Capture Leads
The second thing that content can do is allow you to capture leads. This happens when you require people to opt-in in order to view your content. While this is a simple idea at its core, there are innumerable ways that you can execute it.
There are many different types of content that can be used for this purpose: e-books or white papers, videos, webinars, tele seminars, etc... The opt-in can be something that lives on your website for a long period of time, or it can be part of a launch or shorter term marketing effort, using landing pages and other tools.
This is a critical component of content marketing. Capturing information from your leads is the only way to be able to communicate with your prospective customers and clients who find you online. If you don't capture their e-mail address, they will disappear and you have no way of building a relationship with them.
These days, you must have a compelling piece of content for which people are willing to exchange their contact information. Not everyone will opt-in for the first thing you create either, so new opt-in campaigns should be built occasionally based on your overall marketing plan. This is where content marketing begins to overlap with e-mail marketing.Nurture Leads
The final purpose of content marketing is to nurture leads. This is critically important as most people will not be ready to buy from you or hire you when they first encounter you. You need to establish trust and deepen your relationship with them, always moving them closer to the ultimate goal of becoming a paying customer.
This is typically done in the form of e-mail marketing. Sending your prospective customers, whose information you have captured, content pieces that they find helpful, interesting, and valuable. You can nurture leads in other ways as well, but using e-mail marketing in an authentic way is the most efficient and effective way to maintain a relationship with many people.
There are off-line ways to use content to achieve these goals as well. And there are other marketing tools, that do not require the creation of content, to achieve them as well. But hopefully this helps you to think more clearly about what content marketing is and how it fits into your business growth.
If you want to market your business online, you must become a content creator.
That is the reality of online marketing. You may also be a coach, or a designer, or a consultant, or a fill-in-the-blank. But in your role as a small business owner in charge of getting your message and your service out to the world, you must begin to see yourself as a content creator.
The truth is that it is an essential part of running a business, and it is a role you must embrace. Entrepreneurs who understand this and are using content marketing effectively are growing their businesses much faster than those who are not.
I run into too many small business owners who push against the responsibility of creating content, claiming all kinds of excuses. Becoming a content creator is a mindset shift that can be challenging, and there are many hurdles that come up for people. But here are some ways to overcome those hurdles and begin to embrace your own inner content creator.
Connect To Your Passion
When I work with small business clients and begin to ask questions and draw out their passion, they often go on and on. They can talk about it for hours!
When they realize that creating content is really about being able to express their passion and talk about the things they feel strongly about, suddenly creating content isn't so tedious. In fact, it's kind of fun!
Isn't that why we all started businesses in the first place? Because we have a passion for something and have ideas about how it should be done and why it is important. It is easy to get busy doing our work, but taking some time to connect to our passion is important for our journey as an entrepreneur. And it also happens to be a great way to attract clients and grow our businesses!
Use Your Strengths
The most common excuse I hear from small business owners is that they aren't good writers. I have two reactions to this. First of all, everyone I have encountered who runs a successful business, especially in the online space, creates a substantial amount of written content. It is a critical skill that can be learned and improved.
However, I also don't want this hurdle to prevent someone from becoming a content creator. So, rather than getting stuck on what you aren't good at, find a way to express yourself that you are good at. Do you like speaking in front of groups? Talking on the telephone? Taking pictures? Have you always wanted to be in a video? Or maybe when you consider the other options, writing doesn't seem so bad!
There is a way to begin creating content by leveraging your strengths. And when you find the format that fits your strengths and your voice, creating content can become both an enjoyable and highly productive part of your work.
Make The Time
Another thing I hear a lot is that creating content takes too much time. I understand that time is a precious commodity, which is why it should be spent on things that are truly worthwhile. And let's be honest, what we spend our time on is really a matter of priorities and self-discipline. It is easy to use this excuse around something we don't want to do, but find time for other things that are more enjoyable, but perhaps less productive.
I have heard several online business owners say that if they had to pick one thing to focus on with their budget or time, it would be content creation. It is the foundation of a successful online business.
Part of becoming a content creator is setting aside time for it, and making it a priority. Put it in your calendar, and that way when you get to your "content creation time" each week, it forces you to embody your content creator.
If creating content is not happening consistently in your business, view it as a problem that needs to be solved. Many entrepreneurs love to solve problems. That is something we are good at!
Set a content creation goal, like starting a newsletter or a blog, and then figure out how to get it done. If my suggestions aren't resonating with you, then create your own solution.
The point is that creating content isn't an option where you can choose whether you want to do it or not. It is a necessity for building a successful business. So don't approach it by asking Yes? or No? but by asking How?
I hope you will begin to shift your mindset and start getting to know your own inner content creator.
Some businesses find the idea of creating content on a regular basis to be overwhelming and simply dismiss it, thinking they will stick with the “easier” forms of online marketing. However, the success of other online marketing tools are also becoming dependent on your ability to deliver content.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization is the marketing strategy where businesses try to get their website at the top of search engine results. It is a difficult strategy to keep up with because the search engines keep changing their algorithms. (Google recently changed theirs again). But, the trend is an increasing emphasis on the use of keywords within substantial written content.
Social Media – Social media platforms are everywhere, and it is easy to think that you can get in front of lots of people that way, which may be true. However, the challenge with social media is staying connected to people once they find you, and converting them to customers. Having a huge following on Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn is great. But if it doesn’t translate to business, then it is a waste of time. One effective way to leverage social media is to link to content that is of value to your connections. It helps you identify who is interested and capture their attention in a more focused setting, rather than the stream of short communications that reigns on social media.
Pay-Per-Click or Online Advertising – The whole point of spending money on online advertising is getting people to your website. But what will they find when they get there? If they don’t see a significant amount of content and valuable information, they won’t stick around. In fact, people are starting to assume that if you don’t have valuable content on your website, then you probably don’t have much value to offer.
Regardless of the way people find your website, they are going to be looking for something that is of value to them. Content that speaks their language, answers their questions, and addresses their problems. If they don't find it, they won't stay. So, compelling content is really the piece that links together all other forms of online marketing. Without it, the other pieces aren't nearly as effective.
So, I encourage you to start thinking seriously about how you can begin to create and use content for your business.
Many people get overwhelmed at the prospect of “creating content” because they don’t really understand what that means. They know there are lots of fancy ways to present things online, and don’t know anything about how to create them. But, when you break it down, content isn’t a complicated thing.
Two Forms of Content
Content really takes just two forms: written or spoken. That’s it. If you can write or you can speak, (and you can!) then you can create content.
It’s true that each form of content can be presented in many different ways. Written content can appear on a website, on your blog or other online platforms, as a downloadable e-book or whitepaper, or in an e-mail communication. But, the process of creating content for any of these things is the same – sit down at your computer and write!
The same is true for spoken content. It can be delivered as a live speech or presentation, a teleconference, a webinar, a video, etc… For some of these formats, additional technological tools and skills are required. But the content creation itself is simple – plan what you want to say, open your mouth, and say it.
The Third Wheel
There is a third form of content that I have to mention. I call it visual content. This form of content uses very few words, but instead presents information in a visual format. A couple of examples include infographics and slideshow presentations.
The way I look at it, this form of content is in a different category for two reasons. First, it is usually created by an anonymous third party (a designer) rather than a person whose expertise is being communicated. And second, while it can provide valuable information, it is less effective at building relationships because of the non-personal nature of the presentation.
Visual content isn’t usually a good starting place for businesses who are new at creating content because the creation process isn’t as simple as the first two forms, which is critical.
Keep It Simple
Okay, I may be oversimplifying things a bit. But I’m doing it for a reason. I want to show you that content creation is very do-able. I don’t like to see businesses shy away from content creation because they overcomplicate it in their minds.
Perhaps this sounds like you? Do you dismiss the idea of creating content because it is overwhelming to you? Then my recommendation is to start simple.
The easiest way to get started with content creation is by writing, so that is what I start with when working with clients. Establishing goals and getting into a writing habit is important for getting the consistency you need. Brainstorm some topics and write some bite-sized articles.
If you try to start with too large of a piece or an overly technical format, it’s true that you may end up being in over your head. You could become overwhelmed and then never get it off the ground. But simple forms of content take a lot less time to create and can be equally effective.
It is time to stop being overwhelmed, and just get started. It's not as complicated as you think.
Have you ever read a blog article, or the beginning of one, that made you want to fall asleep?
It might have been that you just weren't the right target audience for it. But more than likely, it was because the author dove into jargon-y descriptions or theoretical ideas. It can feel aloof and disconnected.
That's a huge problem since the whole purpose of content is to build connections!
I have discovered one easy trick that can help turn a boring blog into a relevant one that builds relationships. It can completely change the feeling of a piece. It is so easy it might seem trivial, but it makes a big difference. Here it is...
Use the pronouns "I" and "You."
That's it. Easy right? But think about it. In order to use those words, you have to know who you are talking to. It has to be clear that you know something about them in order to say "Does this sound like you?" or "What you really need is..."
When a person feels like you are talking directly to them, they are a lot more likely to listen than if you are just talking generally about a topic.
It can be even harder to use the word "I." Many people are comfortable writing about their area of expertise. Or even telling others what they should be doing. But when it comes to writing about themselves or sharing anything personal, they freeze up. Using that word means telling something about you ("Once when I was...") or giving your opinion ("I think that...").
Can you feel the difference? What it does is put a person into the content that people can relate to. Remember, people don't build relationships with content, they build relationships with other people.
So I encourage you to look for these little words when you are reading pieces online, and begin to use them more in your own articles and content.
Law: Time disappears if you stay in the same space
You may have experienced this phenomenon… You sit down at your desk with the intention of doing a very specific thing. Something else catches your attention, and before you know it, you look at the clock and gasp! An hour has gone by and you still haven’t done the thing you sat down to do. It's like it disappeared into a black hole.
It’s not that you didn’t get anything done. You may have been “busy” and gotten a lot of little things done. Then you say, “well, I just didn’t have time to do that other thing.”
It’s not that you don’t have time. It’s that you are sitting in a “time sucking space.”
This is particularly common when the thing you have to do is either something that you don’t like to do, or something that requires a higher level of focus. Content creation is a perfect example because it is a creative process that works best when you focus your full attention on it, and aren’t distracted by other things.
So how do you keep distractions away from your mind?
Pick up your laptop and go somewhere else. It could be a coffee shop, or a spot outside (although not in the winter in Wisconsin), or just your couch. Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever relaxes you, and sit in a different space. Get out of your office where there are piles of papers and lists of tasks. You will be amazed at how your mind can function differently when you change your surroundings.
Content Creation requires not just dedicated time, but dedicated space. I don’t ever write my content in the same space where I do my work.
I realize that, these days, the internet and all of your distractions can follow you wherever you go. So, do your best to shut those things down while you are in your “creative space.”
If you do this consistently, it also becomes like Pavlov’s bell. When I sit on my couch with my laptop, my brain goes into “creative mode.” When I walk into my office (which is 25 feet away) I go into “accomplishing” mode - checking off lists, sending communications, projects, etc…
If you try to squeeze content writing into your regular routine, or force it to get done like another task, it will be frustrating and it won’t happen as fluidly as you would like. Instead, I encourage you to set aside a space that becomes your “content creation space” and see how that affects your perception and experience of content creation.
When was the last time your website got a refresh? Either just with new content, or a complete overhaul?
We’ve all looked at our website and thought, “I really need to go through and update that.”
But it is something that often gets pushed to the bottom of the list, and old content sits there for a lot longer than it should. Part of the problem is that we don’t always know exactly what we should put on our website.
This happens during website design (or re-design) projects as well. The web designer expects the business to provide the content for the site. But the business owner doesn’t always know what to provide or have a good process for coming up with website content.
This can sometimes take a long time and cause frustration on both sides. Especially if you are working with a solo designer, as opposed to a large marketing firm. Once the designer has the content, they can work their magic. But neither side is really equipped to create content that is going to be effective and part of a bigger marketing strategy.
I call this the “Content Hurdle.”
What often happens is that businesses end up falling back on the “brochure formula,” creating content about the business (the ubiquitous “About Us” page). They don’t use the tools that would allow them to harness more of the power the website could be providing.
In my work, I have developed a process to create content for websites. I have identified what questions to ask and what pieces to create. I recommend getting help to guide you through the process, ensure that your website content is really effective, and hold you accountable to make sure it actually gets done.
But, whether you are a web designer struggling with your clients or a small business who wants to update their site, here are some of the steps I take to create website content.
#1 - Identify who your ideal visitors are
Get very clear about who you are talking to. You’ve probably heard this before, but have you actually taken the time to write it down? I like to write about who my visitors and prospective clients are, and put it on the website. Then I can say, “Hey, does this sound like you?” That way people can self select, and only engage further with my business if they are an ideal client.
#2 - Know what they want, and give it to them
Once you have identified who you are talking to, and let them know you are talking to them, you have to provide them with some value. In order to do that, you have to know what they want. Giving people information about what you can provide for them is okay. But giving them a little piece of it that they can use right now is so much more powerful.
#3 - Tell them what to do
Your visitors will only spend a short time on your website (a few seconds to a couple of minutes if you are lucky). Then they will be gone. It is important to capture their information or connect with them in some way while they are there so you can stay in touch with them and continue the relationship. There are many things that could be a “call to action,” but it is important to be strategic and specific about what action you want your visitors to take.
#4 – Build a relationship
This is the part that I like the best, but often gets left out. The most important thing we need to do with prospective customers is to establish a relationship with them. Build the “know, like, and trust” factor. We often save this part for when we talk to people on the phone or in person. But our website is the perfect place to plant the seeds of the relationship. The previous three steps can play a role in building the relationship, but a relationship has two sides. So you also have to portray yourself in such a way that you are a participant in the process, and not just a bio with a list of accomplishments.
Take a look at your website content with these things in mind, and see if it is time for a content overhaul.