We’ve spoken before about how valuable your database is to your business, but we’ve never shown you how to build a healthy list of potential clients… until now.
The purpose of an opt-in offer or lead magnet is to build your database. It is simply an offer of something your audience will find valuable in exchange for their name and email address.
Think of your opt-in as a piece of ‘investment content’. It needs to be well designed, of value to your audience, and in a format that can be used time and time again.
But working out what your offer might be, isn’t as easy as it seems.
We have created the following guide to help you decide what you can offer your audience so you can build a healthy list of subscribers who are interested in your services.
Your offer should be ‘just right’ for the audience you are targeting.
Paradoxically, our first recommendation is to try not to make your offer TOO attractive.
The reason we say this is because you want your offer to be a filter for your audience. If your final sale is a high-end business service – you don’t want to attract small start-up style businesses who don’t have spare cash for a coffee, let alone your amazing, premium product.
Many people see their opt-in almost as a product in itself and they try to ‘sell’ as many as possible but because the offer is free, and everyone is familiar with the ‘unsubscribe’ button, your list will quickly de-value – that is, you will have a big list of people who are probably not suitable for your product or service.
So the first question you have to ask is this:
What product or service do I want to sell to this list?
Here at Brilliant, we have two distinct groups of clients.
We have clients who hand over their content strategy and creation needs to us, and we take care of everything for them. They don’t need to know how to do it – they are interested in what needs to happen to get it done. For them, we offer a free content audit to show them where their best content opportunities are, and how we can help them with the content.
Our other group are smaller business owners who are looking to understand more about content marketing, how it applies to their business and how to do it themselves. We are creating a Content Academy filled with inexpensive online courses. For them, we have a free download which shows them step-by-step how to write 3 different types of articles.
You can see how we’ve made sure the offer matches the product we would like them to purchase.
The next part to understand about creating a successful opt-in offer is what will make someone hand over their name and email address?
We’ve identified 4 most enticing reasons:
1) The offer sparks their curiosity
Quizzes and checklists do this very well.
2) The offer gives added value
10% off your first order if you subscribe.
1 month free
3) The offer educates them so they feel smarter
Reports and curated lists
Specific industry developments or innovations
4) The offer helps them do something
How to, step-by-step and guides that help people get something done, learn a new skill. In fact, we could save this article as a .pdf and call it an opt-in offer!
A well thought-out offer is great but we are visual creatures so it pays to make sure your content is well packaged.
For businesses with a strong brand identity, this is relatively simple. If you are not sure – we have the following tips:
Always include images. A nicely designed cover page gives a document more credibility.
Make sure the format you choose is best suited to your audience. Documents and reports are best created as .pdf files so they can easily be downloaded. Video files need to be relatively small so they can be streamed. If you are looking at quizzes and checklists, you can use embedded Google Docs or apps such as Qzzr.
Don’t go overboard and deliver too much value. Your audience are as short on time as you are so the more succinct you can deliver a specific valuable point, the better.
Pay to play
Unless you have a lot of time to relentlessly promote your offer, it pays to pay. Facebook ads, Google Adwords and LinkedIn ads can all assist you to fill your database.
Make sure the database you choose is right for your needs. If you intend to grow your subscriber list to 2000 +, and plan to do a lot of email marketing and automation, you can look at Active Campaign, Infusion Soft or similar.
If your list is smaller and you’re going to send out a regular newsletter but not much else, you might be better with the free version of MailChimp.
Of course these are only general suggestions – do your research and find one that suits your business now and into the future.
Outsourcing content to a copywriter seems like the perfect solution to your content woes. And there is no shortage of copywriters available on Fivver, or keen (and talented) graduates from any number of writing schools.
However where things come unstuck (and they invariably do) is not with the selection of writer, but with the work you do before you engage a writer.
Let’s start by talking about that big list of article topics you’re so pleased with…
Brainstorming topics is fun – we get it, we do it A LOT! But many businesses, having had an enjoyable couple of hours coming up with ideas, think …
High five! Job done!
and with a flourish, hand the list over to the copywriter to turn into ‘great posts we can all be proud of’.
…and then the drafts start arriving in your inbox and you wonder where this irrelevant drivel has come from – right?
I went to meet a new client – and within minutes he had handed me a huge stack of blog posts printed from the internet. He was in the business of business coaching – a pretty crowded corner of the internet when it comes to blogs and many of the posts contained sports metaphors. Having nothing else to go on – other than the target audience was male, had been in business for at least 5 years – I chose a couple of ‘topics’ and wrote some drafts.
The feedback call was excruciating. The topics weren’t relevant to the (undefined) target audience. The sports metaphor didn’t really resonate. And the writing was a bit ‘blokeish.’
The first mistake was to find examples of other posts and use them as some kind of substitute brief.
Using other peoples work as a guide for your own lacks depth, integrity and can only produce ‘vanilla’ content with no impact.
The second mistake was to not only not define the target audience, but not identify their challenges either.
Their challenge is your topic.
The content you put out shows your audience how you solve their problems or fulfil their desires. If you understand what they want, you have relevant topics.
By not defining the audience, the client hadn’t given the writer any direction on what style to use, or the best language to create rapport with the reader.
The topic: How to get your BAS done on time.
A male financial advisor who’s audience is builders, landscapers and tradies will need a writing style this audience will understand. Another advisor who’s audience is young female entrepreneurs will use an entirely different style.
Not setting a priority for the posts – in fact, this is the number one factor in all failed content.
What is the reason you are creating all this content?
There are 7 good reasons – and we defined them all over here. Make sure your copywriter understands the purpose of each article.
Not setting a priority for your content is like getting into your car without a destination in mind, and hoping you will get somewhere (and you will get somewhere but rarely will it be where you need to be).
While outsourcing may seem like the easy option, as with any successful process, it requires thought and input from you, planning, review and ongoing assessment in order to get the best from of your copywriter.
There is no question – video needs to form part of your content strategy, particularly if you are looking to boost your organic Google ranking (because Google owns YouTube). However, as confronting as writing can be for many business owners, video can be fraught with blocks and challenges – and the results can be excruciating – for you and your viewer.
We’ve listed the 5 biggest barriers to video blogging and how to solve them.
We have put this at the top of the list because after you’ve set up your home studio or booked a videographer service, written your script and chosen your outfit – many people freeze as soon as that little red light goes on. Your speech is stilted, your stance is awkward and it is anything but professional. It should also be noted here that no amount of fancy equipment, professional lighting and sound recording will compensate for lack of confidence in front of the camera.
Why you need to present like a boss
Too many times you see slick websites, professional head-shots, great site content … and really unprofessional videos. Substandard video can damage the perception of your brand and leave your audience cold. Some of the worlds best presenters practised for more than 200 hours on a single presentation – read about Steve Jobs and top ranking TED speaker Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor and how they prepared. Video is no different to live presentations if you want to get it right.
How to get over it
Practice practice practice. Gymnasts do not turn up on competition day without rehearsing every single move innumerable times. Set up a camera in your office or living room and get really comfortable speaking to it. Read a book aloud, quote poetry, sing, tell a story. The more hours you log in front of the camera, the less frightening it becomes. However, filming yourself is not the most important part of this step. Now you have to sit down and watch yourself. Every. Agonising. Minute. What is your best angle, what are your hands doing, what looks weird, sounds weird, how are your facial expressions, vocal range – really analyse yourself and find your ‘presenting persona’. And then start practising again to polish your technique.
The best presenters make you feel like they are talking to you personally, over a coffee. They are relaxed and – here is the key point – they know their content so well they don’t need a script – they can stay on topic without a prompt – they may stumble or correct themselves but it is natural and relaxed. This is what it means to know your content.
Why it pays to know your stuff
The best presenters can rattle off a ‘verbal blog post’ at the drop of a hat – because they know their stuff inside out, they are very clear on their message and how to convey that to an audience, no matter what the medium is. As soon as you are not thinking about what you are saying, and concentrating on how you are saying it, your video presentation steps up from amateur to professional.
How to nail it
Again, there are no short-cuts. Start by writing down what it is you want your audience to understand when they watch your video – the message. Then note the main points you want to use. Pin those notes to the fridge and start speaking your script aloud until you can repeat it – not word for word – but point for point, naturally and flawlessly.
*Bonus tip for nailing your content:
Get your introduction and call to action right. Find the most natural and comfortable way to say who you are and where you are from – then roll right into your main message and points – and then sign off with a call to action – be very clear about what you want your audience to do once they have watched the video.
Lights and sound
The next most important aspect is how your video looks and sounds from a technical point of view. This is not as difficult as it sounds. A good source of natural light (not direct sunlight) is the easiest way to make sure your video is visually clear.
The audio of your video is where the professionals really stand apart from the amateurs. If you invest in nothing else – invest in a good lapel microphone. They are not even very expensive. The mic on your iPhone – no matter what anyone says – is not good enough.
If you have good light, a good lapel mic and great presentation skills – any recent smartphone will produce high quality for video which will be predominantly viewed on the internet (not to labour a point, use a lapel mic with your smartphone). You don’t even need a tripod – a pile of books and something to balance it against can work equally as well.
Alternatively you can engage a professional who can film and edit your posts with you. The big advantage here is you have files ready to upload – nothing further to do!
Smart phone filming hack
Make sure you turn the screen away from you. When you are filming you need to be looking into the camera (the camera lens on the back of the phone) and not at yourself on the screen. When you look at the camera, you appear to be looking right ‘at’ the viewer, creating a more intimate connection with them.
So, you’ve spent a week filming yourself, another week watching yourself, driven your family and friends mad by spouting verbal blog posts at every opportunity and set up a mini-studio in your home or office – and you have recorded some really great footage. Now what?
There are several editing options available
There are many editing programmes – both paid and free which are relatively simple to learn to use.
Video Editors are also available through Elance and Fivver – many business owners find a good VE (virtual editor), have them make up a branded template and have them edit video for you. Having a branded start and end frame will make your videos look more professional and prevent the unfortunate mid-word-start-frame that plagues many a video.
So while there is a lot of noise about ‘get out there and record video’, if you want your video to be a professional representation of your brand, take the time to get really good at presenting your content to camera, pay attention to light and audio and ensure your videos.
When you read something, you don’t necessarily analyse the point of view, the perspective it is written from and why it was written with that particular point-of-view. Subconsciously though, we are accepting or rejecting the message depending on how well we are connecting with the language.
Here is a simple break down of the three points of view you can communicate with:
First person talks about “I”
If you communicate in the first person you are
— Getting your audience to think about you, and not them
— Allowing them to ask “is this someone I should follow?”
Who it works best for
Celebrities, and top-of-the-top influencers focus on themselves and their achievements – their audience wants to learn from them. Fashion bloggers/stylists, and off-the-shelf experts often use first person – with varied success.
People who are typically looking for something to model themselves on will turn to a celebrity or industry leader to ‘follow’ their example. Business leaders, self-help gurus, and health industry leaders typically communicate in the first person.
How it works for b2b blogging
Medium impact – there is so much intelligent, useful information available, unless you are a Kardashian selling skirts to pre-teens, you will have a hard time grabbing and holding the attention of your audience.
Second person talks to “you”
If you are communicating in the second person you are speaking directly to the person reading or viewing your blog.
— Making them and their needs the most important aspect of your communication
— Showing that you really do know who they are.
Who it works best for
It works best for anyone you are trying to create a connection with. As humans we think about ourselves more than 80% of the time – our brains are wallpapered with the words “what’s in it for me?”. Most sales and marketing communications are in the second person.
Anyone who has a need or a problem they want solved – for businesses, if you have a solution to a problem, then communicating in the second person is an essential skill.
How it works for blogging
High impact – “hey, this blog has totally got my number – they know what I need, why I need it and bingo, they seem to know how to help me!” Any business who solves a problem can use the second person point-of-view to keep the focus on their audience, with no distractions.
Third person talks about “them”
If you communicate in the third person you are telling a story. Novels are mostly written in the third person.
— Creating scenes and characters that engage your audience
— Keeping them engaged with drama, archetypal characters, story arcs, and good writing
Who it works best for
Novelists, screen-writers and story-tellers, documentaries, mockumentaries.
People who like to explore the possibilities of the known and unknown universe and draw parallels with their own experiences and understanding.
How it works for blogging
Low impact – in order to get your message across with the impact you need, third person is probably one of the most difficult point-of-view to use. A short parable, or a very well-crafted metaphor can be very effective but you have to be sure your audience will ‘get it’ for it to be effective. The exception to the rule is Case Studies which can use third person point-of-view very effectively.
No matter which point of view you choose to utilise in your business blog, make sure it is right for your audience, the most powerful way to deliver your message and executed with the skill required.
Your database is The. Most. Valuable. marketing asset you have.
And even if you have heard it – you may not be sure what it means and what the implications for your business are.
For digitally savvy businesses, the race for social media validation sees a lot of time, energy and money being invested in getting ‘likes’ ‘followers’ and ‘connections’ on various social media channels – and no attention to building a database of subscribers to whom you can build a direct and personable relationship with.
But how is a database different to your online followers and how on earth can it help your marketing?
Your database is a list of names and email addresses given to you by people who are interested in your product or service. By handing over their details they are have effectively said, ‘yes please, send me some more information’.
How to use an email newsletter to build relationships with your database.
A newsletter is more than another channel to broadcast your blog – you can use your newsletter to let your readers know what else you are up to. New events, special offers, product launches, these can all be included in your newsletter.
A well structured newsletter consists of approximately:
Like any content that you distribute online, make it very easy for your readers to access your website from the newsletter, include a CTA and social sharing buttons.
Most newsletter programs allow you to personalise your content by using their first name – Hello Sarah, for example. Newsletters giv you more scope to be familiar and chatty, so write something about what is included in the newsletter and why:
I was collecting the post last week and amongst the bills and discount vouchers, there was a newsletter from a boating company, which had me thinking about newsletters and how many people aren’t using their database to full advantage, so we wrote a blog about it! Hope you find it useful.
Because your reader can hit the ‘un-subscribe’ link at any time, you need to find the right balance of how often you send your newsletter. The general rule of thumb is that the less frequently you send it, the more information you can put into it.
Using a program such as Mail Chimp will help you track your email newsletter activity so you know who is reading them, who is clicking the links and who has unsubscribed from your list. Use this information as part of your sales funnel, to improve your content and to understand what is resonating with your readers and what needs to be reviewed.
People have chosen to be added to your email database because they are interested in what you do – don’t ignore them – by not utilising your database, you are missing valuable business opportunities.
There are two aspects to becoming a skilled content writer.
Language skills can be broken down into the tools: spelling, grammar and punctuation, and your command of the English language – can you manipulate words to create impact and meaning?
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation
The good news here is that there are countless free tools and sites on the internet that can help you with these things. Spell-check is now in almost every writing program and if not, Google is always willing to help out. The “British English versus American English” debate can get heated when it comes to spelling but the fact of the matter is that whichever you prefer the other ‘team’ will still understand your message.
A book called Grammar for Everyone, by Barbara Dykes is highly recommended.
Your command of the language comes from one thing and one thing only – practice. The more you write, the better you will write and the faster you will write. Not unlike running to get fit, you start slow and feel awkward but in time you speed up and fall into a natural stride. People who are widely read tend to have a bigger vocabulary and a better ‘feel’ for the rhythm of words. Good writing is about rhythm – read your words aloud so you can hear what your writing sounds like.
Message skills can be more challenging to master. The clarity of your message (what you blog post is about) is more about the organisation of your thoughts and the ability to include only the necessary points in your article. When you are writing about your area of expertise, you want to include as much as you can – however the real skill is distilling a single point into a succinct message that resonates with your audience. Again, this is not a skill many people are born with – it takes experimentation and practice to get this right. The good news is, once mastered, your ability to convey a message can be used effectively across all your business communications.
When you are creating content to build relationships with potential clients:
It takes time to master a skill and it takes time to grow a great business blog. Set yourself a good pace and stick to it for at least 12 months. In that time your writing skills will sharpen and your topics will mature.
But you’re not sure everyone is getting the love – social shares are low and any feedback you get makes you wonder if they really understand what you are talking about.
But the problem is not with them. It is with you. Blogging is not an outlet for your unbridled enthusiasm. If you make the following mistakes, you won’t be connecting with your audience.
1) You use too many description words
Using description words can feel like you are conveying passion but as with speaking too passionately, writing too passionately can overwhelm the reader and turn them off.
2) You cover too much ground
Don’t be tempted to cover every single aspect of an idea or concept in a single post. Too much information will also overwhelm the reader and leave them feeling confused.
3) You don’t give your reader a reward
It’s a tough audience as they say in show-biz. The people who are reading your blog are usually very savvy in the currency of the internet – the market of give and take. They are happy to hand over their name and email address in exchange for some information that is valuable, and they are happy to read your blog post as long as there is something in it for them. Tips, how-to, what to do. Readers want to walk away with something of value – even from a humble business blog-post.
Your blog posts need to be
Keep your language as simple as possible. Jargon, flowery descriptors and excessive emphasis words (really really big, for example) can all be cut out and your post will still make sense.
The most common mistake people make is not spending enough time refining their post ideas. Brainstorming topic ideas is great, but the next step is to take each idea and break it down into at least 3 sub ideas. Refine those ideas by finding the single message you want your reader to ‘get’. And stick to that message and do not deviate.
Solve a problem for your readers. Give them some new information, or help them do something new – or even something old in a new way. Make sure they feel like they received something in exchange for their time.
Before you publish your next post, make sure your language is simple, your topic is focused and the information is useful. These three things will help your audience understand what you are writing about, make it easy for them to read, and give them a feeling of value.
Publishing a blog without an image is like placing a vase on the table with no flowers in it.
3 brilliant reasons why to use images as part of your blog:
Any image will attract more attention than no image at all. Contrasting colours, simple ‘one subject’ shots and metaphoric images will get more attention than an image which is simply a pretty picture and vaguely has something to do with the topic.
Our brains understand an image faster than it understands words. Words are collections of symbols that we attach meaning to when we learn to read. We understand images much faster than we read. We can use words to describe a flower “it has a stem that grows out of the ground, it has leaves on it and at the top there are colourful petals and a round bit in the centre”. Or we could show a photo of a flower.
Our brain also retain the image for longer than we retain words so an image can help your readers recall the information given in the post.
But choosing an image is not about grabbing any old image for your post. If you want a professional blog that looks considered and planned (and what self-respecting business doesn’t?) take the time to discover your ‘image set’.
Your image set is a series of images that:
Suit your business personality – and therefore your blog personality
Will make sense to your readers
Is diverse enough to visually represent the range of topics your blog will cover.
For example, a counseling practice that deals with clients who are going through personal changes could use images of the weather as a visual metaphor. Nature and weather suit the personality of the business, the concept of weather (storms, fog, a ray of sunshine) will resonate with their clients, and there is enough diversity in the weather to cover the topics in the blog.
When it comes to finding the right image for a new post – having an ‘image set’ narrows down the search and if the image set is right for your business, it will be much easier to find images that suite each post and make sense to your readers.
Always make sure you have permission to use the image you have chosen. There are countless stock image libraries – we recommend Shutterstock for the variety of images, and the simplicity of their pricing. We also find Flickr has great images but it is harder to contact the photographer/creator in some cases. We also love snapwi.re and unsplash.com for their extremely generous – and great quality – free images (delivered weekly).
Remember – once you have gone to all the trouble of finding the right image, you can the re-purpose it and use it as part of your social media broadcasts. We’ve recommended it before, and we will again, for those who are not graphically savvy – canva.com takes all the pain out of creating images for your blog and social media.
To find free images FAST, visit our Free Image Index page – we’ve done all the hard work for you!
“What to post” is one of the modern business persons biggest #firstworldissues.
Here are 5 fail-safe fall-back inspiration places so you never run out of post ideas.
If you have never heard a TED talk then stop reading this and click here immediately*! At the time of writing this post, there were approximately 1900 TED talks available. Almost no topic is left unturned and because each of the speakers is passionate about their area, the talks can be fascinating – and inspiring. Find talks that relate to your industry and use them to springboard ideas for your blog.
All the best bloggers are reading blogs by the people who inspire them – in fact we got the idea for this post from HubSpot – their list for blog inspiration is here. Who are your industry leaders, and what are they blogging about?
This works better for some industries than others. Current news stories can be used by having a different view to the news article, using the article as further proof of your point of view Creating a new idea from the topic.
They are one of the greatest source of blog post topic ideas around. And we don’t mean case studies or testimonials, what your customers give you are problems – which you solve for them. And when you find a set of common problems, then you have a set of blog posts.
As an example, for us, here are three customer driven posts
◦ blog topic inspiration – a lot of our clients find it hard to come up with ideas – so we wrote this post!
◦ lack of time to blog – many businesses find it hard to make time to sit down and write a blog – so very soon we are going to show you how you can streamline your blogging process so it take a lot less time
◦ Can someone write my blog for me? – this is another question we get a lot – and the short answer is yes – in fact our Home Delivery service does exactly that.
How social media works and what you should be posting is a big preoccupation with businesses. But what about what social media can do for you? Who are the influencers you are following, what are they posting online – and can some of their wisdom be turned into an article relevant to your audience?
So – you can see what we did there, can’t you? We read that great post by HubSpot and using the same concept but our own ideas and thoughts on the topic, we wrote this post.
We crossed over with the TED idea but that is undeniably one of our favourite sources of inspiration too.
Using each of the 5 points above, find at least 3 ideas from each source – that is 15 post ideas right there – Go!
*TED can be overwhelming – we recommend you start with this talk by Simon Sinek.
But even for those who have embraced their business blog there are questions that, no matter how much research is done, or how many experts consulted a solid answer cannot be found. One of the most persistent of these questions is:
“How long should my blog posts be?”
And as with these kinds of questions – the kind that are asked over and over again – it is not the answer that is elusive. It is the question that is the problem.
Because it is not the length of the post that needs to be considered. It is the impact of your post that is important. And where most people refer to Google as the benchmark for post length – “Google likes posts between 300 and 500 words long” is etched into the collective hive-mind of the internet – it is the audience you are writing for that provide the real-time data for the effectiveness of your content.
A high-impact blog post is:
✓ Usually (but not always) short and to the point
✓ Covers a single message that resonates with a specific audience
✓ Is not always written – it can be visual, video or a combination
✓ Is highly shareable
✓ Is extraordinarily funny, or educational or (better still) both.
If a post resonates with your audience it doesn’t matter if it is a 7 word info-graphic, a 1 minute video, or a 2500 word in-depth article. The fact is your subject, message and delivery have hit the mark with the right segment of your audience.
Not every post will have a high impact but the ones that do are invaluable. These are your hero posts, the posts that drive more engagement, help to build your community and ensure that your audience will be leaning in to hear what you have to say next.
*Do not get us wrong here – there are SEO businesses who get great results for a fair exchange of money, however there are a lot of charlatans spruiking unrealistic results using undisclosed methods for a hefty fee – they are easily spotted by arriving in your in-box unannounced claiming to be able to work miracles on your site traffic, but don’t get stung – it is a case of buyer beware.