“Build it and they will come.”
But creating a list which is valuable, has longevity and will pay dividends well into the future requires focus. And strategy.
What you need to build a list:
Always start with “why are we doing this?”
Is it to stay front of mind? Staying front of mind means you need to regularly – and depending on your industry, frequently appear in the in-boxes of the people on your list.
For example; creating ‘nurture content” and sending out a quarterly newsletter is great for an audience who make a high value, infrequent purchase – real estate is a good example.
Is it to up-sell or cross sell? Communicate to your list the other things you may be able to help them with.
For example; an accounting practice may also offer business strategy and and financial advice but do your accounting clients know that?
Start with who you already know
Gather the names and email addresses of everyone you have already worked with and upload them into a database/CRM. These people already know you even though they may not have heard from you for a while.
Not everyone is welcome
Make sure you know who you want on your list – and who you don’t. There is no point having thousands of people on your database if they are unlikely to do business with you.
The best way to make sure you get the right people on your list is to create something which is both valuable to your ideal client AND unappealing to the people you really don’t want on your list.
For example; the language you use, your visual branding, and the topic of your lead magnet will help attract and repel people.
Read our Ultimate Opt-in Offer Guide here
Choose a database
There are many different types of CRM’s from Mail Chimp (free for a small list, easy and fun to use) to Hub Spot (enterprise level with bells and whistles you can’t even imagine) as well as good all-rounders for a fair, scaled cost such as Active Campaign and Ontraport. And there are industry specific CRMs which cater to the unique needs of a particular industry – Agent Box has been developed for real estate agencies.
Write, video, photograph
Depending on your product and/or service, you will need to create valuable content to share. In fact, content underpins everything you do when growing and nurturing a list of people.
You need content:
Good content underpins all your online marketing and helps you grow a solid list of potential leads who are already looking for your product or service.
Nobody likes to be made to feel bad. However, when you don’t see the people ‘browsing your business’ online, how do you know what they feel?
Content marketing has become all about ‘giving things away’ – and yes, it is about the value you can share with your audience. But what else is content marketing able to do for your known – and unknown – audiences?
Client experience is how people interact with your brand. The fast-food chain McDonalds pioneered the concept when they made sure every single McDonalds outlet looked the same, and the staff all behaved the same. No matter where you were, or what you ordered, the experience was almost 100% consistent. And people like consistency. It makes us feel safe – there are no surprises.
But how do you replicate “would you like fries with that” in an online environment where you’re not even sure who is looking at your site? The answer lies in how well your content communicates with your audience – and where.
How easy is it for someone to find your website and how well do you introduce yourself when they arrive? If your site is on page one of Google, and your message is clearly stated above the fold on your website, you’ve made it easy for your visitor. They found you and they can quickly establish if you are what they are looking for.
It’s good to note here; a strong brand message acts to both attract – and repel people. It’s like a filter.
No matter where people find you online – Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, your website, your Google Business site – it needs to look, feel and sound the same as your website. Inconsistent images, colours, and styles of language will all serve to confuse people.
Confusion does not make people feel good.
Every single item of communication you have with a person – whether they be a new lead, an existing client, an old client, a supplier or a staff/support person – should always be ‘on brand’.
An experience gap is where you’ve not included your ‘client experience’.
Once we went on quite a fancy holiday. The resort was gorgeous and the staff treated us beautifully. When we returned home I realised I’d left behind a laptop charger. I called the restort to ask if they had it and the experience I had couldn’t have been more off-putting. The person I spoke to was impateint, reluctant to help and when they did find the charger, informed me I would have to pay postage. I would expect to pay postage, I didn’t exepect to feel bad about it. Needless to say, I would never recommend the resort to anyone.
Even the ‘back end’ of your business is part of the client experience. We’ve created a list below for you so you can make sure you’ve closed any of your experience gaps:
Don’t leave your audience feeling ignored, or unimportant. Create content with a strong brand voice, and close your ‘experience gaps’ so everyone gets the same experience no matter where they find you.
For businesses with a lot on their plate, distilling all the marketing possibilities down to what is really necessary can make moving content to the too-hard basket the easiest option of all.
Social media, video, e-books and webinars are only the beginning – messenger marketing, SMS, chat-bots and AI are all vying for attention. But at the end of the day, it is not the latest technology or marketing fad that will make the difference. It is the core 3 areas which really require your attention and where your efforts should be focused.
consistency, value and audience are the only three cards you need to be holding
Of course, it is never quite as simple as that;
Consistency is all about audience experience. It’s about brand voice and how interacting with your brand ‘feels’ to your audience. Being online makes this kind of consistency both easier and more difficult.
It is easier because you have complete control over how your website, social media and messaging looks and sounds across the whole internet. It is more difficult because you need to create and maintain consistency of all these audience touch-points and you don’t always get to see how people react to your brand.
Creating brand guidelines – which means everything from how your logo is displayed to images, colours and fonts right down to language and how it is used within your brand space.
Create a copy style guide which will help you keep your brand voice consistent and recognisable by your audience.
Giving value is interpreted in different ways by different people. For some, their IP (intellectual property) is closely guarded – for others, the value lies in the distribution of the idea, not the idea itself.
Content Marketing is not a new idea, and there are many many people who help businesses with their content like we do – but each of us does it in a different way; our brands have different personalities and we attract different types of clients.
So when it comes to sharing our knowledge – we know that we can’t give away too much – many of our articles, downloads and videos are all about helping businesses understand, start and continue their content marketing. Another business we know gives away 30-minute strategy calls which are packed with serious value, and another who serves up high-value ‘how-to’ on a platter – all of them free free free!
Showing people how to do something new, or helping them understand a new concept is a great way to add value. Templates which make a task easier and more achievable are also great.
Find three things you can give away to your audience. Turn them into a .pdf download and send them as a gift to your subscriber list.
We saved the most important to last. Understanding your audience is the real key to successful content marketing. Who are they? When do they need you? How do you respond to their problem or desire? How do they see you?
Who are they and what do you do to make them feel better about themselves?
There are so many ways to define your clients and find your niché. Audience profiles, client personas, demographics, psychographics but it really comes down to
a) who has the problem you solve or the desire you fulfil – and which sub-set of these people do you want to work with?
b) how do you respond to them that makes you the right choice for them?
Most businesses need a bookkeeper – but a bookkeeper who understands the building trade and likes working with builders probably won’t attract (or necessarily enjoy working with) a yoga studio. But they will become well known as the tradies bookkeeper. The more you understand who your audience is, the more you focus on them and the easier it is to give them valuable content in a style they understand and resonate with.
Don’t be afraid to focus on what appears to be a smaller audience – spend time building credibility and awareness with them and you will find they are a bigger niché than you first thought.
Review your current clients, look for common traits such as consistency of problem/desire, or interest area, industry or level of business they are at.
If the channel is free, the channel owns everything you post there, you don’t own the channel.
Which means they can do whatever they like with your content; show it, promote it, hide it. Or build a complicated algorithm that decides what is seen, when and why.
The sheer volume of users on these platforms is what draws most business owners to them in the first place. And having a social media strategy is an essential part of any marketing deck, no matter what size your business is. However, for small businesses, social should never be the only card in the deck. And you should never, never have only one channel.
Most people know by now that all online marketing is fueled by content. The more you have and the better quality it is, the more successful your marketing will be. But where you publish your content and subsequently build your audience should be a strategic long-term plan.
The impact for businesses of Facebooks changes won’t be felt immediately, although some people are already reporting a drop off in organic reach and engagement.
Now is a great time to re-visit your social strategy and take a look at what changes you can put in place to avoid becoming a victim of not only Facebook’s changes, but any social channel updates that might affect your social marketing.
Here is an example of a quick Social Media SWOT for you to follow. We were thinking generally about socail when we did it – not a particular platform.
There are many strengths and opportunities available when using social media, and the weaknesses are predominantly internal.
Do we have the right content, enough content, the time and skills to manage the audience?
However, it is the threats that many businesses tend to overlook.
Any social platform, not only Facebook, you don’t pay for, effectively “owns” your content and they can decide what to do with it – and when.
For example; A few years ago, you Facebook Business page would get great organic reach on any post you published. When they wanted more businesses to ‘pay for exposure’, they changed the algorithm to show less of your content – and ‘encourage’ you to pay to boost posts and pay for ads.
Like the tried and true SWOT exercise above, much of what you need to do is go back to basics.
Keep creating quality content
Don’t stop now. You would be surprised how many people will throw their hands up and stop content marketing altogether because of this change – by simply keeping on going, you’re ahead already!
Own your publishing platforms
Your website is your own platform, always publish here first. So is your CRM (so MailChimp or Active Campaign for example), work hard to build your list, it is one of the most valuable assets you have. Online course platforms such as Thinkific or Teachable are also excellent places to publish your content.
Keep using Social, but keep it balanced
Don’t stop using social platforms to broadcast your content but use it with more purpose than likes and shares. Use it to drive traffic to your website, build your list or get students onto your course.
Imagine if your social platform suddenly disappeared overnight. What impact would that have on your business?
Social platforms will always change at the whim of the company that owns it, and from revenue-making pressure – they are, after all, a business. Your best defence is to strengthen your weaknesses and understand the threats so you are not caught out!
Here at Brilliant, we are quick to jump onto a new thing and give it a test drive. We admit we get ‘crushes’ that last a month or two, and then we get distracted by the next shiny bit of software to arrive in our feeds. Sorry Trello, you’re actually very good, only… we discovered Bullet Journals.
In no particular order, here are our 5 favourite free tools for content marketing from this year.
For testing out the ‘clickability’ of your titles and headline, and email subjects, there is nothing better than Headline Analyzer. It’s not new this year, but if you’ve not used it, make sure you bookmark that page. You’re trying for a score better than 74 – GO!
This is a truly wicked tool. No matter what your subject is, this site has some serious ‘geek’ behind it as it trawls the internet and creates a network of related content for you. The site has style, humour and smarts. Test it out with your next article idea and see what else is out there for you.
This one is a productivity tool that helps to keep you focused on your tasks and not dithering around on social media, not achieving anything.
It is basically a timer that sets you up for 25 minute work sprints, gives you a 5 minute break, and then puts you to task again. A day with the Tomato Timer is exhausting but when you have a looming deadline, it can pull your schedule back into line quick smart!
We never thought icons could be so varied! This is a free site with almost unlimited icons for every imaginable occasion. It allows you to save out vector icons in black and white for free. To custom colour your icon and save as .png or .svg you can upgrade for around $40/year.
This year was the biggest year for free image sites yet. Some are better than others and there are some questions about the validity of some of the images on some of the sites – but for the most part, they are free for private and commercial use and are great for feature images to go with your articles and other online content. We’ve compiled them all onto one page for you.
Skype has a serious competition. We have used Zoom this year for group meetings, one-on-one session and even for on-boarding new clients. The layout is great, getting onto the call is simple and you can record your sessions. There is a free version and an upgrade – this is one that will be staying with us for a long time.
Okay – so that was 6 but we really couldn’t decide which one to cut from the list – advantage you!
Let us know what your favourite tools were from this year – we’d hate to miss a good one!
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Too often we hear of organisations who tried, and abandoned their content marketing efforts all because they failed to understand the nature of the strategy; triathlon, not flat sprint. Or the agility required; running is great, unless you are in the ocean, in which case swimming will get you further.
The real disconnect however is to do with expectation.
What results are expected vary greatly between different businesses and can depend on what their experience has been. It is as much the fault of the marketers as anyone.
10x your business with this one email!
Except by the time you’ve set up the strategy, created enough content to fuel it and run it for 3 months (or 2 or 6…) you suddenly find nothing is working, your results are flat and the flood of new clients you were expecting are less than a sporadic drip.
We have identified 7 damn good reasons a business would invest time and resources into a content strategy. There is no particular order or sequence to the list; each is relevant at different times for different reasons. The strategy lies in developing content that suits the needs of your business, and the understanding of your audience to know how long it will take to get some traction (pro-tip: it’s usually longer than you think and alway longer than you want).
If you are starting out with new content, a lot of what you will be doing is testing what works and what doesn’t work. Unless you are publishing every day, it will take around 6 months to start seeing what is working and what is not. Once you start to see a trend, you can then focus the direction of your content.
Publishing a series of 4 articles on your website blog and sitting back will get you the very predictable result of pretty much nothing. Publishing 4 articles every month and broadcasting them on social media and using them to fill your newsletters will get you very different results. Creating the content is only the beginning. Like going on a holiday – packing your bag is an essential part of the journey… but a packed bag alone won’t get you to you destination. There are a lot of other things that need to happen.
As you continue to create, publish and review your content, make sure you check back to the initial reason you started and ask
As well as the strategic changes you need to be across, there are the technical and environmental changes as well. New apps for writing, planning, scheduling and publishing content are being release almost daily – is there something new that will streamline your internal process of content creation?
And finally, what worked last week may not work next week – or at least, not in the same way. Facebook advertising was a boon for early adopters, but now every man and his business is out there promoting and advertising. It’s crowded and loud, so getting results requires smarter content, and bigger spend.
This is a list of places you can reuse your content – often for years – making all the time and effort worth it:
Blog posts give your newsletters purpose! Either copy the entire post into the newsletter or write a leading paragraph and a ‘read more’ link to encourage click-thru. And remember, as your list grows, you can re-use old posts as not everyone will have seen them.
Keep in everyone’s good books with a newsletter packed with value.
If Facebook is one of your main channels – don’t be afraid to re-post every few months.
Facebook’s algorithm has severely limited the organic reach of posts on a business page. They want you to pay to boost your content (they are a business after all). So re-posting will give you more exposure for free.
Brilliant for building credibility in your Facebook audience. If you are more B2B, look to LinkedIn as a channel to utilise.
Boosting a post on Facebook will not only get it seen by more people, you can set the audience to target those who are most likely interested in a particular topic.
What to boost?
It is best to boost an article you know is popular, use it to reach a larger number of potential leads.
Brilliant for extending awareness of your brand.
If your website is a pond, and Facebook is a stream, then Twitter is Niagara Falls – in flood. You cannot tweet too many times. Write clever 140 character headlines and add a link to your articles.
Obviously the more content you have, the less repetitive it appears – so aren’t you glad you keep up your blog!
More brand awareness with a splash of credibility.
Email footers are one of the least utilised spaces on the entire internet. They usually contain contact information. Savvy businesses are now using it to promote an offer or to send people to a relevant article.
When you next follow up an enquiry, find an article most relevant the question and include a link at the end of your email.
Great for building relationships.
If your articles are predominantly helpful information such as “how-to’s”, use them as the basis of a short online course. Look back through your articles and find topic groups that work together and look at how they could be turned into an online course.
Brilliant as a lead magnet or an income stream with bonus credibility and a side order of expert status!
Again, take what you have and massage it into an e-book. If you’ve been creating content for a year or more, you will have a good archive of content ready to shape into a book. Again, a book can either be used as a lead magnet or as a revenue stream.
As with courses, you get big credibility and expert status wins.
Getting a regular blog up and running is no mean feat – ask anyone who has a successful business blog and they will tell you it takes planning, time and skills (not to mention quite a lot of grit).
Content is not a single use item – you worked hard for it, now make it work hard for you.
Where do you reuse your content?
“In the forest, hundreds of birds call out – a cacophony of noise. Yet, high in a tree, in a nest, a baby bird hears the call of its mother – a magic call, unique and distinct from every other birdcall…”
Voice is the way you communicate with your clients. It is the way your staff communicate with your clients. And it is not the voice of the CEO, or the CMO. It is the voice of your business. Written, spoken, visual or experiential – without a defined voice, your business voice will be lost in the noise.
Businesses with bold personalities, with a unique angle, the ones pitched at a different frequency to all the others – they are the ones who are heard.
The purpose of your brand voice is to attract as many of the right customers to your business as possible. So your brand voice needs to resonate with people you want to work with. Every metaphor, every example, the words you choose must all align with your brand voice.
Your brand voice is used EVERYWHERE.
And even disengagement communications
As the business owner, you need to define your brand voice.
What is the tone of your voice – Upbeat? Serious? Humorous? Motivating? Can you maintain this tone across all the mediums above? Are your staff able to use your brand voice?
Define your core words? For example, we use Brilliant (for obvious reasons) and other big expansive words such as magnificent, as well as action sentences such as “will we see you there?” “is this the kind of strategy your business is looking for?”
Our voice is friendly, confident, personal.
Everyone likes to be seen as ‘professional’ and expert’ however these traits are a bit like saying, “the car has wheels!”
What are the traits which give your business personality – in other words, in amongst all the forest noises, how will anyone hear you above all the others?
Examples of great brand voices in crowded niches:
From these examples you can see, you don’t have to create a great big loud brand voice; however it does need to be unique and consistent across every channel of communication you use.
The internet moves fast and while a solid blogging strategy is a content marketing keystone, blogging alone will no longer get the attention it did 3 or 4 years ago.
We have identified 5 content items beyond blog articles, which, when coupled with a consistent content strategy, will get you to your content marketing goal faster:
An opt-in offer is something small but valuable you give in exchange for a name and an email address.
What it can be:
A discount offer
A free trial
What it will do
Opt-in offers are how you build your database. When someone downloads your opt-in, they are saying “I could be interested in your service or product.” They’ve gone from anonymous visitor, to warm lead!
Once you have them in your database, don’t leave them sitting there – create a newsletter and communicate with them regularly. Many people are wary of newsletters. They see them as in-box clutter and an annoyance. We are going to myth-bust some newsletter misinformation right now.
a) Value v clutter
People who use the internet are savvy. They know if they give up their name and email address, they will get information in their in-box. They also know where the unsubscribe link is – so all you need to do is make sure your newsletters are filled with value for your target audience.
Most businesses err on the side of not enough. Once a month or once every 2 months in todays terms is not enough. If you are looking to really engage your audience and include value-add offers, once a week is fine.
It does depend on what industry you are in – so knowing your audience, where they are online, and what they are doing there is still as vital as ever.
Your newsletter should, above all, be CONSISTENT. Brand, brand voice and layout need to be consistent. Why? Because consistency grows trust; give value + build trust = a happy client
What it will do
Newsletters are brilliant for keeping existing customers engaged and staying front of mind. They are good for keeping the ‘yes but not right now’ crowd (and trust us, they are a significant part of your audience) on the hook, and they are brilliant for moving cool leads through your funnel and turning them into happy clients.
Case studies can be very powerful pieces of content. Look what we did for Business X, imagine what kind of results your business would get with the same treatment. If you don’t have a client willing to showcase their results on your website, you can create a client scenario. A scenario can be more powerful than a case study because you can target the problem in a way that will resonate across different types of businesses.
A simple scenario can highlight the kind of results you get for your clients:
“Company A was feeling invisible in their market place even though they had spent a lot of time and money on a new website. We created a content set and a broadcasting strategy for them and within weeks, they were getting inbound calls and enquires about product Y.”
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times – the way of the future is video! And it is true – video has been proven to significantly increase engagement. Companies who are focusing on video as part of their content marketing are seeing phenomenal results. But beware! Video is not ‘easier than writing’. Great video requires the same dedication to as writing does – your message must be clear and you need to be master of your craft. Equipment for recording, editing skills, and how you comfortable you are when the little red light comes on all affect the professionalism of your video content.
People are increasingly time-poor so the rising popularity of online courses is hardly surprising. In terms of growing your influence, the one-to-many model means your reach is unlimited. Portals for hosting online courses, such as Thinkific and Udemy all have no-fail interfaces which walk you through the process of organising your content and uploading the various files you need for each of your modules. Online courses can be used for revenue or as a lead magnet.
Of course, it doesn’t end there, this list of ways to keep your content fresh (and your message consistent) is (almost) endless:
Look at the big topics which form your core message and find the best way to deliver them. Content marketing is no longer about blogging. It is about publishing content in formats and on channels that are relevant to the people you want to see it.
Creating – and maintaining – a business blog for your company has now become de rigueur; an essential component of your online marketing, the purpose behind your social strategy and a key credibility driver.
Let’s take a closer look at what a blog, backed by a documented strategy will give you – and what you get for not doing it:
To be frank, the opportunity to rise to page one of Google for free must be one of the most compelling reasons for companies to create and publish their own content. The more competitive your niche is, the more important this will become. How many of your competitors have a healthy blog? How do they compare with your own blog?
In regard to SEO, not blogging will cost you.
• It will cost you if you choose to pay for SEO (anywhere from around $500/month)
• It will cost you customers – not everyone looks at the paid Google listings, the majority of people look at the links below the paid ads, and the chances are, you are not there
• It will cost your reputation – while not everyone will read your posts when they visit your site, they will check to see that you have an up-to-date, relevant blog – if you don’t have a blog, people ask, “are they really serious about their business?”.
As SEO expert Sean Rooney from Amire in Sydney says:
“Companies that blog on a regular basis typically attract over 50% more traffic than companies that don’t. It’s a basic expectation by site users in today’s digital world, why wouldn’t you?”
Every business owner knows – exposure = more traffic = more clients. A well-crafted blog post, on a topic which is relevant to your target audience can be far more valuable than paid advertising. The whole point of blogging is to increase awareness of your brand, your skills, services and products. Creating content and broadcasting it on the right social channels will bring new people to your site – the more regularly you post, the more people will come.
What if I don’t blog?
You probably spent some time effort and money on building your website – but it is like building a road, and never having a single car drive along it. People use the internet to discover, research and find the things they need. If they can’t easily find you, the chances of them accidentally stumbling upon your site are slim to none.
“Small businesses who blog receive 126% more leads than those who don’t.“
Content builds credibility. When you look at the LinkedIn profile of someone who has posted more than 50 blog articles, either consciously or unconsciously you think “they know what they are talking about” because really, you can’t write that many posts if you don’t know your own business.
As business becomes more competitive, credibility has become an essential part of your ‘business make-up’. A company blog is a foundation stone in building credibility.
What if I don’t blog?
The harsh reality is this – if your competitors have a strong content strategy they will automatically be seen as more credible than those who don’t. Social media channels filled with links to other sites, and a website menu without a ‘blog’ tab all leave your audience wondering if you are truly ‘open for trade’ or not.
The internet is awash with statistics and figures proving that businesses who dedicate time and energy for a content strategy and content creation are more successful than those who don’t.
To paraphrase a Chinese proverb,
“The best time to start your company blog is 5 years ago. The second best time is now.”