Some small business owners are intimidated by email marketing. Having to write an individual email is scary enough if you don’t consider yourself a writer. The thought of sending an email out to an entire mailing list can be downright terrifying!
Fortunately, the perfect email is about more than just writing. And even for the written elements, once you’ve figured out the essential components, it’s easy for even those more timid writers among us to excel.
Here are the steps that go into crafting the perfect email.
Start with a Strong Subject Line
According to Campaign Manager, the average office worker receives 121 emails per day. That’s a lot of activity in just one inbox, and it means that you need to do something from the start to catch your readers’ eyes.
This starts with a strong subject line. There are a number of approaches you can take to make sure your subject line stands out. Consider including one of the following elements:
Create a sense of urgency – “Sale ends TONIGHT at 9pm”
Make an offer they can’t refuse – “Free shipping on orders of $25 or more”
Pique their interest – “What’s the secret to maintaining a healthy lawn?”
Provide value – “5 Tips for Hosting the Perfect July 4 BBQ”
An eye-catching subject line just might include an emoji, too. Of course, including emojis won’t be the appropriate choice for all businesses, but for some it can be a fun way to stand out in a text-heavy inbox.
Personalize the Message
There are a few steps that go into personalizing email messaging. You should begin by segmenting your lists. By breaking your customers and prospects down into groups based on demographics (like age, location, or gender) or by behavior (past purchases, most recent interaction with your brand, etc.) you can target different subsets of your population with messaging that will be most relevant to them.
This doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel for each variant, but there are little steps you can take to tweak the messaging to best appeal to each group. Let’s say you own a landscaping business. You’re offering a big start of the summer promotion; anyone who schedules regular yard work appointments at the start of the summer will get 10 percent off each session.
This is great news for all of your customers, but you can tailor the messaging based on how you’ve segmented your list. Let’s say you’ve broken your list down by types of services those customers currently receive. For those who take advantage of your gardening services, make the messaging about how you’ll keep their flowers in bloom all season long, for a fraction of the price. For those who use your lawn mowing services, the email can say something like “The only thing better than the smell of fresh-cut grass is saving 10% off your lawn care services this summer.”
To further personalize the messages, take advantage of merge tags, which allow you to include the name of the recipient in the greeting, rather than a generic “Hey there.”
Write Smart Body Copy
This is where those non-writers start to get intimidated. What is good copy, anyway? Really it’s about being concise, clear, and helpful.
Keep sentences short, eliminate jargon and technical speak, and make it very clear what you’re offering in your email. Because we do all get so many emails each day, no one has time to sit down and read a thousand word email. Keep it to 250-500 words maximum, and devise ways to draw attention to the most important keywords. This can be as simple as bolding relevant text or including an image that draws the viewer’s eye to the most critical part of the message.
Creating the perfect email is all about standing out from the crowd. And what better way to do that than to add elements beyond text? A stunning photo, an informative infographic, or a quick video are all ways to add other media into your messaging.
If you’re going to go this route, set it up with a brief sentence or two, and then let the media speak for itself. If needed, include captions on images so that viewers have more context. Videos should also include subtitles, so that those viewing in a place where they can’t turn their volume up can still grasp the content (a service like Rev can help you with your transcription needs).
End with a Call to Action
Once you’ve dazzled your readers with relevant, personalized content and exciting visual elements, it’s time to bring it on home. One simple, clear call to action that’s tied in with the rest of the email is the way to do that.
If your email was about a sale going on right now, include a “Shop the sale” button that takes readers to your e-commerce site. If your email was an offer for a free ebook, end with a “Get the book” link. Whatever the case may be, make sure that the call to action flows with the rest of the email content and is set apart visually so that readers can’t possibly miss it.
And Don’t Forget the Unsubscribe Option
Last but not least, you want to give your readers a chance to unsubscribe. Not only is it the law to give folks a chance to opt-out of your marketing messaging, it can also help you maintain a clean email list. When your email is going directly to spam folders or getting deleted without being opened week after week, that puts you at risk of being punished by ISPs. A clean email list, with higher open rates and fewer people marking you as spam, ensures that your messaging is ending up in the inboxes of your most engaged subscribers.
Once you get the hang of creating compelling marketing emails, you must keep it up! Staying in regular contact with your subscribers is the best way to remain top-of-mind, so establish a cadence for your email marketing and stick to it.
Content creation, when done correctly, takes time. But you’re a busy entrepreneur with a lot on your plate. Surely, there is a way to get more efficient about the content creation process.
The good news is: there is! There are ways to streamline the process and save time, while still creating meaningful content that will get you noticed by prospects and keep you top of mind with existing customers.
Here are my top five tips for saving time on content creation so you can get back to the other tasks that come along with running a business.
1. It’s About Quality, Not Quantity
The first thing to remember is that you don’t need to create mountains of content. You’re better off creating less, high-quality content than you are flooding your audience with lots of empty content.
Along with quality, consistency is just as important. When you set a cadence for your content, you want to stick to it. Releasing content every single day and then going radio silent for a week and a half is not the way to build an audience.
Most prospects need to see a brand a handful of times before they even begin to think about doing business with them. If you can be a consistent presence in their inbox and on their social media feeds, you’re far more likely to get their attention than if you spam them with meaningless content for one week and then disappear the next.
2. Create an Editorial Calendar
How do you ensure that you’re creating high quality content on a regular basis? Put together an editorial calendar.
Not only does this help you set a plan and stick to it, it’s also a much more efficient use of your time to sit down and plan out the month’s content in one fell swoop, rather than scrambling to pull it together piecemeal each day.
Set aside a few hours at the end of each month to plan your content approach for the following month. Centering your content around a particular theme can help you to create content that works well together and provides the depth of information that your audience craves. It also aligns with the strategy of creating hub pages for your content, which will empower you to continue to get use out of your content well after it’s been published.
3. Refresh Existing Content
Just because you’re sharing content on a regular basis doesn’t mean that it all needs to be brand new. Refreshing old content is a great way to get additional life out of your content that remains relevant.
Some topics will never go out of style, but may need to be updated as the details change. Let’s say you own a business that handles home renovations. Perhaps you have a blog post about selecting the perfect kitchen countertop. While some of the principles of countertop selection will always be the same, some of the trends will change. You can refresh this content to reflect changes in consumer trends (acknowledging the shift from granite to quartz as the material of choice, for example). This keeps the content relevant, while allowing you to continue to benefit from the material meat of the original post.
4. Turn to Guest Posters
If you’re trying to create content on a regular basis, sometimes you know it will be difficult for you to keep pace. If there’s a week where you’ll be out of town at a conference, or a month where your business is launching a new product that will take up a lot of your time, this might be the time to tap a friend to create content as a guest.
Whether it’s a blog post, webinar, or podcast episode, guest content can serve a few important purposes. First, it frees you up to spend less of your time on content that week. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, it allows you to tap into the existing network of the guest poster.
Like with any strategic partnership, you want to seek out guests who are aligned with what you do and complement the work your business does. This not only adds value for your audience, but it also introduces you to guest posters’ fan base (and vice versa—it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement).
5. Consider Outsourcing
There are a lot of small businesses that aren’t quite big enough to build out their marketing department, but are a little too big for the owner or small team to handle marketing all on their own. This is when it might be time to outsource some of your marketing efforts and content creation.
Fortunately, in today’s highly connected world, it’s easy to find contractors who can work remotely to help you with content creation. Outsourcing allows you to put your marketing work in the hands of a professional, without having to worry about finding the resources to add to your permanent team.
Content Creation can eat up a lot of time and attention for small business owners. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you get smart about planning out your content and turn to others for help, you can continue to create meaningful, effective content without losing too much time in your day.
If you’re looking for help managing your content creation, check out our packages, designed to help you increase your visibility online.
The internet is filled with a staggering amount of content. A Google search can turn up tens of millions of results for a single query in seconds.
So you’re an expert in your field, and you’re diligently creating content each week. But what is going to give you the edge up on all of the other businesses in your industry? And how will you build a loyal audience who will turn to you, rather than your competitors, for help solving their problems?
Here are some tips to help you create content that is a cut above the rest—work that really stands out from the content clutter.
Find a New Angle
The first step to creating unique content is understanding what makes your brand different. What is your business’s value proposition? You can discover your value proposition by asking yourself why you’re passionate about your work, and by asking your customers why they chose to do business with you over your competitors.
Asking your customers is a critical step, because sometimes the thing that makes you stand out is not what you expected. If you own a coffee shop, you may be passionate about sourcing the best espresso and think that’s what makes you exceptional. But in talking to your customers, you may find that they enjoy your coffee, but are even more excited about the baristas, who go out of their way to learn their names and greet them personally when they enter the store.
Once you understand what gets your customers excited about your business, you can create content that leans into that. Perhaps the owner of that coffee shop would want to start a customer of the month program, where they do a personal feature on one of their customers each month on social media.
Stay True to Your Brand’s Voice
If you’ve ever listened to A-list actors being interviewed about their careers, one of the most common questions they get is, “How did you get your big break?” Often, their answer is that they stayed true to themselves. They were competing against thousands of other actors, but they brought their own voice and personality to the role, and that’s eventually what helped them book the part.
Defining the voice and tone for your brand is a crucial part of creating content that resonates with your audience and keeps them following you rather than your competitor. This can sound like a nebulous pursuit, but you can use the same research you used to find your value proposition to define your voice.
What is it that people like about your brand? Is it your trustworthiness, your friendliness, your authenticity, or your passion? These words can help you create content that fits with the image your customers already have of your business.
Provide Actionable Steps for Your Readers
People turn to the internet looking for content that helps them solve a problem. If your content isn’t useful, it’s going to be ignored. This means you should be providing your readers with clear, actionable steps they can take to fix their problems.
This should be true for all of your brand’s content, from blog posts and webinars to Tweets and Instagram posts. Retweeting memes and cluttering people’s social media feeds with filler content is going to get you unfollowed. Sharing content that is unique, or at the very least thoughtfully curated and re-shared, is what’s going to keep people following your business.
Create Content in Desirable Formats
Part of building an audience for your content is providing content in a format that people want to engage with. Video has become hugely popular, and you should be working to incorporate it on your website and across social media. If you’re creating written content, make sure you’re creating effective copy.
When you’re posting on social media, make sure you’re active on the channels that are most important to your prospects and customers. If your ideal customer is a Baby Boomer, you should probably be focusing your efforts on Facebook rather than churning out content on Snapchat.
Establish Hub Pages to Keep Content Working for You
Creating content is a time-consuming task. And when you’re creating great content, you want to be sure you’re squeezing every ounce of value out of it. That’s where hub pages come in. These pages allow you to group your similar content together, making it easy for your audience to do a deep-dive into their topic of interest.
This positions you to be regarded as a thought leader in that area, allows you to continue to generate views for older content that would otherwise fade into the archives on your blog, and strengthen your ranking on search engines.
When you think about content creation, it can be easy to feel defeated: “There are so many other people out there on the internet, providing insight in my industry—how can I possibly stand out?” Fortunately for you, a lot of the content out there is not good. It doesn’t have a strong identity, and it doesn’t really add much value for readers. If you can create content that’s meaningful for your audience, you can get the upper hand and rise to the top of the content heap.
Content creation falls squarely in the domain of your marketing team, right? Yes, it’s true that marketers set strategy and create the content that supports that vision. But no team is an island, and in reality, it’s the sales team that is out there interacting with prospects and customers each and every day.
Your sales team should feel empowered to share and create content for your business. Here’s how you get them involved in the process, and the dos and don’ts for making the system work.
Do: Ask for Their Input
Your marketing team might be the wordsmiths of the group, but your sales team are the boots on the ground. They’re out there talking to prospects every day. They hear the same questions, hesitations, and sticking points over and over again.
When creating your content, you want to be sure that you’re proving to prospects that your business is the best one out there to solve their problems. The sales team understands better than anyone what those problems are, and how to communicate your solution.
You should be turning to them for advice and input. They’re the people who can point the marketing team in the right direction and help them create the type of content that will be most meaningful and helpful for your audience.
Do: Create a Process for Gathering Their Ideas
Your sales team have their own impressive skill set, but marketing writing is not necessarily part of it. In order to gather their input, don’t ask them to think like a marketer. Make it easy for them to share what they hear in their role as a salesperson.
Consider putting together a worksheet that asks them some basic questions. What are the top three questions they hear from prospects? Do they hear similar reactions across the board to pricing and specific products? What kind of content do they wish they had available to them as part of their sales arsenal?
Gathering responses to these questions will help your marketing team understand and meet the sales team’s needs.
Do: Provide Them with Content Extras
Salespeople are dealing with prospects and existing customers who are at all different stages of the marketing hourglass. Whether they’re speaking with a prospect who wants more information or a return customer who’s thinking about referring a friend, it’s helpful for them to have unique content to share, that goes above and beyond what’s available on your website.
These prospects and customers are already speaking with your sales team—they’ve proven that they have a high level of interest in what your business is offering. Why not go the extra mile and dazzle them with a content upgrade that the Average Joe scanning your website won’t be able to access?
Providing the sales team with content like ebooks, checklists, or templates that can enhance the customer experience at any stage of their journey will help them to establish a deeper sense of trust with the prospect or customer, which can help them close the sale in the long run.
Don’t: Leave Them to Their Own Devices on Social Media
Social media is a great tool for salespeople to use. It can help them generate conversions, but only if they’re using it properly. Again, the sales team are not marketing experts. It’s up to your marketing people to share best practices and make sure that the sales team is using their social media profiles to greatest effect.
While the marketing team creates the social media persona and posts for the brand, salespeople can cultivate their own followings and voice on social channels. Encouraging them to use hashtags effectively, tag the company in relevant posts, and incorporate video into their posts are great ways to help them drive sales. For more on the specifics of how to use social media as a part of the sales process, check out this webinar.
Do: Establish Brand Guidelines and Provide Templates
The sales team shouldn’t feel afraid to take ownership of sharing company messaging. After all, they’re not going to turn to the marketing team to write every email and script out every phone call they have with a prospect.
However, your marketing team has worked hard to create a brand identity, complete with a set voice and look, and you want to be sure that any content your sales team does create is working in harmony with the marketing team’s strategy.
That’s why it’s helpful for your marketing team to provide salespeople with brand guidelines and templates. What are the approved color palette and fonts for marketing materials? How do you want sales pitch decks to look?
Providing a style guide can help salespeople stay on the right track when communicating with prospects. Your marketing team should also put together a template for the types of communications your sales team will use regularly (and that includes things as complex as pitch decks and as simple as the formatting for their email signature line).
Part of building trust in your brand is establishing consistency in the way you communicate. Prospects and customers might not realize it consciously, but when they’re getting materials from a brand that are all over the map in terms of appearance and tone, some distrust might start to creep in. That’s the last thing you want for your business, so you must provide your sales team with the tools they need to put their best, most consistent foot forward.
Your marketing team might own the content creation process, but your sales team is a valuable asset in establishing and executing their approach. Making sure that their input is collected and considered, and providing them with the guidance to confidently communicate with prospects is the key to creating effective, trustworthy content for your brand.
No matter what kind of business you run, there is value in establishing hub pages for relevant areas of expertise. Still not convinced about why you should take the plunge? Here are the ways they can transform your business.
Organize Existing Content
If you’ve been diligently following the rules for content creation over the years, you likely have hundreds—maybe even thousands—of blog posts, webinars, and podcasts. That means you’ve shared a lot of useful information on the topics you know the most about. But right now, if someone is looking to do a deep dive into a specific topic, they have to go to your blog, search for a relevant term, and sort through articles looking for the ones that are most relevant.
Hub pages allow you to bring order to the content chaos and help guide your visitors’ experience. Let’s say you’re the owner of a yoga studio. You might create hub pages around various topics like nutrition for yogis, dealing with and recovering from injuries, pre- and post-natal yoga, and information on the different forms of yoga.
On each hub page, you would then create sub-categories, allowing you to share related content in an organized way. That makes it easy for visitors to quickly find the information they need, and maybe even discover related content they wouldn’t have thought to search for on their own!
Give Old Content a Second Life
You put a lot of time and effort into creating content that is meaningful and helpful for prospects and customers alike. But if you’re adding it to your blog or posting it on your podcast hosting site, it’s eventually fading into the background as you add more posts and episodes. Eventually, it ends up buried in the recesses of the archives.
Hub pages allow you the opportunity to highlight your evergreen content—those “oldies but goodies” that remain as relevant today as they were when you first posted them—bringing it front and center and getting the most out of the work you put into creating it!
Establish Yourself as an Industry Expert
One of the best ways to build trust with customers and prospects is to prove that you really know what you’re talking about. If all of your knowledge is spread across your website, it’s difficult for visitors to get the full scope of the expertise that you bring to the table.
When your content isn’t centralized, people might only be aware of a small sliver of the knowledge that you have. For example, if you run a landscaping business, someone might be aware that you handle fall leaf cleanup, but they might be unaware of the work you do to protect trees and mature plantings from diseases.
Without a hub page, visitors might also be missing out on understanding the depth of the knowledge you possess on each respective topic. Returning to the landscaping example, they might have heard from a neighbor that you saved their old pine trees from an invasive species, but they might not know that you are the only landscaper in the area that uses a highly-effective method for controlling the pests and keeping them at bay in the long run.
Hub pages empower you to define the terms for your visitors. You can showcase the expertise that you know differentiates you from your competition.
Increase Trust and Authority with Google
Trust and authority are two of the biggest ranking factors with Google. Creating hub pages allows you to link out to other industry experts who have content that is relevant to your hub topics. They also allow you to drive a lot of traffic internally to and from the page.
When you can create more high-quality internal linking, Google ranks you more highly in both authority and trust. These factors, over time, will help you to rank higher in Google’s search results, meaning that your best content—featured on your hub pages—will be seen by an even broader audience.
Boost Your Content Upgrades
You likely already have content upgrades offered on your website. It’s great to create extra content, like ebooks or checklists, that not only provide valuable information to interested parties, but also help you identify your most qualified leads.
When you include content upgrade offers on your hub pages, you’re able to generate even greater interest in this content. First of all, you’ve already established your expertise on the topic at hands, so who wouldn’t want to sign up to learn even more from you about this area of interest?
Second, since hub pages increase your standing in Google rankings, your content upgrades included on these hub pages are being seen by a broader audience, meaning you have the opportunity to capture even more qualified leads.
I strongly believe in the power of hub pages to transform a small business’ content marketing game. They allow you to harness the full power of all of the high-quality content you’ve created throughout the years. Plus they help you rank better in search and drive conversions with the most promising leads. What’s not to love?
When you’re thinking about how to promote your business, it can be tempting to focus solely on your products and services. After all, when you boil any business down to its most essential element it is about getting consumers to purchase the product or service that’s being offered.
But how you reach the end goal of closing that sale is at the heart of any good marketing strategy. And the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of businesses out there that can offer consumers a solution that’s very similar to yours. Plus, with the internet, location is not a barrier in the same way it used to be. So how do you stand out from your global competition?
Storytelling is a great way to build a personal connection with your customers, which is the differentiator that will keep them coming back to you, year after year, rather than turning to your rivals.
It Instantly Establishes a Human Connection
In today’s digital age, it’s now possible to be a long-term customer of a business and never interact with an actual human being at the company. For online giants like Amazon, what keeps people coming back is the fact that their prices are competitive and they have everything you could ever want; Amazon is highly convenient.
As the owner of a smaller business, you’re never going to be able to compete with the likes of an Amazon on those fronts. You need to find another way to stand out. A human connection is the reason someone chooses to buy from a local business rather than the faceless multinational corporate.
When you embrace storytelling that shows off your business’s personality, highlights fun facts about your team members, and makes customers feel like they really know the people behind the brand, that establishes a meaningful, lasting connection. For some tips on how to build a human connection with storytelling, check out this post.
It Helps You Stand Out on Social
So much of online marketing now is about social media. And because the purpose of these platforms is creating connection and telling stories, they’re the perfect place to employ smart storytelling techniques.
This starts by embracing the platform you’re on. Storytelling on you company’s Twitter account will be handled in a very different manner than the storytelling you do on Instagram. Twitter is of course focused on the written word, while Instagram is about telling stories through images. Using these different media to weave together a cohesive story across platforms is another great way to build trust and brand awareness.
When prospects encounter your brand across various social media platforms, but are always met with the same voice and point of view, this establishes your business as trustworthy and authoritative. Plus, when you take the time to actually interact with people—provide direct answers to their questions, react to photos they share that are related to your business, or otherwise undertake personalized engagement—you make your fans feel seen and special.
Once you’ve made a good impression on social, that helps you drive those prospects to your website, where you can hit them with your comprehensive storytelling that’s designed to move them through the customer journey.
It Guides the Customer Through Their Journey
The customer journey is not as clear-cut as it used to be. Because there are a myriad of ways someone can encounter your brand for the first time, it’s trickier for marketers to create a clear path from first interaction through to repeat business and referrals.
However, brand storytelling on your website can help you achieve this goal. Your website is the one asset online where you have complete control of all the content, so take advantage of that. Design your site so that the home page immediately addresses the concerns of your prospects and tells them who you are and why you can help. A short video that shares your mission is a great, bite-sized way to let people know who you are.
From there, you want to structure your website in a logical way that moves customers through the stages of their journey, with storytelling as your guide. The home page is the start of the story: the solution you offer. The next pages should address the middle of the story: how you fix their problem and why you’re the right people for the job. The end of the story is where the prospect reaches out to learn more and become a customer.
It Drives Conversions
Sometimes business owners focus solely on the ultimate conversion: the sale. But in reality, there are multiple conversions all along the customer journey. If a first-time visitor to your website comes back again several days later, that is a conversion. If that person then requests a white paper on a topic of interest, that’s a conversion, too.
Using smart storytelling that’s targeted at prospects and customers based on where they are in their journey, is a great way to drive those conversions.
Think about it this way: let’s say you have a video that covers your company’s origin story. It tells a compelling story, and is great at grabbing the attention of prospects. But this asset is not going to serve you well with those repeat customers who already know your business’s history. They need another story that speaks directly to where they are in their history with your business, and drives them to make the next conversion on their journey (which, for a repeat customer would be to refer you to someone else).
This kind of customer you’d want to greet with another story. Perhaps you create a referral program and pair it with a note that explains why you’re so passionate about sharing your business’s solutions with the friends of your existing customers.
Just like you wouldn’t hand a toddler a copy of Wuthering Heights (or a high schooler a copy of Goodnight Moon, for that matter!), driving conversions is about greeting different people with different stories.
Storytelling is at the heart of any strong marketing strategy. Knowing what your business does best and sharing why you’re passionate about your work is the way to win trust (and customers). Effective storytelling will keep your bottom line healthy and your customers coming back for more.
Think about the number of websites you visit on a given week. It’s a lot, right? We spend so much time consuming content online that after a while, it all starts to blend together.
Even if your website technically ticks all of the boxes, it will quickly fade into the background if the content is not designed to reach out and grab the viewer.
What can you do to spice up your website and make sure it sets you apart from your competitors? Read on, as I offer up some tips to make your content less boring.
Mix Up Your Medium
Remember being handed a copy of Moby Dick in high school english class, staring down at the tome, and being filled with dread? No matter how great the content is (and Herman Melville certainly knew how to write!), a giant wall of text can be intimidating.
The same goes for content on your website. Visitors are looking to quickly learn whether or not your business can solve their problem, so present that information in a variety of easily digestible formats.
Visuals and infographics are a great way to provide a high level summary of the products or services you offer. Video is an engaging way to not only quickly communicate your business’s mission, but also put a face to your company’s name and build trust and a human connection.
Keep Your Copy Lively
Of course, you do still need some copy on your website. When it comes to creating interesting website copy, there are a handful of basics to adhere to. First, you want to keep sentences and paragraphs short and snappy. Eliminate flowery prose and strings of unnecessary adjectives.
You also want to adopt a voice that is authoritative but approachable. Sure, you’re the industry expert, but that’s no reason to talk down to your readers. Steer clear of jargon and SAT words.
Tone matters. Writing like a robot won’t win you any fans. Of course, your tone will depend on the industry you’re in. A lawyer’s website will have a more serious, measured tone than a party planner’s site. But whatever your voice is, communicating with it makes a big difference.
Adhering to this principle is true for all elements of your website, from your value proposition on your home page to seemingly minor or throwaway pages.
Take a look at these examples of brands who have used 404 error pages as a way to still represent their brand and inject some fun and personality into what otherwise would be a nothing kind of page.
Every inch of your website is an opportunity to show visitors who you are and to build trust through consistent messaging. Take advantage of that fact and have fun!
Make it About Storytelling
If you’re at a loss on where to start with creating strong content, think first about storytelling. Start with your brand’s value proposition: what problem are you on a mission to solve?
From there, you can build out a cohesive story about why your brand is the one to take on that problem, and how your team’s passion and commitment will allow you to create wins for your customers.
Great storytelling is not only engaging, it also allows you to guide customers through their journey. When you think about the way you want them to encounter your brand as a story with a beginning, middle, and end, then you can arrange your content in a way that nudges them down that road sequentially.
Create Valuable Content
Above all else, you must be creating valuable content. What do I mean by that? I mean content that establishes you as an expert in your field, provides answers and guidance in a way that none of your competitors can match, and gives readers practical takeaways and actionable steps.
I also am using the term “content” more broadly than to describe just blog posts. Content is anything and everything on your website. Yes, that does mean your blog, but it also includes webinars, product guides, videos, podcasts, and everything in between! Get creative about the many ways in which you can share your knowledge with prospects and customers.
The internet is saturated with information. If you’re providing content that meets a clear purpose and allows the reader to walk away and effect positive change in their life right now, that’s the kind of content that is highly interesting.
There are millions of business websites on the internet. And with such a crowded field, it can be difficult to stand out. But when you embrace your business’s personality and expertise, and use that to drive all of your choices as you create your content, it’s possible to build a website that gets noticed.
In 2018, I had the opportunity to speak with an amazing group of guests on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. As the year draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back and share with you the five interviews with the highest number of downloads for the year.
If you enjoyed what you heard here, check out the full line-up of shows. We’ll be back the first week in January with all new episodes and guests.
Joey Coleman – How to Attract Customers and Keep Them Forever
Joey Coleman is a marketing expert and the Chief Experience Composer at Design Symphony. He has an eclectic background that includes selling custom research to Fortune 500 executives, racing along the Great Wall, juggling in front of the Taj Mahal, and singing a solo at the Kennedy Center. He’s the author of Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale Into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days.
Biggest takeaway: Retention is really the key to your business’s longterm success. If you’re able to get involved in the customer journey earlier and stick around for longer, you can convince all of your first-time customers to become loyal, repeat ones.
Biggest takeaway: When we attach negative emotions to the concept of perfection, striving for it can paralyze us. But when we give up the idea of being perfect and make small, sustainable changes to create new habits around our thinking, we can achieve great things.
Biggest takeaway: When creating content, you need to get specific about the problem you solve for your customer and define the one specific action you’d like them to take as a result of consuming the content. When you do that, you’ll create content that leads customers to associate the solution of their problem with your brand.
Mike Blumenthal – How to Help Your Local Business Get Found Online
Mike Blumenthal is the undisputed king of local SEO. He is the owner of Blumenthals, one of the founders of Local U and GatherUp, a review service that helps local businesses.
Biggest takeaway: Proximity, prominence, and relevance are the three major determining factors in how you rank in Google search results. Blumenthal covers the ins and outs of how to give your business the best shot at dominating local search and making sure you get found.
David Mihm is a digital marketing expert for small businesses, co-founder of GetListed.org (now part of Moz Local), and founder of Tidings. He previously served as Moz’s Director of Local Search Strategy, where he led the development of Moz Local.
Biggest takeaway: Google’s search results are now comprehensive enough where a customer theoretically doesn’t need to visit your website to do business with you—they can get all the information they need to complete a transaction from Google. This is why optimizing your presence on Google is critical, and Mihm shares tips on how to get the best results for your business.
There’s no way around it, there are a lot of marketing channels today. I’m counting eighteen as of now (which can obviously change very quickly).
When I started my business we had six or seven ways to reach our prospects and customers. A lot has changed.
One of the things that I think is important to understand, first off, is that you don’t have to play in every channel. That’s one of the things that causes a lot of stress with a lot of business owners and marketers today.
What you do have to do is get very good at playing in the right channels, and additionally getting very good at integrating those channels (or at least understanding how they support each other).
That’s a challenge for a lot of people. We look at social media, content, SEO, and PR, and we think that they’re all separate tactics out there doing separate jobs.
When you look at them together, and actually intentionally think about how they can support each other, you amplify the effect, or the impact, of each.
In this post, we’re going to focus on three of these channels: content, social media, and SEO.
While those are separate channels, content is air for marketing today. It really powers every step in the customer journey and is one of the most essential marketing channels out there.
In fact, it probably is not really even fair to consider it a channel anymore, because it’s like the gasoline that goes in the car. You really have to have it no matter what kind of car you have.
I want you to think these channels, and make sure the content you produce in each is discoverable, shareable and ultimately useful.
Discoverability is often seen as an SEO play, and frankly, that’s what it is, but content drives SEO today. There are many search terms that are competitive, so everybody is out there competing for the search terms that they want.
People try to rank by doing effective keyword research, using targeted messaging, and knowing a lot about their users. It’s a good idea to develop a sense of intent as well in order to implement on-page SEO best practices.
While this all helps to make your content discoverable, you have to start with a content strategy that says “yes, we want people to find that, but that’s not where we want them to stop.”
Once the content is discovered, the degree that it is shared will determine how widely it is distributed. By thinking about shareability of content, you’re multiplying the impact of search engine results because shares are going to draw links and other important SEO signals. They are going to increase your audience, which is going to draw more people.
If we build our content with the idea that we can get a higher share rate, one of the benefits to that is that you actually don’t have to produce a ton of content.
If you produce content that is focused on:
How to do something
Why to do something
Great calls to action in the content
Using impactful images
Then you can build your SEO-optimized content and make it much more shareable.
Shareable content is going to evolve your social media. This is one of the best ways to think about your content in the social media space. Making your content shareable will help expand the reach of people outside of your immediate network.
As I said in the beginning, I think the ultimate measure of success of any SEO plan is the degree to which people who discover and share your content, also find that content useful enough to quote, bookmark, link to, and consume deeply.
This idea of linking your content together to make it even more useful is an important part of trust building in the journey. If people have a problem, they go out and search for a problem, not for your solution.
They may not associate what you offer with their problem, but they’re trying to get a problem solved.
If they go to your website make sure you address their problem and give them an entire guide for how to solve it. Link together eight or ten pages, or at least associate all of your related content to a topic in a way that you’ve packaged it to make it easy to consume.
That’s the content that people not only love to share, but they love to link and bring other people to it as well.
It’s the kind of content that is going to make your SEO more effective, and make your content more discoverable because Google sees the signals that are being sent to that content.
It’s the kind of content that is ultimately going to lead people to buy your products and services, because you’ve addressed their problem, and made it easy for them to consume the content. You built trust signals, which is going to help you show up on page one of Google, which is huge.
You’re giving somebody a reason to dig in on their own, and discover that what you sell is going to actually solve their problem.
That’s how you have to think about content.
There are a couple of metrics that I love to look at when I’m trying to analyze somebody’s content. I use tools, like Ahrefs, to see the number of keyword phrases driving traffic to page one.
I also like to use a tool called BuzzSumo. One of the things that it will do is dive into your content from a social media standpoint and will answer questions like:
How much sharing is going on?
What kind of content gets shared the most?
Who’s linking to it?
Who’s Tweeting it?
What is the length and format of the content?
It really breaks down all the sharing activity that goes on in your content.
I love to look at that kind of shared data because in many cases it will clearly point to your best content that’s being shared. Most of the time, that’s longer content that is more in depth, and that people find very useful.
The value of your organic traffic is also a tremendous metric to really allow you to see how you’re stacking up.
Typically, what happens is your content becomes more discoverable because it was useful. It’s more shareable because it was useful. So it’s like this vicious, positive cycle that ends up making your traffic and visits worth so much more.
It wasn’t too long ago that you could follow the formula below to attract and generate leads for your business:
Develop a content upgrade, like an ebook
Gate it behind a form on a landing page
Drive people to your landing pages through blog posts, social media, advertising, and email campaigns
People see the offer on the landing page, are interested, and give their contact information in exchange for the content
Voila, you have a new lead that you can nurture to a sale
While content upgrades still work well as a lead capture tool, you need to now get creative with how to get eyes on it. The market is so saturated these days and so many businesses are now following this approach that it can be easy to get lost in all the noise.
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now and began testing an approach that I had seen to start to emerge that I want to share with you. While my results have been significant, it may take time for business who are just getting started to see the same results, but in my opinion, it’ll be well worth it in the long run.
The key is to continue to position yourself as the expert in your field, and the best way to do this is to create and aggregate content into one place to show not only your visitors that you know what you’re talking about, but search engines as well.
Have I lost you? I hope not! To understand what I’m talking about, take a look at the details below.
Creating content – An evolved approach
As content continues to grow in importance for your business, it now must take on an elevated position in your strategy and planning.
The use of high-quality, education-based content has become a necessary ingredient in creating awareness, building trust, converting leads, serving customers and generating referrals.
Marketers these days have a lot in common with the traditional role of publishers. The good news is that the days of creating an infinite amount of thin content are over. You can create content less frequently, provided you structure it correctly and include a ton of value within it.
Today we have evolved into the “less is more” approach. Big content projects, even if there are only three per year, is better than writing a blog post every week, just because you think you should.
I’m currently experiencing great results with something that I’m calling Hub Pages. This is something many have already started doing and I understand why.
Content planning has really risen to the strategic level. It’s no longer an SEO tactic or simply content marketing. While we should certainly use it for those things, we must plan it at a foundational level.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, content really is now air for your business as it impacts every channel, which elevates how we have to think about it.
Content becomes an asset over time
Content is no longer created for today or tomorrow. It is created as an asset that can be used throughout every stage of the Marketing Hourglass. Because of this, you need to think about the time and energy you need to invest to get it right.
I’ve talked about the Total Content System for years and it’s really driven by what I’m starting to call “hub themes.” These themes can be monthly, quarterly, or whichever timeframe you think is best.
Let’s say the theme for the month is “local marketing.” You’d want to drive all the attention you have to this idea of local marketing, so one of the main tabs on your website may become “The Ultimate Guide to Local Marketing.”
Instead of it just being a page that talks about local marketing services, it becomes a foundational page that has a tremendous amount of value about what local marketing is, with tons of resources and links that people can click through to for further information (it may even end up looking like a course).
All of the content you have pointing to it are like the sub-chapters of the hub theme. I not only have all of these internal pages driving back to this one hub page, I also include links to external, high-quality content on the page that can also be linked back to the hub page.
Hub pages are also a great way to organize existing content and get more use out of it. Driving it to, and including in, these hub pages is a great way to give old content new life.
With so many pages driving to one another, you’ll start to gain a lot of trust and authority from Google, which will eventually help to increase your rank in search engine results pages over time.
The role of content upgrades
Content upgrades are still the new free. When you put these hub pages together, still include content upgrades, like an ebook or webinar signup, on these pages. People will now see these content upgrades because you are driving more traffic to these pages and they are easier to rank for instead of individual posts.
So, what do you think about this approach? Have you started to implement these types of efforts in your business?