You’re a solopreneur or a small business owner, and you know you need to get more customers into your sales funnel. But how can you do that without spending a fortune? Where can you spend your time most effectively?
One of the best ways to rock your business is with content marketing. This involves creating high-quality, informative content about your products and services (the problems you solve and/or what benefits people get from working with you).
Let’s dive into this topic, with 10 key steps to take in order to rock your own content marketing efforts.
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Your Top Priority: Quality
The first key principle to focus on regarding content marketing is quality.
Content marketing works best when you consistently give out your best advice and don’t hold back. Instead, you give it away to the point where it almost hurts to think how much “free advice” you’re giving. Because a very odd thing happens: by giving away solid, in-depth information related to your niche, you establish yourself as an authority.
Sure, many people will happily consume all your free advice. But plenty more will welcome the chance to pay you when they need your products or services. It’s one of the craziest twists of the Information Age—people can learn pretty much anything they want to know for free with enough digging around. But a ton of people will pay for you to do the work or provide more value to them, because:
- You are a perceived expert
- You can do something they can’t (fix their car, install a pool, write a book, balance their books, etc.
- They have one or more excuses why they just want to “solve their problem” quickly (i.e., laziness, busyness, desperation, social pressures, you name it)
- They want to be associated with you (because you have developed an aura and attractiveness based on your expertise)
Keep in mind that “content” can take many forms, such as written articles (e.g., blog post and e-books), photos, videos, podcasts, tweets, live streams to Periscope, Snapchats—you name it. Today, there are thousands of variations and places to distribute content.
Always be planning
Outstanding content typically flows out of a well-crafted strategy, which culminates in the creation of an editorial calendar. That means you have to do the work of deciding what you’re going to produce, instead of just creating content whenever the mood strikes you.
Prolific content creators also use whatever tools necessary to capture ideas on the go, in order to continually stockpile a vault of potential articles and story ideas to flesh out later. My favorite tools for capturing ideas are Evernote, Pocket and Feedly.
Perhaps the No. 1 rule to make a dent with content marketing is to be extremely consistent. If “consistency” for you means posting something once a month, I’m sorry to say that likely won’t be enough. I’d say you need to produce a minimum of one quality article or post per week.
Pick your channel(s)
The ideal is to be “everywhere” with your content (see below). However, it’s not feasible for most people, especially solopreneurs. So a better strategy is to focus on one or a few (maybe three total) online channels and master those before adding more.
Some people excel at blogging. Others are great at doing videos or podcasts. Pick something you will stick with, even if you don’t feel 100% confident at first.
Remember, everyone starts at square one.
Keep things simple
First, figure out a system that works for you and do your best to keep it simple. If you over-complicate the process of creating content, you’re less likely to stick to a routine.
Next, when it comes to creating actual content, study great folks like Chris Brogan and Rob Hatch (Owner Media Group), Ann Handley (Marketing Profs) and Jay Baer (Convince and Convert). A few takeaways from the masters:
- Use punchy headlines, and sub-heads
- Write short paragraphs
- Use bulleted lists frequently
Like I said, keep it simple. Write like you speak.
Think (and create) out loud
Some of the best content creators on the planet now rely on voice dictation to get a lot more accomplished.
For me, the poster child of this practice is Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary has written entire New York Times best-selling books by dictating them. He also uses video very well (mostly off-the-cuff but sometimes more polished), and later gets the audio portion transcribed and turned into blog posts and other written forms of content.
I’m doing this as I speak, literally, using the newest version of Dragon dictation software. It can take some getting used to in terms of speaking rather than writing, however, once you get in the hang of it you can crank out content at an amazing rate of speed versus trying to type it out.
A few years ago, the ideal length for a blog post was about 500-700 words. However, that has changed, with Google favoring longer, more authoritative articles.
Aim for at least 1,000-1,500 words per blog post. Medium claims their best-performing articles take seven minutes to read.
Whether you are shooting videos, recording podcasts or writing blog posts, produce them with confidence. Practice like hell until you feel like you know what you’re talking about. Fake it ’til you make it. Whatever it takes to be emphatic.
What if you don’t know enough about a subject to feel like a expert yet? Then read voraciously and summarize what you learn. Or interview others who have achieved mastery at the subject you’re interested in, and share their best practices.
I have put both of those strategies to work personally, becoming first a PR expert…then a Web development expert… then a social media expert…then a startup expert…all by reading a ton, synthesizing the information, trying things on my own then teaching them back to others—often for free in speeches, articles and mentoring sessions.
These days, you don’t have to be a genius straight out of the womb. But you do have to study and put in lots of time to reach any level of credibility on a given subject. And by study, I don’t mean formal education—you can get anything free online or with a library card.
Promote the heck out of your content
I like to tell people: If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will.
Unless/until you achieve some level of notoriety, forget the notion that others will magically promote your content for you.
Derek Halpern of Social Triggers recommends you spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% of your time promoting what you created. I think that’s good aspirational advice though not always practical. For example, it can take me typically 3-4 hours to produce each podcast episode. I don’t have another 12-15 hours to promote that content…but I do as much as I can and use some tools to automate the process of re-sharing the content over a period of time, like Revive Old Post and Buffer.
As mentioned previously, it’s best when you are starting out to focus on a few channels for your content. Ultimately, however, you want to spread your message to as many places as possible.
The good news is, now you can appear to “be everywhere” by strategically promoting your content in enough places that get eyeballs and ears, but also increase the chances of your content being picked up and spread virally.
Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income is perhaps best known for this “be everywhere” theory, though he’s not the first to perfect it. Others who are impressive by seemingly being “everywhere” when they drop new content include James Altucher, Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk, to name a few. Also check out Jay Baer’s excellent article on how he creates eight pieces of content from one piece of content. (Side note: RIP, Jay Today, his daily video show.)
To sum up
Content marketing is an incredible opportunity for any business owner today. I consider each piece of content like a gold nugget that you not only give away, but stockpile in a vault. In fact, a recent study by Halverson Group entitled Lifetime Value of a Blog Post was cited on Baer’s Convince and Convert blog (link). Writer Ted Murphy noted, “A 700 day lifespan indicates that blog posts are an annuity that provide value over a significant timeframe.”
Take our advice on content marketing and just GO — and don’t look back!
Photo credit: Startup Stock Photos
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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."