The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Guest Blogging

So let’s say you’ve been running your blog for a while. You’ve been producing good material for a while, but you’ve run into the classic blogger’s problem: low traffic.

 

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time blogging you’ll know the feeling. Week after week, you put your time and effort into your blog posts, and it starts feeling like you’re shouting into the void.

 

Because it takes time and creativity for a blog to gain traction, for one thing. If you were a major corporation you could get traction through paid advertising. But you’re not a major corporation. You’re just one person trying to attract a respectable audience to a blog.

 

It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. Unless the stars align and you luck into a freak viral post, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of painful, incremental improvement.

 

But it can be done. With hard work, diligence, and a dedication to finding what works, you can build an audience and turn a blog into an effective tool.

 

One way you can do that is through guest posting.

 

What is Guest Posting?

Guest posting is pretty much what you’d expect from hearing the name: it’s when you write up an article, blog post, etc., that gets featured in (usually) a more prominent blog or website. Most of the time you’ll write up the article and include a link back to your site.

 

The idea behind guest posting is that you get traffic sent your way, while the other site gets extra content free of charge (or on the cheap—there are a handful of sites that pay guest posters). It also builds links, which helps search engine performance for both sites.

 

In essence, guest posting gives you the opportunity to piggyback on the other site’s audience. It gives you the chance to make a good impression for readers who are engaged with your niche. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, it allows you to make contacts on more prominent sites—networking is always a factor to consider, you know.

 

In short, guest posting can be a worthwhile growth tactic, especially if you want to network with well-known writers in your niche. I’ve done a bit of guest posting in my time, and I plan on doing more.

 

Another way to think about it is that guest posting helps you build authority and reputation. I can’t overemphasize the importance of building your authority and reputation in the freelance business. That’s why guest posting is a worthwhile pursuit for even the most established freelancers.

 

If you’re interested in doing some guest posting, I’ve got a rough outline of the process you can use. Granted, every site has different policies, but if you follow the process I’m about to show you, you can’t go too far wrong.

 

So without further ado, the process:

 

  1. Build a list of sites you’d like to guest post with.

Essentially, you need to familiarize yourself with the range of blogs and informational sites in your niche. Learn which ones you like and want to work with. Learn which ones you don’t like and don’t want to work with.

 

When you’re building your list, it’s a good idea to arrange it in a clear order, starting with the ones you’d most like to post with and going down to the ones you’re not so interested in working with, even though they wouldn’t be too bad.

 

The idea here is that if you start guest posting as a newbie, you might have to prove your mettle a little before some of the more established sites/bloggers will be interested in having a post from you. So it might turn out that you’ll have to start out with a few blogs a little closer to your own level.

 

Like I said before, it’s all about incremental progress. You’ll get your number one pick eventually.

 

  1. Pick one site and prepare a pitch that fits.

Disclaimer: every site has its own pitching procedures. Some sites don’t bother with pitching and ask you to send in a full article once it’s written. On the other end of the spectrum, some sites won’t even look at your pitch unless it’s in the correct format. Whatever the situation: follow the procedures the site gives you.

 

But generally, it’s good practice to prepare a pitch and send it in beforehand. It doesn’t have to be an extensive pitch, just a paragraph or two that covers more or less what you’re going to say. The important thing is that you should have a good idea.

 

A word about why you should have “a pitch that fits”: nothing is more annoying than a pitch from somebody who clearly didn’t bother to read any of your blog. Take the time to get to know the blog you’re pitching. Take the time to get to know what kinds of ideas the blog’s owner or editor generally enjoys. If you can jam on some ideas you know they like, it will set your pitch apart from the rest.

 

  1. Send in your pitch.

Once you send in your pitch, wait until you get approval for your idea. One of three things is going to happen. Either you’re going to get approval, you’re going to hear they’re not interested, or the editor is going to say something like, “Your idea’s not quite right for us, but here’s how it could be better.”

 

The fourth possibility is that you don’t hear back from the other person at all. When this happens, you can stick an extra sharp needle deep into the wide-eyed voodoo doll you’ve got prepared for just such an occasion.

 

Pretty often, however, you’ll end up coming to an agreement with the editor on an idea you can both agree on. Then you’re ready to write.

 

  1. Write the best article you can, and send it in.

If you’re like me, there might be an evil little part of you that thinks, “Why should I bother putting my best effort into writing my guest post? It’s not like it’s going to actually go on my website.”

 

This is a bad idea for three reasons:

 

One, because you’ve got an obligation to do as well for the other site as you would do for yourself. Writing a low-quality piece is dishonest and slimy, and even if you get away with it you’ll only end up feeling useless and slimy.

 

Two, because it probably won’t work. Low-quality work has a nasty tendency to get rejected when it gets sent in to the editor. If you think you’re going to slip by, you’re not.

 

Three, because even if it does slip past the editor, you’re not going to do your authority and reputation any favors by doing shoddy work.

 

So write something you can be proud of.

 

  1. The editing process.

Once you send in your article, you’ll hear back from the editor. Either your article will be ready for publication as-is, the editor will have a few edits to suggest, or you’ll just have to rewrite the whole thing.

 

Word to the wise: don’t be afraid to kick back if the editor makes suggestions you disagree with. It stings to have your writing critiqued, and there’s a natural tendency to either wholly reject criticism or to give in to it indiscriminately.

 

The right way to go about it is to recognize that the editor is likely to be right a lot of the time, but you two are really on the same side. You both want to produce the best piece of writing you possibly can. So if you think the editor is making a mistake, don’t hesitate to express that opinion.

 

  1. When the article goes live, promote it on social media.

The blog you’re working with is giving you the chance to promote yourself on their page. It’s only fair that you return the favor as much as you can. When you share your new article on whatever social media venues you’re active on, you help improve traffic to the site. It may be a drop in the bucket to them, but it’s the principle that matters.

 

In summary, you want to treat the people you’re working with as well as you possibly can. That’s what disposes them to help you and want to work with you in the future. Maybe you can’t do much to help them right now, but the gesture matters. Plus, maybe in the future you’ll be in a position to help them out.

 

That’s pretty much how guest posting works. Now, maybe that sounds like more than you can handle at the moment. I can sympathize. Seriously, I remember the days when the thought of sending in a pitch to a blog made my skin crawl with anxiety.

 

If you’re scared, take it one step at a time. Start out by putting the list together. Imagine yourself with an article already up on these blogs. Allow yourself to get used to the idea of doing it.

 

Then you can write one pitch. Just write the pitch. You don’t have to tell yourself you’re going to send it. You don’t even have to send it. Just write the pitch, and put it away.

 

Then come back the next day, read over the pitch, and decide whether or not it’s ready to send in. If it’s ready, take a deep breath and send it.

 

Remember: even if you get a rejection your first time, you’ll survive. Because once you send in one pitch, it’ll be easier to send in a second one, and a third, and so on.

 

The trick is to ease yourself into the point where you can send in the first pitch. Once you’ve got that, you’ll be on the right path.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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How You Can Promote Your Freelance Writing on Social Media

When I started freelance copywriting in 2016, I had zero clients.

 

I had zero professional writing experience.

 

I had zero sales experience.

 

Needless to say, I was a little nervous. (That’s an understatement. I was terrified.) I wasn’t sleeping well in those days, and I was constantly jittery because I was living on a diet of coffee and cigarettes. With nightmares every night and a constant feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere in life, something had to change.

 

I had to learn how to do professional writing. I had to learn how to sell professional writing. And I had to straighten out the undisciplined mess of my life and make myself into something respectable.

 

Why am I telling you all this? It’s not because I’m trying to show off what I’ve done since then. It’s not because I love talking about myself. It’s not even because I’ve got a perverse love of sharing things I’m ashamed of.

 

I’m telling you this because if I can build a successful freelance writing business, you can too. It takes time and dedication. It takes patience, planning, and a lot of hard work. But if you really want to, you can live your freelance dreams.

 

If you make it happen, it won’t be a dream anymore.

 

Anyways, to business: I’m here to tell you about how to promote a freelance writing business on social media. What I had to learn with months of trial and error, I’m going to tell you right now. I’ve developed these strategies over the course of the last year and a half, and I’m still developing them even now.

 

With these methods, I’ve managed to build up a steady stream of traffic to my website. Some of the visitors to my site have chosen to contact me to hire my services. And some of those clients have become long-term partners.

 

It all starts with successfully driving traffic to your site. And today I’m going to tell you how to use social media to do that.

 

Put Together Your Customer Persona

What’s a customer persona, you ask?

 

It’s pretty simple, but it’s one of the most important concepts in marketing and copywriting, so you’re going to want to understand it perfectly. You’re a writer though, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to catch on.

 

A customer persona is a detailed description of your ideal reader. You want to get to know this person in detail before you ever put your marketing plan together. You want to be able to know this person so well you could predict their thoughts.

 

Who is your ideal reader? What’s brought her to your website? What’s she worrying about right now, and what does she need to hear from you?

 

It’s important to know this stuff. Because you’re not writing for just anyone. You’re writing for one person. You’re writing for the one reader who will light up as soon as she reads what you’ve written. The person who’s heart will go pitter-patter just as soon as she sees your words.

 

Remember: you have to write as if you were talking to someone right across the table from you. That’s why you want to go to the effort to imagine this person in as much detail as you possibly can.

 

You need to be writing for someone you know well, in other words. This person is your friend. You need to be able to express a real and warm affection. We all feel a little oppressed by the roles we have to play in our jobs, in our lives, and in the world as a whole. We’re all longing for a connection that’s deeper and more real.

 

So take the time to get to know the kind of person you’re meant to work with. Take the time to learn what this person is afraid of. What this person wants. What this person dreams about at night.

 

Know their business needs. But above all, know their human needs. That’s how you learn how you can truly serve the people you’re meant to serve.

 

Marketing Your Website/Content—Draw Clients Passively

Now that you know who you’re reaching out to, you need to go on social media and find ways to reach them. I’ve gone in-depth about my methods on this in an earlier post, but I’ll give the short version here. This is the funnel I use to attract visitors to my site.

 

  1. Spread a wide net on Twitter
    • With Twitter, I try to get my content to reach as many eyeballs as possible.
    • One of the ways I do that is through posting links to my site, but also by sharing links to sites with great content.
    • I retweet content from people who retweet my content. That way we extend each other’s reach and multiply our effectiveness. (When freelancers work together, we can make things easier for all of us.)
    • Every once in a while I share a link inviting interested Twitter followers to follow a link to my LinkedIn account.
  2. Funnel the Twitter audience to LinkedIn
    • I accept the invitations from people who add me from Twitter, and I make an effort to get to know them.
    • I post links to my site, but I also share content I’ve found in other places. I make sure it’s the kind of thing that appeals to the people I’ve gotten to know in my customer persona.
    • It’s important to keep active in the LinkedIn community. I join groups, comment on posts, and share things I find valuable. Especially when I want to get to know someone better (we’ll talk about this later) I find little ways to help them. Everyone is going to like it when you “Like” or share a post for them, or even add a thoughtful comment with some clear thoughts and observations. It’s the things like that that set you out of the herd.
  3. Produce quality content
    • You’re going to need to put some content up somewhere. That could mean starting a website. It could mean doing long-form LinkedIn posts. It could mean starting an account on Medium. But you need some way of building up an audience and somewhere to direct them where they can take a look at your work.
    • Now, I mention creating quality content—that means writing the kind of thing your ideal customer would like to see. And as much as it pains me to say it, that means you can’t use this place to express yourself freely. You’re here to share valuable knowledge about how to do something. Believe me: I know how that pains you. (It sure pains me!) But the content you put on your site isn’t about you. It’s about your reader.

 

This is only the briefest outline of the kind of thing you’re going to need to get together to have a viable website, but it should give you an idea of the process.

 

When I was building my freelance writing business, one of the constant things I had to contend with was a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by all the things I had to do.

 

So if you’re feeling that way reading the outline I’ve put up there: don’t worry about it. What you’re seeing here is a refined process that I’ve built up over time. You can start slowly. When I was just starting out, I was just as overwhelmed as you are now.

 

Be real.

Direct Outreach—Find Clients Proactively

But let’s say you don’t have a ton of time to wait around for clients to come along organically. You’ve got to rustle up some new business fast.

 

Don’t worry about it. There are ways of doing that. So now I’m going to tell you how to get clients through direct outreach while you’re building your system for attracting clients passively.

 

First off: you need to get your list together.

 

What list is that? It’s the list of your prospects. These are the people you’re going to directly reach out to. You’ll want to know their business, their name, a good email address, and all of that. (There’s a lot that goes into that process, and I’ll tell you about it in a few weeks.) But beyond all those technical details, you’re going to want to know a little about the people you’re talking to as human beings.

 

It all comes back to what we were talking about with the customer persona. You want to make sure the people on your list match that customer persona pretty well. You could talk to everybody on God’s green earth without finding someone who matches your persona precisely, but you want to make sure you’re reaching out to the people you’d like to work with.

 

Now that you’ve got your list together, you need to put together the message you’re going to send them. It should be interesting, useful, and speak to their needs. Remember: the goal here isn’t to shoot them an email and immediately turn that into a sale. It’s to start a conversation.

 

Just a little side note here: sales becomes immensely easier if you don’t think of it as selling. It’s a mistake to frame the situation as, “I’ve got to make these sales, because if I don’t make these sales I won’t be able to eat, and if I can’t eat I’ll die, and if I die it’ll hurt a lot and people will probably make fun of me at my funeral…” When you’re selling, you’re trying to start a relationship. It’s a business relationship, sure, but on its most basic level it’s a relationship between two human beings.

 

So when you write your email, you don’t want to hide your intentions, but you also don’t want to overemphasize them. You come off as manipulative if you hide your intentions, but you come off as desperate if you push the sale too quickly.

 

The point is this: your prospects are smart and busy. If they’re interested in what you’ve got to offer, they’ll reach out to you. If not, they won’t. You have to let go of the outcome.

 

So you write up those emails and send them out. I’ll write a full blog post about this in a few weeks, but when you’re sending your emails you want to make sure you personalize them. Do you like getting obvious cookie-cutter copy/paste emails? Neither do your prospects.

 

Take the five minutes necessary to get to know a little about your prospects as people. Let that shine through in your emails. You’re reaching out to real human beings. Act like it.

 

Remember: You Can Do This

I realize you might be reading this and thinking, “Oh my God, how can I possibly do this?”

 

And it’s no wonder! This is a lot of information to process all at once, and it’s not easy to do all at once. But you can build up your systems day by day and eventually come up with something that works.

 

You don’t even have to quit your job to start out. You can start out small, only taking one or two clients at a time till you figure out how to freelance on a full-time basis.

 

Even though it can look overwhelming at the beginning, it’s not nearly as tough as it looks.

 

At the moment, you’re probably feeling some serious fear of the unknown. I bet you felt the same way before you learned how to ride a bike. Think about it: riding a bike is a complicated balancing act, and you probably had many accidents in the course of figuring it out. You probably had to have training wheels while you were learning.

 

But now you know how to ride a bike easily. You don’t even have to think about it. You just hop on the bike and you’re on your way, with the wind in your hair and your legs pumping up and down in time.

 

It’s just the same with freelancing. Start small. Build a small system that works, then expand it once you’ve done that. It’s not a dream. It’s something you can have if you commit to it.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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How I Set Up My Marketing Funnel

 

You probably already know social media is a valuable tool for promoting your business. If you don’t already know, I plan to convince you.

 

How do I plan on doing that, you ask? Simple. I’m going to tell you how I’ve set up my social media accounts to draw traffic to my site.

 

But first, a little background. In the B2B space, we always hear SEO is the big thing.

 

“Just make sure the SEO’s taken care of and your site will get plenty of traffic.” That’s what the conventional wisdom says.

 

There’s nothing wrong with SEO. Take my word for it. I’m a content marketer. You’ll never hear me say a bad word about SEO!

 

But social media does just as much good. It gives you another set of tools for drawing targeted traffic. Targeted traffic turns into targeted leads. Targeted leads turn into clients.

 

So let’s assume you’ve already got your SEO set up. What can you do about social media?

 

You’re going to have to come up with your own strategy. But I can show you mine.

 

So let’s go.

 

  1. I cast a wide net with Twitter.

 

Twitter is the outer limit of my marketing funnel. It’s where I stick out my feelers to pick up on current developments. I also try to make as many contacts with as many people as possible.

 

Twitter is all about casting a wide net. You don’t want to focus too much on any one fish.

 

  • I post my own material (including links) twice a day.

 

If I’m on a social media site, I need to post my own material.

 

I have to demonstrate my value and uniqueness to the world.

 

Simply having the account is not enough. I have to use it regularly and keep track of developments.

 

  • I use hashtags.

 

Hashtags are the backbone of Twitter.

 

If you’re not using hashtags, you’re limiting yourself.

 

But slap a hashtag on a post (say, #ContentMarketing, anyone?) and you’ll expand your reach to anybody with an interest in your topic.

 

  • I follow people back.

 

If you follow the people who follow you, other people will notice this and they’ll be more likely to follow you.

 

We can argue about the merits of this all day. There are pros and cons here.

 

But the short version is that this is part of why Twitter is “the wide net.”

 

  • I retweet frequently.

 

When I retweet, every once in a while I find somebody who will trade retweets with me.

 

This is important!

 

The more of these people I find, the more I can amplify my reach beyond my own personal followers.

 

  • Overall strategy: I try to draw as much exposure as possible, so I can filter that exposure to the other social media sites.

 

  1. I direct my Twitter feed to LinkedIn and Facebook.

 

Once I’ve got a nibble, I post a link that takes my Twitter audience to LinkedIn and/or Facebook.

 

The people who follow the links have expressed an interest in hearing from me.

 

This way I draw targeted leads to the next level of my funnel.

 

  • I post more targeted material here.

 

LinkedIn and Facebook are where I put the really good information my targeted prospects will be interested in seeing.

 

The people I’m most interested in contacting will self-select by making a habit out of interacting with my posts.

 

The more likes and comments a post gets, the more successful it is.

 

  • I get to know my prospects as individuals.

 

As I comment on the posts of others (and especially as they comment on my posts) I get to know my prospects’ concerns, both as individuals and as a group.

 

I also get the chance to build relationships in my professional community.

 

  • I greet everyone who adds me, and I do my best to get a feeling for their needs.

 

It’s important to be personable on social media. (It is social media, after all.)

 

The more people you interact with, the more you’ll know what your ideal customer needs.

 

And the better you know that, the more you’ll be able to meet those needs.

 

  • Overall strategy: I try to be social and start conversations.

 

  1. I produce content worth reading.

 

Of course, it seems a little arrogant for a writer to claim his work is worth reading. But that’s the goal.

 

I work hard to produce content that gives value to my visitors, because I know that only quality content will serve my purposes.

 

  • I make sure it’s worth sharing.

 

What makes content worth sharing?

 

Content that’s worth sharing is content that gives you value.

 

It lets you learn something you need to know.

 

It shows you a different way of looking at the same old things.

 

I do my best to make my content worth sharing, because only content that’s worth sharing gets shared.

 

  • I make sure it’s worth commenting.

 

Content that’s worth commenting on is written in a unique voice.

 

It has something to say.

 

It invites conversation.

 

It asks the reader to reach out and respond.

 

Remember: content marketing is about starting a conversation. Do all you can to make that happen.

 

  • I make sure it’s worth subscribing.

 

This means my content isn’t just a one-time thing. I show up with my best work, week after week. The more content I put out, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more my knowledge is worth to readers. I’m making a treasure for my prospects to find.

 

  • Overall strategy: I make sure my content is relevant to my audience.

 

  1. I create a repeatable process to maximize visits to my site.

 

Now that I’ve set up the basic outlines of the funnel, I turn it into a process.

 

That means tracking the important metrics and learning how to maximize them.

 

It means identifying every problem and learning how to solve it to the best of my ability.

 

  • I take measurements and set goals for growth.

 

The key is to identify the metrics that directly line up with your goals.

 

For example: if you’re using Twitter to cast a wide net, the most useful metric is the number of views of your posts.

 

  • I optimize my social media content.

 

Now that I’ve got some data and I’ve done some observations, I can do A/B testing to find the types of content that perform best on each of my social media platforms.

 

This allows me to set ever-increasing goals so I can eventually set a pattern of continuous growth.

 

  • I optimize my site content.

 

As I produce more and more on-site content, I form a better idea of the kind of content my audience needs.

 

To a degree, I can even do testing on this. But certain types of content will consistently perform better than others.

 

I’ll know to produce more of that content and less of the stuff that doesn’t work so well.

 

  • Overall strategy: I always have something I’m trying to improve.

 

The most important part of this process is to set the right goals and use the right metrics. If I choose the right problems, I keep myself on the right track throughout the promotional process.

 

Of course, this is a complex strategy and an abstract post like this hardly scratches the surface of what the actual execution looks like. But it should get you thinking.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about social media. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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It’s Time to Take a Look at Your Content

Maybe you’ve heard of content marketing. Maybe you’re a little curious about it. Maybe this is the first time you’ve even heard of such a thing, but you’re curious to know more. No matter where you are, I hope you’ll find something here to suit your needs.

 

First things first: let’s define our terms. According to Dictionary.com, content marketing is defined as “marketing that tries to attract customers by distributing informational content potentially useful to the target audience, rather than by advertising products and services in the traditional way.”

 

If you asked me, I’d tell you the most important part of that definition is the part that says “informational content potentially useful to the target audience.” That line tells you the basic difference between content marketing and traditional marketing.

 

Traditional marketing is all about pushing the sale as hard as possible. It’s about buying access to a mass audience and interrupting them while they’re trying to watch Game of Thrones. It’s all about imposing yourself on as many people as possible and hoping you’ll reach enough people that a few of them will actually be interested in whatever you’re pushing on them.

 

Content marketing changes all that. It’s about providing quality information to the people who want and need it. It’s about starting with a small audience of interested people who want to hear your message. It’s about collaborating with your audience as it grows, so you learn your audience’s needs and concerns while they learn what you can offer them.

 

Let’s try an analogy. With traditional marketing, you do the best you can to turn yourself into the dusty old professor at the front of the room, telling all those prospects exactly what they need to know. They’re not listening, and of course they’re looking at their phones every minute you’re trying to talk to them.

 

They see you as somebody trying to impose your message on them, so of course they’re not going to listen.

 

With content marketing, things are different. Here you’re the guy in the middle of the classroom who starts telling a joke. When you start out, maybe there’s only one or two people listening. As you go on, though, people start noticing. The captain of the football team turns and leans in close to hear. The weird mumbling kid from art class glances over with a hand held to his ear. The pretty blonde who sits in front of you tunes in with a smile on her face. And without trying to draw any attention to yourself, you’ve got the whole classroom in the palm of your hand.

 

How did you do it?

 

You did it by being engaging. And that’s what content marketing is all about.

 

Now, what does content marketing look like in practice? Simply put, content marketing can be almost anything in the online space. Here’s a short list of a few of the main types of content marketing:

  • Email newsletters.
  • Blog posts.
  • Online videos/vlogs.
  • Social media postings.

Nearly everything online can be treated as a form of content marketing. Whatever you use to spread your message by providing your prospects with useful information is content marketing.

 

Some people hear “content marketing” and immediately think blog posts. It’s not always blog posts.

 

As we go on, I want to do three main things with this post: I want to A) show you the process that allows you to attract clients with content marketing, B) warn you about a few of the pitfalls of bad content marketing, and C) leave you with a few tips on how to produce your own great content.

 

Content into Clients

I know I told you earlier that content marketing is not only blogging. There are many other forms content marketing can take. But for the sake of giving you a quick-and-dirty idea of how content marketing works, we’ll work on the assumption that you’re only doing a blog.

 

Before you get started with your blog, you’re going to need to know a few things. You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • What are my goals for this blog?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What problem is my audience having, and how can I solve it?
  • What pains are my audience experiencing?
  • What topics will my audience be interested in hearing about?

One of the lucky things about content marketing is that you don’t have to have a final answer to any of these questions when you begin. It’s extremely important that you have answers, but one of the joys of content marketing is that you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with your approach.

 

For example: if you start out with the idea that your audience will be most interested in seeing content that’s all about how many awards your organization has won, it won’t take more than a few iterations to realize that’s generally not the best content strategy. (That’s a bit of a heavy-handed example, I’ll admit, but I’ve seen organizations try even worse things in their wrong-headed attempts at content strategy.)

 

The idea is that you want to start out with your best guess as to who your audience is and what they need to see. Assuming you post on a pretty regular basis, you’ll be able to home in on a more accurate idea over time.

 

You want to produce content that speaks to your readers where they are. That way when you distribute your blog posts you’ll be able to explain what you can do for your readers, in terms that someone who is totally new to your industry can understand.

 

So: how does content get turned into clients?

 

It’s not complicated. Let’s say I’m your prospect. I’m doing a search on Google, or scrolling through my Facebook feed, or whatnot, when I see a link to one of your blog posts.

 

Let’s say I just did a search for “how to attract better candidates.” I find one of your posts on Google, I click on it, and I come to your site. I find you’ve got a lot of good posts with a lot of good information I can put to work in my hiring process.

 

So I spend a little time reading your material and learning the information you put out on your site. I appreciate that you’ve put all this information out there, I recognize you’ve got some authority and credibility because of the quality of your information, and I appreciate that you understand my problem better than I do.

 

Maybe that’s enough for me to want to hire your services right now. Maybe it’s not. But even if it’s not, it’s enough for me to want to keep informed about your blog and your services. I’ll subscribe to your blog and receive a notification every time you post to it.

 

That way when I finally decide to hire a recruiting agency, I’ll know which one to choose.

 

So content marketing isn’t about the immediate conversion. It’s about warming up prospects and giving them the chance to get to know and trust you. Build up good will, draw enough of the right kind of attention, and you’ll be able to have the very best clients approaching you.

 

Bad Content Marketing: What’s it Look Like?

Like most things worth doing, the idea of content marketing is elegantly simple. The execution, on the other hand, is a little less simple.

 

Not necessarily because content marketing is terribly hard. All it takes is a skilled writer, a disciplined approach to content strategy, and a beginner’s understanding of the industry. The main reason content marketing attempts fail is that they’re not given the chance to succeed. An organization that does one or two blog posts, sees that they’re not seeing an immediate return on the investment, and cuts off the campaign, is not an organization that’s giving content marketing a chance to succeed. Content marketing is not an overnight solution, and anybody who tells you it is, is lying.

 

Assuming the content is getting a chance to succeed, why might it be failing? Let’s take a look at a few possible reasons:

 

  1. It’s keyword-stuffed garbage. Some people like filling their content with so many keywords that it becomes unreadable. This is a misguided attempt at SEO mastery, and it’s simply not worth it. What you might gain from keyword density is going to be more than lost by the extent of your bounce rate. Don’t do it.
  2. It doesn’t focus on the customer’s needs. I’ve seen content pages that have no purpose other than to feed the egos of marketing managers. Heck, I’ve seen entire blogs that existed only for the purpose of letting the CEO trumpet how many awards a company has. If someone wants to waste their time, I guess that’s their prerogative. But good content is about the customers and their needs. It’s not about ego.
  3. It doesn’t have any personality. Now, even though it’s not about ego, that doesn’t mean it should be dull or boring. The only thing worse than blog posts that read like they’re some kind of organizational resume are the blog posts that read like they were written by the HAL 9000 computer on one of his dull days. I could go on all day about this, but let’s condense the whole lesson down to three words: don’t be boring.
  4. It’s obviously a sales pitch. Now, this is a legitimate mistake. The first three mistakes on this list come from sheer laziness or lack of writing ability, but this one is what you could call a tactical error. There’s a temptation to treat your content as if it’s copy. There’s an urge to use your content to push the sale as aggressively as possible. There are places on your site to do that. The blog is not the place.
  5. It doesn’t offer any positive value to the reader. This is the one, giant, uber-mistake of all bad content marketing. Bad content marketing is about pushing yourself forward and shouting at the reader to buy your thing. Bad content is all about keeping things as formal and businesslike as possible. Bad content marketing is all about you.

 

Avoid those pitfalls, and you should be able to put together some good content.

 

Good Content Marketing: What’s it Look Like?

One reason I put the signs of bad content marketing before I put the methods for good content marketing is that it’s much easier to avoid the bad than it is to create the good.

 

It’s dangerous to overgeneralize about good content marketing, because every situation is different. You can depend on the worst mistakes to remain bad, no matter what the situation, but the right way to do a content marketing campaign depends on the business.

 

For example: let’s stick with the recruiter we were talking about a few sections back. The agency’s content strategy is going to be different depending on whether they’re more concerned with drawing clients or more focused on attracting candidates. Content marketing is a matter of dialing in on the right way to talk to your audience. So the nature and concerns of that audience are going to be the deciding factor in the content.

 

So even though this is only a partial guide to content marketing, here are a few guidelines to follow as you’re beginning:

 

  1. Tell a story (when appropriate). One of the clichés you’ll find about content marketing is this airy-fairy-sounding line about “telling the story of your brand,” or some variation on that. It’s not exactly wrong, but at the same time it’s one of those empty phrases that get any decent writer frustrated. Put it this way: if you’re going to tell a story, make sure it’s your customer’s story. If it’s something your audience can’t identify with, don’t put in there.
  2. Give your audience information they can use to succeed. I know one of the mental blocks that hold people back from doing content marketing right is that they think, “Can I really just give all this information away? Why would my prospects hire my services if I tell them exactly what they need to do?” My answer: don’t worry about it. Sure, some people are going to come to your blog, read your information, and never contact you. That’s wonderful. That means the blog is working. The people who are meant to work with you will know you can do the job better than they can. The people you’re meant to work with are skilled professionals who have a different specialty than you, and who understand the value of having a specialty. They’ll see the value of your service and be drawn to it that way.
  3. Make an effort to connect with the reader emotionally. This one can feel a little weird sometimes. We’re always a little shy about revealing ourselves and taking the risk to be vulnerable. Especially in the business world, having the courage to be vulnerable can feel extremely risky. But good content marketing requires you to connect with your reader as a human being. You have to realize that there’s a human being on the other end of the screen. A human being who is just as valuable and just as complex as you are. Good content isn’t just written for the proud businesslike façade we all show the world. Good content is also written for the gooey, sentimental human being who wants to feel things and connect with others. And it takes courage to write content like that.
  4. Make it easy for the reader to contact you. Ideally, every reader would leave glowing comments at the end of your posts, all of them telling you how brilliant you are and how you’re the most perfect human being who ever lived. But that won’t happen. So make sure the reader can show his or (hopefully) her appreciation by sharing your posts on social media, subscribing to your blog, commenting at the bottom of the page, and contacting you directly via email to hire your services immediately. Make these things as easy as possible and they’ll happen more easily.

 

Remember: content marketing is going to take testing and balancing. Every industry is different, and every business is different. You may have to try for a while before you find a way to connect to your audience effectively.

 

But with practice and iteration, you can figure out how to talk to the people meant to hear your message. Try to post at least about once a week. If your message is worth getting out there, it’s worth the effort.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about content marketing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help. And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way. Good luck, and good content!

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Have You Found Your Niche?

Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about me and my work, but I think you can find something valuable in it if you take a look.

 

The story begins back when I was first starting out as a freelance writer. To put it mildly, I didn’t know what I was doing. You know how it is, right? You read a couple articles, decide, “Now I know exactly what I’m going to do with my life!” and promptly walk over a cliff.

 

When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, you’re a lot like a lemming.

 

You see one person acting on a bad idea and you think, “Oh, that’s nice.”

 

You see another person acting on a bad idea and you think, “Well, that’s interesting. Maybe they’re onto something.”

 

But then you see every other freelance writer tripping over the crowd on the way to jump off a cliff and you start thinking, “Oh boy, I’m gonna get me a piece of this action!”

 

In other words, I was making all the rookie mistakes. Trawling job boards for lousy jobs for lousy clients. Pitching prospects who weren’t interested in hearing what I had to say. Writing lifeless blog posts that had all the right content but none of the personality that got people really interested.

 

In short, I was going with the flow. I was getting enough work to get by, but it wasn’t anything I could be proud of. I was working with clients who were okay at best.

 

I wasn’t working on the types of projects that really excited me.

 

I wasn’t being treated like a business owner offering a valuable service.

 

I wasn’t being paid the rates I knew I deserved or being taken with the kind of seriousness I expected.

To sum it up: I was following all the bad advice I heard and wondering why I didn’t have control of my sales and marketing process. I was following a reactive strategy where I expected to be given the work and paid well for it simply because I knew I was capable. It didn’t occur to me that the real problem was that my prospects didn’t know I was capable.

 

(Listen, I know how naïve that sounds, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, don’t we?)

 

I could beat myself up for barking up the wrong tree, but there’s really no point. Maybe I was acting like an idiot, but at least I didn’t know any better. The point is that I learned my lesson.

 

I started paying attention.

 

Specifically, I started paying close attention to what was going on with the feeds on the social media accounts I was using to promote myself. (See? I wasn’t a complete idiot. At least I knew I should be on social media!) The big ones here were LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Especially LinkedIn. Especially LinkedIn.

 

Because as soon as I actually started looking at what I was seeing and thinking about what it meant, the answer became obvious.

 

I’d been working and working at something I vaguely thought of as “promoting myself” on social media, but I didn’t know what exactly I was promoting, to whom, or to what end I was doing it. The social media was just an on-the-side thing I had that came along with the perpetual hunt for clients on job boards.

 

I was aimless. I only had the vaguest idea of how I wanted to market my services. I didn’t even have a long-term goal to aim at, let alone some intermediate goals to use for measuring my progress.

 

Let’s put it bluntly: I didn’t have a niche.

 

But one day I saw a LinkedIn post that changed all that. I wish I would have saved it, because when I saw it I knew just what I had to do.

 

And what was this magnificent post? What was this life-changing post that made me realize how I needed to live my life from then on? What was this mind-bogglingly significant post that changed the entire course of my existence from that day forward?

 

It was just some guy complaining about recruiters on LinkedIn.

 

He had a story about how a recruiter on LinkedIn approached him about a position he wasn’t even remotely qualified for. Understandably, he was pretty annoyed because he had the feeling that the recruiter didn’t even take a minute to read his LinkedIn profile before tossing a generic pitch at him.

 

And apparently this was a common complaint. The post I was looking at had nearly 2,000 likes and probably over 100 comments. Apparently it was hitting a major nerve with LinkedIn users!

This was all news to me. I’m a dedicated freelancer, so for me the approach of a recruiter was something very rare indeed—and even when it did happen, 99% of the time the spam filter got rid of it before I even saw it.

 

So this was the first time I realized just how much recruiters use LinkedIn. (I know, I know, this makes me sound even more like some naïve chump, but I honestly never thought about it.) I’d always known about it in theory, but I’d been using LinkedIn mostly for networking and marketing my freelance services, so I didn’t think about it.

 

But when I saw this post, it was like the wires crossed in my mind and I realized exactly what I had to do. I realized LinkedIn was crawling with recruiters who were working on practically the same problem I was—and just like me, they were trying to solve it the wrong way.

 

I realized when I was sending generic pitches to people who weren’t interested in my work, I was doing the same thing these people were doing when they send job descriptions to people who aren’t even qualified. I knew exactly how it felt to be in their shoes.

 

Because whenever I was slow on freelance work, I knew I’d start getting desperate. I’d start flinging out low-quality pitches at random because I was anxious for something to stick. I’d make lousy pitches because I was so nervous and so anxious to get the whole process over with all at once that I’d end up sabotaging myself.

 

And that’s exactly what was going on with this post I found on LinkedIn that day. I realized there was some recruiter out there who wouldn’t get paid if she didn’t reel in the hire, and she was getting desperate. The way I imagined it, she was a 28-year-old woman named Veronica. She was a little neurotic, and she had nightmares every night about ending up on the street because she couldn’t cut the mustard as a recruiter. She could see her landlord smiling evilly and thinking about evicting her. Her stomach grumbled every day because she couldn’t afford food.

 

Worst of all, she had to cancel her Netflix membership.

 

With all that on her shoulders, it’s no wonder poor Veronica was making mistakes. She was so scared she started flinging out generic inquiries because she was so overwhelmed and so nervous and so panicky.

 

So when I read that LinkedIn post, I realized I couldn’t blame Veronica for doing something very like what I’ve done when I’ve been desperate. And I realized her story wasn’t unique. Who knows how many recruiters just like Veronica are out there on LinkedIn?

 

I realized she was facing the same kind of problem I’d been dealing with for my whole time as a freelancer: how do you get people to listen to your message?

 

I realized that, and that’s when I realized I’d just found my niche. I could put myself to work helping recruiting agencies get their message out.

 

I knew I could do it because I’d struggled with the same problem for such a long time. And I knew I should do it because I could feel that recruiter’s pain.

 

And that’s how I found my niche.

 

I could go on about how valuable it is to have a niche when you’re a freelancer—or any kind of business owner, really—but in all honesty this post is getting to be a little longer than I’d ever intended for it to be, so I’ll start winding down and save all that for next time.

 

But let me close with just a few words about niches. I know freelancers always hear about finding a niche, but it’s not until you find one that you really realize why that is.

 

A freelancer needs to start out with one niche for the same reason Amazon had to start out with one niche: selling books. You have to build a system that works for something before you can even think about building a system that works for everything. We underestimate how complicated things are, and we forget that we have to master one thing before we can ever master a whole range of things.

 

If I leave you with one thing, I hope it’s this: that while finding a niche may feel like you’re limiting yourself, it’s actually the best way to growth, both in business and in life. It may feel like you’re giving up your potential if you limit yourself to one thing, and in a way that’s true. But until you approach one niche with enough seriousness to truly master it, you’ll never master anything.

 

So: what’s your niche?

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How Can You Put Guest Posting to Work for You?

Every great blogger sits on the floor when typing. Obviously.

 

If you’ve been blogging or freelance writing for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about guest posting. Maybe you’ve thought about putting it to work for you but weren’t sure how to start.

 

If that sounds like you, you came to the right blog. I’ll let you know all you need to know about how to get started on guest posting, but before that I’ll help you figure out if it’s right for you.

 

Simply put, guest posting is when you write a blog post that appears on another blog. Usually it’s a more established blog with a regular audience, although this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

 

If you’re running a website and need to increase your visibility, guest posting can be a serious help. I’ll get more in-depth about the benefits of guest posting in the next section, but for now you need to know that guest posting will expand your network, increase your traffic, and improve your SEO rankings.

 

Guest posting can help establish your reputation or build your authority in your niche. It’s a tried and true method for getting your name out, and it’s got some serious benefits. So let’s get into some of those benefits, shall we?

 

Why do Guest Posting?

Like I said in the last section, guest posting has three main benefits. These are:

  • Expanding your network.
  • Increasing your site’s organic traffic.
  • Improving your site’s SEO rankings.

 

Expanding your network is an indirect benefit that comes from a guest posting strategy. Every blogger or website you work with in your niche becomes another possible source of referrals and recommendations. If you do a particularly good job on the post (or if it happens to go viral), they might even ask you to post again. That’s always a plus!

 

But the main reason most people are interested in guest posting is because they want to improve their site’s traffic and authority. Most guest posts do this by allowing you to include a do-follow link to your site and one or two of your social media accounts.

 

Of course, those links are going to bring you direct traffic, but they’re also (and perhaps more importantly) going to increase your SEO rankings. Particularly as you cement your reputation and start guest posting with more and more authority sites, you’re going to improve your rankings and draw in more search traffic.

 

So on the whole, the reason you do guest posting is the same as the reason you do any other kind of marketing: because you’re trying to get the right people interested in your offer.

Long-term Guest Post Strategy

Now, in a perfect world you’d be able to type up a guest post, send it to the highest-authority blog in your niche, and get your work appearing in all the hot blogs by this time next week.

 

Of course, that’s not the world we live in. In this world, great things have to start small.

 

So you have to start small. Don’t worry, you’ll get to the big leagues eventually, but you’ve got to start out guest posting for the blogs a little closer to your level.

 

Start out by writing up a list of the blogs in your niche you’d be most interested in blogging with. Then the ones you’re a little less interested in blogging with. Then the ones you’re a little less interested in than that.

 

The idea is that you want to get a list together where you’ve got a small number of top-tier blogs you’d like to write with on the top, a larger number of middle-level blogs below that, and a bunch of smaller (but still credible) blogs at the bottom.

 

If you’re feeling lucky, you can send your first post in to your top-tier blogs. If they won’t take it, try the middle level, and so on. In the long term, you want to be able to post with any of the top-tier blogs you want, because they’ll repay your efforts the most.

 

But you’ve got to start where you can. So start somewhere!

 

How to do Your Guest Post

Every blog is a little different, so I can only give you some basic guidelines here. When you’re ready to put your guest posting strategy to work, you start out by looking up the guidelines for the blog you’re interested in and follow them.

 

If anything I say here conflicts with the process for a blog you’re interested in, trust their process more than my words.

 

Generally, bloggers will want you to either reach out to them with a pitch before sending in your post, or else they’ll want you to send a full article. Whatever their preferences are, it’s a good bet that following them will give you the best odds of getting the guest post spot you’re after.

 

And I know this should really be obvious, but unfortunately I’ve got to say this: make sure your guest post is on a topic that’s relevant to the blog you’re interested in. No matter how good your article on woodpeckers is, it’s probably not going to be appropriate for a blog about retail selling.

 

Take a little time to acquaint yourself with the blog you’re interested in before you pitch them. It doesn’t’ take long, and it’s always worth your time.

Get the word out!

Interested in Guest Posting With Me?

Just in case you’re wondering, yes I do accept guest post pitches. Feel free to contact me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com with any pitches that have to do with freelance writing. Please mark your pitch clearly with the subject line “Guest Post Pitch.” I’ll do my best to choose the best pitches and reply to you within a week at the latest.

 

Generally, I prefer guest posts that have to do with strategies you’ve used to successfully find freelance writing work in the past, although I will consider anything that’s got to do with the freelance writing life.

 

I hope you’ll find a lot of value in guest posting as a blogging strategy. It can work wonders for your website, and for freelancers it can be a wonderful way to spend those times when business is slow. Just pop out a few guest posts, and by the time they get posted you’ll have more clients than you know what to do with!

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How to Sell via Email

 

Selling with email is important. It’s a good way to drum up business quickly. The only faster way is for you to do cold calls—but if you’re like me you’d really rather stick your hand into a hot skillet than make a cold call!

 

So let me guide you through the process and show you the basics of email selling.

 

The main things I’m going to focus on are:

  1. Cold (or warm!) email prospecting, and
  2. Building an email newsletter and turning it into a sales tool.

 

With cold email, you’re reaching out directly to prospects at their email addresses. They usually don’t know you, and you don’t know them. I’m going to go over how to use this kind of email to build relationships with prospects and steadily warm them up to the idea of buying from you.

 

An email newsletter is more of a long-term selling plan, but as time goes by it should be able to drive even more business to your door. The trick is to get your site’s visitors interested in giving you their contact information and then to keep up a steady stream of useful emails that keep up buying desire.

 

So now you know what to expect, so let’s go.

 

Cold Email Prospecting

Who doesn’t love prospecting?

The first thing you need to do with your cold email prospecting is find your prospects. You’ll have to compile your own list of prospects and get them ready to go. It’s good to use a spreadsheet for this kind of thing.

 

First, you need to find some way to identify the businesses you want to reach out to. A good way to do this is through searching on LinkedIn, Google, or a local networking site. You can focus on one particular industry if you already know your niche, or you can try a selection of industries if you’re still working on it.

 

Personally, in my freelance work I trawl LinkedIn for leads. I’ll focus on one industry, and I’ll try to target any business with less than 200 employees. (Businesses that are much bigger than that generally have well-developed marketing departments and won’t be likely to need a freelancer.)

 

Once you find the business, you should try to hunt down an email address. You want to find an individual’s email address, and it’s best if you can find somebody who can make the decision to buy from you.

 

Finding a good email address is a major problem in these situations. Fortunately, there are plenty of services (like Hunter or Kompass) to help out with just this problem. Also, InMail is an option for LinkedIn users, and it may justify the cost of a premium LI account.

 

Now, once you’ve identified your targets and you’ve got your email addresses, the time has come for you to send your actual emails.

 

Especially if you’re short on business, it’s tempting to think that the best way to do this is to send out a stack of form emails so you can get responses from as many people as possible.

 

Bad idea. When you’re doing this, you want to put serious work into personalizing each email. Demonstrate that you’ve put some effort into learning about the company. Personalize and tailor your pitch to every individual you contact.

 

People can tell if you’re faking it. If you can spot a fake, generic email, they can spot a fake, generic email. If you want to get real opportunities, you have to prove you’re willing to invest a little bit of yourself into making a connection with your prospect’s needs. Because ultimately selling isn’t about making the sale. It’s about making a connection.

 

Email Lists

Not that kind of list…

As a long term strategy, you can market your business over time by building an email list. Creating a newsletter and building relationships over time is a good way to generate business at a pace that the prospect can determine for himself or herself.

 

The first problem in this process is to encourage the visitors to your site to give you their content information. One way to do this is through gated content.

 

Gated content is content that the visitor can only access after they’ve given you something in exchange. It can be an eBook that your prospects can access in exchange for an email address. It could be a free sample or trial offer of your service. It could be anything you’re willing to exchange.

 

After you’ve got your email list set up, you’ll have a steady flow of new prospects adding their contact info to your list. These lists are extremely valuable, especially if you’ve targeted your offer well.

 

But what do you do with them now?

 

Now you use a batch email tool like MailChimp to contact your prospects. You want to be sure to contact your email list at least once a month, or else your subscribers might forget they’ve signed up in the first place.

 

Frequency is up to you, though. Some prefer a weekly update. Some go biweekly. Some brave souls even go with a daily update.

 

The point isn’t how many emails you send out, though. While that’s an important aspect of email selling, the important thing is that you have a direct connection into your subscribers’ inboxes and you should take advantage of it.

 

Your goal here is to steadily inform your prospects about your services. You don’t want to be overtly salesy, but you do want to make it clear that you’ve got some valuable services to sell. Content is king, but you always want to remember your goal.

 

Never forget that the point of the newsletter is to drive sales. You always want to be educating your subscribers about the value of your offer. If you’re wondering what kind of content should go in your email newsletters, here’s your answer: only the content that makes it clear that you’re the one your prospects need to hire.

 

That could be a link to your blog. It could be market information. It could be a podcast. Whatever form of value you choose to give your subscribers, you should put that into your newsletter.

 

Over time, you’ll find a strategy that works for you. And once you find a strategy that works for you, you’ll be ready to sell.

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How to Build Your Email List

Used correctly, email can be an amazing sales tool. Even in the social media age, email selling is the standard by which all digital marketing is judged.

 

If you’re new to digital marketing, it can be hard to tell where to start with your email selling. And with so much information out there on the subject, it can be hard to tell where to start!

 

Never fear. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with this blog post: I’m going to come up with a short guide to how you can leverage your online presence into effective email selling that helps you to improve your service and learn about your ideal customers all at once.

 

Of course, I don’t want to hype this up too much. Email selling has been around a while, and it’s definitely not a quick fix method. But if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort to get a good email campaign going, you can turn this into a highly effective tool for driving sales.

 

So as you keep on reading I’ll let you know exactly how to leverage your website into an effective selling tool.

 

Build Traffic with Social Media

Naturally, this whole thing isn’t going to get off the ground until you get some traffic to your website. And while there are many ways to do that, we’re going to focus on social media here.

 

Social media is an indispensable tool for digital marketing. It’s often the first point of contact between you and the people you’re meant to serve.

 

With your social media efforts you’ve got two things you’re most interested in: driving traffic to your site and making connections with prospects and other networkers.

 

Now, this article isn’t about social media marketing, but the point here is that an effective social media strategy will drive plenty of traffic to your site. So you want to be visible on social media. You want to be posting, commenting, and engaging with people. Actively.

 

Of course, I can’t tell you exactly how you should do that. The thing about social media is that you’ve got to develop your own style. If you’re doing it the same way everybody else does it, you might as well not even be doing it.

 

All I can tell you for sure is that you should commit to at least posting once per day on every site you or your organization is on. That will force you to develop your own unique approach.

 

Attract Prospects to Your Site with Quality Content

But what’s the point of having the social media in the first place if you’re not driving traffic back to your site? And how are you going to drive traffic back to your site unless you’ve got some great content to show your followers?

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of content marketing.

 

So what’s content marketing? Well, the short answer is that it’s informational content on your site that attracts readers (or viewers, or listeners) and gives them useful information.

 

Blog posts. Videos. Podcasts. How-to articles. Ebooks. All of that is content marketing.

 

Let’s assume you’re using blog posts. You want to drive your ideal prospects to your site. How do you do that?

 

Well, you write content that matches what your prospects need to see when they’re ready to buy from you. You educate them about what they need to know in order to understand your offer and what it can do for them.

 

The best part of this strategy is that web content lasts a long time. With a solid posting schedule and a good content strategy, you can turn a small site into an authority site and a recognized thought leader in your industry.

 

Build Your List with Gated Content

So you’ve got your traffic flowing into your site with your content. Now what?

 

Now you want to convince those visitors that it’s worth their while to send you their email addresses. You want to open up that flow of communication and foster that relationship.

 

How do you do that? Gated content, of course!

 

Gated content is content that your prospect can only access after they’ve performed some action. It could be signing up for an account, subscribing for email updates, or any one of a million possible things. In this case we’re assuming you’re offering them something in return for their email address and permission to contact them.

 

So what do you offer them? It’s got to be something your ideal prospect would want, and which will help educate them about the value of your offer. My personal favorite kind of gated content is an eBook lead magnet. It could be a how-to guide or a valuable bit of data.

 

If you use a how-to guide, stick to a subject your prospect will be interested in. Let them know how to do something they’d like to be able to do on their own (even if you and I both know they should go ahead and hire you if they want the best results).

 

And After That?

Once you’ve got your lead magnet ready and got it building your list, you need to start sending out emails. This is another thing where you’re going to have to work out your own plans. At the very least, you should reach out to your email lists once every month. (If you contact them less than that, some of your subscribers might start to forget who you are, and unsubscribe just as soon as they see your emails.)

 

Try not to be too salesy with your emails. Unless you want to be. It’s important to find an approach that works for you and go with it. I’ve seen some people go as shamelessly salesy as it’s possible to be, and I’ve seen some people run their email marketing in a much more subtle way. It depends on your style.

 

The prospects you’re meant to find are the kind of people who will appreciate your style. So feel free to experiment until you find the voice that works. When it does, you’ll know.

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How to Set Up Your Lead Magnet

You’ve got your content marketing up and running. You’ve got a steady stream of visitors coming to your site. You’ve got a pretty steady clip of blog comments piling up.

 

But there’s a problem.

 

Your conversion rates are way too low. You’ve got oodles of visitors coming to your site, but they’re not buying. Sure, maybe a few of them are getting in touch with you, but it’s not enough. You’ve got to crank up those numbers.

 

No worries though: this is where you make a lead magnet. If you already know about lead magnets, this is old stuff to you. If not, let me set the stage.

 

First off: the real action in selling online doesn’t come from your site. It comes from your email list. So you need to be able to build that email list.

 

But of course there’s a problem here, and it’s pretty obvious: people don’t love giving out their email addresses online, and they’re going to want something valuable in exchange. That’s where your lead magnet comes in.

 

So what is the lead magnet? A lead magnet is whatever you offer your prospects in exchange for their contact information.

 

It could be an eBook, a free trial period, or a free 30-minute consultation. It could be any of a wide variety of things. The point is that it’s something valuable that you’re giving away to your prospects.

 

Why use a lead magnet?

  • It leverages reciprocity. You give your prospects something valuable and they’ll be disposed to exchange value with you.
  • It establishes your authority with the prospect. This way, you don’t have to tell them you know what you’re talking about. You show them.
  • It allows you to educate your prospect on the value of your products and services without the whole drama and angst of a sales presentation.
  • But most importantly: it incentivizes your prospects to give you their email addresses.

 

A good lead magnet is part sales document and part educational piece. Writing a good lead magnet can take significant time and effort, but the results are well worth the investment.

 

Just like content marketing, some companies prefer to outsource the work to skilled professionals who have demonstrated an ability in the field. But if you’d like to have a crack at it yourself, I’ve got some steps together that you can follow in prepping your lead magnet.

 

Choose Your Topic

I’m a writer, so I’m going to assume we’re going with some kind of written informational lead magnet. This isn’t the only kind of lead magnet you could consider, but it’s the one I’ve got the most expertise and understanding in, so we’ll go with it.

 

(Just in case you’re interested, some other types of lead magnets include free trial offers, access to market information, etc.)

 

One of the classics of the lead magnet genre is the how-to guide. This is pretty intuitive, since it’s just an eBook guide that tells your prospect how to get something done.

 

Ideally, your how-to guide will be about something your prospect could do if they had the time or energy, but that it’s easier for them to hire your organization to do for them. (This is part of the underlying sales message of your lead magnet.)

 

More than likely, you’ve already got a pretty clear idea of what a good lead magnet topic would be for your organization. If not, take a minute and think of some problems your organization solves for clients who could take care of the problem for themselves, at the cost of some major inefficiency.

 

It shouldn’t take you long to think of something.

 

Write and Produce Your Lead Magnet

When you’re writing your lead magnet, remember it’s supposed to do three things:

  1. Add value to the prospect.
  2. Educate your prospect about your products or services.
  3. Incentivize the prospect to give you their contact information.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this point is important: the lead magnet isn’t primarily a sales tool, but you want your prospect to finish reading with the distinct impression that they could do the thing, but it would be better to adopt your professional services.

 

You don’t necessarily want to sell them immediately, but you want them to at least imagine buying from you.

 

But that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to give the prospect something valuable, so he or she will be more disposed to open your sales emails and do business with you later on.

 

That means you want to give good information, for one thing. And for another thing, you want the copy in your lead magnet to be well-written and conversational enough that the prospect will actually want to read the thing.

 

You’re asking for your prospect’s time and attention here, and that’s the most valuable commodity they have. That means your lead magnet had better be good enough to deserve that attention.

 

Set Up Your Email List

Now that you’ve got your lead magnet produced, you want to get it up on your site where it can do you some good. If you haven’t already done so, this is the time to get your email list up and running.

 

Your email list is going to be the most valuable sales tool in your digital marketing efforts. It’s going to give you the chance to educate your prospects on your offerings and gradually dial in on their needs and desires.

 

That’s why you’re going to want an opt-in screen that’s optimized to generate as many opt-ins as possible. You want to make sure your prospect has a real incentive to give you his or her email address and open up the lines of communication.

 

You’re going to want to run your email list through a batch email service such as Mailchimp. Mailchimp is usually a good idea for new email marketers, because it has a free option and allows the service to grow with your list.

 

We’ll talk about this in more depth some other time, but you’re going to want to make sure to optimize your opt-in and rigorously iterate your sales emails on a long-term basis. (These are serious issues, but unfortunately they take us pretty far afield from this blog post.)

 

The important thing is that you realize email marketing is a serious commitment and it’s something that will take a lot of adjustment, especially at the beginning.

 

Conclusion

Your lead magnet is the first crucial link in the chain leading your website’s visitors from their first visit to the day they become customers or clients. The idea is simple, but the execution can vary incredibly.

 

Some lead magnets are brilliant pieces of writing. They’re funny, thoughtful, informative, and a joy to read. Those are the lead magnets that build goodwill with the prospect and dispose him or her to open your emails when they show up in the inbox.

 

Some lead magnets are awful, boring, predictable things with confusing language and useless information. They’re the kind of thing that make a prospect want to unsubscribe from your list as soon as possible.

 

Remember that when you’re putting together your lead magnet. This is one of the first points of contact a prospect will have with your brand.

 

What kind of first impression do you want to make?

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How to Engage Prospects With Social Media

I know, I know, you’ve heard everywhere that you need to be on social media. But if you’re on social media you’re probably not trying hard enough. And if you are trying hard enough you’re probably not catching your mistakes. And if you are catching your mistakes… well, if you’ve reached that point I’m the one who should be asking you for advice!

 

The thing about social media is that there are a million ways to do it all wrong. So I hope you won’t take offense if I say you’re probably doing about nine hundred thousand things wrong right about now.

 

(It’s nothing personal, it’s just that there’s a learning curve at work here.)

 

There’s an upside to that statistic I just made up though: if you can get your act together and do social media right, you can master it. And since you’re doing nine hundred thousand things wrong, there’s plenty of space for improvement.

 

So let’s cut through the misconceptions about social media and figure out how you can really use social media to get real results.

 

Build Individual Relationships

So many brands and so many freelancers get into the (frankly awful) habit of thinking their whole social media effort is about racking up followers. The thought process here seems to be, “Well, if I have ninety billion followers, some of them are bound to trickle down and buy eventually.”

 

Now, maybe if you’re Wal Mart that kind of thinking can work. If you’re Wal Mart, you can afford to throw a few million bucks at the problem and see if it does anything. And if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal.

 

But here’s the facts, bub: you ain’t Wal Mart.

 

Prospecting and selling on social media means actually getting out there and actually engaging with people. Make friends. Crack jokes. Ask questions. Everybody’s out there trying to do the same thing you are. Find the people you belong with and get to know them.

 

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “That’s good and well for a freelancer, but my small business can’t do that kind of thing.” And to an extent you’re right. People aren’t generally eager to have brands jump in on their conversations (especially not in any overtly salesy way).

 

But even if you’re a small or medium-sized business, you have options for building relationships. You can host a Twitter chat. You can ask questions and follow up with the people who answer them. You can steadily use social media as a tool to dial in on who your prospects are, how to find them, and what they need to hear from you.

 

Speak to Your Prospects’ Needs

Here’s the thing: it’s much easier to produce content that speaks to your prospects’ concerns after you’ve built a relationship with a few of them. And I’m not talking about all that malarkey people like to spew about big data and how it’s supposedly so useful. This is about getting to know your prospects.

 

I’m talking real, human knowledge. I’m talking the kind of knowledge that you feel in your fingers and in your tongue. It’s that little glow in the heart you feel when you meet somebody you can really respect and admire.

 

It’s not something you can manufacture with data. It’s not something you can find an algorithm for. It’s a matter of real human connection. People can tell the difference between somebody who’s going through the motions for the sake of making a sale or doing what the data says and somebody who’s really speaking to them.

 

I don’t want to get all mushy here, but I think that’s what words like “spirit” mean. It’s something people share when they’re really and genuinely speaking and listening to one another. And it’s exactly that which you need to bring into your social media use.

 

If you hear the concerns of people you’ve gotten to know and genuinely care about, you’ll gain insights into your prospects’ needs that you can’t access any other way. And that is how you create a social media presence that stands out from the pack.

 

Experiment Constantly

Among other things, this means being consistent with your social media use. From now on, there are no days off social media. You’re here for a reason, and you’re not leaving until you figure out how to satisfy that reason.

 

Listen: every industry is different, and you’re going to have to figure out what works best for you. I’m a freelance writer and I do a lot of my marketing on social media. That means I’m interested in finding brands that need a skilled writer. And that means I’m constantly calibrating my approach to figure out what these brands need and how best to serve them with my social media presence and my blog.

 

Sure, experimenting with social media takes a lot of effort. But the more effort you put into the process, the better you get at it. And the better you get at it, the more you’ll eventually come to love social media.

 

Believe me. When I first started working on Twitter and LinkedIn, I hated social media. I thought it was a vapid waste of time and that anybody who wasted their time with it was an idiot who deserved to have his or her head smashed in. (That probably accounts for a lot of the mistakes I made at the beginning!)

 

But if you stick with it, you’ll realize there’s more to social media than angry people spouting their awful political opinions all over the place. There’s a wealth of information out there. There are brilliant people doing brilliant work. With a little time and a little cleverness, a network like Twitter can allow you to connect to almost anyone you can even dream of contacting.

 

Think about that for a minute.

 

Make a list of five people you’d like to get in touch with someday.

 

Go see how many of those people have a Twitter account just like yours.

 

Remember: if you get good enough at social media, you can take your account (or your brand’s account) and connect to anybody. The possibilities are literally only limited by your imagination.

 

So keep at it. Maybe you’re fumbling through the social media these days. But with time and practice you can turn it into something amazing.

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