The Story of Tony and Tina: A Tale of an Agency Gone Very Wrong and How You Can Avoid the Same

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digital marketing strategy

If you run your own business, yours is a family business – and to think otherwise will lead to disaster.

It doesn’t matter if your family members actually work in your business or not. Whatever their relationship to the business, each member of an entrepreneur’s family will be profoundly impacted by the decisions the entrepreneur makes about his business.

Sadly, many entrepreneurs tend to compartmentalize their lives unless a family member is directly involved in the business. For most entrepreneurs, they believe that their business life is separate from their family life.

As you are about to see, this is far from the truth.

What Happens in Business, Happens at Home

In reality, your business and your family are inextricably connected to one another. Whatever is happening in your business, is also happening at home.

Consider the following, and ask if each one is true:

  • If you are stressed at work, you are stressed at home
  • If you are having money problems at work, you are having money problems at home
  • If you feel out of control at work, you feel equally out of control at home
  • If you are having communication problems at work, you are also having them at home
  • If you are having trust issues at work, you are having trust issues at home
  • If you feel alone and isolated at work, you feel alone and isolated at home

The truth is that your business and your family are one – and you’re the link that connects them. If you are trying to keep them apart, your business and your family will be like strangers and you will have created two separate worlds for yourself – two worlds that split each other apart.

The Story of Tony and Tina

Let me tell you the story of Tony and Tina.

Tony and Tina met in college and have been married for over 15 years. They have two kids and live a modest lifestyle.

For 8 of the last 10 years, Tony worked for a mid-sized corporation and earned more than enough to pay the family’s bills as well as to save for retirement.  For 8 of the last 10 years, Tina was a stay at home mom and made sure that the needs of the family were well looked after.

digital marketing strategy

Excited For The Future

Two years ago, Tony decided to quit his corporate job to pursue his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Prior to quitting, Tony and Tina talked about the change at great length. They talked about what type of business Tony would start, the type of clients he’d go after, how long it would take to replace the family income, and many other details involved in the transition.

They determined that they had sufficient savings to make the transition and agreed that the risk was worth taking. After all, as a successful entrepreneur, Tony would have more income and more freedom than he ever had during his corporate career.

With this extra income and freedom, Tony and Tina planned to take more vacations and to get more involved with their kid’s lives. The possibilities were downright exciting!

Tony’s New Business

During Tony’s last few years of corporate employment, he’d worked in the marketing department and had become quite passionate about his profession. He saw how his work had directly benefited the company and how growth had increased as a result.

The only problem was that Tony’s income didn’t go up in line with the success of the company and this was something that he desperately wanted to change.

Given his past experience and passion for marketing, Tony decided to start his own marketing agency – and unlike many traditional agencies, Tony’s agency would specialize in digital (online) marketing.

Online marketing is still quite “new” relative to traditional marketing, so change is a constant. As a result, Tony saw a huge opportunity to serve a customer segment he knew well.

The services that Tony planned to offer his clients included:

  • Website design
  • Content marketing (blogging)
  • Social media management

Unlike many traditional agencies, Tony want to focus only on digital marketing services as a way to differentiate his firm from the masses.

The First Six Months

digital marketing strategy

All Signs Were Looking Up

Tony’s first six months in business were nothing short of amazing. Using his personal and professional network had yielded terrific results. He had attracted several clients and the cash was rolling in.

In fact, things got so busy that Tony was having a hard time keeping up with all the client demands, and to solve this problem, he decided to hire two other people to help him.

Finding just the right people to join his firm was incredibly challenging. Trusting them to do the work the way that he wanted it done was even more difficult. But what choice did he have? He just couldn’t keep up without them.

Managing his new employees was more complicated and took more time than working for someone else. Tony not only supervised everyone, he was always looking for ways to keep them busy.

More Staff. More Demands. More Stress.

With more clients and more staff to manage, the demands on Tony’s time were greater than at any other point in his life. To cope, Tony began leaving home earlier in the morning and coming home later at night. He rarely saw his kids now. For the most part, Tony was resigned to the problem. He just saw the long hours as essential to build his company.

digital marketing strategy

Every New Opportunity Comes With Some Drawbacks

Money was also becoming a problem. Much to Tony’s surprise, clients didn’t always pay on time and when they didn’t, it had a huge impact on his cash flow. He still had to pay his bills on time. Why didn’t his clients do the same?!

Back when Tony was an employee, he got paid every two weeks, but now that he was the boss, there were times when he didn’t get paid for a month or more.

The financial stress was taking its toll.

Making matters worse was the fact that Tony didn’t feel like Tina was sensitive to his troubles. Though, given that his mantra was “business is business”, Tony didn’t talk to Tina much about it. Instead, he believed it was her job to look after him and the family.

As time went on, Tony became even more consumed with running his business. Not surprisingly, Tina became increasingly frustrated with Tony’s lack of communication and increasingly long hours. She’d put many things in her life on hold to focus on the family, and now her husband was barely ever at home.

Tina was not impressed.

Client demands never let up and Tony was now regularly working 10+ hours a day and it still wasn’t enough. To keep up, he was now also getting up at 5am on Saturdays so that he could catch up on emails before the rest of his family started their day – a day that they expected Tony to be a part of!

Tony hated working so much, but he just couldn’t see any other way to keep up with all the work he needed to get done.

Not only that, Tony had exhausted his list of personal contacts to drum up new business, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to do the activities that he knew would attract new clients.

Problems With Clients and Staff

On top of all this, some of his existing clients were complaining. They were upset that Tony’s staff wasn’t delivering the quality of work that they had come to expect when Tony was personally handling their accounts.

One client was so unhappy, they told Tony they’d planned to leave if he didn’t fix the problem within a month.

As a result of working so hard, Tony was starting to feel burned out. He was also feeling overwhelmed and really stressed out.

After a few months of this, Tony’s stress levels started to impact his business – and his family.

As the owner of the company, Tony felt very alone. There were so many things he needed to talk to someone about – and talking to his staff about these things was totally out of the question.

Instead of talking to his staff, Tony micro-managed them even more. He just couldn’t afford to lose any clients, so everything had to be done exactly the way he wanted it done.

With the micro-management increasing, Tony’s staff started to become disillusioned – and, unknown to Tony, they started to look for employment elsewhere.

More Stress and Isolation

Around this same time, Tony began to isolate himself from his staff. This was a marked change from how things were at the start and his staff began to behave in ways that surprised Tony. They didn’t seem to care as much. They missed deadlines. They didn’t tell Tony about problems that they should have.

Digital Marketing Strategy

The Stress Was Taking Its Toll

As you might guess, this drove Tony’s stress levels even higher and his relationship with Tina and his kids was now suffering. When they did spend time together, Tony was always preoccupied with thoughts of the problems of the business.

Tony didn’t feel like he could tell Tina that his business was suffering. He wasn’t getting as many new client leads. He wasn’t getting as much work from existing clients. His staff wasn’t very happy.

If he told Tina about any of this, she’d be stressed out, too!

As time went by, things just weren’t getting any better.

One of Tony’s employees told him that she just wasn’t enjoying working for him any more. The environment had become one of stress, frustration, and negativity, and she wanted no part of that, so she handed in her resignation.

The thought of having to replace this person was more than Tony could take, and he became angry.

Now, instead of feeling full of optimism, Tony’s daily routine had become one of anger, frustration, loneliness, and despair. What this really what he signed up for?

Family Life Starts to Suffer

Tina was running out of patience with Tony, too. When they started this business, their goal was to get more balance in life.

That had not happened. In fact, Tony was working almost 50% more hours now than he ever did at his corporate job. Tina and the kids were feeling neglected, to say the least.

One night when he got home from yet another long day at work, Tony noticed an unfinished email on the screen. It was an email from Tina to her sister complaining of how distant Tony had become and how she was thinking about leaving him as a result.

That night Tony slept on the couch. He left the house early in the morning before anyone was awake. For perhaps the first time in his life as an entrepreneur, he was in no mood for questions.

When Tony got to the office, he headed straight for the liquor cabinet beside his desk…and you can image how the situation goes from here.

What is the Lesson Here?

What lessons can we draw from Tony and Tina’s story? As I’ve already emphatically said, every business is a family business. Every business profoundly impacts every family member – whether they work there or not. Every business either gives to the family or takes from the family, just as individual family members do.

If the business takes more than it gives, like Tony’s did, the family is always the first to pay the price.

digital marketing strategy

Sound Familiar?

Tony’s biggest mistake was trying to do everything himself. True, he hired staff, however, he didn’t really trust them to assume responsibility for important projects and he micro-managed their work.

Had he succeeded, life would have been grand and he would have felt fantastic. Instead, Tony unwittingly isolated himself thereby achieving the exact opposite of what he sought.

He destroyed his life – and his family’s life along with it.

Repeat after me: Every business is a family business.

Are You Like Tony?

I believe that many entrepreneurs have many things in common with Tony. You must learn that a business is only a business. It’s not your life – it’s just a part of your life, albeit an important one.

Your business can have a profoundly negative impact on your life unless you learn how to run it in a way that is different that what 99% of other entrepreneurs do. You must not run your business like Tony did.

Tony’s business could have served his family in the way that he’d originally envisioned. For that to happen, however, Tony would have had to learn how to master his business in a way that was completely foreign to him.

Instead, Tony’s business consumed him. Lacking in a true understanding of the critical strategic thinking that would have allowed his business to flourish, Tony and his family were doomed from the start.

There is a Solution

The story that I have just told you was inspired by the story of Edward and Abigail in the book eMyth Attorney, by Michael Gerber.

digital marketing strategy

I Made My Business Work For Me

When I read the book, I was reminded of my first business, Dyrand Systems, which I started in 2001. Within 6 months of starting that business, I’d discovered and read Michael’s first book, The eMyth, and it was my decision to embrace the principles in The eMyth that allowed me to grow the business from nothing to several million in revenue, while working 40 hours a week or less.

In the year that I sold Dyrand for $1.2 million, I barely needed to show up for work. The fact that the company continues to do well today is ample proof of how redundant I’d made myself using the principles I discovered in The eMyth.

For some people, just reading the book will be enough to help you alter the course you are on.

For others, I suspect more support would be highly beneficial.

How to Avoid Tony’s Mistakes and Get the Support You Need

After reading the book the other day, I posted a message in the Facebook group for my Mastermind Elite members to see. Being exposed to the eMyth again after all these years had reminded me of some things I’d forgotten, and I wanted to see if the members of my mastermind group would be interested in what was now on my mind.

When you read the thread below, pay particular attention to Drew’s comment. Drew grew an online retailer to $6M in sales and then sold it for a tidy sum. He and I are the only two guys in the mastermind that have (thus far) grown a company to millions in sales and then sold it for 7 figures.

Both of us LIVED the message in The eMyth. Perhaps you would benefit from doing the same?

If so, keep reading and I will tell you how I’d like to support you in that regard.

digital marketing strategy

How to Embrace the Principles of the eMyth

The eMyth is now going to become a guiding pillar for the members of the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite.

We are all going to read the book and we are all going to embrace its principles in our respective businesses – but we aren’t going to do it in isolation. Instead, ours will be a coordinated approach.

Taking a coordinated approach to problem solving is a fundamental part of any mastermind group. Why figure everything out on your own when you can instead share your ideas with, and learn from, others who are pursuing goals that are similar to yours?

If you’d like to be a part of a group of like-minded entrepreneurs and build a business that allows you to live the life of your dreams, instead of becoming a business that sucks the life out of you, then please accept my invitation to apply for membership in our exclusive group.

At the time of this writing, we are a group of 8 entrepreneurs who all share the goal of building a highly profitably business that is built to run on systems. Systems that will empower our staff to deliver excellence, while giving us the freedom to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Like Drew, I have already experienced the thrill of selling a company for over a million dollars, and I can assure you that I plan to do it again – and experience tells me that the way to do that is to build a business that is built on systems.

I’m sure some of you can do this on your own and if you do, please write to tell me about it.

For those of you who don’t want to do it all alone, I recommend you apply for membership today. Trust me when I say it will be the best decision you make this year. But don’t take my word for it. See what one of our members has to say…

digital marketing strategy

What is Holding You Back?

What do you think? Can you relate to Tony’s struggles? Please share your thoughts down in the comments, and if you are feeling bold, go ahead and share with me what one of your biggest struggles is. If I have advice for you, I’ll be sure and reply to your comment. Thanks!

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How Paul Clifford and I Launched Our Software Company

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Paul Clifford_0

Paul Clifford_0

Meet the man who helped me launch my new software, KontentFlow. Paul and I have been working on KontentFlow for a while, and I can happily say it’s now going beta. Paul and I are thrilled.

Unlike myself, Paul has developed multiple successful software applications including many enterprise-level systems. He’s also a savvy business person. So when I had the idea for KontentFlow, I knew he would make an excellent partner.

Listen to this podcast as we peel back the curtain and give insight into the process of software development. We discuss how we got started, how we outsourced our project (effectively or not), when we began marketing (well before the software was completed), and much more. I am excited to see things coming together and I’m sure the experience Paul and I had will provide you with some excellent food for thought.

Listen now and you’ll hear Paul and I talk about:

  • (03:45) Introductions
  • (04:45) What is disruptware?
  • (08:05) How should an entrepreneur get started in software?
  • (11:25) How should you interview a target market to find problems to solve?
  • (16:45) Why do some startups succeed and so many fail?
  • (19:45) After the interviews are complete, what is the next step to take?
  • (24:45) How can you raise some early money?
  • (26:45) How did we find our developers for our app?
  • (28:45) What did we outsource first?
  • (30:00) How should you manage ownership of code during the project?
  • (32:00) How should you manage the relationships with your developer?
  • (34:45) How should you handle QA (testing and bugs)?
  • (39:45) What should you do when you are ready to show customers?
  • (41:45) When should you start the marketing?
  • (49:45) Where can people go to learn more about the software business?
  • (51:45) What is an easier way to get started that involves less risk?
  • (55:45) How does open source play a role in this business?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business. It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.  

Listen Now

 


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About Paul Clifford

paulcliffordPaul Clifford is the founder of Disruptware and has 25 years experience as a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Customer Officer (responsible for customer success) for many large software startups – all of which have been sold successfully.

Paul’s first software tool was a desktop software app (Colleague) in the recruitment industry.  He scaled this and sold it with the founder to a large public company in the UK.  Its since be re-purchased and is still highly successful and a market leader after 20 years.

Paul then built several SaaS applications in contract management, HR and recruitment selling to enterprise customers across 45 countries.  Each business was successfully sold for between $1.6 and $38million.  While doing this Paul was managing large teams of engineers across multiple countries.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: Lee Frederiksen on How He Used Content Marketing to Attract $100M Clients

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Lee-Frederiksen 4in x in x 300dpi x FC

lee-frederiksen_0

Lee Frederiksen is an acclaimed author and Managing Partner at Hinge, a re-branding and consulting agency for professional services firms.

I had the distinct pleasure to talk with this very intelligent and successful guest and learn how he used content marketing to attract high revenue clients. Lee shared some truly brilliant marketing ideas with me; I was so impressed that I went back and re-listened to our entire interview.

With clients reaching the billion dollar mark in sales, Lee is an expert in bringing on quality leads and establishing solid relationships.  Listen as we discuss lead generation techniques, finding the right firms, and creating a winning content marketing strategy.

(If you want to hear more from agency leaders on lead generation and digital marketing strategy, be sure and check out this podcast episode with Toby Jenkins.)

Listen now and you’ll hear Lee and I talk about:

  • (02:30) Guest background and introduction
  • (04:30) What are some of the marketing challenges faced by professional services firms?
  • (06:00) What are the marketing activities professional services firms should be using?
  • (13:30) Can you tell us about your content marketing strategy?
  • (23:30) Can you tell us how you ensure your content is seen by your audience?
  • (26:30) Please tell us how you capture leads from your site
  • (28:30) How do you nurture your leads?
  • (34:30) What advice do you have for new content marketers?
  • (38:30) Why is niche specialization so important?
  • (44:30) Why did you choose professional services opposed to a sub-niche?
  • (46:30) How does paid traffic play a role?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now


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Transcript

Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas
podcast. I am your host,
Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast where we feature interviews
with entrepreneurs behind some of today’s fastest growing companies.If you’re looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you start
a new business or grow an existing one, you are in the right place.In each and every episode we do an interview with a proven expert, and
I get them to share all the nuts and bolts and the strategies and the
tactics that they have used to achieve that success. In this episode,
that is going to be exactly what you’ve got coming your way.My guest in this episode is a fellow by the name of Lee Frederickson.
He is a managing partner behind a very successful marketing firm
called Hinge.They have a roster of clients that are in the professional services
space from anywhere from about $10 million in annual sales up to over
$1 billion. The client engagements, just for example, one of the types
of engagements that we talked about in this interview is a re-branding
engagement. Those typically will sell for between $80,000 and
$120,000.The way that they have achieved their success and the way that they
attract their clients is through a very, very specific content
marketing strategy, which we dive into in great detail here in this
episode.Lee is a Ph.D., and he is an author of three books on the topic. If
you go to the “About” page of Hinge and you read his bio, you’re going
to see that he is an incredibly well educated and successful
individual.Getting to have a whole hour of his free consulting time here is going
to be incredibly valuable. We’re going to get to that in just a
second.Before we do, speaking of content marketing, if you’re new to the show
and you don’t already know, I have also written a book on content
marketing called the “Digital Marketing Handbook’.You can learn more about that at BrightIdeas.co/book. With that said,
please join me in welcoming Lee to the show.Hi, Lee. Welcome to the show.Lee: Well, hello. It’s a pleasure being here.Trent: Thank you so much for making some time to come on with me and
talk about how
professional services firms can successfully attract more clients.Now, before we get into all of the details of what I’m sure is going
to be a very interesting discussion, I’m sure that many of the folks
in my audience don’t yet know who you are, and so I’d like to give you
an opportunity in your own words to just introduce yourself, who you
are, and what you do.Lee: Okay. I am the managing partner of a firm called Hinge. We are a
branding and
marketing firm that specializes exclusively in professional services
organizations. Our clients are management consultants, marketing
firms, accountants, technology companies, architects, engineers, the
kind of people who sell their expertise.That is the only kind of firm we work for. The kinds of things we do
is we help them research their clients, position and brand their
firms, and do marketing programs to generate new leads and
opportunities and turn those into clients.Trent: Okay. So profession services firms. There’s obviously lots of
opportunity there. I know
that applies to a wide range of companies like the ones that you’ve
just listed off. In our pre-chat you had mentioned that you’ve written
three different books to help that particular tribe of individuals to
be more successful at this.Why don’t we kind of dive in right at the very top. Lee, so for
professional services firms, what do you think are some of the biggest
challenges that they face when it comes to client attraction?Lee: Well, there’s actually a lot of commonality across firms. Usually the
biggest thing is how
do I found and attract leads. I think people are sort of stuck in the
notion that the way they do that is they go out and they find people
and they try to convince them that they need to become clients of
those.While that’s certainly a traditional way of doing it, it’s not a very
effective or efficient way. I think the thing is, how do they generate
the leads that get them to the point where they can have a real
substantive conversation about it? They seem less concerned on the
whole with closing the sale than they are with generating the
opportunity in the first place.Trent: Okay. What you’re looking, if I’m understanding you correctly,
the big challenge is you
want to find people who already know that they’re looking. They
already know that they have a problem to solve, and you need to get in
their path of research so that you have an opportunity to have a
conversation with them?Lee: Yes. I think that’s exactly right. Actually, you raised a very
important point there that’s
kind of nuanced but it’s critical, and that is find a person who knows
that they have a problem. Here’s the thing with professional services.
For many problems or business issues that clients face, there’s more
than one potential solution.

For example, if you’re a firm and your margins are weak, you maybe
could have someone help you with cost cutting to improve your margins,
or someone to help you with your process, or someone to automate part
of it, or someone to bring you in new clients with higher margins.

Right away you have four or five potential solutions right off the
top, different directions. The key for professional services is how do
you get in the discussion early enough so you can help shape the
discussion of what is the appropriate solution for that potential
problem.

I think what happens is people often start too late. They’re focusing
on, “Well, let me find someone who’s ready to hire a new accounting
firm right now.” Well, there’s only a small proportion of your
potential clients who are ready at the particular moment you want it,
so you may be aiming too late at the process with your efforts.

Trent: Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense. What are some of the
things then that you, in your
books, talk about, are the activities that professional services firms
should be engaged in early on to get themselves on the radar screen of
their prospective clients before it’s too late?

Lee: That’s an excellent question. Let me back up a little bit and give
you a context for what I
think is the right answer to that.

The thing I love about Hinge is that we have an interesting kind of
situation. We decided early on that what we were going to do is we
were going to start out by researching the clients, potential clients,
as thoroughly as we could.

Then, when we found something that was going to be a good potential
solution for professional services firms, we would try it ourselves.

Once we have tried it and we have mastered it for our own, then we
would offer it to our clients. That allowed us then to go into the
situation with potential clients and say, “We’ve got experience with
this. We’ve done it ourselves. It’s based on research. We know how it
works.” That turns out to be an incredibly effective way for us to get
new business.

I think if you apply that lesson in what we learned, it’s if you can
find a group of potential clients for which you have not only a
solution that will work with them but have a very credible story to
talk about, then you’re in a position to begin the educational part of
the relationship, which transitions very nicely into actually having
them become a client.

The thing you’re trying to do is demonstrate to your potential client
that you understand the issue thoroughly, that you have a potential
solution, and that you can effectively solve their problem. I’m afraid
that’s a little bit of a roundabout answer, but I think it really gets
the essence to what you need to do.

Trent: Absolutely. Give me an example of what you’re talking about in
something that you guys
did for yourselves. You tested it, you got the research, and then you
started to use that to attract clients.

Lee: I’ll give you one simple example. When we’re doing research on
high growth professional services firms, we found out that they tended
to spend much more of their marketing budget, and their resources
focused on online marketing. We did a piece of research that really
focused in on online marketing for professional services.

We looked at over 500 firms and what they did on online marketing.
What we found was that there was a certain kind of commonality in the
kinds of techniques they used online, that when you boiled it down,
what came up was really a model for content marketing. We embraced
that model, and we started to do it ourselves.

The more we started to do it, the more we got success. The size of our
clients began to increase. The geographic range of them, the budgets,
t sophistication, it’s really been one of the primary drivers of our
growth, and that came from really what the research showed us about
what high performing professional services firms do. We followed that
path and it led to success.

Trent: Let’s dive a little deeper into that, because obviously I’m a
big fan of content marketing.
We have an agency where we do consulting, like you guys do, and all of
our leads come from content that I create very much like this podcast
and posts and so forth.

I’m definitely drinking the Kool-Aid, and I think that there’s a lot
of people here who are listening to this who would love to have more
success with content marketing.

First off I want to ask you, what types of…You’d mentioned you’ve
had success attracting larger clients. Let’s put a little bit of a
definition to what is a “larger client” in terms of annual revenue
that they would generate or annual billings for you. Either way you
want to describe it.

Lee: Well, right now our clients are primarily concentrated in the top 100
firms within their
respective industries. For example, in accounting, if you look at the
top 100 accounting firms nationally, that tends to be where our
clients come from. That’s true of also architecture, engineering,
technology, and so forth.

That’s what I mean, whereas when we started down this path our clients
were primarily local clients. They might have a firm or revenue of a
couple million dollars, five million dollars.

Now our client revenues are in the tens and hundreds of millions of
dollars and many times well above a billion dollars. It’s a much
larger group of firms, and they’re more geographically dispersed.
We’re getting clients literally from all around the world contacting
us with their particular marketing challenges.

Trent: Okay, so these sound like they’re probably pretty good clients
to have. Folks, just so we
know, I’m just setting the stage for the type of client. We are going
to dive into more of the types of content marketing activities that
Lee is doing to get these clients.

But the services that you’re delivering to them, Lee, are they for the
most part retainer type services, where they’re paying you monthly to
do something on an ongoing basis, because content marketing, it’s not
a one-time project?

I’m assuming, looking at your site, that much of the stuff that you’re
doing is in the umbrella of content marketing.

Lee: Yes. It is a balance of both content marketing, ongoing marketing
programs, and one-
time kind of projects. These one-time kind of projects, they’re often
pretty significant. The most common type of one-time project we do is
re-branding, and that will involve doing research, positioning and
messaging, doing all the website and collateral identity work, logo
design, and how that is going to be rolled out. Even though it’s a one-
time project, it can be a pretty substantial project.

Trent: Before we move on from that, if I might, there’s folks in my
audience who haven’t done
that yet, and this might be their first opportunity to think about,
“Hey, maybe I should be doing some of this kind of stuff.” Just for
their curiosity and mine, for a $10 million client, just ballpark.
What would a re-branding project be worth?

Lee: They’re roughly about, I would say $80,000 to $120,000.

Trent: Okay, and that would take you how long to deliver something
like that, from the very
start when they say, “Go ahead,” to “Okay, we’re done.”

Lee: It’s usually within the window of six months to a year.

Trent: Okay.

Lee: Generally, the smaller and the more quickly they can make decisions,
the less time it
takes.

Trent: Of course. I would assume that probably the biggest roadblock
to any project being
completed is just the client not being able to respond quick enough.

Lee: Yes, yes. Exactly.

Trent: Okay.

Lee: They’re all busy, almost by definition, all of the time.

Trent: Absolutely.

Lee: Many times marketing, for the top management, marketing isn’t
something where they
have the deepest background. Sometimes things can go wrong and it can
become a stand-in for other kinds of issues that an organization is
struggling with when you’re re-branding or repositioning, but that’s
relatively rare.

Most of them have pretty clear reasons why they need to re-brand, and
want to move along quickly.

Trent: Okay. Now let’s talk about the content that you’re using to
attract these folks. I want to
give this a bit of a framework as well. A book is what I’ll call big
content. A blog post or a video or a podcast like this is what I call
kind of middle content.

Then tweets and social sharing is what I call tiny content. First off,
you’re obviously doing a mix of all three of those, because you’ve got
three books, you’ve got a blog, and you have social profiles.

Lee: Correct.

Trent: In terms of attracting this kind of client, can you just kind
of walk us through your
content marketing strategy at the high level? So the concept first,
and then I’ll ask some follow on questions to dig into some details.

Lee: Sure. Well, the concept is that you need content at all of those
levels, each of those levels.
You need to have the very small content, the mid-level, and all the
way to the deeper content to have a full bodied program. Yes, we have
content at all of those levels.

But if you step back a second and you say which are the streams of
content you have, if you look at those as sort of like individual
programs, you start with what are the types of services and solutions
that I want to offer to a client population, and what is the specific
population or target group that I want to offer it to.

Those kinds of decisions, those generally get made by some kind of a
marketing analysis, or it may already be obvious to you because of
your background as a firm or as an individual where your sweet spot
is, where you can deliver the most value. That’s kind of where you
start.

You say, “If the endpoint is someone who needs to engage me to deliver
this kind of service, what’s the starting point? What are the earliest
symptoms that they would have where this might be the possible
solution?”

That’s at the front end of your funnel. Your small content and your
blog posts, beyond that, those are the kinds of things that deal
generally with the issues at the issue level. You’re not at the
solution level yet. You’re at the issue and diagnosis.

As you go further down the funnel you deal with more about, “Of this
issue, what are the possible solutions, and what are the things that
indicate this is the right solution?” How do you think about this
problem in a way that will help you solve it? What are the
alternatives that you could consider, and when is the solution that I,
as an organization, want to offer? When is that the appropriate one,
because you don’t want to try and get the wrong people?

Content marketing is as much about qualifying leads as it is
attracting them. At the end of the process, as you get further down
into it, you’re dealing more and more with the specifics of what is
the solution.

Then, eventually, the person will say, “I want to talk to you about
this. I want a proposal. I want to explore working together.” At that
point, then you get into the discussions about specifically how you do
it and how much your services cost and why you might or might not be a
good match for this person.

I think the mistake a lot of people make is they try to jump to the
end in the very beginning. They say, “Hey, we’ve got great services.
You should work with us,” which is silly. Nobody’s going to do that.

Trent: Yes, yes. It’s like walking into a cocktail party and saying,
“Here’s my card. Let’s do
business.”

Lee: I use the slightly cruder metaphor of it’s like going on your first
date and asking the
person whether they would like to marry you.

Trent: Yes, doesn’t work.

Lee: It’s jumping way too far ahead too fast.

Trent: Okay, so let’s use the accounting niche as the guinea pig
vertical for the next couple of
my questions.

Lee: Okay.

Trent: Folks in the audience here, they’re thinking, “Yes, okay,” I
want to go after accountants,
“What should I be blogging about so that I can start to get in the
path of their discovery?”

Lee: Okay.

Trent: So what topics would you be writing about?

Lee: Well, again, I think you need to start with the services that you’re
going to offer as you’re
thinking. In the context of your question, let’s say that you wanted
to do consulting with them on IT security for example. I’ll just use
that.

Trent: Can I interrupt? Most of…

Lee: Sure.

Trent: …the people listening to this will be in the business that
you’re in. They sell marketing
services, so why don’t we just talk about what you blogged about to
get into the path for these people?

Lee: Okay. Well, in our case we were looking at branding and marketing
services. We asked
ourselves, “Okay. Who is in a position to need branding services in
accounting?” We’ll just take that to simplify the discussion.

We said, “Well, okay. These are firms that might have gone through a
merger or are considering it. These are firms that potentially want to
accelerate their growth to grow faster. Or these are firms that might
want to reposition themselves to go after a different audience.

Or these could be firms that just haven’t addressed this for a while,
and they are just out of date. Their websites and their marketing
materials are out of date.” Right away we have four or five different
topic areas that could all be appropriate reasons.

We say, “Okay. What are the types of topics that people who are going
through a merger or considering going through a merger would be
interested in?” We would write blog posts about post-merger
integration, or how is your brand impacted by a merger, or what are
the challenges of generating leads in a merged firm.

All of these things are things that someone in a position to hire us
would be interested in and would likely be thinking about and be on
their mind. We’re not dealing with how we help you re-brand. We’re
dealing with what are the issues that you’re facing when you have the
kind of problem that would lead you to consider working with us.

Trent: Yes. It’s really quite straightforward hearing you explain it.
You’re identifying who is my
target audience, and what are the problems that they have. I am going
to blog about ways to solve those problems. Boil it down, real simple,
that’s what you’ve just said.

Lee: Yes, exactly. That’s what we’ve said. It seems too simple on one
level. It’s so interesting.
I find that people just really oftentimes don’t think about it that
way, because they get so focused on their own services that they lose
sight of who the client is and what their world is really like.
They’re the same.

They’re also professional services providers, just like us. They have
the same crazy schedule. They don’t have enough time. They can’t
research something thoroughly.

They’re not going to sit down and read your wonderful website that’s
got 17 paragraphs of content about why they should work with you.
They’re not going to do that. They’re going to do what you do.

Go to a website. They’re going to skim it. They’re going to look at
it. They’re going to try and get what does this person do? Can they
help me? Is this useful?

Trent: How do you ensure, because you said some very interesting
things there. They’re busy,
which means they’re probably not sitting at their desk all day just
reading other people’s blogs. Content that isn’t consumed, it might as
well not have been written in the first place.

We’ll stick with the post-merger theme here just for the next part of
this discussion. Do you combine outbound outreach of some kind with
this content that you’re creating so that the people you’re creating
it for discover that the content even exists? How do you get them
there?

Lee: What our research showed, and again, we are pretty disciplined about
when we find
something in research, that’s the direction we go, we found that the
important keys were, number one is SEO, search engine optimization.

In other words, you have to write the content that is on the front end
of your funnel, and not so much the back end, but it’s on the front
end of your funnel, has to be written in a way so that when people are
searching for a topic, like post-merger integration or re-branding,
that they come across your blog posts or the kinds of things that
you’re doing. That’s kind of number one. That’s the must have.

The second thing that we do is we use social media. LinkedIn, Twitter,
to a lesser extent Facebook for our audience. Some of the verticals
are on Facebook, so we do some sharing on there. We share as widely as
we can in social media and discuss it in LinkedIn groups and so forth.

Then we do other kinds of outreach like speaking engagements, that
kind of thing. What we don’t do is we don’t do cold calling. We don’t
do rented lists. We don’t do very much networking other than to
maintain relationships and so forth when we have it. We don’t spend a
lot of time going out to networking and hoping to run into people.

Trent: Yes, that’s kind of a glorified cold call.

Lee: Yes, yes. Our whole goal with this is, can we get something that’s
useful and interesting
that’s going to capture your attention in front of you? Can we share
something that you would find useful?

Trent: All right. We’ll assume that you’ve got some success getting
the right eyeballs on the
right content, but you still need to move the ball forward, because if
they read it and they don’t do anything, that’s obviously not helping
them and it’s not helping you.

What are some of the ways that you ensure that a piece of content
causes, I’m going to call it a conversion, are somehow moving them
forward? Talk to me about how you do that.

Lee: Well, every piece of content should have a next step, should have,
“What should I do
next?” For content that’s at the early end of the funnel, that next
step is usually content that is somewhat more engaging. For example,
with a blog post, we might offer a guide that we have.

Our guides tend to be 25 to 35 pages long, that kind of talks about a
subject in more depth, whether that might be a subject like re-
branding or content marketing or SEO, and these are all kind of
related to services that we offer. That might be a next step.

Another next step could be a webinar or some other kind of educational
event that we’re doing, or it could be an e-book that we’re
publishing, or it could be a more extended piece of research. Any of
the things that would be more useful to a person who’s more interested
in that topic to take the next step.

Trent: Okay. Now, behind the scenes, what I call behind the screen,
when someone registers to
download one of your lead magnets, be it a webinar, an e-book or what
have you, what are some of the things…

Do you have an automated marketing funnel that’s attempting to nurture
and segment these people, or does that lead go to people in your team
who would then make a follow-up phone call? What happens?

Lee: Well, the one thing it doesn’t do, when someone downloads a piece of
content, we do not
jump on that person and make an outbound phone call or do anything to
try to convert them at that point.

We feel like that is really not what the person is asking for, because
if they’re asking to talk to us to discuss how we might help them,
they are going to reach out to us, we found out. If they’re not asking
for them, we don’t find that you talk people into re-branding or
marketing their firm or anything like that.

These are not impulse purchases, or they’re not something where you’re
going to talk them into it. These are things that people come to
through their education and understanding of what the situation is
they’re facing, and it has to be a high enough priority for them. If
it’s not, what you will end up with is a lot of leads that go nowhere,
that aren’t really opportunities.

You may have a person temporarily interested, but the next time
something comes up and distracts them, they’ll be on to something
else. You have to really deal with people who have a real business
challenge for which you are a genuine appropriate timely important
solution.

Trent: That makes perfect sense. I want to be clear. Then, when
someone downloads the report
from your site, obviously they go into your database. They get the
report via an email. Do they get any more follow-up emails or anything
after that, or is the onus simply now on them to contact you if
they’re really that interested?

Lee: They do get follow-up emails, but what the emails are isn’t an
attempt to convert them.
It’s offers for more engaging content. For example, if you downloaded
a white paper or, let’s say a guide or something, you might get an
offer for, “Here’s our latest e-book,” or “Here’s some research on a
related topic,” or “Here’s a webinar.”

We have tested some programs where we’ve been very specific about what
the person gets, but we find in general, if you expose them to a range
of other content and other opportunities, the thing that they
downloaded first may not be the thing that is their current interest
or becomes the thing they work with you on.

Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. They may have downloaded
something on how to differentiate their firm, but in the end they
really need a new website.

Trent: So you’re basically segmenting them by the activity that they
take, which is the reports
that they download, and each progressive report that they download,
does that have an influence on the next set of reports that you would
send to them?

Have you built that kind of logic into the funnel, or is it simply a
linear process that everyone goes through and they just pick whichever
report they want?

Lee: I think in general it tends to be a linear process, but that’s not
completely because it
sometimes is very dependent on what they’re done. For example, we use
the example of someone who downloaded a report.

Let’s say the next step they do is they attend a webinar on marketing
planning. At that webinar we’ll often make an offer that we’ll do a
phone consultation with you to go over your marketing plan and give
you some feedback on it.

That would not be an offer that we would necessarily make to everyone.
We’re making it to someone who has had that level of engagement.
They’ve taken that next step.

Then some proportion of people will say, “Yes, I want to do that.”
Then that gives us an opportunity to engage with them more, determine
whether they have a good fit, whether there’s a need, and some of them
will.

It becomes somebody calls. They will say, “Well, you know what? We
wanted to talk about the marketing plan, but what I really want to
talk to you about is re-branding.”

Trent: Okay. For folks who are earlier on, and I’m going back here
because I know I have a
meaningful portion of my audience that’s going to be going, “Wow, this
sounds awesome, but it also sounds a little bit overwhelming. How am I
going to get all the time to create all this content?” Everything
starts, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I guess, what advice would you give someone who is either not yet
started with content marketing or they’re relatively early? They’ve
just maybe started to blog. What activities do you think would be the
highest and best use of their time?

Lee: I think, and this might be counter-intuitive, but I think the most
valuable thing they could
do when they’re just getting started is research on their target
audience. The reason I say that is because that is where you get two
benefits from that.

Number one, you’re going to get a better feeling for what are the real
issues and opportunities for your kinds of services with that target
client group.

That is so important because, as human beings, we don’t know what we
don’t know. We spend so much time justifying it that we don’t need to
do things because we already know them.

What our research clearly shows is that we don’t know our potential
clients as well as we think we do. We just don’t. You have to accept
that. That’s a part of being human. You think you know them, but there
are probably gaps in your knowledge that you can fill in by doing that
research.

The second thing it does is, by gathering that research, that gives
you something substantive to talk about, to write about. You go to,
let’s say that you want to consult on marketing with hospitals. We’ll
use that as another example.

If you go and you talk to those hospital administrators and those
marketing directors and you truly understand what they’re struggling
with, even though it may not seem like it has anything to do with
marketing or branding or any of that, it’s a rare organization that
some of their key problems are not in some way related to marketing.
It really is.

Even if those are some of the things getting in the way, your ability
to talk about those problems, those issues, and how they’re related to
what you do is one of the keys.

How do you relate the kind of services you do to the things that
they’re talking about in their organization? That is going to right
away make you more relevant and make your blog posts and the things
you’re doing as the things they’re most focused on, where their heads
are at today.

Trent: That makes an awful lot of sense. If folks don’t have this type
of research, do you simply
reach out to people, cold email or social media, and say, “Hey, we
need to gather some data. We’re producing another research report?”
What is it that you say to get a stranger to say, “Yes, okay. I’ll
spend some time helping you with answers to your questions?”

Lee: Well, I think you’ll find that people are pretty generally willing to
share their information
or to share some research related thing if they’re going to get the
results or if they feel like knowing those results will be helpful to
them.

Even then, if you approach them kind of openly about what you’re
doing, we find that many, many people are willing to talk to you.
Plus, if you’re going after this area, you probably already have
contacts in there and you can network your way into it, and you can
begin small and build up from there.

The impediment to doing it is not that you can’t get people to
cooperate. The impediment to doing it is what’s between your ears,
where you talk yourself out of it and say, “Oh, they won’t talk to me.
They won’t do this. They won’t do that. This couldn’t happen. That
can’t happen.” That’s the thing that gets in your way; not the reality
of it.

Trent: Yes, I’m glad you pointed that out because I agree completely.
You don’t need to get to
talk to 10 strangers. You need to get to talk to one, and if you have
a nice conversation, more than likely when you say, “Who else should I
talk to?” they’re going to refer you to the next one.

Lee: Exactly, exactly.

Trent: Yes, okay. What haven’t I asked you about that you think is an
important piece to include
in this discussion? I think we’ve covered a lot of really great stuff
already, but you’ve got three books on this topic, and I don’t have
all three of them in front of me at the moment, so I’m sure there’s
some more.

Lee: Yes. There are a lot of things. I think one of the things that is the
biggest barrier for a lot
of people is the whole concept of specialization. I want to focus on
that because it’s a scary topic to people.

People, even marketing people who intellectually know that
specializing and focusing is a better way, they may know that
intellectually, but on an emotional level, they’re just afraid to give
up business.

They’re afraid that, “If I say I specialize in working with hospitals,
what if someone from a catering service calls me and they want to work
with me? What then?”

What they don’t realize is that the benefits of specializing so far
outweigh the cost with any business that you will potentially give up
that it is an even close. That’s one of the things that not only our
research shows but our experience shows, that specializing, while it
is not an emotionally easy thing to do and feels risky, is really the
safest thing you can do.

Now, someone says, “Well, what if I specialize in the wrong thing?
What if I specialize in this?” What we’ve found out is that generally,
the specialist, if you’re in the marketing area or in in general the
business development, helping them grow, it’s awfully recession
resistant.

Sometimes it’s actually industries that are in trouble that are the
best clients that are looking for help more than industries that are
thriving.

We saw that in the last recession, where the architecture, engineering
and construction segment just got absolutely battered in the last
recession. Turned out to be an excellent group of clients, because
those that made it through the first wave, they said, “You know, I
didn’t have to do anything before. Just show up and I would get
business. Now I have to actually figure out what I’m going to do.”

Trent: Yes.

Lee: It’s not always intuitive. If you really are in tune with an
industry, you do find out where
those opportunities are, and you have a tremendous advantage over
someone who’s a generalist.

Trent: Yes, no kidding. Sorry, I’m just jotting notes here down. That
is such incredibly sage
advice, and I’m glad that you thought to bring that up.

Now, for someone who is saying, “Okay, yes. I’m sold on this
specialization thing. Give me some criteria. There’s all these
industries to choose from. Help me narrow the list down to at least a
subset so that I can start to go do some research on that subset,”
what are some of the criteria that you would suggest that people
consider when trying to go from the whole field to that slice of the
pie they’re going to maybe start to do the research on?

Lee: Well, it starts out with looking where you have a competitive
advantage. If you peel back
how people specialize, almost always what you find out is, “Oh, I used
to work in that industry. “My spouse works in that industry”. “We’ve
got several clients in that and it’s really interesting.”

It’s some kind of an advantage or an entree you have into an industry
that gives you the ability to look at it differently than a generalist
would look at it. That’s where I would focus first.

If it’s not that, then you’re just looking at very general things,
like, where is there a market, where do I think the industry is going
to be down the road. I’m constantly amazed at the niches people have
found.

There are the environment with the range of industries, and which ones
you could focus on is so broad and so deep that there is most likely
going to be something when you even pause for a moment and look at
where you have the experience, where you have the interest and
excitement.

Trent: Yes, and that makes perfect sense as well. In looking at your
homepage, there’s a number
of things that scroll through in the featured section, and one of them
is of course that we specialize in professional services, marketing,
and branding, with that cool little airplane.

Was there a reason why you didn’t go more niche and say, and maybe you
did this in the past, “We specialize in engineering firms,” because in
North America there are lots of engineering firms?

Lee: Right.

Trent: Your message would have been even more relevant to that sub-
niche of the professional
services space.

Lee: That’s a very perceptive question, and it is exactly precisely the
strategic discussion that
we have when we said, “Is professional services too broad a niche? Do
we need to go narrower?” because we observed that there were a lot of
people who were just focusing on one vertical. I think the answer to
that question about how broad or how narrow is your niche has to do
with how people see themselves.

Are they part of a broader industry or not? In other words, the
clothing store, do they see themselves as being a retailer or a
clothing retailer? Where is their primary identification? That kind of
tells you what the client will accept as being relevant to them.

It’s a battle. We took a calculated risk that we could build a brand
that cut across professional services that included multiple ones.
When we did it, we didn’t know whether it was going to work or not,
whether the psychology of our buyers would allow it.

Well, in the end it was successful for us, but we also didn’t just
rely on that, because we have verticals within the architecture,
engineering and construction or the technology area, and we have
people that are devoted just to those verticals.

We believed that the brand could handle all of professional services,
and so far it seems to have worked. But we didn’t start there. We also
built within the individual niches.

Trent: Do you have landing pages and special reports that are devoted
to the sub-niches of
professional services that I simply just can’t easily navigate my way
through to from the homepage of the blog?

Lee: Yes. We have landing pages. We have research reports. We have case
studies. We have
things that are devoted to each of the niches. That’s actually
something that we’re continuing to strengthen. Sort of every year by
year we go deeper and broader within the niches within the things we
offer, the people we partner with, and so forth.

Trent: Does paid traffic play a role at all in getting the right
eyeballs onto the right offers,
meaning those landing pages that are top of funnel for you?

Lee: It can. It can, and particularly in certain situations, where you
have keywords that you
want to be found for but you can’t get to when you have, we’ve used it
in the promotion of some of our books as they’ve been released to get
a little bit broader release of them. It’s certainly a component. It
isn’t necessarily the most efficient way.

But having said that, we have a number of clients or people that we’ve
studied who have relied very heavily on paid promotion, and it’s
worked well for them where they’ve promoted that content. Certainly
don’t rule it out, but it’s not generally where you look first.

Trent: A follow on question to that is, have you ever for yourselves
or for your clients used paid
traffic as a means of testing the viability of a keyword, a major
keyword, before embarking on a content creation strategy for that
keyword?

Why I ask that question, as I’m sure you’re aware, not all keywords
have the same value. Some of them have a much higher converting value
just by the nature of the keyword. The people who are searching for
that are more likely to become a buyer of whatever it is you’re
selling versus some other keyword.

Lee: Sure.

Trent: Paid traffic’s a very fast way to test it. Do you do that?

Lee: We’ve done a little of that, but generally we’ve found that we’re
focused on getting the
right kind of content. If we can’t draw the traffic with SEO, then
we’ll use that particular topic, we might use that as a guest post in
somewhere where we can draw the traffic, or as a conference speech or
an article or something.

So there’s more than one way to draw traffic. Keywords, that’s what
does the bulk of the work day in and day out, but it’s certainly not
the only way to draw attention or traffic to an idea.

Trent: Well, Lee, I think we should probably wrap up pretty quick
here. We’ve been about 46
minutes so far. Before we do that, a couple of very quick questions.
Obviously, if people want to get a hold of you, they go to
hingemarketing.com, and then there’s all sorts of ways that they can
learn more about your organization and interact with you.

The books that you offer, if anyone wants to get, what are the titles
of the three books, and then how can people get them if they want to?

Lee: Okay. They’re available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or also as
downloads from our
website. They’re free electronic versions at the website. The first
book is called “Spiraling Up”, and it deals with high growth
professional services firms. We looked at what they do differently
than average firms.

The second one is called “Online Marketing for Professional Services”.
That is based on a study of 500 professional services firms and how
they use online marketing and what the fastest growing ones do.

The third book is called “Inside the Buyer’s Brain”. That is a
combination of over 1,300 interviews of buyers of professional
services, also called clients, people who purchase services, and
sellers, and how they see the world differently and the blind spots
that the sellers have.

All three of them are available in those sources, and they’re all
really based on research, as all of our things are.

Trent: Okay, fantastic. As you’ve been talking, I’m trying to download
all these things. “Inside
the Buyer’s Brain” was very easy to find. Just so that I and the
listeners can find the other two on your site, how do I get there?

Lee: You go to the Library.

Trent: Oh.

Lee: In the Library, you’ll see where it will say “Books”.

Trent: You know, I’m sometimes blind as a bat. Didn’t even see the
Library button beside the
Blog button. All right.

Lee: They’re different, and that’s why you have to be clear with your
navigation. That’s the one
thing you don’t want to be innovative about, is your navigation
system.

Trent: Yes, I would agree. Do what everybody else is doing, because
people expect that the
doorknob’s going to be in the middle of the door; not up at the top or
the bottom.

Lee: That’s right.

Trent: Lee, I want to thank you very much. I learned some really good
golden nuggets
from this interview, and so I have no doubt that my audience did as
well. I do want to thank you very much more making the time to come
and spend some time with us here on the show.

Lee: Thank you very much for having me. It was a pleasure chatting with
you.

Trent: All right. You take care and have a wonderful day.

Lee: Okay, thank you. Bye-bye.

Trent: Okay, to get to the show notes for this episode, go to
BrightIdeas.co/93. If you really
enjoyed this episode, which I sure hope you did, please go to
BrightIdeas.co/love, and there you will find a very easy way to leave
feedback for this episode in the iTunes store.

That is really, really important because with each feedback we get
more awareness, we rank higher in the iTunes store, and that helps
more entrepreneurs just like you to discover the Bright Ideas podcast.

When they do, we get to help more people to massively boost their
business with all of the bright ideas that get shared by my guests
here on the show.

That’s it for this episode. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. Thank you
so much for tuning in. I look forward to seeing you again in the next
episode. Take care.

About Lee Frederiksen

LeeFrederiksenLee Frederiksen, Ph.D., is an award-winning marketer and renowned business strategist who helped pioneer the field of research-driven marketing. A rare combination of businessman and research scientist, Lee draws on his Ph.D. in behavioral psychology and his entrepreneurial experience as CEO of three successful firms to help clients achieve high growth and profitability. His research also forms the basis for his six highly acclaimed books on the topics of organizational growth, marketing, and business strategy.

Lee has authored or edited several books on marketing and management, including Handbook of Organizational Behavior, Marketing Health Behavior: Principles, Techniques and Applications, and Computers, People and Productivity. He’s been widely quoted in the business press, including Fortune, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Business 2.0 and Advertising Age, as well as numerous trade and professional journals. Most recently, Lee co-authored the book Spiraling Up: How to Create a High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firm.

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs

Introducing KontentFlow: A Content Marketing Software for Marketing Agencies

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kontentflow-header-image

content marketing software

Creating high quality content and then distributing it to your client’s websites and social media platforms is a time consuming process that involves a lot of moving parts.

It can also be a very profitable source of recurring revenue, if done efficiently.

KontentFlow is a brand new application that we’ve been developing for the last 6 months that makes it faster and easier for marketing agencies to create and distribute content to their clients’ blogs and social media accounts.

In this post, I’m going to give you a sneak peak at the software, as well as give you the opportunity to apply to be a part of our beta program.

See KontentFlow in Action

To help you understand the problems that KontentFlow has been designed to help you solve, we’ve created the three explanation videos below.

Overview of KontentFlow

In this first video, my partner Paul is going to give us an overview of the software.

Creating Content

In this video, Paul shares how KontentFlow helps you to significantly speed up the process of content creation.

Marketing Agency Owner’s View

Here Paul shows us KontentFlow from the perspective of the agency owner.

What Problem is This App Solving?

Approximately a year ago, I met an agency principal at an industry event and during our conversation, I asked him if he was creating blog content for his clients on an ongoing basis, for a retainer fee.

He smiled and said that his firm had 120 clients on retainer for exactly this.

Then I asked him how he managed it all.

His smile disappeared when he told me that it was all done with spreadsheets and email and it was a complete nightmare.

Content Marketing for Clients Has a Lot of Moving Parts

content marketing softwareAs I explained in a prior post, delivering ‘content marketing as a service’ to your clients is a wonderful way to increase your retainer income and position your firm as an indispensable partner to your clients.

It is also a way to dramatically increase the value of your agency. I know this because my last firm had $80,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and without this predictable stream of revenue, there is no way that the buyers of that firm would have paid me anywhere near the $1.2 million they did.

Obvious financial benefits aside, there is a snag you must consider- the logistics of managing it all.

If you have even 6 clients on retainer, you have the following ‘moving parts’ to efficiently manage:

  • six editorial calendars
  • at least 2 writers (depending on volume of content to be delivered)
  • at least one account manager working for the agency
  • at least one person per client who needs to approve content before it’s published
  • at least six client websites
  • 15 to 18  social media accounts

If you think about the workflow for a single piece of content, it goes something like this:

  1. Determine topic
  2. Assign to writer
  3. Perform keyword research
  4. Perform general research on topic
  5. Write article
  6. Send to account manager for review
  7. Send to client for review
  8. Publish to client’s site
  9. Promote on social channels
  10. Measure content’s impact on traffic and sharing

That’s ten steps for just one blog post for just one client.

Remember the guy with 120 clients? Each of them want at least one post per week. Can you see why managing this with spreadsheets and email just doesn’t cut it?

Due to the logistical issues involved, if you don’t have a well-defined process in place, supported by software, the management burden of this service offering can get pretty intense as the number of clients you serve increases – possibly resulting in a very negative impact on profitability.

Fortunately, we have a solution for you.

KontentFlow: Content Marketing Software for Marketing Agencies

Before we get into what the software does and how it works, I want to briefly address what it doesn’t do.

KontentFlow does not write content for you. It doesn’t scrape content, or do any other kind of spammy content creation you can think of.

Instead, what it does do is dramatically speed up the process of content creation, distribution, and promotion – while giving you an organized system to ensure that you can deliver your service efficiently and profitably.

If you run an agency and are creating blog and social content for multiple clients on an ongoing basis, KontentFlow is for you.

What Do You Think?

If you have questions about KontentFlow, please ask them in the comments below. I will personally read and reply to every comment.

If you’d like to use our software in your business, please apply to our beta program.

Apply to the Beta Program

We are now ready to launch our beta program and are accepting applications.

Initially, enrollment will be extremely limited to allow us to work very closely with our beta users. For this first round of beta, we are looking to work with agencies that already have at least 3 content marketing clients.

To apply, simply click the image below to be taken to the enrollment page.

agency-saas-footer

 

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Why Content Marketing is Key in 2014

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why content marketing is key in 2014

content marketing

THE FUTURE…

People attempt to predict it every day.

From football bets to market shares, we like to think that we can know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t claim to be able to see the future, but I have been in the business for awhile, and I have some ideas on how the landscape is changing for Content Marketing.

I think anyone who is in the business of selling (which should be everyone) should have some idea of how content strategy can help grow their business.

Before I make my predictions, I want to touch on a few key points of conversation. For those of you unfamiliar with content marketing, I feel it is important to explain what is changing, and why. This will give context to my projections.

  • Why Traditional Marketing is Losing Out
  • What Makes People Like Content Marketing
  • Things to Avoid When Creating Content
  • Ways to Make Quality Content
  • Future Predictions
  • What That Means For Your Company’s Future

Why People Are Leaving Traditional Marketing Behind

Imagine the stereotypical salesman type. Smart clothes, overly excited smile, a firm handshake and an unrelenting devotion to his product. Sound familiar?

Fact: He Doesn't Own That Same Car

Fun Fact: He Doesn’t Own That Same Car

It’s a persisting image, and buyers are quick to point these people out when they see them. The fact of the matter is, people hate feeling sold to, and traditional marketing often has this feel to it.

While traditional marketing is still a powerful player in the advertising world, the general public is getting better at identifying these prompts and blocking them out.

Not only that, there are companies literally selling tools to block your messages – for example, through DVR, Ad Block, or caller ID. 

So how does this all come back to “content marketing”? Content marketing has become mandatory because consumers have shifted the buying process.

In a previous article on how to start a content marketing strategy, I explain how nearly 60% of the buying process is done before the customer even contacts a vendor. Even more telling, 64% of customers research a company and their product online before they make a first purchase, meaning your initial contact with a customer probably happened before you knew they even existed.

All in all, there is a shift in the possession of knowledge. There is less and less a need for a well informed sales staff, and more need for a way for self-informed customers to find your product.

So what if the information these customers want isn’t on your site? These people are looking for information from various sources to solve a problem, and if you don’t provide them with useful information they will look elsewhere.

If you don’t answer their questions someone else will. It’s that simple.

This is one reason that in an study from Allurent, they found a lack of information was the reason that 67% of customers did not buy.

This is why providing helpful information for your customers (content marketing) is one of the most important pieces of your inbound marketing strategy.

So Why Are People Drawn To Content Marketing?

B2B Content Marketing Spending

Provided by Refined Practice

Since customers are educating themselves on products and services, it’s critical to help them find the answers they are looking for.

Being helpful is the foundation of a proper content strategy. In the words of Jay Baer, author and content strategist, you should “help not hype”.

The idea is pretty simple.

Think about the last time you needed something and researched it online. What did you do?

You checked searched on Google for ratings, you looked at customer reviews (Amazon), you searched for competitors.

You used that content to make a decision and the site with the best content, the one that answered your questions best, probably won your vote. It’s the same when customers come looking for your product.

This is just how people buy today.

In the old days, advertisers tried to interrupt people from what they were interested in. Today, marketers need to become what people are interested in, and providing genuinely helpful information (content) is the way to do this.

The Problems Companies Have With Creating Content

First and foremost, quantity does not equal quality.

It’s one thing to put out posts and share to social media, it’s another entirely to start seeing a positive ROI from that content creation.

The beauty of a quality content marketing campaign is it can generate revenue for your company. I have proof of that, but it took many months and strategy adjustments in order for me to show a return.

It’s easy to see why some companies can get discouraged.

Neil Patel has some great examples of ways companies have been creating bad content. He brings up some great points, and I’ll summarize a few below.

1. Writing in a Vacuum.

Neil calls out companies who rely solely on the marketing department for content creation. His point is companies expect the marketers to do all the writing and content creation, and then when they need to create things for topics they don’t understand, are left out to dry.

So with that in mind:

What good is the content you create without the ability to satisfy readers? What good is it if it doesn’t answer their questions fully?  Yes, quality content takes time and costs money, but if you’re providing low-quality content… well, what’s the point?

2. Winning the Audience Over

Russel Crowe Knows the Art of Crowd Pleasing

Russell Crowe Knows the Art of Crowd Pleasing

At the end of the day you need subscribers, conversions, whatever you created your blog for. In short:

  • Have A Goal
  • Make A Strategy
  • Stay Focused

You are putting time and energy (and probably money) into this program and expect it to provide results.

It will undoubtedly take time to see those results, so in the meantime you need to stay focused on your goal and use your content creation strategically to support you in that goal.

So what can you do to win over the audience?

Be helpful. Be authentic. Include comment sections and reply consistently to feedback. Create contests and give away free material to loyal subscribers. Ask your leads or customers about experiences they have had and to share them with you.

Coke does a great job of this without really pushing their product.

Look at the way  customer happiness is alluded to throughout the page. Notice the prompts and hashtag suggestions, none of which explicitly refer to Coca-Cola.

Coke has consumers generating content for them – and Coke gains brand awareness and trust in the process. You don’t have to do what Coke has done, but you do want to consider how your marketing efforts can be more customer-focused.

3. Lack of (Correct) Sharing

It should be clear to you that content promotion is every bit as important as content creation, if not more so. What you want to consider is whether you’re using the right social media.

What is the “right” social media exactly? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I know what has provided the biggest return for Bright Ideas so far, but that is constantly evolving.

I do know that promotion and content syndication on StumbleUpon has had almost no impact on my subscriber list, but Peep Laja had nearly 10,000 referral traffic from the site. So where does that leave us?

The right plan depends on your company. Again, Neil Patel has another great resource on social media sites for blogging.

As you get started, know that almost all sites benefit from using the following:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google +
  • LinkedIn

Otherwise, test and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s always a changing environment. Share what experiences have worked for you in the comments section below. I love to hear other people’s experience what’s working or not. Which brings me to my last point:

4. Not Measuring Your Results

All of these suggestions would be useless if you couldn’t tell whether or not they are working. A proper content strategy adjusts as you go. Find out where people are coming from and how they heard of your site.

For example:

  • Google Analytics provides some basic metrics for your to track where people are coming from and what media they used to find you.
  • Hootsuite is a social sharing tool we use to see what is being shared and where. It’s great way to gain insight on what people are saying about your blog or website after they visit.
  • Marketing Automation is a way for your company to track how your leads are behaving. You can then customize their experience by offering them relevant offers and products and by making points of what they do in your site. Infusionsoft is a powerful tool we use to monitor and automate our inbound marketing. If you need a way to manage your lead generation, please feel free to contact us.

The right analysis can provide ideas on how to grow your traffic and how to allocate your resources more effectively. Just throwing your content up and never stopping to see what sticks is not a sound strategy.

How You Can Create Quality Content

Creating great content starts with deciding who you are creating it for.

Next, you need to learn about their wants, needs, and desires. Once you understand your buyer persona, you are now ready to begin creating content for them.

Once you know what to write about, it’s time to get started.

When creating this content, be sure to reference other thought leaders. Mention them in your post. Link to them. Make them look good. In today’s world, this is one of the best ways to build a professional network – and when you help them, they will return the favor.

Future Projections

Ah, at last…

While I do not have much of a crystal ball,  I do have a couple of educated guesses on the changing landscape. In a nutshell: All signs are pointing up.

b2b content marketing

As you can see, the graph provided by KiSSmetrics shows 76% of Business to Business companies utilize blogging as part of their content marketing strategy and 87% use more than one content marketing technique.

Clearly there is a demand for these mediums and many companies are taking note.

As I mentioned earlier, a big reason for this is a shift in the buying process. People don’t like to be sold – but they do like to be informed.

I don’t see this trend reversing itself anytime soon. In fact, I see it accelerating.

As an example, consider Red Bull. The energy drink company has gone from promoting its product to becoming a full-fledged publisher. That’s crazy. Red Bull has been so good at creating content to drive interest in their brand that they have committed to massive undertakings in content creation.

They are creating amazing thrill-seeker videos and material which sometimes never even mentions the product they sell.

That's 36 Million People Who Could Potentially Know Your Brand

That’s 36 Million People Who Could Potentially Know Your Brand

Just take a look at the page Red Bull created for their space jump event. Red Bull could have plastered their log all over the video. Instead, they only put it in the places you’d expect. Judging from the 36 million views this video got, people didn’t mind the branding one bit.

Needless to say, it’s a promotional gold mine.

Some viral campaigns are informative, some are funny, some are thought provoking, but the point is they all do a great job of increasing awareness and promoting a product it for its benefits (tangible or otherwise).

I’m not suggesting you should buy a lucky rabbit’s foot and plan to make a viral video, I’m just noting the changes and the expectations customers have of companies.

Not everyone has the marketing budget to fund a space jump.

So what does the future look like for regular companies? Not everyone will have a huge viral success, but everyone can create content that the market will WANT to consume.

Here are some additional content marketing predictions from Jayson DeMers at Forbes, Shafqat Islam at Mashable, and Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing Institute:

  • Content Will Be Its Own Department and Have a CO at Most Major Companies- This idea is pretty universal throughout all the prediction articles. Content is becoming such an integral part of inbound marketing campaigns that most companies – especially medium to large-sized – will employ full-time staff to keep up with demand. This should promote better content and push competitors in all industries to do the same.
  • Marketing ROI Will Be More Monitored Than Ever Before- With the more resources spent on content creation, companies will shift from having a “just get it done” attitude towards Social Media and Content Marketing, to a more conversion rate measured system. This shift will likely see the rise of more and more SaaS start-ups designed to monitor content marketing effectiveness.
  • Better Content Management Systems Will Arise- With the likely creation of content marketing effectiveness software, we will probably see a better system for the management of content creation (interestingly enough, my own SaaS falls into this category). Expect to see platforms which allow users to limit log-ins, monitor multiple forms of content simultaneously, and have a much cleaner way of distributing their information.
  • Mobile Content Strategies Will Determine Successful Campaigns- In May 2013, 56% of adults reported owning a smartphone. That number is only increasing. If companies plan on staying relevant to their consumer base, they will provide content which is mobile compatible at nearly all levels.
  • Google+ Will Grow With The Increase in B2B Companies Using It- Google has not quite seen the adoption rates people expected with the introduction of their new social media platform, but with the amount of businesses using the service and its importance to Google Site Rankings and Authorship, people expect to see growth in this new media.
  • RedBull Will Create A Netflix Original Series- Ok, maybe not. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?

By the way, Joe Pulizzi provided great insights in his Bright Ideas interview as well.

Lessons Learned

If you’ve come this far, you should walk away from this with a clear understanding of why Content Marketing is important and how it can help your company.

This is what you should take away from this:

  • Traditional Marketing is Intrusive, so Customers are Blocking it Out
  • People Like Content Marketing Because it Gives Them a Choice
  • Companies Write Bad Content Often – Don’t Be One Of Them
  • Writing Good Content Means Research
  • The Future Is Bright for Content Marketing

Be proactive, not reactive. Learn more from people who do content marketing well. I never stop looking for ideas and Influencers who can shift my perception.

Additional Resources

Don’t Be Shy

I want to hear about YOUR experiences. This is the whole reason I write this blog, to share with you and find out how you use or don’t use my advice. I’m a sucker for personal success stories. Nothing confirms my content is worth a damn quite like people telling me how it affected them.

From my own experience, and from talking with others who do a great job of it, I have collected tons of proven content marketing strategies. If you’re looking for a detailed analysis on how to nail down your content marketing in the year ahead, you’ll want to grab a copy of this handbook.

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How to Know What To Write About: The Key to Successful Content Marketing

Eavesdropping

Are you looking for ways to achieve success with content marketing? Do you struggle to come up with ideas for things to write about? Would it be helpful to have a content marketing strategy?

For many new content creators, figuring out what to write about can be quite a challenge.

Content is key to loyal customers. Image source: 123rf.com

How do you find your content?
Image source: 123rf.com

There are several reasons for this.

First, they don’t really understand their audience and what their audience is interested in.

When you don’t know your audience, or you haven’t yet chosen an audience, knowing what problems they are trying to solve can be quite a challenge.

The second reason many new content creators have trouble figuring out what to write about is because they feel that everything they create has to be completely new.

This is a myth. The reality is that there is virtually nothing new. With millions of blogs on the Internet, everything has already been covered somewhere else!

The solution to the myth is quite simple. While it may be true that everything has already been covered, the truth is that is hasn’t been covered by YOU and, more than likely, YOUR audience hasn’t yet seen it anyway.

Blogging is Personal

Blogging is a very personal method of communication. Even if you are blogging on behalf of your company, YOU are still the writer that the reader is connecting with.

People don’t connect with brands, per se. People connect with people, and, in the case of blogging, it’s your opinion, your viewpoint, and your tutorials that your readers are interested in.

So, with that said, let’s dive into the many ways that you can discover what to write about.

Study What Is Already Popular

According to Neil Patel, founder of the popular blog, KissMetrics, one of the very best ways to discover what your audience is interested in is to study the other blogs in your niche. What you are looking for are posts that have received a lot of comments and social sharing.

Whenever you find a blog post that has generated this type of engagement, you have found a topic or an idea that your audience is very interested in.

Now you know this topic is of such great interest to your audience, all you need to do is to write an article that gives your opinion on the topic as well as to add some additional value. In fact, you may even want to cite the original article in the article that you are writing. If you do, just be a sure and link back to the original article.

The easiest way to do this is to use a wonderful tool that Neil has created. Here’s how you do it:

Come up with a list of 5 of your competitors, take their URLs and plug them into the Quick Sprout analyzer tool.

page-level-results

What the tool will show you is all of the popular blog posts that your competitors have created from a social media aspect. You can then take the list and sort it by a specific social channel to see what post titles people like the most.

You can then generate your own version of that blog post with your own twist, so that way you aren’t copying your competition blatantly.

This will help you create more content that gets more social traffic versus writing blog posts that don’t get shared.

Uncover Gold With Keyword Research

Uncover keyword gold. (image source: 123rf)

Uncover keyword gold.
(image source: 123rf)

Another very powerful way to discover what your audience is interested in is to perform some keyword research. There are many different keyword research tools to choose from. The paid ones are generally much better than the free ones. My favorite paid keyword research tool is called SECockpit.

If you would like to use a free tool, I recommend that you use Google words keyword tool.

When doing keyword research, look for words and phrases that are searched for a few thousand times per month. The way to find these keywords is to use your keyword tool and search with either exact match or phrase match, as doing so will give you a much more accurate idea of the number of times this keyword is actually searched for in a given month. I recommend that you stay away from doing broad match searches because they will give you a highly inflated number.

Switching between exact match and phrase match is as simple as choosing a check mark in the tool when performing your search.

The other thing that you will find very helpful in the keyword tool is that when you enter your original keyword, called the seed key word, the tool will provide a long list of related keywords. When you see this list of related keywords, you will undoubtedly discover all sorts of additional ideas.

What you are looking for are keywords that are searched for enough times to make writing content that addresses them worthwhile.

For example, one of the past guests on my podcast is a guy named Marcus Sheridan. Marcus is the founder of a company by the name of River Pools and Spas. Prior to the economic meltdown in 2008, Marcus company was spending about $200,000 per year on advertising. After the economic meltdown, he could no longer afford to keep spending this much.

Instead, Marcus decided to perform keyword research so that he could compile a list of all the questions that someone would ask prior to buying a fiberglass pool. He then decided to create blog posts to answer every single one of those questions.

By continually creating highly quality, relevant content that addressed the questions potential buyers were asking, Marcus’ site became increasingly popular. As more and more content was added to the blog, Google rewarded the site by pushing it higher in the search rankings.

This is what we refer to as long tail SEO, and over time, taking this approach to content creation can create a very sustainable competitive advantage for you, just as it has for River Pools and Spas.

Eavesdrop With Social Listening

Listen to your customers! (image source: 123rf.com)

Listen to your customers!
(image source: 123rf.com)

Social listening is another very effective way to uncover ideas for things to write about. The way to do this is to use social networks to listen in on the conversation your target audience is already having.

There are several ways to accomplish this.

With Twitter, you can easily perform a search by going to search.twitter.com. When you are there, you will find all sorts of search criteria.

For example, suppose you had a blog that taught people how to manage their finances. If you wanted to write a post about how to save for college, you go to twitter and search for the phrase “how to save for college”. When you perform the search you will find a list of people who are talking about this topic.

Now that you have this list of people, you could save the search and pay attention to what they’re talking about on ongoing basis. Or, you can visit some of the websites owned by the people who are participating in this conversation. Or you could reach out to anyone on this list and ask them directly what they are interested in learning more about.

LinkedIn is another very popular social network for business people. On LinkedIn there are literally thousands of groups, each devoted to a very specific topic. By joining these groups and paying attention to the conversation that is happening within them, you will gain significant insight into what is of interest to the members of that group.

As with Twitter, it is very easy to reach out to the individuals in the group or simply just pay attention to the conversation and the questions that are being asked. Either way, you are bound to learn a great deal about what your target audience is interested in.

Get Instant Feedback Using Surveys

Once you start to build a mailing list, using surveys can be a very powerful way to discover what your audience is most interested in.

The way that I suggest you do this is to head over to surveymonkey.com and create a free account. Once you have your account, creating surveys is exceedingly easy to do.

When creating your first survey, I suggest you restrict the length to a number of questions that can be answered in less than a minute, as going longer will greatly decrease the number of people who will take the time to complete your survey.

With your survey ready to go, all you need to do this is send an email out to your list asking them to take the survey. When doing so, it’s generally a good idea to offer your audience some additional incentive to complete the survey for you.

In my case, I will generally offer each of the people that complete my survey a copy of the results of the survey. If you have a decent relationship with your list, this is often sufficient incentive to get them to spend a minute to complete the survey.

Teach What You Know

Teaching others what you know is an incredibly powerful way to become known. (image source: 123rf.com)

Teaching others what you know is an incredibly powerful way to become known.
(image source: 123rf.com)

Regardless of which method you use to connect with and listen to your audience, the most important thing to think about when creating content is to create content that solves people’s problems. What does your audience want most? What is the number one thing that they struggle with? What have you learned lately that you can teach by way of a blog post to your audience?

In his book Authority, my friend Nathan Barry talks extensively about how to use writing to create authority for yourself. Regardless of your background, skills, and experience, the one thing that is certain is that you are learning new things every single day.

According to Nathan (and many others), the way to create authority is to teach everything you learn by writing about what you’re learning on your blog. To illustrate this point, think about the people that are well-known in your industry.

Who are they? Are they the most talented? Sometimes, but often not.

The reason they are so well-known is not because they are the most talented. Instead it is because they teach. Each time they learn something, they share it with others.

In any industry, the people that are most well-known are the people who teach. They write books, they create tutorials, they publish videos on YouTube, and they write posts on their blogs.

These people aren’t necessarily the most talented, but because they take the time to share everything they learn, their audience loves them for it – and as a result, they gain authority.

There is one last point to consider about teaching. The best way to become an expert in anything, is to write about it and teach it to others – just as I’m doing in this post.

Want to learn more about content marketing? Download a free chapter from my Digital Marketing Handbook.

What other ways can you think of to discover what to write about?

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Vitaly Golomb on How to Raise Funding for Your Startup

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VITALY 4IN X 6IN X 300DPI X FC

vitaly-golomb_0

Someone people say said is print is dead…

Apparently, Vitaly Golomb didn’t hear them.

Vitaly has been a part of one of the greatest moves towards this industry’s revival in the past decade. Find out how he lead the charge to create an InterTech Technology Award-Winning start-up (with other winners including Photoshop in 1991) and change the face of the print business. His thoughts on entrepreneurship and product creation are worth a listen.

Listen now and you’ll hear Vitaly and I talk about:

  • (02:30) Introductions
  • (03:30) How to choose a fundable idea?
  • (05:00) Can you go from a landing page and pre-orders to funding?
  • (13:00) Can you be a founder and be a developer?
  • (15:30) Can you give an example of success?
  • (17:40) What are the 4 paradigms of design?
  • (20:30) What is capital efficiency?
  • (21:30) What are the biggest mistakes you see founders making today?
  • (24:30) How does a lifestyle business differ from a venture-backed business?
  • (27:00) Is the venture-backed path better that a lifestyle business?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Click to Tweet: Vitaly Golomb on How to Raise Funding for Your Startup

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

 

About Vitaly Golomb

VitalyGolomb3Vitaly is the Founder and CEO of Keen Systems, a leading ecommerce platform in the $640B printing industry and the Executive Producer of Europe Venture Summit, a major conference for the CEE startup ecosystem.
Vitaly is an award-winning designer and startup veteran since the age of 13. He is an Advisor and Mentor at 500 Startups, Board Member at Happy Farm Incubator (Ukraine), and Mentor at Innovation Nest (Poland) and TechPeaks (Italy). Additionally, Vitaly is a frequent conference speaker, business school guest lecturer, and tweeter (@vitalyg) on design and startups.

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs

January 2014 Traffic Report

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Jan14TrafficReport

Jan14TrafficReportWelcome to my January Traffic Report. To see December’s report, click here.

As traffic generation is a challenge faced by every entrepreneur, at Bright Ideas we’ve made a habit of publishing our traffic reports as a means of giving insight into how we are doing, what is working, and what isn’t. Plus, writing the report forces me to look! If you think this is helpful, please be sure and share this post.

This month, we decided to revamp the traffic report a bit in order to answer the questions we most hope to have answered each month.

When you are doing your own analysis, be sure you start with your own list. Here’s ours:

  1. Is overall traffic up or down, and why?
  2. Are overall subscribers up or down, and why?
  3. Which traffic/referral sources are contributing the most to traffic and subscribers?
  4. How can we adjust our strategy to increase traffic and subscribers?

Here’s what I found…

Traffic

Jan2014MoOverMoTraffic

As you can see, our traffic was down significantly in January as compared with December, and was more in line with traffic levels from November. An analysis of traffic sources showed that traffic was down overall from almost all sources except those like Google organic.

The main difference is due to a large spike in traffic near December 10, which coincided with the launch of my book. This makes sense, as we did significant additional promotion at this time.

The book promotion led to a lot of new visitors, many of who may not have been very engaged with Bright Ideas. So this also helps explain why the average visit duration was 23.71% higher in January – those who were visiting the site were more engaged.

Conclusion #1: Overall traffic was down since we didn’t run a major promotion in January.

Subscribers

Jan2014MoOverMoConversions

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the conversions overview in Google Analytics does not seem accurate to me. I have found other sources online that show that while you can trust Google Analytics on data such as visits and pageviews, you can’t rely on their reports for revenues, transactions, goal conversions, or conversion rates.

I’ve come to accept that the Analytics report on conversions is something I can use for a loose metric, but I use my more reliable Infusionsoft data to make real decisions.

The main things I was able to determine from the Conversions report: conversions (opt-ins) were down in January, which makes sense since traffic was also down (again, mainly due to the spike in traffic due to promotion of the Digital Marketing Handbook).

Unfortunately, my Infusionsoft analysis also showed subscribers were down overall even based on November 2013 metrics. Upon further analysis, here’s what I determined about the lower subscriber numbers:

  • We used to add subscribers to Bright Ideas if they also opted in through another of my sites, however most of these folks were not entirely well suited for Bright Ideas. Halfway through November, we stopped adding them to our count for Bright Ideas subscribers. This resulted in a significant drop in subscriber numbers (see the December traffic report for details).
  • In December, this drop was not as noticeable because we had so many new subscribers due to the book promotion.

Conclusion #2: Overall subscribers were down since we didn’t run a major promotion in January.

Referral Sources

I already began to discuss referral sources in the Subscribers section above, but mostly in regards to what I’d seen in Infusionsoft. Here’s where Google Analytics showed my traffic coming from:

Jan2014TrafficSources

Once again, the largest portion of my traffic is from people typing in the URL directly, followed by our emails to our list and then Twitter.

For people who are typing in the URL directly, I can only guess that those people are doing so in roughly the same proportion as the referral traffic whose sources we CAN see. For instance, many of them may already be subscribers, and others will be from Twitter.

When I compared lead sources for new subscribers in Infusionsoft, the only place that I noticed a decline (besides that which we’d attribute to traffic overall being down) was that we had fewer subscribers from a handful of well-aligned partners who helped promote the book to their very engaged lists – specifically, Nathan Barry and Michael Gass.

The other thing I noticed was that the numbers directly from Google were down somewhat. In fact, per Infusionsoft, the number of new subscribers who initially found Bright Ideas from Google search have been trending steadily downwards since August or September.

However, per Google Analytics, our organic traffic has almost doubled since this time. I can only assume this is due to Google providing less data, and that it may have something to do with Google’s Hummingbird update of August 20, 2013.

Google search has not been a major source of traffic for Bright Ideas, because I’ve put little to no effort into SEO up to this point. Still, it makes sense to optimize what we’re doing for the best search results, and we’re in the process of reworking our posting strategy to take this into account (stay tuned for more on this in a future post, and see the link below in the resources section).

We have done substantial work on content promotion since last fall, particularly since October when we hired a full time VA who does a lot of content promotion for us.

When I analyzed the sources that were giving us measurable results, I found them to be:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Google organic

And to a lesser extent:

  • Pinterest
  • Quora
  • Google+
  • Business2Community
  • Reddit
  • Just Retweet
  • Technorati
  • YouTube
  • Stumble Upon

Sources that are giving us little/no results (and what we’re going to do about it):

  • Digg (change how we’re doing this, or quit doing it)
  • Medium (we’ll continue posting here, since for certain phrases our posts in medium rank on the first page in Google search results)

Other items to note:

  • Disqus has been a source of traffic and subscribers. I didn’t enter them above, since the traffic didn’t originally come from Disqus; it’s the plugin we use to manage comments. But it makes sense that subscribers would come from here, since people who comment will usually return to the site when we reply to their comments, and at this point may be engaged enough to subscribe. The number of new subscribers from Disqus has substantially increased since we began offering an incentive in the form of a comment contest for each post (check out the information on that at the end of this post).

Conclusion #3: Our major sources of traffic (and conversions) are the major social sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook). We are getting some traffic from other sites, but as expected it’s less. Our conversions are significantly higher when we get ‘warm’ traffic from well-aligned partners helping with promotion.

Lessons Learned

It pays to take some time to periodically look at what’s working and what’s not, so that you can adjust your strategy. We will continue monthly traffic reports.

Give people a reason to come to your site, then give them a reason to continue to engage with you. Having great content is one thing, but they’re more likely to return and to be engaged if you have a way to follow up with them (this is where great landing pages and lead magnets come in).

Conclusion #4: If you really want to increase traffic, run a major promotion. Just be sure to give people a reason to maintain contact with you if they’d like, so that your traffic spike turns into leads.

Other Metrics

In addition to looking at traffic and subscribers on a monthly basis, you want to be sure you’re periodically looking at your pages viewed, landing page conversions, and SEO acquisition reports. We’ll cover these in detail in a future traffic report.

Summary

  • Our traffic and conversions were down in January, mostly because we didn’t run a big campaign like we did in December.
  • Traffic was not down significantly based on historical data for months we didn’t run major promotions.
  • There are adjustments we can continue to make to increase traffic and conversions.

Additional Resources

What Do You Think?

If you have anything you’d like to share or ask, please take a moment to do so in the comments section below. You will get a response.

In particular, I’m curious: What other questions would you like to have answered when looking at the traffic report for your own site?

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How To Use Reddit To Grow Your Business: A Digital Marketing Strategy to Make This Popular Site Work for You

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How-to-Use-Reddit-to-Grow-Your-Business

Amber Schultz started posting content to Reddit and saw an increase of nearly 1,500 new visitors to her blog in 10 hours. Chris Morrison added a media analysis of Game of Thrones to the site and saw that 62% of his new traffic was from Reddit alone. This is a powerful online community and could drastically change the number of new people who visit your website.

Here are my ideas on how using a social media site like Reddit can help facilitate growth in your business.

“A social media site?” you ask. “I already use social media sites for my business” you say. “How is this any different?” you might wonder. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.

I suppose the best way to begin is to explain what Reddit actually is.

Reddit For The Uninitiated

If you have a few minutes, check out this funny and informative video explaining what Reddit is.

The site itself is actually a conglomerate of many sites and ideas called “subreddits”. Essentially, a person gets interested in a particular topic and wants to find discussions on it, so they browse the site. Want to discuss the absence of Oscars on Leonardo DiCaprio’s nightstand? Head on over to “/r/movies” and throw in a post. Need to keep up-to-date on world events? Click “/r/worldnews” and learn about everything from the rising unemployment numbers in Spain to relief-funding efforts for typhoon affected countries.

I think you are starting to get the idea. You can find just about anything on Reddit… including a subreddit devoted entirely to pictures of Joesph-Gordon Levitt’s head on giraffes.

And you thought I was joking

and you thought I was joking

Here are some numbers on Reddit traffic:

*12,000 subreddits with at least 100 followers
*15M unique pageviews per month
*8,000 page subscriptions per day

This is a huge number of people with a wide array of ideas and needs, from all over the world.

So What’s So Good About It?

Perhaps the most important feature is the selectivity of the impressions you gain.

This site automatically segments your market and connects you with like-minded individuals. This isn’t the shock-and-awe blitzkrieg that you might see from billboard or TV ads, looking to get the attention of any onlooker. This is a targeted social media presence, a completely different offering than Facebook or Twitter.

This site is also insanely interactive. Users are always submitting ideas and engaging in detailed discussions about their topics of choice. This allows you to discuss ideas and strategies, get a general public opinion on your idea, and see other peoples efforts and what it took to get to where they are.

Click to Tweet:   How To Use Reddit To Grow Your Business

What You Should Check Out

Now to get started.

Sign-up is free, solicits no emails or spam, and is completely anonymous (if you choose to be). Just register and begin submitting links or reading material by other users.

But what should you check out?

There are already a great number subreddits to choose from. Try checking out /r/business to get macro-level analysis on current market trends and landscapes.

Head on over to /r/entrepreneur to see what over 66,000 new business owners are already excited about.

Want to get a more specific experience? See what other options the site offers. Starting a new brewery and need ideas on how to sell to taps in your market? Subscribe to /r/craftbeer and speak with other enthusiasts. Whatever you choose, you make your own experience.

Here are suggestions on subreddits to get familiar with:

  • /r/business – An overall community perspective on the business landscape
  • /r/entrepreneur – A community of self-starters discussing ideas on their projectsreddit
  • /r/startups – Primarily focused on start-up companies and is full of suggestions and questions
  • /r/smallbusiness – Small business owners and enthusiasts
  • /r/growmybusiness – Small business focused, tools for developing leads

And a list of popular subreddits you can utilize (and are fun to read):

  • /r/todayilearned – Fact sharing subreddit, post trends or analyses here to generate buzz on your research
  • /r/iama – (Ask Me Anything) this is a great subreddit for information as well as a chance to talk with the community about what you are doing in your business.
  • /r/askreddit – Post a question and see how the community feels about it

The former list are not necessarily business focused, but you can utilize their hive-mind thinking to gather feedback and suggestions (after a few visits, you’ll know why I chose to use the term “hive-mind”).

Kick Starter Campaigns

Perhaps the most significant tangible  effect a crowd sourcing site like Reddit offers is the ability to generate funds.

You probably have heard of Kickstarter, an online market for a large number of users to submit funds to the development of a new business. It’s a great tool for up-and-coming businesses to generate missing funds to get their ideas on track.

Reddit can be a supplementary tool for businesses looking to get off the ground. Used with loans, local business grants, and other avenues, this can be a great way to finalize the financials on your project.

Jasco Games, a board game company looking to finalize their project, raised over $400,000 for their Kick Starter through a combination of social media buzz and investor activity. Much of that influence came from the Reddit community themselves.

The benefit of Reddit is that it can generate buzz for your idea and allow users to discuss the merits of your endeavor. It’s one thing to get a dollar from a random stranger, it’s another to get a dollar and a suggestion.

/r/kickstarter allows users to discuss their opinions on the submissions, to support the efforts towards their particular choice, and to offer feedback on the ideas themselves. Many people post their favorite campaigns as a way to generate more interest. If you’re already utilizing crowdfunding, having an extra forum to generate interest is invaluable.

Touch Point

Start-ups aren’t the only ones who can benefit from an enhanced social media presence. Reddit is another opportunity for people to connect with your company.

Social Media has taken on a sort of necessity for businesses. The absence of a social media presence draws a red flag for users. Connectivity is validation.

As I mentioned earlier, people have used Reddit to gather more interest in their blogs or podcasts, and in effect, more interest in their companies. Amy Schultz, blogger for MythBustingMommy, posts to parenting subreddits and has gotten the interest of thousands of new parents. If you have something to offer the community, they will give you their attention.

But let me be clear: Reddit is not a “golden ticket” to lead generation. The forums on Reddit can be difficult to make headway in, not everything is seen by the people who want to see it, and you may not get completely positive feedback. Matthew Schmoldt makes a good point of this in his blog on SocialMedia Today.

The main take-away is that this is another opportunity to create a touch point for potential clients from a site that has a number of people already congregating and interested in specific topics. Your job is to engage that audience.

Tips For Successful Posting

While Reddit can be a powerful tool to generate interest in your brand, it can be just as powerful at blocking you if you are not careful. Spamming is not permitted and redditpoststhe moderators are quite good at identifying spam and restricting your access if you do things they consider spammy. Here are some guidelines to follow to prevent that from happening:

  • Choose a catchy title-  This should go without saying, but you are limited to a small band of text to hook in readers. If you wouldn’t click it, they won’t click it.

  • Post to the proper subreddit- As discussed earlier, finding the right platform is as important as finding the right words. Choose from the suggestions above or go searching and find your own niche.
  • Post material other than your own- Posting from the same URL repeatedly draws red flags. This is an information sharing site, not necessarily an advertising site. Share posts from other blogs you find interesting, facts you would like to share, the works. The wider the variety, the more interest you gain for your future posts.
  • Do a little bit of everything- When you do want to share your stuff to the world, put some work into it. These are people you’re talking to, and if a person would think you are submitting boring information, Reddit will also. Make podcasts, do a funny blog, share infographics on interesting market trends, just make sure it is engaging. Really sell it. Make comments on similar threads, do an Ask Me Anything and answer questions from strangers.
  • LEARN- Don’t go in with a blind eye. See what has been done and what the community responds to. Chances are, you might pick up a thing or two in the process.

Matt Silverman makes some strong points in the success of your points as well, so don’t forget to read through his guidelines.

You can also advertise straight to the site. You can buy spots that are displayed throughout the whole site or direct them to specific subreddits. The sheer volume of  traffic makes Reddit an appealing opportunity if you just need clicks and are willing to pay for them.

Common Mistakes, and Tips to Make Reddit Work Better For You

Reddit is like any other interactive online medium: it requires work.

Just like Twitter feeds and Facebook updates, you have to keep working on engaging customers. If you want your content to be viewed and reviewed, you have to submit it.

Be careful to follow the rules and requirements. Each subreddit has its own set of rules, and all are against spamming. If you fail to adhere the site will bury you, and they are remarkably good at stopping what they deem spam.

Understand what this site offers most is education. Reddit is first and foremost an information sharing site, so use it as such.

The security of anonymity leads to detailed and open interactions. Discussions between users are one true benefit of the site.

The collective experience of like-minded individuals is an invaluable tool for entrepreneurs. Reddit is another way of getting to that information… as long as you can sort through the cat pictures.

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How Bernard Yoo Turned a Failed Startup Into a 7 Figure Success

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BENARD 4IN X 6 IN X 300DPI X FC

bernie-yoo_1

For some, the idea of a personal stylist may seem like a whimsical dream for movie stars or millionaires. Still, it was something they would like to have, if only it weren’t so expensive.

Bernard Yoo saw an opportunity to cater to this market and launched his company with just a small amount of capital and a great idea. Learn how he made headway in the start-up phase and got accepted into the elite 500 start-ups. From identifying his clientele to learning from failure, Bernard shares how he grew his company and the successes he expects in the future.

Listen now and you’ll hear Bernard and I talk about:

  • (02:20) Introductions
  • (04:20) How they launched with just 15k
  • (05:40) An overview of his background
  • (09:45) How they learned about their customer
  • (11:40) How their first failure led to the Bombfell idea
  • (16:20) What they did after proof of concept was complete
  • (19:00) What happened between public beta and getting accepted in 500 Startups
  • (21:00) How they calculated lifetime customer value early on
  • (25:00) How they got into 500 Startups
  • (28:00) How life changed once the investor money started to come in
  • (30.11) The activities that caused the most growth
  • (31:40) How they were able to get free press
  • (35:40) How they employed discount programs with other tech companies
  • (39:00) An overview of how they are using paid traffic to drive customer acquisition
  • (40:30) What his life is like 2 years into a successful startup
  • (44:00) What are the downside(s) of raising investor money

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Click to Tweet: How Bernard Yoo Turned a Failed Startup Into a 7 Figure Success

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

 

About Bernard Yoo

Bernard Yoo Bernie Yoo is co-founder of the personalized men’s clothing retailer Bombfell. Bombfell sends men regular shipments of clothes picked just for their size and style by a personal stylist, and has been featured in TIME Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Life & Style Magazine, Forbes, WWD, AskMen and TechCrunch.

Prior to Bombfell, Bernie headed business development for AddictingGames.com and Shockwave.com, worked on the strategy team at MTV Networks / Nickelodeon and mined the investment banking coal mines at Morgan Stanley.

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs