Are you struggling to attract clients? Have you heard about Content Marketing, but aren’t yet sure what it is, or how to implement it? Would you like to be able to stop spending money chasing prospects and asking them to do business with you?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the questions, then this post is for you.
Old vs New
Back in 2001 when I started Dyrand, the business landscape was radically different than it was today. Building a website wasn’t easy, there was no social media, and email marketing was barely getting started.
There were virtually no SaaS companies, I’d never heard of anyone hiring a VA in the Philippines and startups still required substantial funding to get off the ground.
By 2007, when cold calling stopped working for me, social media had taken off in a big way. So had WordPress and email marketing. Plus, mobile was also starting to gain in popularity as well.
What did all this mean? It meant that getting people’s attention was becoming increasingly difficult, and as a result, traditional outbound marketing was starting to lose its effectiveness.
Fast forward to 2013 and, for traditional outbound marketers, things have become even more difficult.
Potential Buyers Are Now Invisible
Now, potential buyers remain invisible and nearly impossible to reach until they want to be found. I say they are invisible because, prior to contacting you, they are stealthily performing all sorts of research using Google, review websites, and social media. You cannot reach them at any point during this phase, unless of course they happen to find your blog or one of your social profiles along the way.
What does this mean for marketers?
Content is Now Your Most Valuable Asset
It means that content has become your most important asset. Blog posts, videos on Youtube, white papers, free reports, podcasts, et al are now the way that you are going to attract your prospects so that they find and connect with you.
Put simply, the company in niche X that creates the most content is going to become the dominant player in that market.
Why? Simple. People are using Google to search for answers to their questions, and if you create a lot of high quality content, people will share it on their social profiles, and each time they do, Google is going to bump your content up just a little higher in the search results; each time you rise in the search results, you get more traffic, more shares, and better rankings. They cycle simply repeats itself.
Or, you can just keep making those cold calls and annoying the heck out of people.
Outbound vs Inbound
To really drive this point home, let’s use an example with two marketing agencies looking to attract new clients. The first agency still has a team of salespeople who are charged with finding new clients. They are cold calling and attending local networking events. For simplicity, we’ll call this firm Outbound Marketing.
The other firm, is called Inbound Marketing, and unlike Outbound, they do not have a dedicated outside/outbound sales team. Instead, they have chosen to use the massive amount of money that they’ve saved by not having this team to create compelling content that will answer all their potential buyer’s questions, as well as to publicly display their work with clients…which, of course, positions them as experts in their field.
As you might guess, Inbound Marketing is getting much better results than the other firm. This is because they are getting plenty of traffic to their blog, many of those visitors are becoming subscribers, and those subscribers are finding their way through Inbound Marketing’s well-crafted sales funnel.
Their funnel allows their prospects to segment themselves based upon what they are interested in and what phase of the buying cycle they are in. This is pretty easy to do because Inbound is using powerful marketing automation software.
This process is working so incredibly well, in fact, that Inbound Marketing doesn’t ever call their prospects. Instead, their prospects actually call Inbound once they have consumed enough content to actually be pre-sold on working with Inbound Marketing.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like it would be a pretty nice place to work.
Real Life Example of Success
Oh, and in case you are thinking this is a pipe dream, the day before writing this, I interviewed the Toby Jenkins, the co-founder of Blue Wire Media in Australia and this is exactly how they get new clients.
Toby told me that they never call prospects. Instead, they have put all their effort into creating content (blog posts, free reports, templates, videos, etc…) that attracts people to their company’s website. As each prospect is continually exposed to their message via their marketing funnel, the ones that are a good fit inevitably make contact with Toby’s firm, and when they do, they are ready to do business.
If you aren’t yet a subscriber and don’t want to miss Toby’s upcoming interview, be sure and become a subscriber today.
Another terrific example of success is my friend Dan Norris. Dan is the founder of Informly and WP Curve. In 2013, after just 5 months of blogging, Dan was voted Australia’s top small business blogger by the readers of Australia’s largest small business magazine.
Of the many bloggers that I know, Dan creates some of the very best content that I have ever seen, and that is one of the reasons why WP Curve has become so popular so quickly. Like Toby above, Dan isn’t out there making calls to find clients. Instead, he’s using content to ensure that the people in his target market find him on the web.
To listen to an interview I did with Dan Norris, click here. In this interview, at about the 18 minute mark, Dan shares his strategy for creating blog posts that has been extremely successful in terms of attracting a new audience to his site.
One of the ideas that he shared was to reach out to a large number of influencers when he wrote his guide to podcasting. In this case, the influencers were all podcasters and when he emailed 50 of them, all he asked them to do was to leave their comment on what they thought of the post…and in doing so, each one of them was able to get a link back to their own site. In our interview, Dan gave additional details on this and told me that it worked amazingly well in terms of driving new traffic to his blog; much of which he was able to convert into subscribers.
Peep is the face of ConversionXL. His unusual name (to most people) is actually pronounced ‘Pep Laya’. Peep is an entrepreneur and a conversion optimization junkie. He runs a unique conversion optimization marketing agency called Markitekt (they make existing sites better and build new conversion optimized websites).
When Peep first set up his blog ConversionXL, Peep wanted to attract as much traffic as he could in his first 30 days. To say he was successful is an understatement. In his first 30 days, Peep’s blog got 50,000 visitors – and, most impressively, he did this without the help of a mailing list or any affiliate partners.
In my interview with Peep, I asked him to explain to me how he was able to get so much traffic in so little time and here’s what he told me…
Peep: So I did a lot of research on what kind of blog posts take off, what kind of blog posts get most shares on social media. What kind of blog posts get the most links, that are linked to the most and so on. So basically my research came back with the conclusion that A. you need to write really really long posts. The sweet spot is between 2,200 and 3,000 words. So that’s way longer than most blog posts. So it also means that they have to be very thorough and so on. Second thing, they need to have mixed media. Coz if it’s just only plain text it’s boring. Nobody’s gonna read 3,000 words of boring text so you know, add videos, images, nice sub headlines, bullet points and so on. So basically focus on readability. Second, write how to posts or write posts that people are gonna find interesting that they could apply to their business or life or whatever, something that they didn’t know.
So armed with that plan I also knew that I need distribution. I need distribution coz even if I’m gonna publish this as posting the world nobody’s gonna know coz nobody’s reading my blog. So I was hanging out in different communities and since I’m a start up entrepreneur as well hacker news is what I’ve decided to read often everyday. So I tailored my first post specifically to the audience of hacker news with the intention that that audience will love it.
So I started off with a post on pricing and one post on persuasion, how to get people to do stuff. And I wrote a really really detailed post and I think I wrote, I worked like 3-4 days on my first post. And submitted them to hacker news. I had a few of my friends on calls so when I submitted them they quickly started to vote. I think they had 4-5 people there so it would get the initial bump so people would start checking it out. And then content has to carry the weight. So the posts were good, took off and the rest is history. So I repeated it. Wrote many good long posts, focused on distribution channels and got over 50,000 in the first month.
If you’d like to listen to the entire interview, click here.
How To Do It The Wrong Way
In stark contrast to this, the other firm, Outbound Marketing, is dealing with a completely different set of challenges.
Instead of spending all their time creating and promoting valuable content that will attract their target market, they are spending significant amounts of time and energy trying to attract, train, and retain an (expensive) outbound sales force.
Because the primary method of reaching new prospects for their sales force is cold calling, which none of the sales reps enjoy, their success rate is very low and their staff turnover is very high.
On the few occasions when one of their sales reps does manage to get through to the potential prospect, significant time needs to be invested long before the sale is ever made.
First, the sales rep has to get in their car to drive out and see the prospect, conduct the interview, and then return to the office to write the dreaded proposal. As this prospect was the recipient of a cold call, the truth is that they’re not actually terribly interested in doing business with Outbound Marketing, and rather than be direct with the sales rep and tell them they are not interested, the prospect instead just goes along with the conversation and asks the sales rep to draw them up a proposal.
For anyone who has ever written a proposal, you already know that this is a massive time suck, and unless you have done an unbelievably good job of qualifying your prospect, the chances of success are relatively low.
As you can imagine, all the time and energy and expense that is involved in attracting, training, and retaining the team of outbound sales reps that make cold calls and drive to see prospects and write proposals, is significant, to say the least.
In today’s landscape, all that time and energy will yield far better results if it is directed towards creating and promoting high quality content that actually helps people get answers to the questions they have.
As I’ve just described above, outbound marketing, consisting of cold calls, advertising, and direct mail is not nearly as effective as it once was. So if outbound is all you are doing now, you are going to need to begin a transition to inbound marketing, combined with marketing automation as quickly as possible.
How To Do It The Right Way
So, what does this look like? Is there a framework for this new way of attracting clients?
Thankfully, there is, and it’s called Lifecycle Marketing.
As the name suggests, Lifecycle Marketing is marketing that follows the lifecycle of a prospect – right from the very start, when they are still invisible to you, all the way through to when they are a happy customer who’s now referring other customers to you.
The reason that Lifecycle Marketing works so well is because it gives people what they want, when they want it; it leverages content marketing; it eliminates the need to cold call; and it relies on a framework that matches human buying psychology.
Let’s give you an overview of each step…
Step 1: Attract Interest
In the world of outbound marketers, attracting interest generally means interrupting someone from what they are interested in, to share your message in the hopes that your headline will grab enough of their attention to get them to read some of your sales copy.
While this is not completely ineffective, it’s not nearly as effective as stopping trying to interrupt them from what they are interested in and using your content to become what they are interested in.
See the difference?
The way to attract interest is with high quality content and in my upcoming book, I’m going to walk you, step by step, through specifics and give you examples of success.
For now, let me say that the way that you should be attracting interest is to focus on the problems that your target customers are trying to solve, and then create content (blog posts, free reports, podcasts, videos, etc…) that helps them to find a solution to their problems. In my interview with Marcus Sheridan, we dive pretty deeply into this topic, so if you don’t want to wait for the book to be released, go have a listen right now.
Step 2: Capture Leads
Once you have succeed in attracting someone’s interest by placing content in a place where they will find it, the next thing you need to do is to capture their contact information; which, in most cases, is their email address.
This is what we’ll call lead capture at the top of the funnel. You may get plenty more information from them later on, but for now, we just want their first name and email.
There are plenty of ways to do this. I have tested many, and the many guests I’ve had on my show have tested even more. Based upon their results and my own, some kind of free report tends to work the best. To see some of the lead capture strategies that are working well today, read this post.
Step 3: Nurture Prospects
As the name suggests, the goal here is to build a relationship with your prospect, as well as to allow them to choose the types (and frequency) of content that they receive from you.
When you get nurturing right, you will see results like that of Iron Tribe Fitness. Their nurturing is so good that 98% of people that come in for an in-person consultation end up becoming a client.
Remember one thing, however; just because someone has given you their email address (small amount of trust) does not give you the right to spam the hell out of them!
In fact, all it takes is one irrelevant email and the small amount of trust that you have earned will quickly be eroded. This is why it’s absolutely critical that you set expectations early on as well as give them a way to ‘self-segment’ themselves in your database.
The “magic” that allows all this to happen without any manual labor on your part is marketing automation software. Here on my blog, there are plenty of interviews with people who are achieving amazing results.
In my upcoming book, I will be giving you even more detailed examples of how I and my many guests are achieving success with our marketing automation tactics and strategies.
For now, I’ll leave you with this: how well you nurture your prospects is very likely the single most important factor in whether or not those prospects ever become customers.
Step 4: Convert Sales
In the old days, converting sales was where the real talent was required. Those days are over.
Today, as I’ve just pointed out, the nurturing you do prior to the sale is really where all the skills are needed. Get the nurturing right, and the sale is the natural conclusion to that conversation.
To illustrate this point, I’ll give you just one quick example now. At Bright Ideas, we have a mastermind group for marketing agencies and consultants and the only way people ever find out about it is via our blog, marketing funnel, and our podcast. We don’t spent 10 cents to advertise it, and we definitely aren’t making cold calls to solicit new members.
Given that these people have already consumed a fair amount of our content before they ever visit the sales page, the level of trust is fairly high. Once they read the sales page, they see that part of the process of becoming a member is to book a 15 minute call with me, during which time we’ll have a conversation to determine if there is a good fit.
When I do these calls, I generally start off by getting them to sell me on why they want to be a part of the group. The first question out of my mouth is always, “So why do you want to join?”
Next, I ask them some more qualifying questions to ensure that their participation would actually benefit the other members, and if there is a mutual fit I send them a URL to make the payment.
On each call, I simply assume that they’ve already decided to join, and, I’m happy to report that 80% of these calls result in the caller becoming a new member of the group (assuming there is a good mutual fit, that is).
Voila, that’s it. Oh, and by the way, these calls generally take less than 10 minutes.
Now, let me ask you this: how much success do you think I would have if I was cold calling marketing agencies to try and convince them to join my mastermind? Let’s go with….um….how about ZERO.
Why? The recipients of my call wouldn’t know who I was, they wouldn’t trust me, and they would most likely be wondering if the group was so good, why the hell was I making cold calls to attract new members?
My point is this: the sale happened with very little “closing ability” because my prospects were already 99% of the way to the finish line before they ever booked the call with me.
Step 5: Deliver and Satisfy
This is another area where automation can play a massive role. The reason for this is, if you are in a service business, how efficiently (or not) you delivery your services is going to have a massive difference on your profit margin, not to mention your client’s level of satisfaction – which will ultimately affect how many referrals they send you.
Creating a scalable service delivery system relies heavily on having well defined systems, supported by automation and checklists. The niche(s) you pick (or don’t pick) will also have a huge impact on how efficient you are going to be able to be when it comes to service delivery.
If you’d like to discover exactly how Blue Chip Athletic has done so well with automation in this area, I strongly suggest you listen to my interview with them.
Step 6: Upsell Customers
Once you have a new customer, the fastest way to increase profits is to get them to buy more from you. In fact, the very best time to sell someone another product or service is right at the time when they are buying the first product or service.
For example, suppose you go into a men’s clothing store to buy a suit. Do you walk out with just the suit? Of course not. Why? Because, while you are trying on the suit, they are also showing you shirts, belts, and ties that will look very good with your new suit.
Is upselling harmful to your relationship with your customer? Not if you do it correctly. Get it wrong though, and the effect on trust can be quite detrimental.
Want more tips on how to generate additional sales? Check out this 10 Ways to Get More Sales From Existing Customers on Inc’s website. In the near future, I will also be publishing an interview with one of the masters of upselling (using automation), Jermaine Griggs, founder of HearAndPlay.com. If you aren’t yet a subscriber, become one now so you don’t miss this incredible interview.
Step 7: Get Referrals
Most business owners aren’t getting as many referrals as they’d like. Do you ever wonder why you aren’t getting as many as you’d like? Would you like to receive more?
If you’ve done everything right up to this point, you are undoubtedly getting some referrals. The key is to put systems in place to ensure that you are receiving the maximum number possible without resorting to making those annoying calls where you put your client on the spot by saying, “Who do you know who would like to buy my stuff?”
The truth is that most people don’t really want to receive (or make) a call like that. Instead, they, if sufficiently impressed with you, will want to send you as many referrals as possible because doing so makes them look good.
With that said, there is nothing wrong with asking for more. In my interview with Dr. Dustin Burleson, we talk about how to do this in detail.
Here at Bright Ideas, we use a combination of the measure of customer satisfaction using the Net Promoter Score and automation to ensure that we are asking our happiest customers to refer us more. By using email to reach out to these happy folks, we are accomplishing a few really important things.
First, it’s completely automated, so my team doesn’t have to ‘remember’ to ask.
Second, by using email, we aren’t putting our customers ‘on the spot’ like calling them would do.
Free Isn’t Actually Free
Before we wrap up, there is one last point that I want to draw your attention to and that is this: the Internet is FULL of “free” information, but in reality, it’s not actually free at all.
To illustrate this point, let me give you an example. Consider the CEO of a company who wants to improve his marketing. To do this he asks a member of the staff to go and conduct research on the Internet and that staffer proceeds to spend the next two weeks googling for information, watching videos on YouTube, and listening to podcasts.
There are several problems with this particular approach.
The first problem is that it took two weeks of the staffers time to go and find, read and assess all this information. If this person’s salary is $5000 per month, the cost to the company for all this free information was actually $2500.
Worse, the information took a long time to find, it’s not organized in any meaningful way, and as it comes from a wide variety of sources the quality of the information is sure to be in question.
So was all of this free information actually free? Definitely not!
As a content marketer, this problem translates into huge opportunity for you.
If you choose to create high-quality content, and then you create a structured way of delivering content, you are going to save your perspective customer a significant amount of time and frustration.
If you’ve done a good job of setting expectations upfront, your prospect will now immediately see that they don’t need to spend the next two weeks of their lives searching every corner of the Internet to get all of the information that they require to improve their marketing program.
Instead, they will spend more time consuming the content that you have created, and they will consume it order that you deliver it to them. And because you are a smart marketer, you’re going to deliver that content to them in order that makes it most likely for them to transition from being just a prospect into a paying customer.
This is yet another example of the immense power of content marketing and marketing automation if done correctly.
How To Get Started Right Now
I had two goals in mind when I wrote this post.
Goal #1 was to deliver highly valuable content to address a major challenge that many of my readers face. With the content of this post, combined with the links to the many other resources here on Bright Ideas, I feel that I’ve accomplished that. If you only listen to just one interview that I’ve suggested, I have no doubt you’ll agree.
Goal #2 was to ensure that you knew that I have a new book due out in November. As of this writing, the manuscript is almost done and we’re already starting the editing. For those of you that click this link, or the banner below, you are going to get some a sneak peek into the book, as well as some other very special surprises… so make sure you go sign up right now. (thanks, in advance!)
Have questions or comments? Please leave them down in the comments below, as I will be selecting the top 5 best comments and giving you all a free copy of the book.