Storytelling and content marketing go hand in hand in today’s content saturated landscape. In this hour-and-a-half-long webinar, we discussed a wide variety of topics — here are the highlights:
- Tell your story and start with why
- Match that “why” — the reason your business/nonprofit was started — with how you help your customer
- Consider customer needs and wants — what are they searching for and what solutions can you provide via content?
- Create content that matches the customer journey — content for each stage of the purchasing process
- Create content that your sales team can use to provide additional value to prospects
- Create content that’s shareable and that entices prospects to share and possibly purchase
- Consider how content can be used to support other forms of marketing — content for PPC ads, email marketing, social media etc.
- Longer pieces of written content rank well — 2000 words is a goal, 750 is a minimum
- Transcribe your videos for accessibility (and so search engines understand what the video is about)
- Keep fluff out of your content — shorter is better if the extra words don’t mean much
- Distribute your content through email, social media, advertising, and sharing with influencers/micro-influencers — content usually can’t get out there on its own
We also mentioned a few keyword tools that you can use for basic content marketing and storytelling:
Grab Some Content Marketing Tools
We have a wide variety of content marketing tools in The Marketing Forge, but if you’re looking for content marketing tools, you’ll probably want to start with the Website Content Template.
Watch the Full Storytelling and Content Marketing Webinar (Slides and Audio)
Here’s the entire webinar, along with the slides we showed. Watch it at your convenience, or scroll down to read the entire transcript.
Storytelling and Content Marketing — The Full Transcript
Here’s the full transcript of our talk about storytelling and content marketing — it’s about 10,000 words long, but feel free to scroll. It’s broken down by speaker and topic, so if you don’t want to read the whole thing, just scan to the sections you’re interested in. I’ve also included approximate times in the video where we discuss each part so you can skip to that section of the video and watch it there.
Heather Steele — Storytelling Matters: Imagine if You Couldn’t Tell Your Story
I want you to imagine, for a minute, that you only have the ability to communicate in the most basic commands and expressions.
This is my son, Travis. When Travis was two, we went to a birthday party with a bunch of other two-year-olds. We realized that these other two-year-olds were talking a lot. Travis didn’t talk at all at this point.
Now, we didn’t pick up on this being a problem because he has an older sister who started talking early and just never stopped. And we had always heard:
- “boys are a little slower”
- “boys sometimes don’t talk until they are 2 or even 3”
- “boys with older sisters that talk a lot don’t need to talk because their older sister will do everything for them.”
We really didn’t think there was a problem until were at this party and saw all these other little chatty two-year-olds who could talk a lot.
So we spent a year doing speech evaluations, hearing exams, weekly therapy, and by the time he was three, he still wasn’t talking.
He was starting to have some behavior problems. We finally went and got a diagnosis of autism, and we started some intensive therapy: eight hours a day, five days a week, doing everything we could to catch him up to his peers.
Over four years later, he still doesn’t talk. His behaviors have become pretty extreme. When he’s happy, he’s the most energetic, smiling, bubbly little guy you’ve ever met.
When he’s unhappy he can be really violent. He has a lot of behavior problems. He’s developed a little bit of language. He can identify about twenty objects, and he has a list of about seven words he can use pretty fluently.
Bacon, car, sucker, outside, swing, bed, and jump.
He can let us know what he wants for the most part, but Travis has no ability to really have a conversation.
He can’t tell me about his day. He can’t tell me what he dreams about. He can’t tell me what he wants to be when he grows up. He can’t even tell me if he knows he’s different from other kids that are almost eight years old.
He’s done great things. He’s gone to Disney World. He’s gotten to play at a cattle ranch. He is a kid who has an indoor swing. He has an awesome life.
He does so many things, but he has no way of telling his story to anyone. He’s also worked so hard. I mean, for an eight year old kid, he’s pretty much had a full time job since he was three trying to learn how to communicate, how to interact in social ways.
This kid has worked his ass off, and he has no way to tell that story to anyone.
All of us sitting in this room, we are so damned privileged to have the ability to tell our stories. We’re able to communicate in impactful and meaningful ways with other humans, and we have no idea how lucky we are to be able to do that until we see someone who can’t.
And yet we rarely get it right when we try to use these stories to communicate for our business.
As humans, we know that storytelling is really important for survival, right? Like, “Don’t eat those berries—they will give you the shits.”
“Don’t cuddle that Tasmanian devil because he’s kind of an asshole.”
The ability to tell stories is a really important part of our evolution.
But it’s about more than evolving and surviving. When we tell stories to each other, our bodies produce oxytocin, which helps make you feel safe and connected.
So, storytelling and content marketing, when combined together, tends to focus on characters, emotions, and ideas that can paint a picture of how the world can be a little bit better than the one that we’re living in now.
It helps us to connect on a deeper level. It helps us bring our audience of potential customers and partners together in a way that simple lists of features and benefits and pricing just can’t do.
When you use story-based content, you are more likely to have people recall what you told them, and you have a much greater influence over their emotions and behaviors that they take away after they’ve consumed your content.
Now, I’m a marketer. My success is directly correlated to the financial success of my clients. So I get it.
I get that we have this temptation to sell every single time we’re in front of a client, every single time we have a piece of content that a lead might see, every single time that we’re posting on social media.
We are really tempted to make that an opportunity to sell, sell, sell. Just get the sale, get the lead, move on, go to the next one.
But today, I want to help you get back to the understanding that these utterances of what we do, why we’re better, the price… that’s not the stuff that matters.
I want you to remember that the reason marketers can’t stop buzzing about this word ‘content’ is because ‘content’ actually works.
It’s just storytelling. Content marketing… when you use that to grow your business and market your business, it works so much better with a story embedded inside.
If we think back the to original—well I wouldn’t say “original” because content marketing has been happening since were able to communicate…
But if we think back to the 1940’s, when direct mail and direct response mail was kind of the original piece of content marketing — you’re sending a letter to someone, and your content, your story has to be so good that they are going to write a check, put it in an envelope, and send it back to buy the product you just described to them.
That’s what storytelling and content marketing are all about. It’s about painting that picture and creating a world people actually want to live in through your story.
Now, don’t worry—I’m here today to make sure you walk away with concrete information. It’s not just going to be these ethereal ideas about stories.
I’m Heather Steele, and I’m the founder and CEO of Blue Steele Solutions. We are a digital marketing firm that produces content to help our customers grow their business.
This is my colleague Adam Fout, who is our lead content writer. He’s going to help me stay on track and actually give you guys some good, tangible takeaways from today.
The tools and processes we’re going to talk about really do help. They are the same tools and processes we’ve used with our clients to help them get massive growth.
Our clients are getting more leads and customers than they ever have before, and they are reducing the cost to get those leads and customers, sometimes 30-60 percent, or even more.
It works. So, with that, I’m going to hand things over to Adam so he can talk more about why you want to invest in content.
Adam Fout — Content Marketing Is All About Giving Users the Information They Need
When you think about why you use the internet in the first place, why anyone uses the internet, the only reason people use the internet is because they are looking for new information of some sort.
Why do I get online? I need some piece of content. Sometimes, it’s very small. “I need a phone number.”
Sometimes it’s much larger: I want to learn how to build a house from scratch. I want to learn what the best SUV is for 2018. I want to read a short story for free. I want to watch a video about modern aircraft carriers.
So I’m looking for information, and your website provides information, and when my needs and the content you provide align, I end up on your website.
Most business owners need to get people on to their website to introduce them to a product or service, or maybe to hire them. Bloggers want people on there to consume the content and hopefully click an ad or an affiliate link. Those are the main goals.
Over here we want people on to the website because we’re trying to sell them something. Over here we want people on our website to hire them. And over here we want people on our website so they will stay there and interact.
So that’s what content does. Once you get to a certain level of traffic, once you start getting lots and lots of people on your website, you don’t have to worry about this as much, but most people are not at that point.
You need to get people on your website in the first place. You need to get found. That’s what content does for most new businesses, smaller businesses.
It gets you found. It answers a question your target audience has. The content shows people you know what you’re talking about while simultaneously introducing them to your brand. You start to generate traffic and get leads.
Content does all those things, and when I talk about content, I mean blog posts, videos, images, audio clips, podcasts, downloadables, ebooks, product comparisons, whitepapers — anything that someone would want to consume.
Everyone’s business is so different that the type of content you produce and the way that it looks is going to be different.
A lot of it is going to be experimentation, but the idea I want to get into your head today is that you need to be producing it in the first place.
You need to be producing something that draws people to your website.
Most business owners or marketers have a website, but they don’t produce content, and they wonder why no one visits.
I have a friend who does window cleaning, and he says nobody comes to his website. I said: “Why would they come to your website? Do you have advertisements that tell them that your website exists?”
He says no.
“So do you have search engine ads or social media ads or TV/radio/billboard/newspaper ads pointing people back to your website?” He says “Well no.”
I said “So what are you creating on the website that holds value or is interesting enough to make people go there without anyone pointing them there, without you paying to get them there?”
He said “Well I have nothing. I just have a few sentences on a few pages. ‘This is who we are’ and ‘this is what we do.’”
I said “well you better hope that Google and the other search engines have figured out who you are and what you do and have decided to show that to people randomly, but that’s going to take some time because you haven’t spent any time even on that content.” Reviews will help, but for a new business, it’s tough to get those first few reviews online.
Search engines are not people. They are a combination of algorithms that are very sophisticated, but they still need a lot of time to figure out who you are and what you do.
When you create content, especially written content, but video too, you give the search engines something to grasp onto. If you write a blog post, a search engine can read it and say ‘okay this blog post that this guy wrote is about how to clean your windows after a storm. I can serve that to certain people who are looking for that information. Now I have a better idea of what this website is all about and who I should serve this content to.’
Before it wasn’t really clear at first because all we had was a phone number, a very short about page, and a contact form.
So in terms of boosting your visibility online, the more content you produce, the more pieces of the website that Google and other search engines can find and grasp onto, can use to figure out what you do and why you should show up in a search result over some other business that does the exact same thing you do.
Because that’s what we’re doing. Content, in terms of SEO, is teaching the search engines who you are and what you do. The more content you produce, the easier it is for search engines to figure that out.
And then they start serving that content to people. You want traffic on your website, right? You need something to draw that traffic in the first place, and you need that traffic well before those people are ready to make a purchase.
Content introduces people to your brand and primes them, gets them familiar with your brand before they need to make a purchase. It ensures you’re the business they turn to when they finally have a problem you can solve.
I might not go on my friend’s windows and glass website at all until I have a problem, and then only if I’m searching Google and Google happens to serve their website to me instead of someone else’s.
And what if I’m farther down the pipeline? What if I’m ready to purchase and the search engines don’t serve me his website? Content negates that problem. If he’s been producing content about windows and I’ve been reading it, if I know he exists and have spent time getting to know his business, he doesn’t even have to worry about Google showing me his website when I’m ready to purchase — I go there directly.
Here’s how he does that, how he reaches me before I have a problem. What if I’m like “one of these days I need to clean my windows because my windows are a little dirty, but I might not pay for someone to do that for months, but I’m thinking to myself: ‘maybe I can do this on my own. How much would that cost?’
So I start typing in ‘how much does it cost to clean windows?’ And I find an article by my friend, and it’s about cleaning your own windows, and I read it, and the article makes cleaning your own windows sound very laborious. Turns out I’m going to have to work really hard to clean my windows, and maybe I should just hire them: that sounds a lot easier.
I might not do it that day, but when I’m ready, I know who I’m hiring.
Without that article, I don’t find out about my friend when I’m in this earlier stage of purchasing.
But what if I’m further along in my buyer’s journey? What if I’m at a point where I’m like ‘okay, I’m ready to pay someone to clean my windows, but I’m still not sure who is the best window cleaner around.’
And then I find an article by my friends that rates all these different service offerings from the different window cleaners that says “well you can go to these guys—they are better for commercial, and you can go to these guys for a small house, but if you’re somewhere in the medium range, we have a service that we can offer you.”
They provide me with a piece of content that I find useful because it helps me make a purchasing decision. I consider that, and maybe I don’t go with them, but that has got me on their website, and it has gotten me to look at their brand.
And then in my head, later on down the road, 6 months, 6 years, when I say my new house needs to have the windows cleaned, who comes into my head? The guys that gave me some valuable content.
Think About Storytelling and Content Marketing More Broadly
So you need to think of content more broadly. It’s not just for the website — it’s a marketing tool. So if I have a blog post, if I’ve optimized it correctly for keywords, it will eventually start showing up in search results, but there are other ways I can use it.
I can start sharing that with people on social media. I can send it through an email list, and I can say to my customers ‘hey this is not a piece of spam: This is something I think you will find useful and valuable.’
So instead, it’s a useful piece of valuable content that will make people on my email list happy, and it encourages people to sign up for my email list in the first place.
If I go to a website and they say “give me your email address” I say “Why? I have tons and tons and tons of emails. What possible value are you I’m going to bring to me?”
But when you say “give me your email address” and say “you will get valuable articles like what you just read in your inbox every week,” then I say, “well that is kind of interesting. I’m going to sign up for it.”
And they say “You will get other pieces of content, downloadable pieces of content, you’re going to get whole e-books I provide from time to time, but only if you’re on my email list.” Well now I want to sign up for that email.
And when it comes time to sell, when I’m scrolling through that email list and I’m saying “I want these people to make a purchase, I want them to get on to this service that I’ve paired with some sort of a discount,” or something like that, now they’re a little bit more willing to listen to me.
Why? Because I provided them value this entire time. This entire time they have been getting downloadable stuff for free and they have been getting articles with useful information and they’ve been getting videos that are enjoyable and fun.
And they’re saying “You know what? I’m willing to look at this offer this person has sent me because there has been a relationship built through this content even though I’ve never talked to the guy who owns this place.”
A relationship has been built because of these emails and because of these pieces of content that are being provided.
So PPC also, right, Google AdWords and social advertising, these pieces of content give you something to share on social media and connect to the end of these ads. They give you something to point to with these ads to make the ads more effective, because a lot of the time what do we see? These ads are like “here is a great offer” and I think “oh that is exactly what I’m looking for” and I click on it and it takes me to the homepage. And I look at this homepage and I’m thinking “that’s not what this ad told me,” and I’m confused, and I click away.
So these people are pouring thousands of dollars into these ads, and the ads are doing nothing for them, and they can’t figure out why. It’s because they don’t have the proper piece of content to pair with the ads.
Content Marketing Supports Social Media Advertising, PR, and Sales
It’s the same with social media ads. You see these ads on social media being used, and you click on it, and you’re brought to this very general page, and you think “this doesn’t do me any good! I’m going to try something else.” So email marketing and PR, too, are supported by content. Your PR people want content too, like a press release. If you have a press release, it can become a blog post that can be sent out on email. So these things all kind of support each other. They make this web of marketing, and they all kind of support each other and build upon each other.
And this helps the sales department too. Because a lot of the time, what are we doing with sales? We’re trying to get people to just have the conversation half the time. These pieces of content are low barrier. They’re a useful and valuable thing that your sales person or you can send to someone, and then instead of it constantly being like “hey let’s set up a meeting, hey let’s talk about this thing that I know you are probably interested in but you don’t really want to tell me if you are.”
Instead of doing that, you say “here is something for you. Here’s a piece of content that I think will help you with your problem.” And that’s it. That’s low barrier. That doesn’t bother people as much, and now they are reading an article that is on your website, and maybe they are going to other pages as well. In terms of generating the traffic, if you want to get people consistently coming back to your website, you need pieces of content to just get them there in the first place.
Most people are not just going to stumble across your website, and even if they do, if they don’t find something interesting or useful while they’re there, they will leave, and they will never come back. Ever. You will never see them again.
But if you have pieces of content on your website, if you have something on there that’s enticing them, that makes them say “this is good. I want to know more about this,” then they are going to come back.
Heather Steele — Why Does Your Organization Exist in the First Place?
Hopefully Adam has convinced you that content is super important. There’s all these different ways that we are able to use it.
I am going to talk about the types of content that you need as you take people through the customer journey, from where they are just discovering you all the way to being your biggest advocate. So before you can really dive in and start thinking about these specific pieces of content, I want you to back way up.
Let’s start with the why.
Why does your organization even exist? Why did you, the founder, or whoever started this business, why did they do it? What was the thing that was making them so crazy, that they hated about the industry or they couldn’t stand to see happening or that they were so excited about that they decided to risk everything start this business?
If you don’t know what that why is, and if everyone in your organization doesn’t agree, then the rest of your content is just going to fall back into that mundane sales template with no depth, like we talked about earlier.
You’ve really got to understand why your organization exists, why you are here, why we are all working towards the same goal. You need to find out what the heck it is that makes you all want to do this. It’s probably not that we’re super obsessed with clean windows. That’s what a lot of people go to they want to make themselves sound like they just love their own product and service so much that it’s all they do.
Maybe Adam’s friend had a little OCD and really loves cleaning windows. But I’m going to bet that he probably saw that someone was overcharging and under-delivering on window cleaning. Maybe someone came to his own house and ripped him off, and he felt like “WOW, if this is what the market’s like then I’m going to make a change.”
Or maybe it was even a case where he saw that people were just not really taking care of their windows, and he was an appraiser, and he saw and thought that if these people would just clean their windows like, once a quarter, then they could get so much more money for their house when they sell it because they kept up that piece of the exterior of their home that makes it look like it’s worth a lot more money.
That’s the why — what he was seeing that was happening in the market that made him go “forget this! I’m quitting my day job, and I’m going to get some of my buddies, and buckets and soap, and we’re going to go clean windows.”
Every single person within this company needs to understand and live that WHY before any of their other content, or marketing, or sales approaches are really going to create a lasting impact and a lasting connection with their audience.
Now, if you’ve never read the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek, check it out. It is a great read and an even better audiobook. Simon has an awesome voice, so if you like listening to a nice Canadian accent while you’re driving around, it’s a great one to listen to. But start there, and really make sure that every single person, and maybe it’s just you, even if it’s just you, like a side hustle, and you don’t really have any clients besides your mama, start there anyway. Because you really need to live and breathe this before any of your other content marketing or storytelling is going to work.
Content Marketing that Attracts
Once you’ve established that WHY, then we can start to think about the sales process. Now, in the year 2018, sales processes don’t always go in this linear fashion that we’ve typically looked at. Like you’ve probably all seen the old sales funnel with a ton of leads at the top and a few good accounts at the bottom. And through that process, you’re kind of weeding out the people that aren’t a good fit or don’t have the budget or aren’t ready to buy.
I’m going to use that terminology because I think it still applies somewhat. We still have people who are attracted to our business at different stages of readiness and different stages of understanding. So I think it’s still a good symbol to think about. But just keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to expect every single person to start at the top and work through it in a nice, clean manner.
So the first thing that you’re going to want to do is attract people into your business. Maybe you have a business or a product that is so common that it is almost a commodity. And so people know it exists: You just need to get them to your website, and you need to get them interacting with you. Or maybe you have some kind of service or some kind of product that is completely different from what anyone has ever seen.
Regardless, you still need to get them to come to you and start to interact with you in a pretty similar way. So you want to come up with stories or pieces of content that are highly relevant to them.
You show them that you understand their needs in relation to what you’re offering, but then instead of using that content to start pitching them, you’re going to educate them, you’re going to entertain them, you’re going to give them interesting information and useful data they can use in their day-to-day business. You’re going to give them information that runs in tangent to your offering, instead of being a push for your offering.
So Adam’s example was great: how to clean your own windows. He may have gone a little too far into to the marketing with making it sound like it was the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it’s a great example of how you can attract people to your website or to your brand through something that is very relevant to their needs, even if they don’t really know what their needs are yet.
You also want to make sure that you stay away from those very typical lists of benefits, lists of pricing. Keep it educational and informational. You’re just creating a connection with someone. So if I’m just meeting you, I’m not going to say “Hey we do content marketing, and here’s what it costs, and here’s what our contract looks like, and are you ready to sign?” I’m going to give you information that educates you, and I dunno maybe, invite you to a webinar where I can impress you with all of my smarts, and you’ll want to work with me.
And when you think about this type of content, it doesn’t have to be just a blog post. It can be video content, it can be content that is directly in the news feed of whatever social media websites you’re using. Like right now, it’s very popular for people to do those long stories on LinkedIn. They annoy me. I can’t handle that it’s like one sentence, one sentence, one sentence, and you have to click see more because you just can’t stand to not finish reading it, and you’re like “oh they got me.” But that works for a reason: Because they are telling you a story, and your biochemistry is telling you that you have to click that and read it, because that’s the connection that you’ve made. That’s why those things works so well, even though it’s so super annoying.
Content Marketing That Converts
So once you’ve attracted people to you, then you want to start thinking about the kind of content that will convert. So we’ve been sort of on the peripheral of really pushing what you do, what your service is, what your product is, by offering them education and good information and entertainment that runs in tangent to what you do.
Once you get to this point, to where you are ready to convert them, and when we talked about converting, typically in our world, that means they are going to give us their email to get on our email list, they are going to give us permission to call them, they are going to interact with the chatbot, they are going to do something that is going to open up the lines of communication.
This is where we can get a little more specific and start teaching them a little bit more about what we do, about the services we offer and about the fact that “hey, outside of being these people that are super smart and are willing to tell you anything we know, we also do these things over here: we sell these products too, so maybe you want to check that out while you’re here.”
So we start to bring in some more information about how we work, why we’re there, why we’re better.
This is a great place to also bring in testimonials and case studies, other content that is going to teach them and show them that you are trustworthy, that they should start interacting with you.
Typically this type of content is still happening on the website. It might be on your blog, or you might be sending them to download a report or some valuable piece of information in exchange for their email address. Or you’ve started moving the conversation from the general news feed into a more private conversation where you can start to interact with them.
The key thing is that you’ve got to earn their trust first. Who likes it when on LinkedIn someone sends you a connection request and are like “hey if you need a web development or SEO service or content marketing or software design, here’s my price list.” It’s super annoying. Don’t do that. Gain their trust and interact first through storytelling and content marketing, and then start moving them to these pieces of content that are going to help convert them.
Content Marketing That Closes
Then once you’ve gotten them to the point where they’re interacting with you… now this will depend on your sales model and how you work internally. You may have a very automated process, you may be passing this off to an accountant rep or someone who does the sales internally, but you’re going to want to start to take that content and focus it more towards closing them.
So this is the kind of content that is going to be very specific to their needs. By this point in time, you have probably put them through some sort of data collection form or are able to look into what kind of business they are, what their needs are. Then you’re able to customize this content to them. So, for example, this might be case studies that are highly relevant to them. This will be taking a look at their situation and creating a custom response “this is how I think we can really help solve your problem.”
For example, Adam’s friend would be providing the estimate, and maybe he goes the extra mile and takes pictures of the outside of the house, and he has some graphic designer that he can work with that will actually use Photoshop so that the windows look super clean. Or maybe he gets to calling the rest of the houses in the area and can be like “this is what the house is worth today, but if you pay me 200 bucks to clean all of your windows, here is what your house would appraise for afterwards.”
So you can create these very specific pieces of content that are going to be highly relevant to that person and help move them through faster. When it comes to large organizations, if you have a sales team, then you can take the content you are creating as a marketer and teach them how to customize that. Teach them how to make it a good fit so that they are adding value to this sales process. They are keeping people engaged in a way that’s not just “hey I’m just following up, hey did you get my proposal, hey just wanted to follow up.”
That’s what most sales people do. I know because I’m a materialistic sales person, and that’s what I would do. But taking these pieces of content and really customizing them is a much better way to get that high engagement.
Maybe it’s even “hey I sat down with one of my customers that’s similar to you, and I interviewed them about our products, so here’s this video. I just wanted to share this with you so you can see what it’s like for a real person to work with us.” So think about those ways that you can take your very broad content and repurpose it and re-engineer it to be super specific to the people who you’re actually trying to work with.
Creating Raving Fans — Using Storytelling and Content Marketing to Get Reviews and Inspire Word of Mouth Marketing
Once you make the sale, then you don’t have to do anything else, right? Then your customers are going to give you money, and you’ll be done with it right? No.
So once you’ve actually converted them, this is the piece that most people forget. Actually most people focus on content that gets people to their website, and then they go “the website sucks because I’m not doing anything with it, and I’m not getting any sales, it’s not working, storytelling and content marketing are stupid, and none of this works.” It’s because they haven’t followed through with the rest of the process. Very rarely do we get all the way to this point where people are actually using the content to turn their customers into their raving fans.
So some ideas of how you can do that would be, first of all, take what your customer is doing with the product or service they bought from you and showcase how awesome they have made it. How has your customer actually added value to what you have provided to them? And then showcase them: Share the shit out of that. Show everyone in the world how amazing they are.
I guarantee you if Adam’s friend goes and shares pictures of these beautiful properties where he has cleaned the windows and shows how awesome they look now with clean windows, and they came and redid this landscaping and the house is phenomenal, and no one else has the curb appeal that they have, and he shares that on Instagram, I guarantee they will reshare that with their friends, and it’s going to make them feel really good.
Other ways might be, if you sell a product or a service to a business, maybe you can show how they’re using that product and just running with it and killing it, and they can get something that is so much better than what anyone else is doing. So in this case, you are really creating dual pieces of content that you can use for your own people who are in your pipeline, and you know that this will be highly relevant to these guys over here, and I’m trying close, and at the same time I’m going to make this past customer look awesome, and they are going to share with their friends. So creating those pieces really make your customers look like a star, and they’re just using your product or your service as a way to be awesome.
The next thing would be to just give them the content that they are going to want to share. When you write a piece, and you go “This sounds like something that Beth would say, this sounds like it would fall right out of her mouth,” then send it to her and say “Hey, we wrote this, but I kind of was channeling you when I wrote this, so I just wanted to make sure you saw it, and if you have a chance to share it, I would super appreciate it.”
Give it to them, make it super easy
You want to make sure they understand that they are kind of part of your unofficial marketing team. So when you work with someone, or you have a customer that you just love and are like “If every single person that I work with is just like them, then I would be so happy.” Tell them that. Tell them! Just Be completely transparent, and just say “You know, for my business to get to where I want to be, I need a hundred more of you, so if you would tell your like-minded friends and colleagues about how we’re working together, I would so appreciate that.”
“And by the way, here’s a blog post or a video of something that is really relevant to our relationship, that maybe you could use to make that introduction or to introduce our products and services to people you know.”
Make them part of your team so that they are doing the footwork of sharing your message and helping to bring people in. They already know you, they already have some of that trust, so you kind of skip the top part of the funnel and go right into the good part where we’re starting to close them.
And then those people that are really visualizing that are your fans who are sharing your information and content with everyone—you’ve got to reward them. You’ve got to let them know that you appreciate it, and that could be through an affiliate program. Maybe you give them a kick back, be like “Hey you are sending a ton of people to us. I want to show you how much I appreciate that, so I’m going to give you a cut of the sales.”
Or maybe it’s some kind of awesome gift that you send them. Maybe you take the time once a quarter to look at who your top referrers are and send them something really awesome that they will love. Maybe it’s a cool customized coffee mug or something that they can keep and feel warm and fuzzy about when they look at it.
Or even if it’s just a handwritten thank-you note where you are just saying “hey you are awesome, and I would not be where I am today without you. I see what you’re doing, and I appreciate it, and I love you for it.”
The other thing you can do is just return the favor. Sit down at least once a month and make a list of your favorite customers and what they do and how you can help them and their business. See who you can connect them with, who you can refer them to, how you can help them in the way that you would like them to turn around and help you.
Adam Fout — Why Your Content Isn’t Working: Actionable Tips for Improving Written and Video Content
Real quick, I want to give you some actionable pieces of information for creating content.
So for a blog post, 500 words is the minimum. Some people will tell you 300, and I don’t think that’s long enough. 750 is better, 1000 is even better, 2000 if you can do it is best.
And above is still good. The longer it is, the bigger the piece of content, the better. It’s going to take a lot more work. It’s going to take more time. You’re going to spend all this time putting images in and optimizing, but that stuff has staying power.
Content marketing and storytelling is a lot of work on the front end, but the reason people invest in it is because it’s sustainable. You spend all these hours, 20 or 30 hours, creating a blog post—that’s an extreme amount of time.
But then you just leave it there. It stays there and constantly generates traffic. And you don’t have to touch it, and you edit it every 6 months or every year. With advertising, when you stop spending money, you stop getting that traffic.
So with videos, the most important thing is that you’re on point and delivering useful, valuable information throughout the entire video, and you’re not going way off the script and doing stupid stuff that annoys people. And there are different categories of video length that you should consider, depending on the use of that video. From 0 to 60 seconds is one section of video content. Usually around 30 seconds. These videos can be very useful, especially on social media. They can get a lot of traffic.
And then 1 minutes or 5 minutes — that has some social use. It’s also great to embed video in a page or blog post to add value to the content existing there. 5 to 15 minutes starts to get to a point where you’re only sharing that on email or embedding on an important static website page or giving it its own page. Then 15 to an hour is where you’re only putting that on YouTube or you’re presenting it as a webinar or live and then giving it its own page.
Longer than an hour is rarely of use, but some niches can produce these — music websites that make long lists of songs, mediation downloadable files are often quite long. But these different lengths of videos all have different uses.
Some images will get some interaction, but then again, a lot of times you have to put that on the front end. With videos and infographics, if you can write some sort of summary to go with it, having that text with it gives the search engines something to latch on to, so if you have a page that just has the video, it can be difficult without schema for search engines to figure out what that is, but if you have a transcription of the video, even if it’s a 30 second video, now the search engines have something to latch onto.
Accessibility is critical too — if you have a video, not everyone can hear it or see it. A transcript helps with that. Your audience may have plenty of people who can’t consume content in the default way — you need to take time to think about how to serve them content they can access and consume like everyone else.
You’re Not Posting Enough
The first reason your content isn’t working is you aren’t posting enough. If you are posting once a month, that’s probably not going to be enough. Once you get to a certain point, you can sort of get away with cutting down the amount of posting for a short period of time, but the number of posts, the amount of posts, and that’s posts on your website, but it’s the same with social media, which kind of does the same thing.
The amount that you’re posting… this is crazy, but if you can do one blog post a day, that’s ideal. If you can do more than that, that’s great, but most people can’t do that. You’ll need a whole team of writers to do that, or you’re just going to put out a bunch of crap.
If you can get once a week, I’d say that’s a good solid middle ground, because that’s what Google search is looking for when we talk about SEO. One of the signals that the search engines are looking at is they want to know how often you’re posting, and it doesn’t matter what you’re posting. It could be a video that you put on your website. It could be a blog post. It could be an infographic.
The frequency of posting matters. Not a whole lot, but enough. What you normally see though, is that when you’re trying to build an audience, that’s what you have to keep in mind, that the search engine is over here, they are robots, and they’re pretty stupid, but they figure things out eventually, and there’s people over here, and when you tell people you make some great blog post, and you don’t do another one for 6 to 8 weeks, they lose interest.
They don’t come back, and if people keep going to your website over and over and checking and checking, and there’s nothing there, they say “oh well I guess they gave up.” And they stop showing up.
Search engines do what they do because of what humans beings do. The search engines are looking at how the users interact with stuff, and they are saying “We should give value to time on page and devalue bounce rates” and stuff like that.
So that’s one reason: You’re just not doing it enough, or you’re doing it at bizarre frequencies. You do every week for a month, and then you don’t do it again for 6 months. People are like “what just happened.” So you can’t build an audience because audiences want consistency. If you’re doing one blog post a week every Tuesday at 10 a.m., it doesn’t matter if it’s not always the best blog post in the world. That consistency is important for human beings. We want something that keeps happening
Your Content Is Too Thin
In a 300 word blog post, you can’t provide much value in that small amount of time. There are places where that is useful, and when you get below about 500 words, really that’s more appropriate to not be a blog post on your website, but more appropriate to be just a post on social media. Some sort of an opinion piece or something like that, and that works too.
Think of your comments, the stuff that you write in a post on social media, all of those are pieces of content because they point people back to your website.
When you post a short video, those can be useful, but it depends on the topic really. Your content needs to be long enough to cover this subject but short enough to maintain interest.
So you know, if you were writing 2,000 words, but you could have stopped at 1,000, those extra thousand words aren’t doing you a lot of favors. If you make a 2-minute video, but you could have explained the content in 30 seconds, again it’s probably too much. But what you usually see is the opposite, people not even coming close to the subject at hand, just not giving enough information or they give a little tiny piece and then they are like “come contact me on LinkedIn, and I will tell you all the real information.”
Give the valuable stuff out front.
Your Content Isn’t Valuable Enough
Your content isn’t valuable enough. This is kind of the same thing, but that’s basically what I just said, that you provide just a tiny bit of value, then you provide a barrier that keeps them from getting the whole thing, so it’s like, I go to a blog post, and it says this is a blog post of 10 places to submit short stories, and I go on it, and it says “to read the rest of them, give me your email address.”
Newspapers do this constantly. They have these pay walls, and I go on to the New York Times, and they are like “you want to read the rest of this article? Pay us.” And say “I will literally never do that. I will never do that, so thanks a lot, that was a waste of everyone’s time.”
Now if that same article provided a lot of value, and I read half of that thing, and I’m into the article, and there’s a story that I’ve gotten wrapped up into, and I get halfway through, and then it says “now I want you to pay,” I’m going to be angry with them, but I might actually do it. So it’s that value provided that matters. If you’re not providing value, or just a smidge of it, your content doesn’t work. You can’t cover the subjects really loosely and then try to sucker them in.
You’re not Distributing Your Content Properly
You’re not distributing your content properly. This is very important too. You get people who want to make a new website or make a new blog post, or they make a video, and then they do nothing with it, and they wonder “why isn’t everyone on my website watching this amazing viral video that I created?”
The problem is you didn’t distribute it. It wasn’t sent out to your email list, it wasn’t shared on social media, you didn’t reach out to your micro influencers. A lot of the time, these people are not like paid influencers where you have a written contract agreement with these people. Micro influencers are everywhere, and all you have to do is impress them with your content, and they are sharing it often of their own accord.
So they have to see it in the first place. You have to send it exactly how Heather was describing. Send it to them in an email, send it to them on social media, and say “hey I thought of you, and I thought you would really enjoy it. Please take a look.” And leave it at that, and leave it up to them if they want to share or if they want to link to it et cetera. So all these things can cause your content to not perform.
Creating the content is a lot of work, but that’s just the first piece of it. If it’s useful, if it’s valuable, if it’s long enough, even then, you have to get it out to people, and sometimes you just have to put some money into it. You have to do some paid ads on social media to get the brand off the ground so that people will know who you are.
The big brands don’t have to do that as much because they have the power of the brand behind it, and people are just following them naturally. They didn’t get there overnight. They got there by funneling some money into it. It’s very rare that it’s just this organic growth, that nobody puts any money in. Even when that happens, it takes years and years. You can shorten a lot of that just by focusing on the distribution side and getting the articles in front of the right eyes.
Heather Steele — Questions and Answers
Hopefully we have given you some ideas on what to write and inspiration to really move outside of the typical box of telling people about your products, service, and the price, gotten you to consider how you can use story telling and content marketing together to generate business.
Like I said, you have the ability within you to create these amazing connections with people who could become your audience, or customers, or users. You just have to go out there and do it. You have the ability, you have it within you, so don’t waste that. Take the time, do it the right way, and really focus on using storytelling and content marketing together.
(NOTE: The questions here are from the in-person version of this webinar and differ from the questions presented in the webinar above. Watch the full video to see what nonprofit-oriented questions were asked during the recorded webinar.)
Question 1: How Do You Use Keywords That Are Awkward or Strange?
There’s definitely a skill to it, and it’s definitely not something every writer can do. I’m not that great at it, but Adam is awesome. He can give the most obscure answer without anybody really knowing it’s there.
It also takes practice too. You might not look at every single piece of content. It depends on the keyword. A lot of the time, what you have to do is get really dramatic on it, and start breaking it up into different pieces. If you look at the phrase itself and you say “okay where is a logical place I can separate these words.” Because a lot of times, you will see a combination words, a noun and a verb somewhere, but what you can do is you can cut the noun from the verb, and you can use the verb to start a new sentence. The search engines do not count punctuation. So you can put a period in there, you can put a dash in there, you can put all kinds of stuff in between.
It doesn’t have to be in there a lot. Keyword stuffing is a bad idea. I would say in a 500 word article, if you get it in there twice, you’re probably good. But it’s the placement of it that matters. Is it in the title? Is it in the first hundred words and the last hundred words? Does it appear in some form in the articles that are linking back to your page?
So I wouldn’t worry too much. You just have to get really creative sometimes and think “what’s a way that I can put this in here?” A lot of times, it’s a phrase that looks silly, and you’ll never use it again, so you have to find some way to insert it into the phrase itself.
Also don’t write off a piece if you think you don’t really have a keyword for it. I’m not sure what people would search for to find this. I wouldn’t write it off because we all have these obscure pieces of content that are just really great. We have a blog post that haunts us to this day that I wrote like 10 years ago about how to manage quantity-based shipping on a website.
And we get so much traffic. And I had no idea that that was a good keyword. I just knew I didn’t want to forget how I did it, so I wrote a blog post about it. So don’t assume that if you’re not optimizing something it won’t rank, and don’t assume if you are optimizing something it will.
As long as there is some basis of the word there, you know, you are changing tense, or you’re adding a few prepositions, or changing prepositions, or adding prepositions where there aren’t any, or changing punctuation or articles, doing all that is just as a effective, because search engines only see the main words, like the nouns and the verbs, and they’re going to latch on to them and say “okay I know what this is about.”
Question 2: How Do You Find Keywords for Clients?
I think the first thing you should do is spend time going through their brand and audience goals with them so you truly understand who they are and who they’re selling to.
I would start off with just interviewing them, asking “what are there most common questions you get from customers, what do you hate when people ask you, what are things people are confused about your product or service, what do people wish that you do?” Like everything that bothers them, so you can start to address that with the content.
That’s one thing you can help them with right away — help them write their most difficult content. Otherwise really find out where customers are asking the questions, and do research, and see what are the phrases that people are actually searching for, what are some of the Google suggestions, searches around those phrases, and just start to type in something about their industry or business and see what all is suggested.
And you go to a client with that list. And I would make sure that client is very educated on how content marketing works and why it’s important to focus on things that are more in tangent or interesting or educational rather than just “this is my product, and this is so great, I’m so great give me your money.” That’s a really hard story to get some clients to understand.
A lot of people look at content marketing like it’s the same thing as advertising. They want to see immediate increases in sales and traffic from one published blog post, but it doesn’t work like that.
It depends on how saturated that content market is, but it can be anywhere between 6 months to 2 years. If you’re being consistent and putting stuff out there, and it’s optimize properly, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you’re going to get some sort of attraction in that amount of time.
How much are you willing to back that content with some distribution funds? If you have a great network and send it out to your network, they can share it. So there’s a lot of factors that go into that. We tell our clients to stick with it at least 6 months before you start to make any kind of judgments, because again, there’s a lot of factors that go into it.
Also things can change really rapidly, where the major search engines will make these huge shifts, where content that once performed beautifully is getting blown to shit, and you don’t know why. And it can take forever to figure out what has happened.
Question 3: How Do You Marry a Robust Social Media Content Approach With On-Site SEO?
I think first of all, when you have that great social media foundation, that is going to make it much easier for you to roll into that. And I think also you have to really look critically at how people might want to use your website.
If you’ve already trained people on how to interact with you, then you have to be careful on how you bring them back to your website. By providing lots of value, you can entice them to make that jump, to come over to your website, to start interacting with you there. And I also think you can take all the content that has been really popular and performed well for you from a social media standpoint, and you can backtrack that into an on-site content climate.
You can just look at that, and get your content ideas from there, and link your content to those posts if they’re public, so then you can really bring that engagement together, and that will make the search engines very happy, and help them understand that this is a topic that is already highly engaged upon with their brand on social media.
You’re going to get much more traction that way, and I think just looking at how we know it’s important to start bringing people in to our website, and doing SEO, and controlling the situation a little more, not just relying on referrals, how does that marry with our current client — what does that look like in the future? So the two show that your efforts are working together for one common goal, and you don’t just go “well here’s the website stuff, and here’s the social media stuff, and it’s not really working together…” where you want to go in the future.
Question 4: If You Have Existing, Aging Content, Should You Reuse It or Create New Content?
So reusing it is awesome if it’s an evergreen topic, and if it still relevant and people are still interested in it, then you want to take that and work it into your social media schedule to reshare that. So what we see a lot of times is, like Adam said, people write a blog post, and they might share it once on social media, and they are like, “done, and check it off my list, and we’re finished,” but they don’t realize that that thing has legs, and it needs to be shared 50, 60, 80 times over the next few years, and there’s no reason to let it die if it’s such relevant information.
So keep sharing that, whether you’re working it manually into your schedule or using an automated tool. We use one called Missing Letter that’s pretty awesome, that does all this in a more automated away.
You need to reshare that content, but definitely going back into your archives and getting that stuff that is still relevant and sharing it, and you can also use your analytics and see which of these topics are really popular and getting a lot of traction so you can create follow-up pieces, series.
Maybe it’s “this is what we said 10 years ago — we’re going to bring it up to speed to see how it’s relevant now and republish that content.” So I think if you already have a big bank of content, don’t feel like “that’s just old content.” That’s like gold. You want to reuse that as much as you can.
I like to go back and save articles because I might have a few articles that are performing well, and then I might add an extra thousand words to it. And I’m already building on a foundation, and if I can provide more value, I do, and I write something that says “this article has been updated, and this is what has been added to it.”
And that helps too, because when people are searching, it’s not just a search engines: they are human beings, and if they come on an article that is about something and is 6 years old, they might not be convinced that it has the information they’re looking for. Search engines often prioritize older content, but from a human being standpoint, you might think “this is old information, and this won’t help me — I need to see something from this year.”
You can gather this content that has performed very well, and you can create ebooks that you might want to sell or even turn it into reports. There’s so much you can do with this content. I’ve seen a lot of places take 10 or 15 blog post and turn it into an ebook. Blog posts add value, but now you have this ebook that you can send to your email list.
That’s It! Whew!
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