Using SEO effectively can seem like a headache. Keywords? Links? Content marketing? I’ve been there. If you’re a small business owner, you have enough on your plate, and learning about SEO can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
But SEO is so much more than a marketing strategy. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is simply helping Google understand your site so that you can easily connect with people who are already seeking the solutions you offer. It’s a necessary foundation for your brand or business, not an online “trick” that requires endless research.
In fact, according to Search Engine Land, SEO is considered one of the most cost-effective digital marketing practices to grow your business. And, let’s face it — you’ve likely invested hundreds to thousands of dollars on designing your brand and developing your website, but is it worth the investment if no one can find it?
Here are four quick ways you can utilize SEO to find your dream clients and elevate your business in an authentic, non-salesy way.
1. Keep a list of Frequently Asked Questions from your target audience.
Keep an ongoing list of questions that continuously pop up among your target audience. You could find these questions in Facebook Groups, past client consultations, in replies to your email newsletter, or even while taking a class at the gym.
Use these questions for content inspiration. Answer them on an easy-to-access landing page or turn them into blog posts. Pay attention to the specific language your potential clients use and the way the questions are asked. Word questions and your answers in a way that you could see your clients Googling them. If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, you can see which Google searches have led people to your website, and form questions out of those phrases.
2. Take time to use categories and tags effectively.
When it comes to that “tags” box you see when creating a blog post in WordPress, do you fill it with related terms you think of on the fly? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. But it’s time to get organized! Think of categories as the top level, main topics of your blog. Then think of tags as supporting keywords. Choose 5-6 main categories and only a handful of tags for each category. For example, a main category could be “Fitness” and supporting tags could be “muscle recovery,” “at home workout,” and “activewear.”
Metadata is mostly behind-the-scenes data that helps a search engine understand and rank your site. The preview text that appears in search engine results when someone sees your site link is comprised of metadata. Take a few extra minutes to fill in the title tag, meta description and alt tags of your posts. The Yoast SEO plugin makes these updates, and therefore upping your SEO game, much easier.
4. Audit and update your old content.
If you’ve had a blog for more than a few months, chances are you already have a ton of content. In order to make sure your website is working for you, and not the other way around, go through your old content and see which posts and pages could be improved.
Find which posts are your best and make sure they’re properly tagged and categorized. Edit any content that is outdated or no longer relevant. Auditing your content will make sure your site is full of high-quality, valuable content for your readers. For more ideas, check out my post on 50 ways to give an old post new life.
SEO doesn’t have to be so hard
For many solopreneurs, SEO remains an elusive concept that’s just out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. The four quick tips above are just a few examples of how you can optimize your site for search engines and make it easier for more of your ideal clients to find you.
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Guest posting is one of those things that everybody thinks they probably should be doing more of…but the whole process of putting a guest post pitch together can seem daunting. And the truth is, you can spend a lot of time and energy pitching guest posts that never pan out if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Good news: You can make the process much, much easier if you know how to write a decent cold pitch — and once you do start landing those posts, you can leverage those posts into a serious asset for your business.
It starts with knowing whether you should be pitching at all.
As you may have noticed, the Internet has become a much busier place these past couple of years. Which means that people don’t have a whole hell of a lot of mental bandwidth to spare.
You need to get a really good sense of whether a blog is even accepting pitches and guest posts before you take the time to write your pitch. There’s no particular secret to know here; most places that are accepting posts will have a page explicitly stating that.
If you can’t find it on their site, do a quick Google search along the lines of “[Site you want to guest post for] guest posting” and see if something comes up. Otherwise, check out their archives and social media feeds to see if they have any guest posts featured. If there’s nothing to let you know either way, then go ahead and pitch, if you really think that your idea is a fit. Just go into the process knowing that it’s a toss up.
OK, so you’ve decided it’s a go. Now what?
Now you write an email that gives them just enough information about you to know whether you’re a fit for their audience, piques their interest and shows off your expertise in the topic, and tells them that you’re not going to be a pain to work with.
Start out with a very clear subject line — something along the lines of “Guest post proposal — [your specific topic]”
Then (after you double extra check that you’ve spelled the person’s name right in your greeting), write a short intro paragraph where you talk about who you are and what your business is, as well as your particular reasons for being attracted to their business/blog/this chance to guest post.
Now that you’ve got their attention, add in a very short paragraph about why you’re a good fit for their audience. Here’s where you get to show off how great you are, plus how well you know their business and their audience.
Then introduce your idea. While it’s fine to pitch with just one idea, I usually like to include two or more and let them choose. This ups your chances of getting a yes and lets you highlight a couple different areas of expertise.
End by offering to provide alternative ideas just in case those don’t work, and give them clear next steps.
It’s all about making it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
You’ve got the pieces — now what does that look like, all put together?
Here’s an anonymized example of an email I pitched a while back that landed me a guest post within a few hours:
Subject: Guest post proposal — copy and content
I’m Rachel Allen, and I run the creative agency Bolt from the Blue Copywriting. I’ve had the biggest business crush on BIZ NAME ever since the first round of COOL THING YOU DID — the mix of lifting people up to be their best + the firmly grounded anti-bullshit stance really does it for me.
I write about voice, branding, copy, and content from a similar stance, and was wondering if you’re currently accepting guest posts? If so, I’d love to do one for you.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
A rallying cry for being a better human as you write (that also skewers the whole cottage industry that’s developed around quickie, template-based content).
A post about how access to other people’s brainspace is a privilege, with the main focus being on how you’re spam until you prove otherwise.
If neither of those ring your bell, I’m happy to come up with alternative ideas. If one or both does sound good to you, I can also send over outlines (or a completed article) if you want to move forward. I could have the article to you next week or an outline tomorrow.
Let me know what you think, and of course, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
So…what do you do if you don’t hear back?
Give it a little time. Like I said, people are busy. If it’s been a week and you haven’t heard a word, then it’s time to follow up. Keep it short and low pressure, just checking in like the responsible guest poster you are. Something along the lines of,
Hope you’ve had a great start to your week! I wanted to follow up on my guest post proposal from last week. Did you have any questions or need any more information from me?
What do you do if you do hear back and it’s a no?
It’s always disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. If you do hear back and it’s a no, it’s totally fine to email back thanking them for their time and either giving a short alternative pitch or asking them if there’s a similar idea they’d like you to post on.
This does not mean that you ask them for feedback on your pitch, get upset and say weird things to them, or badger them to reconsider. Remember, people are busy, and nothing will get you mentally blacklisted faster than coming into this process with a sense of entitlement.
A few final do’s and don’ts:
Do triple check that you’re sending it to the right person and you’ve spelled their name right. If they have pitching guidelines posted somewhere, follow them. You’d be amazed at how many people ignore them entirely, so if you can get this simple thing right, you’ll have already made yourself stand out.
Don’t use hesitant language — anything along the lines of “just”, “I think”, “sorry”, etc. If you struggle with this, this is the plugin for you. And it goes without saying, but don’t have typos in your pitch, don’t pitch something you can’t follow through on, and don’t be a jerk if the answer is no.
When hoping to land a guest post on a dream site, start off by figuring out whether you should be pitching at all. Follow any and all guidelines they give you to the letter. Write a concise, convincing email that makes it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Check in if you need to, and don’t take it personally if the answer’s a no — because it might not be a no forever.
We live in a world where our days are filled with email newsletters, social media updates, how-to blog posts and Facebook groups. And as a business owner, you’re probably using many of these channels — if not all of them — to get the word out about your product or service.
But what if there was an even more effective way to use these channels to build awareness of your brand?
There is, and it’s called storytelling.
Storytelling is at the heart of every successful public relations and communications strategy. And when it’s done well, you can cut through the clutter using channels like blogging, social media and press releases to tell your story and make a connection with your audience.
So now you’re probably wondering, “What kind of story do I tell?” Well, I have you covered! Here are five unique story angles to tell about your business in your next blog post, press release, or social media update:
1. Share your journey to entrepreneurship
One of the best, most interesting stories you can tell about your business is how you got started. Everyone’s entrepreneurship journey is unique, which is why it presents a great opportunity to tell the story of how your business came to be.
The best part of telling your entrepreneurship journey is that it doesn’t matter where you’re at in your business. Whether it’s talking about how your started an apparel brand in your basement or left your comfy corporate job to freelance full-time, your entrepreneurship story is an opportunity to share with the world what inspires you most, your mission, and the lessons learned along the way.
2. Talk about a unique partnership or collaboration
Have you recently partnered with another brand or company to launch an exciting project, such as a Facebook group or e-course? This is a great opportunity to share a story about the power of collaboration.
Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at this partnership by writing a blog post or creating a video describing the process behind your collaboration. In your story, talk about why the partnership was successful or what brought the two of you together. This is a fun way to show your audience how you successfully work with other brands. And who knows, maybe it can spark more opportunities for future collaborations and partnerships!
Stories about philanthropy or social responsibility can help you tug on your audience’s heartstrings and make an emotional connection. From volunteering to charitable giving to different ways your business is good for the environment and your employees, tell a story about how you’re making an impact in your community or touching the lives of others.
For example, did you donate a percentage of your profits to a nonprofit organization during the last holiday season? Share how much you raised in a recap blog post and explain what the funding will do. This is a great way to look back on the holiday season while showing your audience that you care deeply about your community.
4. Tell a story about overcoming a challenge
Did you ever go a Christmas without a paycheck because you had to pay your employees first? Was there a time when your product didn’t ship on time? While these aren’t the most glamorous stories to share with your audience, these are stories that will help you connect with your audience on an intimate level.
Sharing a lesson learned is a powerful way to highlight the ups and downs of running a business. They can illustrate how you’ve transformed your business into the success it is today, how you’ve grown as an entrepreneur and ultimately, make your brand more “human.” Plus, you will build more trust with your audience by being open and transparent and even inspire others to share their stories of success and failure.
5. Highlight a unique or quirky client project
Want to make your audience feel good? Make a list of your recent projects and determine which ones seem a little quirky or stand out from the norm. For example, if you just completed a branding project for a new unicorn-inspired cafe, you could turn this quirky project into an entertaining and interesting case study or press release. This is an opportunity to make people connect with your brand in a lighthearted way while also illustrating the success of your work.
When a story is emotional and authentic, it’s much easier to make a connection with your audience. By taking your own unique approach to these story ideas and staying true to your brand’s voice, you will have no problem cutting through the clutter and getting your story heard, no matter the channel you choose.
What type of stories have you shared about your business? Share your stories in the comments below!
If you’re anything like me, the first time you heard the term “sales funnels,” you envisioned a big Willy Wonka-esque contraption that takes random scrollers off the internet, works some magic as they move through the various whizzing parts of the machine, and churns out raving fans.
When you use sales funnels in your business, you’re sending your ideal audience on a journey through a series of carefully-curated pieces of content that eventually leads them to buy your product or service.
And since sales funnels are entirely dependent on content, you better believe you need to build a content plan with a solid framework if you want to see those dollars roll in.
Begin at the end and look at your goals
Like many things in life and business, starting at the end is the best way to plot out all the action steps you need to take to achieve your goal.
Here are a few questions to ask when beginning at the end as you build a content plan:
Am I selling a product or a service?
What is the price point of what I’m selling?
Is this something that will always be available for sale or will it be for a limited time only?
The answers to these questions will help you determine:
1. How many funnels you should create
If you answered the first question by listing multiple products or services that are not inextricably intertwined, you’ll need to create multiple funnels that lead your readers down the path to the offer that will be the best fit for them.
If you find that you have multiple funnels you need to create, start by focusing on one to test out what works and what you’ll need to change before creating all the content for your next funnel.
2. How much content you need
The higher the price point of your offer, the more content and lead time you’ll need in your funnel to communicate the value your offer holds in solving your audience’s problem or eliminating their frustrations. Being able to identify which stage of the buying cycle they’re at is helpful as you build a content plan — both in determining the volume of content as well as the type of content you need.
3. How much lead time you should allow for creating, scheduling, and publishing content
Having products or services that are only available for a limited time or have a specific number of spots available is a popular way to create scarcity around what you’re selling. However, the doesn’t mean every offer should be structured this way.
If you choose to create a funnel that supports a product or service that’s always for sale, you’ll be creating an always existing or “evergreen” funnel, which naturally triggers an automated system whenever your reader enters the funnel.
While a limited-time offer can also have automated elements, such as pre-scheduled emails and social media posts, it takes careful calendar plotting to make sure you’re giving your potential buyers enough time to learn about your offer, why they need it, and to make a decision before the doors close. Again, this factor will also depend on your price point.
Decide how you’re going to get people into your funnel
The initial goal for the first piece(s) of content your readers encounter in your funnel is to capture their email address. (Already have a list of subscribers you’re working with? You’re off to a great start!)
You’ve got your end goal in mind. You know your funnel’s “why.” You now know the time frame of your funnel and how in-depth it needs to go to adequately communicate your value to your ideal customer. Plus, you have some solid ideas for how to get the funnel party started, and all the tools ready to make it happen.
I’d say you’re ready to not only build a content plan, but to put your plan into motion and start selling. What do you say?
Content marketing isn’t easy. Even spending a lot of time and effort on something that you think will be compelling can fizzle out like a dud. Sometimes it’s best just to face the facts and say this one thing out loud — “my content sucks.”
It’s a hard thing to say, and it’s definitely a downer when you first admit it. However, it’s not a putdown or a sign that everything you’re doing is wrong.
Instead, admitting this little fact is the opportunity to take a step back and examine why your content is failing to resonate with an audience. This introspection will improve your future content greatly. At the very least, the content you’re producing will no longer suck.
Here are some reasons why your content isn’t hitting the mark and how to make the improvements needed to grow:
You’re going at content marketing without a game plan
Knowing the audience helps guide your content strategies, but you still need a good plan in order to consistently deliver relevant content. This plan needs to include everything from how to approach each social media service to planning out an editorial calendar.
Just winging your content strategy is no way to build an audience. One great blog post followed by a bunch of filler posts won’t bring readers back to your site. The perfect tweet doesn’t mean much if it’s followed by dull, promotional messages.
This planning strategy is the blueprint to your future success. On paper, it might not look like much, but it leads to great things if it’s well-conceived and then reliably followed.
How many great writers go completely unnoticed on the internet? Your guess is as good as mine, but odds are the number is remarkably high. (The very nature of the question makes it impossible to measure, really.)
Good writing is an incredible asset that will never go out of style. However, the web is a visual medium. Sharp writing is enhanced by compelling visuals.
If you’re writing articles or blog posts that aren’t taking off as expected, then consider rethinking your approach to visuals. Studies show information seen visually is remembered much better than hearing or reading the same info. Knowing that, you need to put as much importance into choosing the right visuals as you would into writing a sentence.
If you’re already using images, then seek out better ones. Boring stock photos stick out like a sore thumb. Go for something more memorable — and perhaps even less polished — to catch the eye of your audience.
All the content you produce needs to be done with the audience in mind. If you don’t have a great idea of what your audience is like, then your content won’t go anywhere. Abandon your preconceived notions of who you think your audience is. With your mind clear, you can get a good idea of who you’re trying to reach and what they’re interested in seeing.
Not only is it important to keep your audience in mind when creating your content; it’s important to know what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re at. A labor-intensive white paper might look spectacular but may not be relevant to the audience if they’re only at the awareness stage. Instead, a short but catchy blog post could work.
Alternatively, pithy social media posts might not resonate with a more serious audience in the research phase. To know what will work and what doesn’t, you need to learn the ins-and-outs of your audience through analytics, surveys or possibly some outside perspectives.
And please, no matter what you do, don’t post SpongeBob memes if you’re trying to reach a professional audience.
You’re lacking authenticity
Beware the buzzword — but don’t ignore it. Sometimes all your content needs is a personal touch. Many marketers overlook authenticity, yet audiences are craving something genuine after being bombarded by all kinds of impersonal media throughout the day.
It’s a bit of a cliché to say this, but be yourself. A unique and personal voice can help reach an audience in a way that polished, overproduced content could never do.
This doesn’t mean speaking with a faux-folksy tone or adding a conversational tone to where it doesn’t belong. Play it smart and see what works with some experimentation. (Here are a few places to start.)
Taking your content from good to great
Let’s put it bluntly: Everyone sucks from time to time. Even the most well-staffed and deep-pocketed companies consistently fail at what they do. The smart people, however, learn from their mistakes and improve upon what they do. Take that message to heart — and to your content — and you’ll see a marked improvement on your content marketing.
It happens to the best of us. We’re going through our day, when a great idea for a blog post pops into our head. And that’s when we tell ourselves the biggest fib of our blogging careers…“I’ll remember that later.”
Ladies, don’t do it.
Write down all of your magical ideas in a notebook as soon as you think of them, whether it’s a physical notebook, a bullet journal, or something digital like Evernote.
Even better than getting them in a notebook? Putting them down directly in your editorial calendar. When you assign a date for your idea (even if you change it later), it suddenly takes on a whole new level of importance. It becomes less of a scrawled thought, and more like you’re writing an article for your very own magazine.
But what to use for an editorial calendar? Like anything else in life, this is a super personal decision. Ask a dozen bloggers, and you could get a dozen answers…it’ll vary by personality, work style, and a million other variables. But just to kickstart your thoughts, I’ll go over some of the ones I’ve tried:
1. Simple notebook
I’ve done this by just assigning a notebook page for each month, and writing 1, 2, 3, 4…or however many posts I wanted to do that month. You can use fun notebooks from makers like Erin Condren and May Designs, or hit up the $1 section at your local office supply store to get a basic pad.
2. Post-It calendar
You can buy this from several places, but I picked mine up at Target. There are a few limitations: each page is only for a week, and there are less than 52 pages, but it’ll get you a decent way. And because each page is for a week, the squares are a great size for writing in. Plus, you can easily rearrange the Post-It notes.
3. Door full of Post-Its
Speaking of easy rearranging, in the early brainstorming phases, I have been known to paper the back of my door with all of my ideas on Post-Its. I’m a visual person, so it makes it easy to look at all of my ideas in just a few moments, and figure out which one is really grabbing me.
I know I’m on a Post-It kick, but really this works quite well with the smaller Post-Its. You can scribble down an idea, slap it on the calendar and rearrange it to suit your needs. It makes it easy to to figure out where your posts need to fit in coordination with holidays, launches, and other major events in your business.
5. WordPress plugin
Tada! This one has nothing to do with Post-Its at all. And, it’s digital! There’s a WordPress plugin that’s simply called “Editorial Calendar.” It lets you create draft posts and schedule them out, so you can see what you’ve got coming up that you’ve finished writing, or still need to work on. They even set it up to enable you to drag and drop the posts, so if you realize that something is trending, or you accept an interview, you can easily reschedule one of your upcoming posts by scooting it to a different date. Cool, huh?
Of course these aren’t the only options, and some people use a combination of these and/or other methods. But with a plethora of easy options, there’s no excuse for not getting started.
Tell us: What’s your favorite way of organizing your editorial calendar?
You work hard at growing your email list. You created an irresistible lead magnet and optimized your website to capture leads. But when did you last take a close look at the emails that you’ve been sending out?
While growing your list is important, it’s equally important to take care of your existing subscribers and provide them with a wonderful brand experience. The last thing you want to do is push your subscribers to unsubscribe from your mailing list.
Now, getting unsubscribes is a natural and healthy aspect of email marketing, but not if you are unknowingly making mistakes that leave subscribers with no choice but to unsubscribe.
Here are six email marketing mistakes that you should nip in the bud to build trust and nurture a lasting relationship with subscribers:
#1 – You make them ask “Wait, who are you again?”
Your subscribers do not have the faintest clue as to who you are.
If you have not been consistent in emailing them and have been missing from their inbox lately, you need to re-establish your relationship with them.
Your subscribers’ inboxes are crowded. If they see a name that they are not familiar with, they aren’t going to think twice about deleting your email or unsubscribing from it.
Drop a line in your email introduction or email footer telling them where and what they signed up for. This jogs their memory about you and your brand. Start to plan and schedule your emails so that you get into a routine and your name stays fresh in your subscribers’ minds.
#2 – You ask for the sale (too quickly)
It’s not wrong to put yourself out there and ask for a sale. Don’t get me wrong. But you have to ask yourself if the subscriber is ready to act on that call to action.
Come across a compelling lead magnet or content upgrade and sign up
Start to get aware of your brand
Get value from you and your brand
They start to see you as an authority figure and trust what you have to say
You educate them on the problem they need to solve
You allay their fears by removing objections for using your product or service
You instill desire for your product or service and paint a vivid picture of how it could solve their problems
They purchase your product
They get results
They become fans and spread the word about your brand and products
The percentage of subscribers who are very engaged with you and your brand and may not require that many touch points before they are ready for a sale is small.
For the majority of subscribers, you need to gain their trust, educate them on the problem and remove any mental objections they have before you ask for a sale.
When you ask for repeated sales too early on in the process, your subscribers will lose trust in you quickly and even unsubscribe. Before you hit send on any email, ask if it is self serving or audience serving.
#3 – Your emails render weirdly on their devices
It’s becoming harder to determine exactly what devices your subscribers will use to access your emails. And when you use image-laden email templates, you cannot ensure that your emails will show up exactly as you would want them to on different devices.
Marketing Agency Brafton reported that “75% of Americans will simply delete an email before reading it if it is not optimized to be viewed on their screens.”
Plain text emails have the highest chances of rendering in the same way across different platforms. Strip your emails off unnecessary sidebars, and graphics. (Editor’s note: It’s one reason why ConvertKit emails have higher open rates than other providers’.)
Your subscribers will be more likely to perform that single call to action without all the unnecessary distractions. Your emails will also look a lot less commercial.
But when you over-sensationalize your subject lines and your email copy doesn’t live up to the buzz that your subject line has created (#clickbait), you are going to lose trust with your subscribers quickly. They are less likely to open up your future emails because of the previous letdown they had.
Here are some simple tips you can follow:
Use symbols: Symbols work because they jump out at you in the inbox. Start by including one at the start of the subject line to replace a word. Example: ⬆ your sales, with this one simple sales page hack
Add the recipient’s name in the subject line: Personalization in the subject line compels you to open up. Seeing your name in the subject line gives a sense of familiarity and makes you respond. Example: Have you written that ebook yet, Meera?
Show results: Add specific numbers and a promise to let the reader in on a strategy or tool or process. Example: The best $55.68 you will spend on your business
Remember to appeal to different sides of your subscribers rather than sticking to a single type of subject line just because it works.
#5 – You confuse them and provide little direction
Subscribers are not sure if you want them to comment on your post, click over to the sales page, share your post on social media or buy your ebook.
You pack several calls to action in your emails and give your subscribers too many decisions to choose from. And when you give people several choices, it overwhelms them and results in decision paralysis. They end up not acting on any of your suggested actions.
It’s best to keep to one call to action per email. But should the need rise for you to have a few, give clear instructions and the order of the actions you want them to take. Bold the most important action for emphasis. Number them or place them prominently in your emails.
#6 – You write mini-blog posts
Your emails are long with big paragraphs and rows and rows of text.
Keep in mind that more and more of your subscribers are accessing their emails from their mobile devices. According to a survey by Litmus, 33% of email opens occurred on an iPhone.
When readability becomes an issue, your subscribers aren’t going to scroll to the end of your email no matter how much value you provide.
Build a solid relationship through email marketing
The main purpose of email marketing is to build a relationship. While it takes time to experiment with and find out the types of emails your subscribers will engage with, you don’t want to sabotage your list building efforts by making any of these six email marketing mistakes.
The Internet is kind of like the universe — it seems to be constantly expanding. Every day there’s a new startup online, a new blog going live, a new podcast streaming. In all of the content, it can be difficult to stand out and attract your clients to your business website. How do you reach them when it seems like everyone else is publishing, creating, and sharing similar content?
You use the buyer’s journey to help you meet your clients where they are and create content that speaks directly to them. It’s that easy, and that hard.
What is the buyer’s journey?
The buyer’s journey is the process (or journey) that a potential client goes through before making a purchase. Leveraging the different stages in the process by creating content that addresses each stage can help you connect with your customers and move them through the buyer’s journey.
In its broadest sense, the buyer’s journey has three stages: the awareness stage, the research stage, and the decision stage. Each stage has its own challenges that need to be addressed as well as optimal content types and subjects you can use during each stage.
This is the stage that starts it all. During the awareness stage, your client has realized that she has a problem. She doesn’t know what the problem is, but she knows that it’s there. In this stage, your client is actively looking for information that will help her properly identify the problem, or at least give her an idea of the symptoms of her problem.
As a content creator, your job during the awareness stage is to create content that helps your client identify her problem. Blog posts, videos, podcast episodes, and content upgrades or lead magnets all work well during this stage — just make sure to include your awesome personality. If you’re going to help your clients identify their symptoms, checklists are a great option. Examples of content that fits well in the awareness stage includes:
X Ways to Tell if X (You’re Stressed, You’re Selfish, You’re an Alien)
How to X (Spot Mould on Your Fruit, Identify a Failing Marriage)
Awareness stage content in action
Let’s say you’re a yoga trainer who focuses on introducing non-yogis to the practice. One of your big selling points is that yoga helps people reduce stress, so you’ve created an awesome checklist to help people determine whether or not they’re stressed. This checklist runs through the symptoms generally associated with stress: difficulty breathing, trouble sleeping, headaches, muscle tension, and more.
Amanda, a self-employed mom-of-four, has been experiencing muscle tension and headaches for a few weeks. She thinks she might be stressed, but she’s not sure. She finds your website after a quick Pinterest search, and she decides to check out your site. Amanda finds the checklist on your site and goes through it. After she checks off most of the items on the list, Amanda realizes that she’s stressed.
Because of that checklist, Amanda was able to identify her problem (she’s stressed), and she’s ready to move on to the second stage of the buyer’s journey.
After your customer has identified her problem, she’s ready to look for solutions. At this point, she may have a rough idea of what her ideal solution is, but she’ll still research at least a little to help ensure she makes the right choice.
To connect with your customers in the research stage, you need to create content that outlines different solutions and their benefits. While it’s great that you mention your services and their benefits in your blog posts, you’ll also want to let your clients know that there are ways to DIY their solutions. Promoting your services as the only solution can be off-putting to potential clients, especially if they feel that it’s not the right fit for them.
Content formats that work well during the research stage are similar to those during stage #1 (blog posts; video tutorials; content upgrades), but it’s the subject matter that differs. This stage is where most of the how-to process posts and tutorials fall.
Subjects that fit well in the research stage include:
X Ways to X (Destress, Lose Weight, Increase Productivity)
X Reasons to X (Hire a Designer, Buy a Personalized Mug)
Insider Tips for Working With X (a Designer, a Yoga Trainer)
How to X (Remove Mould From Your Fruit, Put Passion Back in Your Marriage)
Research stage content in action
Amanda knows she’s stressed, and while she’s aware that one of the solutions available to her is to eat an entire tub of ice cream, she figures that there has to be a better solution. She browses your site until she finds your blog post called “15 Ways to Kick Stress to the Curb.” Amanda reads your post and finds several solutions that she likes, including the one about working with a yoga instructor. Amanda has moved into the final stage in the buyer’s journey.
By the time your customer reaches the decision stage, she has a clearly defined solution in mind, and she’s ready to act on it. Hopefully, the solution in question is working with you, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. In the decision stage, it’s likely that if your client has decided to work with someone, she hasn’t yet nailed down her professional of choice.
Back to Amanda, who’s ready to be stress-free. Amanda knows she wants to work with a yoga trainer, but she’s not sure if you’re the right trainer for her. She finds some of your case studies on your blog as well as a video testimonial some of your clients created for you. Amanda consumes your content, assesses her finances, and decides that you’re the right fit for her. She contacts you about working with her.
Incorporating the buyer’s journey in your content
Does the buyer’s journey always work that flawlessly? No.
Oftentimes, people will decide that the DIY strategy works best for them, but it’s crucial to have content that addresses each stage of the buyer’s journey to connect with a wider range of customers. Too often we focus on creating content in the awareness or research stage and neglect the decision stage.
While it’s important to have content that helps people identify and solve their problems, you need to have content promoting your specific products and services. If you don’t, you could be losing out on sales.
Your buyer’s journey content table
One of the best ways to ensure that you cover your bases and create content for each stage of the buyer’s journey is to create a buyer’s journey content table.
Write the buyer’s journey stages across the top of the table (along with your goal as a content creator for each stage) and the different content formats you’re comfortable with along the side of the table. Brainstorm ideas for each stage of the buyer’s journey and write them in the appropriate space.
You can also do this with your current content. Categorize your blog posts, videos, or opt-ins by which stage they fall into. This can give you a good idea of any gaps you have in your content strategy. It’s important to create content in all three stages of the buyer’s journey because your customers won’t all be in the same stage. The good news is you don’t have to create a new piece of content for each stage. You can repurpose your existing content.
Be a tour guide
Think of yourself as a tour guide, showing customers the different ways they can achieve their goals.
Creating high-quality content that speaks to each stage of the buyer’s journey will help you attract and inform customers. You want to make sure that each person who visits your website, regardless of which stage they’re in, has relevant content that helps them progress through the buyer’s journey. Hopefully, that journey will end in a new client, but if it doesn’t, you’ve established yourself as a valuable resource.
I can’t wait to open your emails!
Your emails are my favorite ones to read…
Your emails make my inbox sing!
When the emails you write to your list are engaging, entertaining or instructional, it’s easy for the readers to love them.
When they ooze with personality and make a connection with your readers, they can’t help but reply to you.
But when the subject line or content encourages a whole world of snoozes, you get…crickets.
As a copywriter, the majority of my 1-1 client projects involve writing emails, whether it’s sales emails, autoresponder sequences, or email courses. Each one of these email types follows a formula that elicits a connection with the reader of the email.
In this post, I’ll talk through two key elements of writing emails that get opened, plus the formula I teach my clients to use. Let’s dig in.
Key element #1: Subject line
Your email subject line is typically the biggest influencer on whether your email is opened.
To up your odds, try writing subject lines that fall into one of two categories:
1. Subject lines that talk benefits
What’s in it for the reader? What result will they get from reading the email? How does it help them specifically?
If this article were to be sent in an email, the subject line could read:
How to increase your email open rate by 30%
It clearly explains the benefit to the audience if they want to increase their email open rate.
2. Subject lines that create curiosity
The brain is wired to close the loop on any story. We can’t help but want to know the answer.
It’s why movie trailers work to promote films, and sadly, why clickbait headlines (like: ‘Banker buys his mother a dog – you won’t believe what happened next!’) are so good at getting us to click.
We can’t help but want the answer to close the curiosity loop. (Why a banker? What kind of dog? What happened next?!)
Using words like secret, hidden, and little known in a subject line will create curiosity. Who doesn’t want to know a secret?
Again, if this post was sent via email, a curiosity-filled subject line might read:
The hidden strategy standing between your audience and your email being read
The same works if you ask a question. Our brains want to know the answer, pronto. For example:
What’s the one thing standing between your audience and your email being read?
Writing subject lines gets easier with practice, and it’s always helpful to write at least 10 different versions of the subject line to find the best one.
So, why not start practicing?
Here are some templates to get you started:
Template: At last, you will find out how to [goal] Example: At last, you will find out how to effortlessly create Facebook ads that convert
Template: Are you protecting yourself from [problem]? Example: Are you protecting yourself from your website being hacked?
Template: The [time] guide to [action] Example: The 10-minute guide to meditating every morning
Template: The only way to [thing they want to achieve] without [thing they don’t want to do] Example: The only way to find a boyfriend without dating online
Template: Never worry about [thing they want to avoid] with [what you’re offering] Example: Never worry about emails being opened again with these 15 subject line templates
The second key element of emails that get opened is stories. Just as curiosity creates action, stories create connection.
Think about a book you read that you didn’t want to end, or a movie you watched that made you cry. Why did this happen?
When we experience a story, we see a part of ourselves in it. It brings us closer to the characters in the story.
This is why stories in emails encourage positive responses from your readers – they connect with you because you’ve given an insight into your life, and they see parts of themselves in your story.
Using stories in your emails can be as simple as explaining how you started your business, a problem you overcame, or something you’ve experienced in your daily life that your audience will relate to.
What do you do when you don’t have any stories to tell? Or when you’re struggling to find a story that connects with the message of your email?
Give some of these a try:
A testimonial or case study from a client
Make references to movies, music or literature
Use a parable to explain your point
A story from a friend or relative (with their permission)
How to focus on your reader in storytelling
The first way to focus on your reader in storytelling is to change all the ‘I’ or ‘we’ statements into ‘you’ statements.
‘What do most people think is the best way to grow an email list?’‘What do you think is the best way to grow an email list?’
Or ‘Here’s how I used Facebook ads to get my first 100 subscribers’ becomes ‘Here’s how you can use Facebook ads to get your first 100 subscribers’
The second way is to actively encourage the reader to see themselves in your stories or statements.
For example, drop in phrase and questions that encourage a pause:
Can you relate?
Tell me if you see yourself in this …
Are you nodding your head while reading this?
How to structure emails that get opened
Most successful emails follow a simple structure that’s easy to replicate.
(Keep in mind that “successful” is relative. It could mean the email gets opened, sells a product or service, garners comments on a blog post, elicits responses to a survey or encourages replies, or more.)
Here’s the structure to apply to emails that leads your reader down the page and onto the call to action (the instruction that tells them what to do next):
Subject line: A compelling subject line that encourages the reader to open the email
Intro: The opening sentence that sets the scene. This could be a question, statement, reminder, or quote — anything that peaks the interest of the reader
Context: More detail on what’s to come next. Here, you can appeal to the hopes, fears, or dreams of the reader (choose one, not all three)
Story: A story that’s related to the context will help make your concept a
reality in the mind of the reader
Close: A friendly close that includes your name
Call to action: An ask for the reader to take the next best step. The CTA
must be related to the context and story
Finally, let’s see an example of this in action.
The following screen shots were taken from an email from Adam Gilbert from MyBodyTutor.com. His audience includes people that want to lose weight and are tired of fad diets. Let’s see how Adam applied this formula:
Over to you: What will be the subject of your next email that gets opened?
As a writer, I prefer the word text to content when I talk about my work. Content makes me think of filler, something more like Hamburger Helper than grade-A beef. But there’s a good reason people don’t call blogging a form of “text marketing.” Content actually includes nearly anything you publish — read, heard, or seen — for your audience’s education or pleasure.
Why content marketing?
The philosophy behind content marketing is that when you offer people free published material they care about, they will be drawn to your business. You essentially become a personalized media outlet just for your target market.
Though it’s relatively “new” in business, content marketing is not a new idea. The earliest known example is John Deere’s magazine, which was so successful it is still in circulation today.
Done right, content marketing will naturally integrate with your other marketing tactics, helping you engage the right audiences at the right time. Some of your content will draw in people who’ve never heard of you; some will help them understand what you offer; and some will keep you on the minds of your past customers. It spans both B2C and B2B markets in effectiveness.
The limits of content
Content marketing sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But it’s not magic. Here’s why:
As you now know, content marketing isn’t just blogging. Whether you’re a graphophobe (someone who fears writing) or blogger who wants to try new things, check out these alternative types of content. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Which of them might appeal to your target market?
Text/graphic design formats
Case study: Essentially the story of a problem one of your customers faced and how you solved it for them. (In psychology and business analysis, case studies are much more scientific and in-depth.)
Infographic: The hipster cousin of charts and diagrams. Infographics are a perfect way to condense a lot of data into an engaging, easy-to-read format.
White paper: Concise reports on a complex topic, explaining a problem and proposing a solution in simple terms. The idea of white papers came from government but are now common among businesses trying to build thought leadership.
Ebook: Digital books you can read on a phone, tablet, or computer. Compared to physical books, e-books are incredibly easy to create and self-publish. Unlike most forms of content marketing, you can sell ebooks from your website or a platform like Amazon.
Note: If content is anything you publish for your market, do video advertisements, Facebook posts, or your website count? Logic and instinct tell me yes, yet the conventions of content marketing — its aim to educate and/or entertain, rather than sell — tell me no. I’ll leave that up to your discretion.
Webinar: A seminar or presentation done on the web, using platforms like Crowdcast, WebinarJam, and Google Hangouts. As in a seminar, the presenter usually uses a slideshow and the participants can ask questions.
Video: Audio-visual content used for a huge variety of purposes. You can use video to tell your brand’s story, explain your product or service, highlight key points of a white paper, or give a case study, among other things. Get creative!
Podcast: Netflix for radio. Technically: A digital audio recording, usually part of a themed series that listeners can subscribe to. Some podcasts are only a few minutes and aim to entertain, while others are over an hour long and offer more in-depth content. (OWS tells you everything you need to know to start one!)
Becoming a content marketer
As business owners, content marketing is a crucial part of the job. Your content can strengthen and enhance your presence online and in person. Overwhelmed? Don’t be.
The key to creating effective content of any type is to think like your customers. What content do they need? If the answer is a blog, keep blogging! But if they would love an infographic or video (and love you because of it), branching out might be well worth the investment.