One of our biggest takeaways from reading The E-Myth Revisited was how often business owners are focused on their own interests, wants, and whims instead of those of their customers and clients.
We want our businesses to be so fulfilling for us that we often overlook an extremely important end goal of any business: to generate profit by satisfying customers.
We’ve, of course, experienced this at OWS HQ. For example, around this time last year, we wanted to provide a content upgrade (read: bonus) on our 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs list. We wanted to add value to the already jam-packed list. Something new and exciting and special.
In the midst of the brainstorming process of what that upgrade should be, Sara had a simple idea: Why not use something valuable that we had already created that we thought would perfectly fit those who landed on #100BestSites? (That thing = The Road to Solopreneur Success ebook.)
We wouldn’t be creating something just to create it. We wouldn’t be pouring hours of work into something new.
But? It wouldn’t feel special. We wouldn’t be lit up by watching something we had created be put out into the world for the first time. (Because, as any solopreneur knows, you can’t beat the rush of launch day.)
But we quickly realized that we weren’t taking the easy or lazy way out. We were taking the most effective and efficient route — the one that made the most sense for us, yes, but also, for our audience. And there’s something to be said for that.
How can you put aside your own need for “specialness” and instead choose efficiency and effectiveness for your audience today?
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.
Content might be king…
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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.
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.
Here at One Woman Shop, we pride ourselves on being as efficient and effective as possible, so we’re always thinking of ways to reuse what we’ve already done. We also believe that business isn’t one-size-fits-all, which means that the way you absorb information might be very different than the way another solo business owner takes it in. Combine these two facts with the idea that “marketing is 20% creation and 80% promotion” and you’ve got a perfect argument for the value of maximizing your creation time through repurposing your content into other forms.
In addition to maximizing your time, what else can you achieve by repurposing content?
Serve your current audience in the ways that work best for them
Reach new audiences through other platforms
Bring back older, evergreen content
How, exactly? Let’s take a look at the different content you might create — and how you can then repurpose it.
You’ve written an epic blog post.
Pull out key facts and figures and turn them into an infographic (here’s a helpful tutorial)
Make a YouTube video where you go over the same content (you’ll see more of this from us on our YouTube channel)
You’ve recorded a video with an expert.
Provide a transcript of the chat on your blog (for those who prefer to read)
My friend Joanne is a successful virtual assistant. Her clients adore her and consistently send her referrals. She was counting on her website to bring in new clients as well, but her site wasn’t seeing much traffic.
When I asked her what she does for search engine optimization (SEO), Joanne said:
“I have no problems with SEO. I come up first when I google my business name.”
Ding, ding, ding. SEO myth alert!
Unfortunately, this is a common conundrum for solopreneurs. And it requires a different mode of thinking.
Potential new clients don’t search for your business name because they don’t know who you are (yet).
What do they search for?
Think about the last time you were online. It’s a pretty safe bet you googled something (that might even be how you ended up here). And if you googled something, you were most likely looking for a solution to a problem.
People visit websites because they’re looking for solutions. Even when they’re playing Candy Crush, they’re solving a problem, like boredom or procrastination.
Let’s say I’m a single mom who runs a business from home. I’m struggling to get everything done before my kids get home from school. I could really use a hand, but don’t want the financial commitment of hiring an employee.
A virtual assistant would be a solution to my problem. It would help me get everything done without having to hire an official employee.
Since I’ve never heard of Joanne, I’m not going to search specifically for her business. So what would I search for instead?
virtual assistants in [location]
hiring a virtual assistant
what to look for in a virtual assistant
how to find a virtual assistant
This is where SEO comes in.
SEO is not about showing up first when someone googles your business name. That should happen even if you do nothing to optimize your website for search engines.
SEO is about showing up in google when someone searches for a solution to their problem.
What can Joanne (and you!) do to get found more in Google?
Identify the problems your potential clients are trying to solve. What problems do your side hustle or business solve? Consider what you think they are, and survey current or past clients to find out what they searched for when they found you. Get in the mindset of your ideal client(s) here.
Make a list of phrases they would search for to find solutions to those problems. Based on your own brainstorm as well as survey feedback, construct a list of phrases and keywords that should be strategically used to describe who you are and what you do.
Use those phrases and keywords on your website. Producing great content is the key to pleasing search algorithms, but keyword-stuffing will get you nowhere. Intersperse the phrases and keywords you’ve determined your clients will use strategically, and surround them by valuable, quality content.
By figuring out the problems and solutions her potential clients are searching for, Joanne now has an arsenal of keyword phrases for SEO. She can use those phrases in headlines, sales pages, and blog posts to help potential clients find her online.
Did you fall for this SEO myth as well? Now that you know how people search online, you can fool-proof your website by more effectively optimizing it for search engines.
Because here’s what I’m going to share: I have three ways you can connect with the ideal audience that’s behind the screen.
Making your website your round-the-clock salesperson
Let me introduce you to a certain situation all solopreneurs encounter. In this situation, you’re a hypothetical business coach, and Sabrina just happens to be your ideal client.
Sabrina wants to improve her teaching presence, but she lacks confidence. So she does a quick search on Google with the query “how to gain confidence” and one of your blog posts pop up. She clicks it and reads. You have a few great tips she takes note of, but now she wants more. She starts to click around your website.
At this point, you have approximately 30 seconds to connect with Sabrina, answering her questions and enticing her to stick around. She doesn’t necessarily know what she needs. It’s up to you, in that brief encounter, to introduce the option of hiring a business coach, and communicate the benefits of working with you rather than figuring it out on her own.
Together, let’s explore three ways you can connect with Sabrina in those 30 seconds and how you can deliver the answers to her questions without actually having to be there:
1. Communicate via video/audio:
Providing quality video and audio content is one of the best and quickest ways you can connect, gain trust, and build credibility with a potential client. Here are a few ways in which you can use video and/or audio effectively:
Create an introduction video for your homepage. When Sabrina visits your website, she has concerns and questions that she needs you to answer for her. Develop an engaging, 30-second video that welcomes visitors to your site, and answers any or all of the following:
How can you solve my problem?
What makes you an expert?
Why should I trust you to hire you?
What would it be like to work with you?
How much does it cost to work with you?
Create a free video or video series for your email opt in. List building is a serious tool for increasing audience engagement. Use a free video or video series as your giveaway to entice sign ups. Be sure to make these videos educational and remember, someone like Sabrina doesn’t know they need to hire you. Speak to what your ideal clients want and need.
Develop an educational webinar. Webinars are another fantastic tool for educating your audience, building your credibility, and allowing you to inspire a connection. And it doesn’t just have to be done in real time. Record a webinar and make it available via your site. Sharing or selling the recording will allow your visitors who didn’t attend live, like Sabrina, a chance to obtain value and see you in action. Alexis Grant has a great example of this with her SEO for Bloggers webinar that can be accessed anytime, for free.
Host or guest appear on a podcast. I am not suggesting you start a podcast unless that is what you want to do — it’s a big undertaking! However, being interviewed by someone who has a popular podcast allows you to share your expertise with someone else’s audience, and it can be linked to over and over again without any additional work by you.
2. Grant easy access to your calendar:
Perhaps video and audio aren’t for you. You still want to make that initial connection with Sabrina before she exits your site. What I’ve seen work: allow visitors to schedule a free consultation with you and get on your calendar instantly. This way Sabrina has access to you to ask any questions she might have and you are able to connect with Sabrina one-on-one to see if she’s a good fit. The best part? all of the logistics can be taken care of while you sleep.
3. Talk directly to your ideal client in your written content:
Your written content on your website should be working for you all the time. When you write your content with your audience in mind, Sabrina will feel as if you are talking directly to her and not to the masses when she reads. Use more “you” and less “I.” Make your visitors feel important, unique, and like they’ve found the right place.
Imagining connecting with one individual at a time makes all the difference in your writing. Consider their needs that you are fulfilling. Live conversations with new prospects mean sparking interest by framing your services in terms of how you can help them solve their problem — and your written content on your website should do the same.
Each of these three strategies requires some upfront work, but once set up, they’ll begin the transformation of your website from passive tool to 24-hour salesperson. Because we all need some time off, right?
Which of these three strategies will you focus on and use for your business? Share with us below.
Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds – where we members of the community scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we they think will help your business—and maybe even your life! This week’s curator: copywriter and social marketer Colleen E. Mayer.
For better or worse, the lines of personal and professional have long since blurred. The Muse has become my favorite stop for both work- and life-related advice. Recent favorite read? How to Recover From an Epic Email Fail. (It’s happened to the best of us!)
Let’s be honest: space in our inbox is valuable. I don’t sign up for regular newsletters often, but when I do, oh baby you can bet it is a good one. (Hello, One Woman Shop!) I follow news from DailyWorth every.single.day. and recently came across this gem featuring 8 Surprising Things You Can Get For Free. Excuse me while I plan what to do with all of the money I’ll be saving.
How closely were you following the #Under30Summit? This quick read sums up one output from the summit: everyone is now a content creator, but at what cost?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve dabbled with dozens of different apps that claim to make your business run smoother. I’m practically giddy over the idea of a simple, stylish app that’s actually functional, and I can actually swear by several on this list: 10 apps every entrepreneur needs.
Want to build up your social presence in advance of launching a campaign? First, make sure you’re everywhere you need to be. This post from Business Insider reveals the top demographics of social sites.
If you’re thinking about making the transition into solopreneurship, if you’re an experienced entrepreneur, or if you’re simply a living, breathing human being, read this genius post from Lifehack.