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Content is More Than Blog Posts – It’s the Voice of Strategy

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on Content as the Voice of Strategy

Content’s been around a long time, we’ve been talking about it for more than a decade. A lot of people still treat it as just another tactic, and think of it as a blog post here or social media update there. In reality, you can’t do much in your marketing efforts without a serious, strategic approach to your content. I’ve even started referring to content as the voice of strategy.

It may eventually be your emails, blog posts, and social updates, but it needs to have a more intentional approach behind it. How you use content to guide the customer journey is very significant. That’s why every business owner needs to tackle some core content elements before moving onto things like blog posts and podcast episodes that will populate your editorial calendar. You must start with using content to communicate your strategy in all elements of your online presence.

Let’s Start with an Example

To help you understand what this all means, I’d like to start with an example of a client we were working with. They were a lawn service company that already had a lot going for them. They had great processes, a well-trained team of professional folks, and customers who loved them. So our issue wasn’t about trying to establish them as better than the competition—they were already clearly hitting that mark on their own.

Our role was to make sure that everyone who visited their website or encountered their business on the internet knew they were the most trusted resource for someone looking for lawn care services.

So we started with their core message. We came up with clever messaging that communicated the idea that you’re gonna love to come home on mowing day. But we also wanted to incorporate all of the specifics about what made them a great service provider (a stellar team, the best communication, a top-notch system for delivering service). How could we empower them to be more than just a provider of lawn care services and instead become a resource for information about anything and everything a homeowner might want to know on the topic?

Once we had honed in on what we were hoping to achieve with our messaging, then we could get specific about the type of content we wanted to produce. And it’s not always about creating more content, it’s about creating the right content.

Go Back to Basics

It all starts with that core message and story. If you don’t have that locked down and clearly communicated on your homepage, if you don’t have the core pages on your website, if you don’t have a basic video, if you aren’t getting customer reviews then you’re missing the foundations of content marketing. You need to start with these before you dive into podcasting and webinars and other elements.

Storytelling

Storytelling should be at the heart of all your content. The concept of storytelling has become a hot topic in marketing circles over the past few years. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to telling your business’s own story, it’s a good idea to build your story around these five points. You need to open up a dialogue with your customers:

1. Ask:Does this problem sound familiar to you?” Your customers aren’t interested in what you sell, they’re interested in the problems you solve. You need to be able to communicate that you understand their underlying problem.

2. Tell them:It’s not your fault.” It’s important for your business to show empathy for your clients. Acknowledge that you understand their problem, but that it’s not their fault they’re experiencing it.

3. Ask: “What if your problem was solved?” Next, paint a picture of what life could look like if your client’s problem went away.

4. Tell them the good news: “It can look like that!” Now’s the time to present yourself as the solution to their problem. After all, your brand understands the issue and is here to fix it.

5. Present them with a call to action. Once you’ve addressed the four points above, your prospect should feel pretty convinced that you get what they’re up against and have the solution they need. That’s when you come in with the call to action for them to reach out and speak to you about solving their issue.

Write out the story for your own business. It might take two pages or two paragraphs, but get it down on paper. From there, you can refine it and develop your core marketing messaging around it. Create a core statement for your homepage. Film a core video that addresses the points above. The homepage should be all about communicating this core story and building prospects’ trust in your knowledge and ability.

Core Pages

There are some pages that every business website simply needs to have. This starts with a great homepage. I’ve spoken before about the must-have elements for any homepage, and they include a scrolling journey that lists your services, tells your core story, and has trust-building elements.

Your site should also include individual pages for each of your services or service areas. Too often I see businesses with a great homepage who drop the ball and get vague on the details when it comes to what it is that they actually do. Once you win people over with your core messaging on your homepage, you want to seal the deal with the specifics about your goods or services, and then provide calls to action for them to reach out, schedule an appointment, and become a customer.

Review Funnel

Reviews are an integral part of any business’s online presence. Not only do they help with your ranking on search engines, today’s prospects are more reliant than ever before on the word of existing customers to offer social proof. Your website should have a review funnel for collecting reviews on third party sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Google My Business.

You should also be collecting first party testimonials. This doesn’t have to be an intimidating process; when someone writes you a nice email or letter about their great service, simply ask if they’re okay with you sharing it as a testimonial on your website. Or if you don’t have any kind emails lying around, consider reaching out to some recent customers who were happy with their service—people are often more than willing to say a nice word or two when asked.

The final piece of the review puzzle is writing case studies. Creating an in-depth profile of a happy customer—what their problem was, what your solution was, and what happened after you got involved—is another trust-building element.

Case studies and reviews help potential customers see themselves in those you’ve already helped, and can be a major factor in their decision-making process.

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Content

Once you’ve created that foundational content, it’s time for you to turn your attention to those elements on your editorial calendar. Whether you’ve already created an archive of content over the years or are just beginning to strike out into blogging, building your content around hub pages is beneficial for both SEO and customer experience.

Hub pages allow you to rank for the highest intent types of searches and to provide industry expertise that establishes you as a resource for information. They essentially allow you to become like the Wikipedia for your area of expertise. You share a lot of useful content grouped around the subject areas that matter most for your business, and you become a friendly face and guide to your prospects long before you become a service provider.

These hub pages can address questions all throughout the customer journey. Let’s take the example of a basement waterproofing company. When a homeowner is thinking about hiring a waterproofing company, they likely have a lot of questions: How much will the services cost? Do I really need to waterproof my basement? What are the consequences of me not undertaking this home improvement project?

If you can build a page that addresses these early research questions, you get out in front of your competition from the start in prospects’ minds.

Plus, whether this content is already living on your blog or not, the hub pages allow you to structure it in a way that makes it more user-friendly. Rather than having to scroll through your archives and root around for the relevant posts, everything your prospect needs on the topic is right there. This hub page becomes a gold mine of information, so they read multiple articles, share their findings with others, and come back several more times as additional questions arise. This all signals to search engines that your content is highly useful and relevant, and soon enough you’ll see yourself rising in the SEO rankings as a result.

Content may not be king anymore, but it is certainly integral to your strategy. Once you’ve determined what it is that sets your business apart, it’s a solid approach to strategy that gets your messaging out to prospects and clients and helps differentiate you from the competition. Starting with your core storytelling message and moving outward from there is the way to build a content strategy that resonates with prospects and gets results for your business.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by SEMrush.

SEMrush is our go-to SEO tool for everything from tracking position and ranking to doing audits to getting new ideas for generating organic traffic. They have all the important tools you need for paid traffic, social media, PR, and SEO. Check it out at SEMrush.com/partner/ducttapemarketing.

solution for clients

Why Problem Solving is the Golden Ticket For Your Marketing Efforts

People are always going to have problems, so as a marketer or business owner, your job is to solve these problems for your ideal clients. This really is the key to business success.

Here’s the thing, problem-solving is easier said than done. You can’t take this lightly and can’t just go halfway with it because people will always look for better and faster ways to get what they’re looking for.

I’m not going to sit here today and tell you how to build your product, that’s your job, but I am going to give you helpful tips on how to market it.

Why people buy

It never gets easier to hear this, but at the end of the day, people don’t want or care about what you sell. All they care about are that their problems are solved, and your products or services are simply a means to an end.

Some of the most successful and satisfied entrepreneurs I know figured this out early on. They weren’t necessarily after all the fancy bells and whistles that could have come with their products and services at the beginning. Instead, they were obsessive in solving their customer’s problems. Once they figured out how to do that, they could add the “cool” factors.

Your customers don’t often know how to solve their problems, but they often know what those problems are, which is why they are searching for solutions like yours. Show them that you are the answer they are looking for and the experts equipped to make their pain points go away. As a marketer or business owner, that’s really all you need to do. Period.

How to discover problems

Do you have the answers to the following questions (this is a long list, but to truly be effective, you’ll want the answers to each and every one of them):

  • Who are you selling to?
  • What are their goals and dreams?
  • How do they gather information to solve their problems?
  • What are some things that are important to them?
  • Do you know what the biggest unmet need is in your marketplace?
  • What is the biggest pain point your customers experience?
  • How hard have you worked to try to solve their problems in the past?
  • Why is the problem so hard for them to solve?
  • Who else is trying to solve the problem and how are they approaching it?
  • What does success look like to them?
  • What might hold them back from buying a product or service?
  • How do they come to a purchase decision?

To truly get the answers to these questions, and understand them front to back, start your research by sitting down with current customers and simply ask them some of those questions directly.

Additionally, look at online forums and sites they visit and see what they’re talking about, and also take a look at your emails, look at your online reviews, and chat with your sales team to pinpoint common complaints or issues your customers are having. You’d be amazed at the amount of information that can come from those sources.

How to effortlessly include problem-solving in your marketing

Refocus your messaging

Your ideal customer should always be top of mind and it is imperative that your message is directed to them and resonates with them.

They want to see a message that revolves around solving their problems. It should be clear and concise so that they have little doubts as to how you can help them.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to focus on themselves, products, and services in their messaging. It’s important that you scan your content and refocus your message on your customers and the problems they want to be solved.

Create trigger phrases

This is a bit time consuming, but worth it. Break down the solutions you sell and the benefits of what you do. Map these back to what I like to call “trigger phrases.” These should be attention-grabbing statements or questions and should come from the point of view of your customer, not your own.

Develop an attention-grabbing headline

Take a second and write a bold statement that might be the first thing anyone who visits your website will see and test this headline with your ideal clients. Ask them to be honest and details in their feedback.

Online reviews can also provide valuable insight for writing these headlines. They can often write your promise for you.

Be educational and informative in your content

Be helpful with the content you create, even if it doesn’t directly discuss your products or services. Show that you are knowledgeable on the issues they are facing in a variety of formats. Content is essential to any business today so get started on writing blog posts, creating how-tos, recording videos, and so on. Through content, show them that you are experts in the field that will help to make their pain points go away. Providing actionable advice can go a long way.

Make your prospects’ and clients’ lives easier through content upgrades

As part of your lead generation efforts, provide valuable information through content upgrades that people can download by giving at the very least their email address. This allows you to nurture them with additional helpful information down the road, which will continue to remind them that you are there for them and have the answers they are looking for.

Be responsive to comments, emails, and social media

Remember, these channels should not be one-way streets, they should be conversation tools. By responding quickly and providing thorough answers on these platforms, you’re just giving them one more reason to trust you and see you as an authority in your field that has their backs.

Dive deeper than basic keywords

Keyword research is essential for speaking to and getting your audience’s attention, but to really have an impact, go further than the surface level keywords and focus on long-tail keywords to really get targeted and get to the root of their problems.

Personalize your lead generation efforts

While problem-solving in itself will help drive you towards success, to really make an impact in your market, you must be unique and creative in how you solve these problems because everyone in your industry is trying to address the same problems.

Are you focusing on problem-solving in your marketing efforts? Have you seen a change with this type of focus?

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Building a Small Business Marketing Consulting Practice.

broken content strategy

How to Fix a Broken Content Strategy

Many businesses out there spend the last few months of the year planning their content strategy for the year ahead. They have color-coded spreadsheets completed, goals in the place, and the optimism that the next 12 months are going to be the best yet.

So, let me ask you a potentially awkward question: Are you on track to meet those goals? If the answer is no, don’t worry you are not alone, and there is still plenty of time to not only play catch up but to exceed the goals you originally set.

It’s OK to hit the restart button.

Through analytics and customer feedback, you should have insight into what’s working and what isn’t and should recognize the areas that need improvement.

If you’re stuck on how to turn your content strategy around, here are some tips to help you revitalize it.

Refocus your marketing message

When it comes to marketing these days, you must not only match your message to your ideal client, but you have to engage them and keep their attention as well.

Here’s something I’ve said for years, and will likely say it a few more times: Your clients and potential clients don’t care about your products or services (that’s not supposed to sound as harsh as it likely reads). What they really want is somebody to solve their problems.

If you can pinpoint what those are and succinctly explain how you address and solve those problems within your messaging, then you’ve basically won the golden ticket. Make it clear that you understand what they want and need.

Just remember, your messaging should not be about you.

Knowing your audience front and back will help you across the board when it comes to your content strategy. If you know how to speak to them and know what their trigger phrases are, you’ll be in a great place to move forward and take your marketing efforts to the next level.

Lastly, in addition to speaking to your audience with your messaging, be sure to also aligns it with your business goals, because at the end of the day, reaching those goals is what all of this is for.

Put the “must haves” on your website

When it comes to content revisions, it always surprises me when people don’t think to start with their website, the content hub. The role of your website is to help you:

  • Get found
  • Build trust
  • Educate
  • Inform
  • Nurture
  • Convert

To accomplish the areas above, you need to be sure your website has:

A promise

Add a promise above the fold on your homepage to show visitors that you understand the challenges they face. As mentioned in the previous section, you need to make them a promise that will solve their problems.

A call to action

Your call to action can be a number of things, including a request for more information, schedule a consultation, or download a free report. Just make sure it’s relevant and useful.

Video

In my opinion, this has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for small business. Video allows you to give people a real sense of who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story.

Trust elements

You need to have elements that build trust on your homepage, whether they are logos of current clients or testimonials for your audience to glance over. Make it easy for visitors to see them.

Content and content upgrades

Given the purpose of this blog post, this area should seem pretty obvious. To keep content on your website fresh, post to your blog frequently (have a blog feed on your homepage for easy access).

A content upgrade gives people the ability to download premium content in exchange for an email address or capturing a lead. If they download this content, it shows that they are interested in what you do. Use the information they provide you to nurture them through to the sale.

Core services

You likely have full pages dedicated to these services, but by adding short descriptions and images of each to your homepage as well, that link through to your service pages, you’ll also get additional SEO value.

Create a lead generation content plan

First and foremost, have a plan! So many people just wing it these days which often gets them nowhere. I find it helpful to create a theme for each month that all of your content can revolve around.

Each theme I use has a substantial topic related to my audience’s industry/pain points and represents an important keyword search term.

I also find it helpful to think about the themes as a book where each month represents a chapter in what will eventually make up a body of work by the end of the year.

Provide valuable information and use content upgrades to convert the readers of this information into leads. Try to personalize and add emotional components to your content as much as possible to really establish a connection with a reader. The more they feel that connection, the more likely they’ll be to convert into leads and eventually customers.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel with your content. You can share relevant content from other sites on your social platforms to provide value to your audience. You can also repurpose content you already have, so, for example, if you have a podcast episode, transcribe it and turn it into a written blog post.

The more value you can provide on a consistent basis, the better off you’ll be.

Outsource your content

A big reason why content strategy falls through is that people run out of time and don’t end up creating the content they had planned on. Listen to me when I say “outsource that content!”

Of course, you should own your process and strategy but you do not need to create the content yourself. There are plenty of people out there that can do that for you. Some sites you can start with include:

I have a plethora of additional outsourcing tips that you can find here to help you get started.

It’s never too late to turn your content strategy around. Follow these tips, continue to track progress, and keep revising as necessary until you hit your goals.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business.

8 10 Ways to Use One Piece of Content

content marketing

The only way to wring more value out of your content is to understand the intricate connection between your content and your strategy.

Now, don’t hit the back button just yet – I purposely left the word strategy out of the title of this post because I know that what you want is a magic bullet, but here’s the deal – content put in the context of strategy is the closest thing there is to the magic bullet.

The purpose of a business is to make and keep a profitable customer – the purpose of content is to help you make and keep a profitable customer – if that’s so – and it is – then why don’t people create content with that intention?

The idea of content marketing begins and ends for so many with – “It’s Monday, what the heck should I write today?”

What if instead you thought a little bigger – what if you thought we want to be seen as the trusted, go-to service provider for what we do and our value proposition is that we bend over backwards to make you happy when nobody in our industry even tries to.

Now, perhaps you’ve had a strategy meeting with your team and you all agreed that’s your core strategy, but no one thought to bring that into the content you produce.

If you did you would:

  • Write a blog post that outlined the 7 questions you should ask your current provider and make it a core lead generator
  • Turn that blog post into a series of videos that the sales team can send out one by one to prospects
  • Develop a Slideshare deck and presentation that you feature on your LinkedIn profile
  • Turn that presentation into a value packed webinar
  • Record the webinar and feature it on your homepage
  • Create an autorepsonder series that delivers emails to prospects over the course of a month
  • Create an infographic and shop it around to high traffic websites
  • Turn your infographic into a direct mail postcard for a targeted blast
  • Get seven of your happy customers to pose one of the questions via video and feature it all over your website
  • Dig up case studies that map to each question and extend the original post and graphics into an eBook

Did you see what I did there – I just took one landmark content idea and turned it into 10 useful iterations. See, the secret to success with content isn’t quantity – it’s intention. If you create content with the intention of finding ways to use it to create awareness, trust, connection, education and conversion, you’ll likely create an asset that provides massive return.

Now, understand this isn’t simply recycling content into different mediums, it’s giving the same content a different and needed useful stop along the customer journey.

Oh, and I didn’t even get to point where you turn this content into an evaluation process and ultimately a part of your service delivery.

So you see you don’t need more content – you need the right content in the right context – and that’s all.

14 How to Sell Anything Using Social Media

One of my predictions for 2012 is that more people will come to understand that you can indeed do business using social networks and, frankly, I’m already seeing it.

There are a couple reasons for this.

First off, people are getting more comfortable with social media and social behavior and the “social media is a pure engagement temple mentality” of some early adopters has faded.

More importantly, however, is that smart marketers are testing, tweaking and trying lots of things and figuring out how to build know, like and trust – the path to selling anything, anywhere – on social networks.

In my own experimenting I can tell you that generating and converting leads using social media takes a more patient approach, but once you find the right path, it’s actually a better way to sell in any environment.

The reason I see many people’s social media marketing efforts fail is that they are still simply broadcasting sales messages. This approach still works to some degree in an advertising setting because people often stumble upon your ads with a buying intent. It still works to some degree in email marketing efforts because people have asked to get your messages and you can easily earn the right to sell in that relationship.

However, most people don’t participate in social networks to shop so any sales message can feel sort of harsh and in the snack sized, feverish world of tweets, shares and likes any and all messages are very easy to ignore.

If you want to sell using social media, here’s one path:

Test your message

Using 140 characters or less to basically write an ad that makes people want to retweet and click isn’t something most people can muster in real time – and yet, that’s what most try to do.

I’ve had tremendous success using Google AdWords to test very compact messages. Once I find a message that draws clicks there, I know I’ve got a winner that will get action in the form of a tweet or share.

This somewhat scientific approach is one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing in social media and it’s the primary reason people that contend you can’t sell there say so.

Target your message

Here’s another proven technique that seems lost on many marketers. Just because there are 800 million people on Facebook doesn’t mean you need to appeal to all of them.

The quickest way to get the right kind of attention is to announce “hey you 437 people that need to get better at X” I’m talking to you.

If you want to learn more about the impact of using data to form your social media messages look no further than the work Dan Zarrella is doing.

Prove your worth

It’s nearly impossible to get someone ready to buy simply by crafting a mouth-watering tweet. There’s just not enough information to develop trust.

You must make your initial relationship building all about valuable content. Give something away that you know your targeted prospect wants and needs. Move the free line to the point where your free stuff is better than most other people’s paid stuff and watch how enamored people get.

Here again, there’s nothing new about this. For years, smart marketers made tiny little inexpensive classified ads in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics pay off nicely using this exact approach.

Engage

Now, here’s a step that just might be unique to social media and online marketing in general and it’s a very powerful one.

In the process of giving away all that great information ask your prospects to tell you things, share things, rate things and help you make the world a better place for all who inhabit it.

Seriously, create feedback forms and make that part of the deal for why you are giving away such great stuff. Socialize your content and make it easy to email, tweet and like. Send a series of emails during your content sharing phase that reinforces the important takeaways from the content and offers more engagement like email support or live Q and A sessions.

Ask for the order

Once you’ve done all this work and logically and authentically led a prospect to the place where they do indeed have some level of trust, it’s time to tell them where this journey is ultimately headed.

Paint the picture you know exists in their “current reality”, remind them of the incredible glimpse you’ve shared and then illustrate what the picture could look like.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming they will connect the dots – show them how to get the value you know you have to offer and be extremely clear about it. One of the benefits of this approach is that, if you do it right and they still don’t buy, you’ll earn the right to ask why and they’ll gladly help you understand how to get it right.

There’s nothing that magical about this approach really. Marketers have been using some form of these elements for years, but it’s the total package, including patience and hard work, that makes it pay off in the world of social media.