How Do I Do Content Marketing?

How do I do content marketing?

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It’s actually super simple.  

See, first you start out by being just a little bit out there.  Awkwardly so, perhaps.  Like this alpaca. (Or is it a llama?  I always get those two confused.)

How do I do content marketing?

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Then, you take some quiet time to meditatively… meditate on the subject you plan to discuss.  This can be a long process for many content marketers because their lives are full of distractions.

How do I do content marketing?

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Many, including myself, find that setting up a comforting routine – such as a selection of relaxing music or a stimulating beverage – can ease them down the road of creativity and productivity.

How do I do content marketing?

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Once you start down that pathway, your work is more than half done!

Creating content is as simple as 1-2-3!  Which is to say, it sounds really simple in English, but if you don’t speak the language, it’s complete gibberish.  And even if you understand the basics of counting in English, it’s seeming simplicity masks the fact that there are such things as negative numbers, and fractions, dividing by zero, and imaginary numbers too!

But, you can do it.  Trust me.

How do I do content marketing?

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And once you do, the beauty and harmony of the words, images, call-to-action, persona-reaching copywriting wordsmithing and psychographic soul-rending prose you created will be an amazing thing to behold.  

Now just send it out there into the world and let it fly!  

I guarantee you’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams!

How Do I Do Content Marketing – The Truth

How do I do content marketing?

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Ok, so maybe all of the above is a bunch of B.S.

But the fact is, “doing” content marketing really is a simple process.  Not easy, mind you, but simple.

You find that one person – we’ll call them “Joe Target-Market” – and you find out who they are.  What they like, what they hate, what keeps them up at night, what makes them throw the remote down in frustration… and what makes them buy.

Then, you speak to them.  

And you explain, as one human being to another, why they should give you their money.

And you do it over and over again, forever.

How do I do content marketing?  Here’s how.

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Content Strategy – Delivering Stories People Want to Hear

Content Strategy Delivering Stories People Want to Hear

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There’s a fine line between keeping up with the Joneses and looking exactly like the Joneses.

One usually makes good business sense, the other just makes you look silly.

When it comes to your content strategy, there’s going to inevitably be some “keeping up with the Joneses” involved.  For instance, if your biggest competitor is currently snagging 60% of their leads off Twitter, you’d be a fool not to put some emphasis on creating Twitter-friendly content and working to attract the attention of some of those leads.

But if that’s all you’re doing: “me too” content with no soul or unique voice, then you’re missing the point, brother.

The Key to Effective Content Strategy: Delivering Stories People Want to Hear

To avoid this all-too-common trap, the first thing you need to do is determine what your target audience really wants to hear.

Remember, this is what they want to hear, not what you want them to hear or what you think they want to hear.  

So how do you figure this out?

It involves listening with an open mind to what’s being discussed elsewhere online, and giving your audience every opportunity to offer feedback to you directly.  Can you include a brief survey at various touchpoints in the buyer’s journey?  Encourage and respond to blog comments?  Inspire conversation on social media and dedicate the time and effort necessary to keep the conversation going?

By doing this consistently, you should be able to get a solid handle on what your audience truly wants to know about.  You’ll be able to tell what questions they have in mind that may be keeping them from purchasing from you, or what intimidates them about your product or service.  You’ll be able to determine if there’s something about your messaging that confuses them, or sends them down the wrong path.

Once you’ve identified these items, you simply need to create content that simply and powerfully provides exactly what the audience has identified for you.  Answer their questions, calm their fears, respond to their objections, solve their problems.

What They Want is Transparency

More often than not, as you compile the questions and concerns your audience has, you’ll find a running theme: what they’re really looking for is the inside scoop: the real story behind your company, your brand, your product, or your service.  They want to know what goes on behind the scenes and what’s going to happen after they give you their money.

More than anything else, they’re looking for some sort of human connection behind the facts and figures.  If you can put a human face on your business and turn your marketing messages into compelling conversation, you’ll be following the most effective content strategy delivering stories people want to hear. 

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The Content Marketing Package – Is It Right For You?

The Content Marketing Package

In an effort to infuse some normalcy and predictability into a notoriously unpredictable industry, content marketing professionals have recently been putting a lot of focus on the content marketing package.

I’ve done it myself, because I honestly feel it’s a worthwhile option in many cases.  

But it’s certainly not the only option – or the best one, in most cases.

If you’re not familiar with the term, the content marketing package is basically a pre-determined menu of content creation and distribution options at a set package price, which an agency or professional can offer to their clients on a retainer basis.

For example, I have three different package levels, all of which run on a set monthly retainer fee.  My packages are fairly flexible in that I still expect to fine-tune the package to each client’s unique circumstances and strategy, but I have a pretty solid time investment in mind when I’m agreeing to the flat retainer fee.

The Pros

There are pros for both the client and the content professional when using a package system on a retainer fee.

For the client, there’s the piece of mind of knowing ahead of time how much you’re going to spend each month without the worry of hidden fees caused by extra hours or unexpected edits.  This makes budgeting simpler, and makes it far easier to determine ROI on your marketing efforts.

Also, it gives the client the opportunity to learn about the content marketing process as they work with the professional with a standardized system each month, improving and fine-tuning the strategy as they go.

For the marketer, a steady monthly income is like a dream come true, as is the ability to budget and schedule time for the necessary work months in advance.  Besides that, having a pre-determined list of items to create, dispense, and track each month makes for efficient and easily structured work.  If something needs to be fixed, it’s readily apparent because everything remains uniform.

The Cons

The pros mentioned above are powerful, and unfortunately they may be pushing too many pros and their clients into a package/retainer arrangement when that’s not the best option for them.

In some cases, the best content strategy involves a lot of experimentation and adjustment.  If both sides of the equation feel locked into a particular list of content pieces because of a six-month contract, this could hinder necessary adjustments and experimentation.  Instead, they may continue churning out sub-par content on schedule, just because the agreement is already in place.

Likewise, a business with many different marketing initiatives going on at once may find themselves over spending in one area via the content marketing package, only to find that other aspects of their marketing objectives are being neglected and don’t have an adequate budget allocated.

These situations can – unfairly – turn into frustration with the content professional or agency, when in actuality it’s the agreement that’s causing the problem.

So, is the content marketing package right for you?  Or are you better off filling in your content needs on project by project basis?

The best way to find out is to speak to a content professional and allow them to help you decide what’s best in your unique circumstances.

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The Content Marketing Hurricane is currently FREE in Amazon Kindle format!  Grab your copy now through July 12th!  Your honest review and rating are very much appreciated!

TEDx Talk: Never Laugh at Live Dragons

I’m excited to finally be able to share this video of my TEDx presentation last year in Hickory, NC.  Unfortunately, due to a number of technical issues apparently caused by my appearance on the stage, it took the team a long time to get the video to its current state of mediocrity.  But, you can see and hear it well enough to get the point.

It’s a fun excursion into the power of stories, and what they can mean to the tellers and the listeners.

Enjoy!

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TEDx Talk

How I Develop Content for my Website

Written content for my website

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If you take time to explore the Words That Begin With You website, you’ll see that there’s a wealth of content here.  (Which makes sense, considering my chosen line of work.)  

Since I’m primarily a writer, the bulk of what I create is in written form, but I’ve strayed into audio and video on occasion, made a few presentations, and noodled around with a lot of different written formats from tiny, pithy posts to complete books.

I wanted to take some time today to discuss my methodology for developing content for my website because everyone does it a little differently and some interchange of ideas could make a potentially daunting task a little easier on all of us.

Developing Written Content for my Website

For most of my standard blog posts, the genesis of the idea comes from one of three places:

  1. A Piece of the Puzzle – These posts are not necessarily parts of longer series (although some of them are) but they follow a basic theme that runs like a bright thread through the content I write.  Generally, these posts are how-to or hypothetical with an emphasis on real-world examples where possible.  Almost all my longer content (white papers, ebooks, and a print book) are in this category.  They tend to relate in some way to the major tenets I try to get across to my clients who are hoping to succeed with content marketing: speak to people, not Google; consistency is key; have fun.
  2. A Flash of Brilliance – These posts are usually one-off rants, raves, or inspirational diatribes that struck me as too powerful to overlook.  They may or may not relate directly to anything else I write, but they generally do connect in some way to content marketing or another related discipline.   Sometimes, they’re confessional, like my popular Blogging in Obscurity post, or the story of my decade-long overnight success.  In other cases, they’re just interesting analogies that occurred to me as I listened to music, watched TV, or watched football.
  3. Riffing Off Other Peoples’ Stuff- Although I do a ton of small scale curation via my social media hubs (especially Twitter) I will occasionally pull a real gem from my reading and turn my reaction to it into a blog post.  My most recent example of this was regarding The Content Marketing Holy War, which sparked some really intriguing conversation across the industry.  I enjoy doing this, but only when I’m sure my views are in some way different from the norm and are actually adding something of value.  I get a little tired of bloggers who spend most of their energy writing long-winded reactions to what other people have created.  It feels like a cop-out to me.
Audio content for my website

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Developing Audio Content for my Website

I’m no expert on podcasting, but it’s a format I really enjoy.  I’m not sure why I haven’t done more of it, but I keep telling myself I will.

Thus far, all my podcasting experience has been based on pulling content from my written backlog that I feel is important enough and valuable enough to disseminate in other ways, and reworking it for a podcast. 

Going forward, I intend to do a lot more of this, including a complete audio-book style treatment of The Content Marketing Hurricane (exclusively for my CMH Stormwatchers) and a full audio/video e-course based on my Public Speaking University content.  Stay tuned for that!

video content for my website

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Developing Video Content for my Website

As I described above for audio content, my video content thus far has been focused on reworking written content for that format.  I will be expanding this in the future to include a series of instructional videos that follow the Content Marketing Hurricane tenets as well as the videos that will be included in the Public Speaking University course.

But in both cases – audio and video – I’d love to expand my experience and experiment more with different methods of creating and distributing content in these formats.  If you have any suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them.  Put them in the comments below!

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What Does a Copywriter Do for Fun?

There are so many blog posts out there discussing copywriting and content creation, and nearly every single one of them is some variation on the “how-to…”, or the “10 best examples of…”, or the famous “what can I do for you?” style post.

They’re great, don’t get me wrong.  In fact, this blog is absolutely full of them.

But they’re so… work-obsessed.

I decided to write this post in an effort to balance the scales just a little bit by opening up the private life of the average copywriter.

Here are what the typical copywriter does for fun:

What does a copywriter do? Proofread

Notice the cynical gaze as she reads… She’s definitely a copywriter.. Photo courtesy of Björn Bechstein(CC No Derivatives)

Proofread

It’s sad but true.  We can’t help it.

Menus, graffiti, other peoples’ Post-It notes… we can’t help noticing that you spelled something wrong or that it could have been worded more effectively.

Sorry, it’s just what we do.

What does a copywriter do? Critique other copywriters

"I cannot believe he used ‘contact me’ instead of ‘give me a call’ in that call-to-action!". Photo courtesy of basykes(CC Attribution)

Critique our Fellow Copywriters

One of my personal favorites.  

We’re just walking along and happen to stumble across a billboard or a poster taped to the inside of a bus stop.  Instantly, strangers around us will be regaled with seemingly endless witty quips and muttered obscenities as we slowly and methodically tear apart the crappy job this poor shmoe who calls himself a copywriter did on this project.

(Unless, of course, we happen to stumble across our own work somewhere, in which case those same strangers will be offered an autographed copy for just $9.99!)

What does a copywriter do? Terrorize the salesman

"No no… those are features! I want to hear BENEFITS!". Photo courtesy of The Library of Virginia(CC No Copyright)

Terrorize a Salesman

If you’re in sales, you probably don’t want to meet a copywriter, especially if you’re below quota for the day.

You see, we don’t try to be frustrating marks, but we are because we’ve seen and done every trick in your book, and it just ain’t gonna work.  As a matter of fact, we’ve probably seen it a thousand different ways and done it a few hundred because between multiple personas, multiple drafts, and edits up the wazoo, we may as well have WRITTEN the book!

But don’t let that dissuade you.  Please, tell me again about your money-back guarantee…

What does a copywriter do? Wait for payment.

The check’s apparently still in the mail…. Photo courtesy of Powerhouse Museum Collection(CC No Copyright)

Wait for Payment

No, the wait isn’t all that fun.

As a matter of fact, sometimes it really sucks.

But, as we all know, anticipation is the real spice of life.  And nothing says “hot tamales” like a $120 check for a set of blog posts I wrote back in February.

(You know who you are, Mr. Client.  Oh yes, you know you who are.)

What do copywriters do? Fiddle around with the glass ceiling

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Fiddle Around With the Glass Ceiling

There are only so many hours in the day, and when you’re freelancing as a copywriter your pay is generally consummate with the hours you put in.

Most of us spend a good portion of our working lives struggling to fill the hours of the week with billable work.  The lucky few have so much work to do, they hardly have time to market themselves.

But even they are eventually going to hit that 168-hour glass ceiling and have nowhere left to grow.

Or are they?

When we’re not busy working or trying to drum up more work, a lot of us are trying to figure out creative and interesting ways to fiddle around with that glass ceiling: like writing books, building membership sites, producing video courses or podcasts.  Anything to get our reams of accumulated experience and knowledge out of our heads and into some concrete form of residual income (preferably cash, if you know what I mean.)

So What Does a Copywriter Do for Fun?

Pretty much anything any other normal person does for fun.

We just do it more persuasively.

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Stellar Alternatives to a Traditional Brochure

I hate to break it to you, friends, but the era of the company brochure is officially over.

I know, I know.  Hankies all around, and let’s drink a toast to this old friend, gone but not forgotten…

There, we’re done.

Now let’s move on.

alternatives to a traditional brochure

Would you still trust your business to these dinosaurs?. Photo courtesy of brizzle born and bred(CC No Derivatives)

Moving Past the Brochure

Back in the day, you couldn’t beat a company brochure for weeding out the real professionals from the basement hacks who were moonlighting.  After all, it was expensive to get a brochure designed, written, and printed.  Only “the big boys” could do it.

But “back in the day” is a heck of a long time ago at this point.

For about 20 years, after Microsoft Publisher and other similar desktop publishing apps appeared, the handy-dandy tri-fold brochure became something every Tom, Dick, and Harry could throw together in a few hours and print out on their BubbleJet at home.  And yet, the company brochure clung to life like a rich great-uncle, refusing to breathe its last and fade quietly into oblivion.

So the bigger, more legitimate companies had to enhance and bedazzle their company brochures until they looked more like glossy magazines you might pick up at the newsstand.  (Newsstand? What is that?!?!)

The brochure copywriters and graphic designers were absolutely loving this let me tell you. Guys like me were making a killing rehashing all the old “look at us, we’re awesome” flash for sometimes thousands of dollars!

But eventually, even “the big boys” had to admit that their $10,000 company brochure wasn’t doing a whole lot for their bottom line.

Not when their customers were going to Google for everything, and learning all the dirty little secrets the company brochure conveniently left out.

(Of course, millions of Marketing Directors who thought themselves clever scanned their brochure and put it up on their “web presence” as a free download for a while, but then they got tired of being laughed at…) 

content marketing

Content Marketing: Chicks dig it.. Photo courtesy of Barry Zee(CC Attribution)

Enter Content Marketing: Alternatives to a Traditional Brochure

OK, I’m going to try to pull back the sarcasm just a bit, because I’m not really trying to come down on the old faithful company brochure.

Back in the day, as I said, it was great.  And, in lieu of many other alternatives, it served its purpose: to let a potential customer know what a company was all about and to (hopefully) entice that person to pick up the phone and call.

But what I do want to come down on is anyone who still thinks a traditional company brochure is a valid, wise investment of your marketing dollars.  

It’s not.

You see, by definition a company brochure is about the company.  It’s not about the customer, and it’s not about the problems that customer has which you’re going to solve.

It’s about you.

And I (as your potential customer) just don’t care any more.

Just as an aside, I didn’t always feel this way.  Check out this article I wrote two years ago where I was more tolerant of the idea.  And here’s one from three years ago where I actually gave instructions for improving your company brochure!

But I’m over that now.

If you truly want to educate your customers and prospects about who you are and what you do, a brochure is not the way to do it.  Instead, consider these far more effective content marketing methods that are all essentially free to get into (if you’re a DIY’er) and offer far better ROI if you pay a professional to create them for you:

  • A company blog (SEO’d, with a fun and engaging voice that speaks to issues your customers are facing.)
  • Online video (that answers customer questions, provides how-to instruction, or gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your company that will interest a prospect.)
  • Downloadable white paper (delving in-depth into a topic your prospects need to learn more about, and which they’ll greatly appreciate.)
  • An active social media presence (where you can start conversations, answer questions, assist your customers, and encourage engagement, building a relationship with them directly.)
There are many more alternatives to a traditional brochure, but these core elements more than make up for skipping the whole company brochure fiasco if you haven’t already sunk money into one.
And if you need any help getting any of this running, let me know.  I’d love to help.

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What is a Copywriter and What Does a Copywriter Do?

what is a copywriter?

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The answer to this question has honestly changed quite a bit since I first hung out my shingle as JPL Communications way back in 2003.

Back then, the Internet as we know it today only barely existed.  It was at the point where everyone “had to have a website” but it hardly mattered what it looked like or what was on it.

Basically, everyone just threw their company brochure up and called it good.

I was sure I was going to make my living as a direct response copywriter like my heroes Bob Bly and Clayton Makepeace.  

See, at the time, there was no such thing as “content marketing” (even though there was.)  And there was no such thing as SEO (although some people called it that when they loaded up their web pages with blocks of keywords the same color as the background so only AOL could see it…)

But everyone (who mattered) knew about great copy!

So what is a copywriter?

The name has hung around all these years even though the industry has changed dramatically, and that’s an important point to keep in mind.  I’ll come back to it in just a bit.

But first, my official definition for “copywriter”:

A copywriter is someone who sells with words.

It’s really that simple.

So am I a copywriter?

I can be.  I have been.  A certainly try to be, at least some of the time.

But not nearly like I thought I would be.

You see, back in the day when direct mail and advertising ruled the marketing roost, copywriters spent every ounce of their effort getting people to recognize, desire, and eventually purchase whatever product or service they were hired to sell.  The format dictated how quickly they needed to move from grabbing attention to asking for the sale, but that was always the goal at some point.

These days, marketing has changed dramatically.

Sure, anyone who’s hoping to make a profit still has to ask for the sale at some point.  But the old fashioned copywriting methods that direct mail millionaires zealously preached for decades are no longer the gold standard they were.

How does copywriting fit into content marketing?

Brian Clark and the team over at CopyBlogger have probably done the best job of documenting this transition over the years, and they were one of the first large-scale modern media source to use the term “content marketing” to describe the fact that marketing in the modern world requires a lot more than just “salesmanship in print”.  

Today’s content marketers need to educate and entertain to build trust.  They need to draw a much more savvy consumer to their product or service because that consumer is no longer very likely to notice or care about a product or service shoved in their face when they’re trying to be entertained or educated (the standard method of advertising that worked for over a century.

But despite all that, the basic psychology and wordsmithing magic that makes up great copywriting still works!

It’s still at the core of what the best content marketing writers are doing today, and it’s still raking millions of dollars in sales every single day.

That’s why I’m so glad I started my pro writing career when I did, because back in 2003, I still thought I needed to learn how to make a sale based strictly on the strength of my words.

And I was right.

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