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. 

Special Announcement:

The Content Marketing Hurricane is currently free for Amazon Kindle.  Be sure to grab your copy before July 12th to get this content strategy guidebook absolutely free!  Honest ratings and reviews are very much appreciated.

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.

Special Announcement:

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.


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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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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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Help! I Need Content For My Blog!

Content for my blog

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How many times have you said that?

How many times have you heard your boss say that?

It’s an increasingly serious problem, but it’s missing just one little word:


You see, content is everywhere.  It’s all around us, and the internet is absolutely loaded with thousands of terabytes of content.

But quality content isn’t nearly so easy to find.

And that’s what you really need for your blog.

So how do I find/create/curate/recognize quality content?

Honestly, it’s not as difficult as the sheer volume would make you think.  Just look at it this way:

When you’re browsing your stream of choice (whether it be Twitter, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn Pulse, Reddit, or one of the bazillion phone apps that pull those feeds together,) you’re scanning a huge steaming pile of pig dung.

But, every now and then, something catches your eye.

It could be a snazzy headline, or an interesting picture, or an author you recognize and respect.  Or, it could just be something you’ve never run across before.

It grabs you.

And that, by definition, is quality content.

Now, I’m not saying that throwing a solid gold headline on top of a turd is going to make it smell any better, so this “grabs you” method isn’t completely fool proof.

But 9 times out of 10, when something rises out of the static and demands your attention, it’s worth it.  It’s probably subconscious to some extent, although I’m no psychiatrist.

So now that it’s grabbed me, how do I turn it into content for my blog?

You have three choices when it comes to taking what’s grabbed you and making it into something valuable to share on your own blog:

  1. Link it, quote it, discuss it, and attribute it.
  2. Emulate it as best you can.
  3. Hire the writer to write for you.

The first option is classic blogger curation.  You found the content interesting, so to use it effectively on your own blog, you pull out a couple of solid quotes, you add your own take on the topic, you link back to the original and let everybody know who wrote it and where it was posted.

This works really well, especially for purposes of building an audience and making connections with higher-profile bloggers.

However, it’s not a solid plan for thought leadership.  In fact, it makes you a thought follower.

When I use this style of curation to create content for my blog, I make an effort to keep things brief and to the point, and to only publish if I feel my own voiced opinions actually add value to the overall conversation.  Otherwise, I’m just riding the coattails of the bloggers I’m quoting (which isn’t a horrible strategy, but it’s short-sighted.)

Option #2 is a great one if you’re honing your writing skill and trying to find your voice.  The danger, though, is that you step beyond “emulating” and start actually copying other bloggers when creating your content.

We’re all guilty of it at one point or another, but it’s dangerous when it becomes a habit.  Make sure to use great content as inspiration, not as a model to copy.

The third option is my personal favorite, for obvious selfish reasons.

Creating content for other peoples’ blogs is my bread and butter.   

But it’s also a really smart, and cost-effective, way to vastly improve the content you’re putting out there without having to invest all the time and effort necessary to learn how to do it well yourself.  While you’ll need to run the numbers and ensure that there’s going to be sufficient ROI in your blog content to make the cost worth it, you’ll also probably be pleasantly surprised when you find out how relatively inexpensive it can be, especially if it’s allowing you to gain the benefit of a regular supply of quality content without taking time away from your revenue-driving work to create it yourself.

So next time you yell “help! I need content for my blog!” give these three options some thought.

And drop me a line if you decide to go with Option #3. 

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Why a Content Marketing Specialist Can Be Your Best Friend

Your content marketing specialist can be your company’s most powerful secret weapon!

Companies the world over are starting to realize just how powerful an in-depth knowledge of content marketing can be. 

content marketing specialist

Don’t tell anyone, but…. Photo courtesy of stevendepolo(CC Attribution)

As a matter of fact, if you take a look at current job offerings, “content marketing specialist” is one of the most common job titles you’ll see:

So where is the value in hiring a content marketing specialist?  What’s the big deal?

Well, it comes down to ROI. 

If you’re currently paying one or more associates in your marketing department to focus on old-school, outbound marketing like advertising, telemarketing, direct mail, or the like, you should really take a look at the dollars and cents involved.  Are their efforts actually paying their salary?  Are they making you any profit?

Chances are pretty good that they’re not.

Or, at least, not nearly as well as they did 15 years ago when they started.

The reason is simple: those old-school methods don’t work nearly as well as they used to.  You’re getting far less bang for your buck, and (ironically enough) the cost of using those methods has only gone up over the years!

Compare that with the guy who can lead your inbound marketing efforts: blogging, SEO, social media marketing, email nurturing campaigns… Many of these strategies are free or close to it, at least to start with.  And in 2014, they’re bringing in far more leads at just a fraction of the cost of outbound methods.

Even if you’re paying this guy MORE, you’re still making more profit from him.

That’s why a content marketing specialist – someone who knows inbound marketing and can help you create a content strategy and the content itself – is such a valuable ally to have on the team.

Words That Begin With You

I don’t mind telling you, I’m a content marketing specialist, and a pretty darn good one too.  

I’ve helped a lot of clients learn how to tell their story in a profitable and passionate way without breaking the bank.  In many cases, I’ve helped them set up a strategy, gotten them started with a supply of fresh content and optimized foundation, and they’ve taken it to run from there.

Fill in the form below to get a taste of what I offer, or contact me directly if I can help you.

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