But first, you have to be someone worth listening to.
Just like in real life, you can’t just charge in, demanding attention as an expert, and expect clients and customers to throw money at you – especially if you’re just starting out, or your business is brand new.
The same goes with your content and copy. Content shows your value, and copy closes the deal. Sometimes it takes awhile; a content plan is an investment, and usually doesn’t yield overnight results. But if you practice some things you already learned in kindergarten — basic people skills — you can make less content a lot more effective, and speed up the results you’re looking for.
Attracting, keeping, and finding new customers is the lifeline of your business. It’s also the job that a lot of small business owners dislike the most — constantly “selling” yourself. Even professionals with degrees, badges, accolades, years of experience, a huge network, and plenty of current projects, have to work at keeping a constant flow of customers.
It may feel like you’re marketing yourself all the time, but if you live and breathe these three rules from childhood, it’ll start to feel natural.
Show and Tell, and Share.
Show: If you want to be remembered for your expertise, show them.
Tell: If you want to connect with people and stand out, tell them your story.
Share: If you want to be the familiar friend people are comfortable going to (and like to play with), share freely.
That’s really the secret of good content in a nutshell, and you learned it when you were five.
Let’s go over them one at a time.
Don’t trumpet your own success, not all the time. Rather, show how you made your clients successful. If within your marketing copy you genuinely celebrate the people you’ve helped, then your prospects will make a mental note: you became the expert you are because it isn’t all about you after all.
This is why testimonials, case studies and interactive content are golden. Your content should be sprinkled moments that can be felt and experienced.
- Videos and tutorials show clients how to tackle tasks and reveal what makes you unique.
- Downloadable quizzes or interactive self-assessments show you’ve thought a lot about what matters to your customers and clients and want to help them navigate trouble spots.
- Slide decks they can click through at their leisure are also a great source of bite-sized content people love to consume.
Chances are you already have tons of hidden content that a freelance writer or designer can help you package into user-friendly content. Bring it to the forefront and show your prospects your unique value.
The benefit to showing what you can offer is you can then ask whether and how you helped. Feedback points you in a more accurate direction toward finding the right clients. Always ask for feedback, even for small services you provide, in order to get a better sense of how people are “feeling” your content and interaction with you.
Feedback helps you understand what you do well. It also reveals what you don’t do well, and the people you shouldn’t be working with, if you didn’t know already. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the client; they may be easy to work with and a good fit for your products or services, but somewhere your systems or work processes don’t match.
Others will see what they can achieve by working with you. You don’t even need to tell how cool and smart you are…they’ll figure that out on their own.
Second, tell a story.
Many of the most believable and effective experts speak from their own personal experience. They didn’t just decide one day to become a guru in some industry. They just sort of “fell into it.” (I hear that a lot.)
A hobby becomes a passion. A passion becomes a business. Pretty soon people are looking to you for advice. If you do a good job describing your passion and how it evolved, people will trample a path to your door!
Uly8 posted this on Instagram today… The part about lighting yourself on fire makes me a little uncomfortable, but you get the concept.
I’m thinking of one client I used to write for. This southern cowboy met a girl and fell in love. Next thing he knew, her dad showed him some things about real estate notes. He studied the business, married the girl, and started buying and selling real estate notes (mostly dirt) of his own. That was thirty years ago, but it’s a great beginning to a long story about his career as a “note guy.” Of course he tells it much more colorfully, including a cowboy rope trick on stage, but that’s the gist of it.
Eddie woos his clients by telling his story with humor, and a great southern accent. He gets attention and makes a memorable impression on new clients who value his experience to help them learn the note business.
But it does more than that. It proves his credibility and character.
It allows folks inside his personal life. It shows people that they can do it too, if they are inquisitive and really want to learn.
Finally it reveals a drive to succeed. Don’t we all want to see that in the people we hire? Great beginnings tend to be humble, especially among people who are wildly successful. “If he works this hard on his business,” we think, “he’s going to work his can off for me!” A well-told story makes a real and lasting connection with new customers.
So maybe you don’t have thirty years of experience. Or maybe your experiences don’t seem to fit in a nice neat package. That doesn’t matter. You still have a story to tell. Some of the most incongruent experiences combine to make you perfectly suited to do amazing things, and provide great value for your clients and customers.
I used to worry that my multi-faceted past made me totally unfit to do anything, except maybe tell stories. I was embarrassed that I have been a flower arranger, a bank teller supervisor, a semiconductor equipment sales engineer, and a doll maker. But I’m over it now…
Ever since the TED talk in which career coach Emilie Wapnick celebrated the “multipotentialite,” people who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime; I’m a believer in telling your story, as weird as it may be.
Never hide your story. Tell it loud and proud.
Your story is the stuff that happened between your “beginning” and where you are today, even if it’s short. People love juicy stories — always have and always will — and they’re hungry to hear yours.
Let your content tell your story.
Third, share your content freely.
You learned this in the sandbox: What you give away always comes back to you in spades, so be generous with your content.
Even if it goes against your business nature and your bottom line, you must believe in the exponential power of sharing. The most helpful and successful people, the ones who understand the value of investing in a content strategy, already ooze free information.
They’re happy to relay what they know about their service or industry because they thrive on others’ success. They’re not concerned with “giving away the store” because they know that in the end, the ones who are there to offer general help and advice are the ones who win the business when it comes to serving specific individuals with specific solutions.
Heike Young paraphrased Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose regarding gated content: “If you have a good content asset, you can share it for free. Customers will like it so much they’ll want to subscribe after consuming it.”
In other words, if you’re concerned that you’re giving away too much free information, then you’re missing the point about content marketing. It’s about building relationships and adding value to those relationships. Please don’t make the mistake of guarding your hard-earned expertise. People don’t pay for a small glimpse behind the curtain. They need it to make a decision to buy.
Finally, you need to share your content in words and pictures with your friends and followers online.
The way to build your business is to make sure that as many people possible have access to this information about you. You don’t have to tap dance all over the Internet screaming “me, me, me.” Just go where your customers already are and touch on the three elements you already learned in kindergarten, Show & Tell. And share.
Email, blog posts, articles published on Medium, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora (one of my favorites) and other social sharing sites… these are all invaluable sources for sharing the content that people NEED to see and hear from you before they actually become customers.
Yes, it’s an investment, but you don’t have to drown in it. All you really need are a few well-positioned and targeted pieces of content, shared thoughtfully among the right audiences.
Creating content and managing it is the key to attracting those who are actively looking for experts in your field. If you want to become that expert they will want to engage with, learn from, trust, and buy from; practice the big three:
- Show how people benefit by working with you.
- Tell your story.
- Share what you know about your field and how you do it better.
Would you like to position your expert status and attract new business with a content strategy that woos clients, but doesn’t overwhelm you with more demands on your time? Contact us to talk about getting one or two great pieces of content working for you.