(Post by Andrew Thorp)
Marketing expert Ian Brodie (pic) always has something to say, and it’s invariably worth listening to! Author of Email Persuasion and many other excellent publications, Ian’s particular expertise is on line marketing and authority building for coaches and consultants. I caught up with him recently and gained some wonderful insights into sound marketing practices.
Mojo: Can authority building through content creation, speaking, social media activity, etc work for ANY company or is it just for certain types/sizes?
Ian: Hi Andrew – good question and a critical area where I think many people make big mistakes.
To have successful content marketing you need two things. Obviously you want your content to prove your credibility so that people then have the confidence to hire you or buy from you. But first and foremost the content must be interesting and valuable to them – otherwise they won’t read, watch or listen to it.
Now if you’re a teacher – a consultant, coach or trainer – and your clients want to know how to do what you teach, then it’s easier. As a marketing coach I can write content about how to find the right niche for your business, how to generate more leads, or the latest trends in email marketing technology. All of these are interesting to someone who wants to get better at marketing themselves. And all prove my credibility.
But for a ‘service provider’ or ‘craftsman’ type the field for content is not so wide.
If a lawyer wrote about how to research precedents or the latest changes in litigation law, it would build their credibility – but few clients (other than in-house lawyers) would be interested because they don’t want to become legal experts themselves. And if they aren’t interested enough to read it or watch it, the credibility-building doesn’t happen.
In fact far too many law firms do this. Most of the content on their websites is in the form of the latest legal news or it’s commentary on cases. Interesting to their fellow lawyers but deathly to a potential clients.
So service providers and craftsmen need to get good at understanding what content would be useful and valuable to their clients – while also building their credibility.
So for a lawyer it could be “how to avoid begin sued” or “Three things you must put in your employment contacts to avoid unfair dismissal cases” or “how to know when you have a genuine personal injury claim and what it will be worth”.
All these are interesting to potential law firm clients. They don’t necessarily go into huge depth into legal technicalities, but they should be written in plain English and focus on what clients need to know. So it’s a different sort of content. It’s less about “how to” and more about “how can we use this?”, “does this apply?”, “what’s the best way of buying this?”.
Most of the material you see written about content marketing focuses on creating “how to” content because the people writing it are teachers: consultants, coaches, trainers and the like. “How to” content works for them – but it’s not appropriate for service providers and craftsmen.
Mojo: What have you personally learned about blogging as you’ve gone along?
Ian: Primarily, just do it. The more you blog, the better you get. The more you read good blogs, the better you get. You could spend years trying to “find your voice” or you could just get writing and let it emerge. I’d also say that in order to come up with useful and interesting topics to blog about, your best strategy is to do something useful and interesting. So if your audience are interested in leadership skills, take up a new leadership challenge and write about your experiences rather than just repeating the same theory everyone else is spouting.
Mojo: Same question for using video.
Ian: Same answer. You have to make a bunch of bad videos before you can make good ones – so get them out of the way quickly. When I look back at some of the videos I did even 3 or 4 years ago I cringe. But I had to go through them to get to where I am now. No doubt 3 or 4 years from now I’ll be cringing at the videos I’m making today.
Mojo: What part does storytelling have in business in your opinion?
Ian: Humans communicate and understand best in stories. It’s just the way we’re wired. Stories are more memorable and have more impact. Sometimes that’s a bad thing – if people understood and were persuaded by robust data and statistics rather than stories which can easily be made about exceptions and unusual circumstances, then we might make better decisions. But we can’t deny human nature. Stories sell. Stories persuade. Stories motivate. So use them.
Mojo: What do business people tend to get wrong when it comes to using social media?
Ian: There are two big mistakes, which are really just two sides of the same coin. One is blindly following the latest fad or doing what the social media gurus and experts say you should do without analysing and testing whether it will really work for your business. Just because someone is making a fortune promoting T-shirts on Pinterest doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your accountancy services. And just because every social media guru says you need to “engage” on social media doesn’t mean that spending endless hours chatting on Twitter or answering questions on Linkedin groups will have any payoff for you. Personally for example I’ve had great success just broadcasting on Twitter with a lot of automation – the exact opposite of what all the experts say you should be doing. But I measure and test and I know what works for me and brings me the best ROI. The other extreme is people who write off social media without ever trying it. They assume that Facebook is just teenagers sharing pictures of cats and are missing out on the tremendously valuable opportunities right now for advertising, for example.
Mojo: For business development and profile building, is there an ideal balance between face to face activity and on line?
Ian: Not really, it’s very dependent on you and your business. Personally I do almost no face to face business development because I love the flexibility and the ability to test and analyse online. And I’ve learnt how to make it work for me. Others are much better than me at face to face marketing and wouldn’t know how to split test or create an effective landing page if their life depended on it, so they’re better off doing the face to face stuff.
Mojo: Is there one thing you especially want to achieve, business-wise, in 2014?
Ian: I’m launching a couple of big programs in 2014. One for consultants and coaches who want to get more of their marketing done online and automated and get better results, and one on scaling your business so it’s not so dependent on your own personal investment of time. I also want to write another book in the second half of the year focusing on how to be memorable.
Thanks to Ian for his generosity in sharing some great insights. There’s a whole library of great material in his web site.