Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my interview with @strategicopy. Mike Connolly helps thought leaders make money online with web content that sells. He’s written for dozens of industry leaders including Infusionsoft, Ziglar Inc. Robert Skrob and HSA for America. For more information, visit StrategiCopy.com
SmallBizLady: How do you create great content at low to no cost?
Mike Connolly: Here are 3 ways to create great content you can do for free that don’t take a lot of time:
- Post a list of similar items of interest to your audience on your blog – examples might include 10 quick and easy low fat recipes, 21 indispensable websites for working moms, 14 of the world’s best beaches, and so on.
- Interview somebody – Tell a person known to your niche you’d like to interview them. Send a list of questions, or invite them to a phone or Skype call and record it. Post the recording on your website, and if you can, post a transcript there as well, with your comments.
- Embed and respond – Find a video on YouTube your ideal audience will like, grab the embed code and post it on your blog. Offer a few quick observations and comments and call it a day!
SmallBizLady: Who should your marketing content speak to?
Mike Connolly: To create relevant, fascinating marketing content, you need to be clear on the type of person you want for a customer. I like to create one to three profiles for each ideal customer persona or “avatar” I’ll be creating content for.
It’s like creating a fictional character you give him or her a name, find a picture online that looks like her, write down what her typical day is like. Write down what she does for a living, is she married, have kids, where does she live, what her educational background is, her income, type of home – rent or own, urban, suburban or rural, etc. Marketers refer to these characteristics as “demographics”.
Then you write up her “psychographics” – What keeps her up at night, what does she believe in, what does she want to be different about her life, what does she hate, what does she aspire to, how does she tend to approach life – analytically, emotionally? What are her greatest fears, frustrations, desires? What’s she struggling with that you can help her solve?
I like to have all these things in a one or two page document so when I’m creating content, I can refer back to whom it needs to speak to. When you know who you’re marketing to, creating content for that persona is easier and usually turns out a lot better.
SmallBizLady: How do you find out what your target audience really wants?
Mike Connolly: Now that you’ve selected your ideal customer, it’s time to do a little research, or at least get a reality check on what you think she’s all about. What you find may surprise you.
Check out the comment threads on blogs she reads, visit and join LinkedIn or Facebook Groups, call folks you know, take somebody to lunch. If you have a list already, take a survey, do interviews, study the SRDS (Standard Rate and Data Service), a database of prospect lists used by professional marketers and possibly available at your public library, call a list broker…
SmallBizLady: How do you select topics for your marketing content?
Mike Connolly: Go to the Google Keyword Planner and type in words or phrases you think she may be searching for online. Learn what’s popular and what’s not, what’s trending, how competitive various search terms are, and see if you can identify search terms that indicate buying intent, vs. just researching. Other similar tools include WordTracker, http://www.keyword.io/ and Keyword Mixer.
Once you have a half dozen or so promising search terms, you can get solid data on how your target audience will actually respond to them and get ideas for variants you can make money with by running a test campaign in Google Adwords or Facebook Ads for less than $100.
There’s nothing like actual behavior to predict future behavior in your market. Savvy marketers invest in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads before investing time and money into more expensive or time consuming media to get a reality check on their thinking and ideas for what people actually are responding to right now.
SmallBizLady: How do you turn content into customers?
Mike Connolly: No point in investing your time into marketing content if it doesn’t grow your business, right? Unfortunately, they don’t take “Likes” at the grocery store, not yet anyway…
SmallBizLady: So how do you turn your hard-won content into cash-paying customers?
Mike Connolly: If you feel skittish about mixing business with pleasure in your content, you don’t need to. What you do need to do is include a natural call to action (CTA) in your content, leading your prospect to the next step in your ascension process.
You do this by turning strangers into followers into subscribers into low-ticket customers into medium ticket customers and eventually into high-ticket customers and champions for your business, spreading “the word” to other prospects in her universe.
SmallBizLady: How do you turn a follower into a subscriber?
Mike Connolly: Let’s say you have a blog post about vegan lasagna recipes.
You can insert a “Johnson Box” or highlighted box in the text recommending, let’s say your Free Guide to 16 Vegan Recipes for the Holidays, and a button or link that says “Get Your Free Guide Now”.
Clicking takes your reader to a “Landing Page” with a picture of the guide and a few bullet points about the benefits of owning the guide and a form to enter her email address and first name to receive the guide.
Now you’ve got a subscriber in your email list, not just in some social media site’s database, which they own. This is a big deal – Your new subscriber has given you permission to market to her.
SmallBizLady: Okay, so how do you turn a new subscriber into a buyer?
Mike Connolly: Okay, so let’s cut back to the form where your new subscriber just gave you her name and email address…
When she submits that form, your website takes her to a “Thank You Page” that says something like, ”If you like the guide, you’ll really like the book”, with a special limited low price offer on that page only, as incentive to make a decision now – because pretty much always, later means never.
Not all, but some of your new subscribers will take that offer right there and then.
Too many small business owners don’t understand the actual physiology that happens when a person says yes to an offer you’ve made. Think about the last time you opted in for a special report or some other free offer online. You probably felt at least a little rush of excitement.
That’s because at that moment your brain emits a shot of endorphins – a “feel good” hormone.
It’s the best time to make another offer because your prospect will never feel that same rush that’s happening right at that moment. That’s why I like to include some type of “upsell” at the thank-you page. Companies from Amazon to Zappos do it, and you can, too.
SmallBizLady: What about subscribers that don’t buy right away – how do you convert them into customers?
Mike Connolly: There are a couple of ways…
Of course, the guide you send her by email links to a sales page for your book. It’s good to include that link throughout the guide, not necessarily just at the end.
In addition to that, now that you have permission to email, you will “indoctrinate” and engage her to ascend to customer by consistently sending her brief, relevant, interesting emails referring her to your blog posts. There she’ll find more relevant and interesting content and, of course, a CTA inviting her to take the next step with you.
SmallBizLady: What’s the best content marketing strategy for your business?
Mike Connolly: I’m about to make a very bold claim here.
I can tell you THE best way for ANY small business content marketing strategy. This is writer-downer… Are you ready for it?
The ultimate content marketing strategy for any small business is… the one you will do consistently.
SmallBizLady: How do you avoid SOS – “Shiny Object Syndrome” and develop a consistent content marketing system for your business?
Step 1: Start with a content marketing plan. You can find an excellent online guide at http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/the-essentials-of-a-documented-content-marketing-strategy-36-questions-to-answer/
Step 2: Before you publish your next piece of content, if you haven’t already done so, build your editorial calendar. Pick up instructions and a template here: http://www.digitalmarketer.com/blogging-editorial-plan/
Step 3: Build your money pages – a landing page with an enticing free offer leading to a thank you page with an “impulse buy” low ticket “self-liquidating” offer to a high value product or service you can provide at such a ridiculously low price your prospect would feel silly not to take advantage of it.
Step 3 turns strangers into buyers – people willing to pay you for results. You won’t make a profit at this stage, but it’s much easier to sell to a person who has already purchased from you.
Once you have these three pieces in place, you’ll have a system that, with some ongoing tweaking based on feedback from your audience, will consistently deliver paying customers to your business.
SmallBizLady: Any final thoughts for this evening’s guests?
Mike Connolly: In a sense, effective content marketing is a lot like dating – you take one step at a time, and there’s a certain sequence to it. If you start talking about getting married and how many kids you’ll have within the first 15 minutes of a conversation with somebody you just met, they probably won’t stick around too long…
Effective content marketing takes your prospect on a “buyers journey” with you, step by step, in a sequence that feels natural to him or her.
It may take a few weeks or months before you start monetizing your content, but can do it in less than 60 minutes a day if you stick to it consistently.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.