One of the most common types of emails we get is from people looking to build their own brand or business. Typically they’re in one of these situations:
- They have an existing business they’re trying to grow
- They want to start a business in the future, and want to start building an audience now
- They want to grow their personal brand to have the option of growing a business or finding better job opportunities
They’re hoping content can help them do this.
This is what we did with Grow and Convert. This site and company started with me wanting to leave my full-time job and Devesh challenging me to use my content experience to grow a site from scratch. We decided to grow an audience of content marketers by sharing case studies and lessons from our personal experience. Now here we are, 3 years later. I’ve been able to quit my job, build an agency, work with dozens of great clients, charge $8,000 a month to work with us, and do this all on our own terms, working remotely and on our schedule.
This has not been easy. Nothing about this is easy. But it’s been possible thanks to the brand we’ve built with content.
We don’t do other types of marketing. We don’t run ads, we don’t do events. All we do is publish blog posts using our content marketing system.
We don’t even publish that often and don’t have a ton of traffic to Grow and Convert. Look at the dates on our articles page: we published 4 times between August 2018 and January 2019. But in that time, we recorded 22 leads for our agency, (via the page linked above that has our $8k monthly rate displayed!):
That’s because we’re getting the right kind of traffic — traffic that’s interested in our products and services, traffic that’s qualified.
This has helped us build a $500,000 a year agency, which let us work with companies like Patreon, the massive online creator platform, and gets leads from companies like Yelp and Microsoft:
Over the last 3 years we’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work for building a brand using content.
Here are our key lessons.
Lesson 1: Write At Your Target Customer’s Expertise Level
This is one of the most important lessons we’ve learned. We teach it to students and clients over and over again. We’ve written about it in our post on Customer Content Fit and, inversely, our post on Mirage Content. Yet we see people make this mistake all the time.
If you want your content to make you and your brand look amazing in the eyes of your target customer, you need to produce content “at their level.” By this we mean that your content is advanced enough to not seem like beginner nonsense to them, yet not so advanced that they don’t understand it.
If you’re wondering if you’re doing this properly now, stop right now and read the headlines of your last 5 blog posts, then read the Customer Content Fit and Mirage Content articles and come back and tell us if you’re writing at their level. Then, if you really want to get better, think of headline alternatives to the 5 posts you read that would be a better fit for your customers knowledge level.
You can reply to this email and tell me what you discovered from this simple exercise. I’ll answer any questions you have.
Lesson 2: Include Originality Nuggets
Most blog posts present nothing original. They are just some rehashed list of beginner tactics or strategies that any real customer of that individual or business already knows.
You know the content I’m talking about: “10 tips to do X”, “9 trends on Y”…
How do you expect this content to get results? Why would it impressive your target customer? It won’t.
One of the important reasons why the Grow and Convert brand has worked is because each piece of our content has something unique in it. We’re not inventing a new rocket ship in each post, it’s just some “nugget of originality”.
This can be:
- A case study. Even if the lessons are fundamentals, the details of the story add freshness and originality.
- Crunching data and presenting results
- An original take on a topic
- A personal strategy or process we use to achieve a result
You can look at our article list linked above and ask yourself, in each post, what are the originality nuggets? These aren’t a trick question, they should be obvious.
Then you should do the same exercise above and go through your last 5 (or even 10) blog posts and ask yourself if there is even one nugget of originality in each one? Be honest about your answer. Then, to improve your next posts, list out some original, specific insights you have that you could share with your target customer. Reply with your response and I’ll give you feedback.
Lesson 3: Promote Where They Will See You
Finally, we’ve been able to grow with content because after we publish pieces, we’ve gotten them in front of people who care about them. Judging from the emails we receive, this is one of the hardest parts of content marketing for lots of people. They publish but get no traffic. They don’t even try that hard to get traffic, they just wait (for who?! Google fairies?) and hope something gets traffic. It makes no sense.
The solution is not easy, obviously we’ve written about this extensively (articles on promotion), and there is an entire module in our course on promotion tactics. But in short you can use a two pronged approach :
- Manual online promotion — Short term, you need to get your articles in front of people where they already hang out online. Without this, you won’t get initial traffic and it will be tough to build links (unless you do traditional email outreach and link building, which very few people do). Again, the links above can help you get started with this.
- SEO — Long term, you need to target the right keywords and make sure you do enough of (1) to build links to rank for those terms.
…and for those that have the budget, you can also add in paid promotion to help with step 1 above.
Start Building Your Brand
Obviously the best time to have built your content engine is yesterday. Because the more you’ve done in content marketing, the easier it gets. If you already have links and domain authority, future pieces will rank more easily. If you already have a big email list, promotion for each piece is easier.
But yesterday is gone, so now is the best time to get started.
Like we showed you above, you don’t need to write 10 articles a month to make this work. You can start with one article, and using the strategies above, make it count. Then in a few weeks, do another, and slowly you’ll be on your way.
Questions or comments? Hit reply and let me know, I’ll respond to every email.
Ps. On Thursday we’ll send an email talking about what we’ve learned about Pain Point SEO, our system for marrying content topics that the customer cares about with keywords so Google gives you ongoing traffic. This has been one of the most effective strategies for us in terms of generating leads and sales from content.