SCML11: A Website Content Coaching Session

Figuring out how to present your business on your website can be HARD! This is something I work with clients on all the time. And, in this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab, you’ll get to eavesdrop on a coaching session I recently had the pleasure of conducting with Tyler Inloes, owner of Five17Fitness.

During our session, we talk about things like:

  • The importance of getting the “hero” section of the home page right
  • Being clear about who your business is serving and what you’re offering
  • Describing the benefit of your lead magnet so that readers will be enticed to download it
  • Why you should have more uses of “you” rather than “me” or “us” or “we” in your website copy
  • Strategic use of video on a site
  • Talking about your offerings from a customer benefit perspective instead of a feature perspective
  • Addressing customer questions in ways that differentiate your business from competitors

It was a fun and interesting session, and–if you had a website for your biz–there are probably a few tips you can pick up from it. That’s my hope, anyway!

Take a listen and then let me know if you have any questions about your own site. Shoot me an email at michele@smarterwritinglab.com and we’ll set up a time to chat!

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SCML 10–Learn How to Write Your Book with Jennie Nash

Have you thought about writing a book? I’m not talking the next Great American Novel. Instead, I’m talking about writing a non-fiction book that focuses on your area of expertise. One that can serve as a powerful calling card, can help position you as a leader in your field, and can increase your ability to get the clients you want. If you have, but just aren’t sure where to start, then you’ll want to listen to this episode with book coach Jenny Nash. And, even if you haven’t thought about writing a book, you might reconsider after listening to what she has to share.

Jenny is the founder and chief creative officer of Author Accelerator, a book coaching program that gives writers the feedback, accountability and support they need to write their best books. Her own coaching clients regularly land top New York agents, national self-publishing awards, and book deals with houses such as Scribner, Simon & Schuster and Random House. She is the author of four novels, three memoirs, and one self-help book for writers. So, to say that she knows what she’s talking about is an understatement!

What You’ll Learn

In this episode, you learn a LOT about how and why you should consider writing a book about your area of expertise, including:

  • How to find a book topic that will grab the attention of your audience and provide value
  • The difference between having a blog and having a book–and why it matters
  • Why people still want material in book form
  • The level of authority you gain as the author of a book in your field
  • Using a book as a gateway into higher-priced product or service offerings
  • How a book can be used as a “calling card” to build your business
  • Getting over the idea that you’re not a writer
  • Using voice-recognition software to jump start the writing process

Cool Stuff We Talked About

Have questions? Have ideas for an episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab podcast? Just want to reach out? GREAT! Shoot me an email at michele@smarterwritinglab.com or leave a comment below.

SCML 09: Big Content Marketing Tactics for Small Business Success

If you’ve ever looked at the content marketing strategies and tactics of large companies and wondered if you could ever do something as amazing, the answer is a resounding YES! In this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab podcast, Annie Zelm of Kuno Creative describes how content marketing approaches used by some of the large clients she works with can also be applied to growing a smaller business.

What You’ll Learn

Annie provided LOTS of fantastic and actionable information that focuses on:

  • Understanding exactly what customers are looking for when searching for products or services online
  • How to find out what’s driving traffic to your site and to the websites of your competitors by using tools like SEMRush
  • Why you should become a resource for potential customers about topics they’re interested in
  • The fundamentals of inbound marketing
  • Using social media to help identify topics your audience is interested in
  • What you can learn from individuals who DIDN’T become a customer (and why that’s so important)
  • The difference publishing blog posts on a regular basis can make to your business growth
  • How platforms like SlideShare can help you increase the reach of your content marketing
  • Why it’s worth investing (even a little bit) in video as a part of your content marketing efforts
  • The need to look at the long game in content marketing

Links to Cool Stuff We Talked About

Kuno Creative: Laura’s agency that focuses on “ending content chaos.”

Follow Annie on Twitter at @anniezelm

SEMRush

SlideShare

They Ask. You Answer. A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan and Krista Kotria (This is an affiliate link. By using it, you don’t pay a penny extra. But I get a very small–yet HUGELY appreciated–payment that helps keep this podcast going!)

Also, be sure to connect with me at Michele@smarterwritinglab.com and at The Smarter Writing Lab. I’d love to hear from you!

SCML 08: A Content Marketing Love Story by Mutual Rescue

My animals and a great love story. Two things I adore. That’s why the short films produced by Mutual Rescue drew me in like a moth to a flame. They tell the stories of humans and the shelter animals they adopt. And they do it in such a beautiful and moving way. In my opinion, these films are content marketing at its very best. And here’s why:

  • At approximately six minutes each, they’re engaging from start to finish
  • They harness the power of storytelling so perfectly
  • They have a clear and meaningful message
  • They accomplish the marketing goal of the organization in such an authentic and effective way

The first of the films was “Eric and Peety.” According to Carol Novello, co-creator of Mutual Rescue and president of Human Society Silicon Valley,  it’s been viewed more than 88 million times since its release in 2016. Here it is:

After seeing this, I knew I had to find out what the thinking and strategy were behind this film and the others Mutual Rescue has produced. And, thanks to Carol Novello, I now know. And you can, too. Listen to the podcast to hear all about it. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I was.

To find out more about Mutual Rescue, connect with the organization here:

Website: http://mutualrescue.org/

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SCML 06: Winning the Case for Content Marketing with a Law Firm’s Website

What type of content should a law firm’s website contain? That’s what we’ll be looking at in this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab. We’ll look at a law firm’s existing site and explore ways to add new, more dynamic content that will help this firm attract more of it’s ideal clients.

What You’ll Learn

We’ll look at several different areas of the website and discuss the following:

  • How to use the “hero” section of the home page more effectively–including how to make it a stronger navigational element for website visitors
  • The use of video to make an about page come alive
  • How to use a blog (or vlog), webinars, white papers, etc. to establish thought leadership status
  • Using imagery to communicate more clearly about who you are and what you do

Links to Cool Stuff

Here are the links to what was discussed during the show:

The law firm where Nick works

Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC™: LOVE the videos on this law firm’s “Our Team” page!

Also, be sure to connect with me at Michele@smarterwritinglab.com and at The Smarter Writing Lab. I’d love to hear from you!

SCML 05: Jon Nastor, Host of the “Hack the Entrepreneur” Podcast

 

If you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast to help build an audience for your business–or even if you haven’t (yet)–then you’ll LOVE this week’s episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab! My guest is Jon Naster, host of the incredibly popular Hack the Entrepreneur podcast and co-host of The Showrunner podcast.

What You’ll Learn

Jon talks about a wide array of interesting topics, sharing things like how:

  • He came up with the engaging hook that has helped him EXPLODE the growth of his Hack the Entrepreneur podcast
  • He uses content marketing—including writing for various publications like Entrepreneur—to build his business and scale up his podcast
  • He’s using using content marketing to build trust with his audience and promote sales of his products
  • He balances podcasting and writing and product creation
  • The podcast is the reason he gets to write for such high-profile businesses and publications
  • The podcast has transformed his life
  • You have to be patient and consistent when it comes to building an audience
  • To get clear about the focus and purpose of your podcast before getting started
  • To repurpose content—and why you should do it
  • Entrepreneurs are using podcasts to funnel audiences into their businesses
  • To monetize a podcast directly and indirectly

He also describes the four things that are essential to building a successful podcast.

Links to Cool Stuff

Here are the links to what was discussed during the show:

Hack the Entrepreneur Podcast

The Showrunner Podcast

The 9-Step Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Podcast (FREE at The Showrunner)

The Showrunner Podcasting Course

Recite

Also, be sure to connect with me at Michele@smarterwritinglab.com and at The Smarter Writing Lab. I’d love to hear from you!

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What Brené Brown Taught Me about Being a Fearlessly Authentic Entrepreneur

The "friendly driving wave." That was the focus of Brené Brown's very first Facebook Live post. And it was HILARIOUS! But, in only a few hours, it was gone.

If you're a fan of Brené's like I am, then you know that she's a research professor at The University of Houston and does a lot of fantastic work surrounding courage, shame, vulnerability and authenticity. I discovered her when I was looking for videos on TED.com that I could use as examples of presentations that really connected with audiences. And the one she gave at TEDxHouston about the power of vulnerability was PERFECT.

Brené is known for dealing with a lot of really serious stuff. I mean, there's nothing innately funny about vulnerabilty or shame. So, that's why I was so surprised and DELIGHTED to see her Facebook Live post about the importance of NOT driving in the passing lane if you're not passing AND the courtesy of the "friendly driving wave." As a southerner, I grew up watching my dad give that wave to people we'd meet on country roads as we were going to my grandparents' house or to church. For him, the "wave" was typically just a lift of a couple of fingers from the steering wheel with a quick flick to the right. It was a simple, yet important, acknowledgement that said to the other driver, "I see you. I know you. I like you."

As an adult, I carry on the tradition of the "friendly driving wave"--typically throwing up a hand when someone lets me pass or lets me merge into a crowded lane. It's a quick way of saying thanks. And THAT'S what Brené was talking about on Facebook Live as she was driving back from giving a talk in Baton Rouge. Now--let's be clear--she WASN'T videoing herself or being unsafe in any way, shape or form. Her passenger was doing the videoing as Brené gave a short--yet ALL TOO FUNNY--lesson about the rules of courteous driving. I loved it and thought how nice it was to see her in a more relaxed setting, enjoying her day and letting her personality really shine through. It made me even MORE of a fan because she allowed us to see her as a real person. Cool, right?

Later than evening, I saw a new post from Brené pop up on Facebook. In it, she explained that she had taken the "friendly driving wave" Facebook Live video down. I was like, "WTF, Brené??" Evidently, some who had seen the video had commented that it was an example of distracted driving. So, because of that, Brené took it down--acknowledging that she wouldn't want her kids to do something similar. However, she went on to say that some other folks had commented that they don't follow her "for silly Texas driving tips." Instead, they follow her for "posts on serious topics." SERIOUSLY??? It was this next part of her post that endeared me to Brené FOREVER and that taught me an important lesson about being a more fearless and authentic entrepreneur. Here it is in her own words:

I deleted the post because it's probably not a great idea [to video while driving.] NOT because people didn't like it or jumped on me about it. If I took down everything that pissed off readers, this would be a very quiet neck of the woods.

A couple of people also commented that they don't follow me for silly Texas driving tips--they follow me for posts on serious topics. I'm really inclined to say, "too bad." I am a serious person who talks about serious things. But that's just part of me. If the other part of me doesn't work for you--that's totally ok by me. Seriously .

Brené Brown

This. Was. AWESOME!! I was like, "PREACH, Brené!" But, even more than being STOKED about her response, here's what it taught me:

  • Live Your Brand AUTHENTICALLY. Brené writes about and talks about and promotes the idea of being authentic. But that can be tough to do as an entrepreneur. There's a HUGE risk that comes with showing others who we really are. Will they like us? Will current customers stick with us? Will potential customers be turned away? If people don't like you or your business when they see who you really are, then--as Brené said-- "TOO BAD!" Not everyone is going to love you or even like you. What you're offering isn't going to be something everyone can benefit from. And that's perfectly okay. Because, in the end, the people you want to join you on your entrepreneurial journey are those who get you, who dig what you do, and who connect with you because of who you really are. Trying to be someone you're not in order to get and keep customers isn't only going to be exhausting--it's also going to be an exercise in futility. We are our brand--and we have to decide how we're going to live it.
  • If Something Doesn't Work, So What? This was Brené's first attempt at Facebook Live. And she ended up taking it down after some blow back. But she didn't just go away into a corner and tell herself "NEVER AGAIN!" Instead, she used it as an opportunity to connect with her audience by being completely transparent about what happened. And guess what? Her audience LOVED it. There were so many comments about how Brené was living her own life the same way she encourages others to live theirs--courageously. Being an entrepreneur is one of the scariest things in the world. But we have to face that fear every day and try new things. Some will work. Some won't. And if they don't--it's not the end of the world. Because it's ONLY through taking those risks--large or small--that we move toward the life we're meant to live.
  • Don't Forget the Friendly Driving Wave. A little sign of kindness and appreciation goes a long way. By letting others know we appreciate what they've done makes us all better human beings. Whether it's throwing up a quick wave to someone who's let us in a crowded lane on the highway or thanking our customers in small--yet unexpected--ways, it makes a difference. And isn't that why we're entrepreneurs in the first place?
  • So, speaking of showing appreciation, THANK YOU, BRENÉ BROWN!  I'm throwing up a metaphorical "friendly driving wave" to you. Your first foray into Facebook Live was more successful than you might have imagined. It's inspired me to be a more courageous and authentic entrepreneur--and it's also reminded me to NOT DRIVE IN THE PASSING LANE IF I'M NOT PASSING!

    If you enjoyed this post--AWESOME! I'd love to have you join me for more cool stuff over at The Smarter Writing Lab. And be sure to check out my FREE Copywriting Crash Course that'll teach you to how to develop content that will help you build your business by connecting more authentically with your audience. 

 

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5 Signs You Might be a Marketing Scaredy Cat

"You're going to have to do things differently."

Hearing this is enough to send cold chills up the spines of many business owners. They want more customers. They want to be noticed. They want to increase sales. They want to make a difference. But they want to do it by marketing their businesses in one or more of the following (and very PREDICTABLE) ways:

  1. By being cautious so that they don't risk any negative perception.
  2. By going broad in an attempt to appeal to EVERYONE.
  3. By talking about EVERY. SINGLE. FEATURE. their product or service offers.
  4. By talking about what THEY do, what's important to THEM, what THEIR focus is and freakin' awesome THEY are.
  5. By doing what their competitors are doing.

Any of these sound like you? (Don't worry. No one's looking--so you can nod sheepishly to yourself.) If they do, then you (da-da-dum) might just be a marketing scaredy cat. And THAT can hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

Truth be told, most of us have been marketing scaredy cats at one time or another. It's hard to do things differently--because with that comes risk. Risk of missing out on perceived opportunities. Risk of the unknown. Risk of failure. But here's the thing:

Marketing courageously--daring to do it in ways that are more thought-provoking, more awe-inspiring, more head-turning--is what will get your business noticed in our very busy and very noisy world. And that will put you on the path to the success you're seeking.

If you don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe master marketer Steve Jobs. Check out this 1997 commercial that featured one of his most famous quotes about the power of thinking differently:

Approaching marketing differently doesn't mean that you do it without thinking or by ignoring proven fundamentals. That's not being a fearless marketer. That's being a careless one. Instead, the businesses out there who are ROCKIN' it are differentiating themselves and winning against companies MUCH bigger than they are by doing doing really smart things like this: 

  • Knowing what they stand for and not being afraid to go with it. Think Quest Nutrition. The protein bar industry is HUGE and packed full of major players. But this company--one that wants to make "clean eating fun" and whose focus is on ending obesity--is doing protein bars differently. Customers responded (in DROVES!), sales increased and now Quest is expanding its offerings to other food choices.  Check out the Quest story:
  • Focusing on serving a specific audience EXTRAORDINARILY well, instead of underserving an audience that's much too broad. Think Blue Apron. So, do you have any idea what the significance of the name "Blue Apron" is? Well, according to the company's website, "chefs around the world wear blue aprons while learning to cook." And that's PERFECT for this company, considering that it's mission is to "make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone." It's not trying to put itself out there as the food home delivery company for everyone no matter how well you can cook. Instead, it's focusing on those who probably aren't going to be hosting their own show on The Food Network anytime soon. Check out what some of their raving fans are saying:
  • Refusing to be like everyone else--and having fun in the process. Think Ben & Jerry's. When I was growing up, the most "out there" ice cream flavor was Rocky Road. And when you bought ice cream, well--you were just buying ice cream. But Ben & Jerry's changed all of that back in 1978 when they opened up their first scoop shop. They made buying ice cream an experience. Personalities were defined by what flavor you liked. Cherry Garcia®? (YES, thank you!) Phish Phood®? Chocolate Therapy®? And Ben & Jerry's also became known as a company with a conscience.
  • Avoid "feature fatigue." (Seriously. It's a thing. Check it out here.) Think Uber. Here's what Forbes had to say about it: "When the service launched, would anyone had cared if they had a slightly better taxi experience, but could also make deliveries? No, that would have just been them trying to do too much and, most likely, doing it all poorly. Instead, people care about Uber because it is way, way better and way, way more convenient than riding a taxi. Uber focused on one thing—being a great transportation app—and devoted all its resources into doing that one thing really, really well." The lesson here? Find your one thing and do it better than anyone else.

If you have a great product or service or cause to sell, don't shortchange it by being a marketing scaredy cat. Be brave. Be bold. And be willing to push beyond what feels comfortable. That's where you'll stand out from all of the noise--and that's where the world will be waiting for you.

START TELLING THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MORE EFFECTIVELY TODAY--FOR FREE!

Take the guesswork (and PAIN) out of writing great copy that sells what you're offering! Get this easy, step-by-step FREE guide that teaches you a simple and proven formula for writing copy that sells whatever you're offering. All the cool kids (and REALLY successful businesses) are using it! So get it today!

What Can a PB&J Sandwich Teach You about Marketing?

The PB&J. It's a classic. And, with very few exceptions, one PB&J is pretty much like the other. So, with that said, let's do a little experiment.

I'm going to give you two descriptions of a PB&J as they might appear on a menu. Read both, and then choose the one that convinces you that you just HAVE to have that sandwich. (Share your answer in the comments!)

Option 1

PB & J Sandwich: Smooth or crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly on two slices of white or whole wheat bread. Served with chips. 

Option 2

The OMG!!! PB&J: Forget the traditional PB&J on white bread. BORING! We put the creamiest (or crunchiest--your decision) peanut butter and the most delectable Concord grape jelly between two light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes in just the right amounts. And THEN we sprinkle the top with a fine dusting of powdered sugar. From the very first bite you take, you'll experience layer after layer of pure deliciousness. And you'll notice how the flavors come together in a way that can only be described as "OMG!!!" (Seriously. We hear our customers saying this ALL. THE. TIME.) We'll give you extra napkins to wipe the jelly off as it runs down your chin and to dab the powdered sugar off your nose.

Okay. Which one would you order? For me--it's Option 2. Hands down. (If you want the recipe, here's where I found it. And thanks to The Huffington Post for turning me on to it!)

What Can This Teach Us About Marketing Our Products and Services?

If you have a product or a service that a lot of other people offer too, the classic PB&J is a great metaphor for you. So many businesses focus on the features of what they sell rather than how it will benefit the consumers or clients they serve. (See Option 1 above. Just the features, ma'am.) They also get a bit lazy when it comes to looking for ways to differentiate their service from competitors and how to communicate about it in a way that potential customers or clients will actually pay attention to.

What Option 2 represents is taking something that EVERYONE else offers and putting a spin on it that's uniquely your own. What something you can do--even it's a small thing--to differentiate the way you offer therapy services? Writing services? Legal services? Consulting services? SOMETHING so that you don't sound and look like everyone else in your field. 

Option 2 is also an example of how to communicate in a way that allows others to "see" how their lives can be improved by purchasing your product or service. It doesn't have to be a HUGE improvement. It can be as simple as giving them an unexpected twist on a PB&J. When you talk about your offering in the same way your competitors do, then you'll remain invisible. And that's no fun for anyone.

In a marketplace that's becoming noisier and noisier, you have to find a way to stand out. But you don't have to be a marketing expert to do that. You just have to understand what your potential customers are looking for and how you can connect with them in a way that gets you noticed. I'll be teaching students how to do that in my new course Connection Communication. And I'd LOVE to have you join us! Be sure to check out the details here.


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