Most of the time, TV advertisements are a minor annoyance that we do our very best to avoid (thank you, Netflix!) but once a year, the tables turn…
When the Super Bowl hits our screens the humble TV commercial becomes a must-watch, and for good reason.
A Super Bowl ad isn’t just another ad. For starters, the Super Bowl offers the most expensive ad slots in the world. More importantly, it’s a chance for brands to broadcast their message to more than 100 million viewers (not to mention those that watch the ads online and talk about them in articles – just like this one – in the days and weeks that follow).
Needless to say the cost and potential that’s attached to a Super Bowl ad means a hell of a lot is staked on those few second of airtime. An ad that fails during Mad Men? Not such a big deal. An ad that falls flat during the Super Bowl? Somebody’s probably getting fired.
I’ve been dying to write a blog post to recap 2015 for some time, but with my workload and travel, I haven’t really been able to get away from working to reflect on what’s probably been my greatest year ever.
But never fear – I finally locked myself in a room and found the time to put a year of victories, failures and hustling on paper. And yep, you read that correctly. I’m writing this blog post on a physical piece of paper (what’s paper…?). It’s actually the only way I can fully remove distractions and have a clear head these days, but more on that later…
So here we go – here’s what happened during my best year ever, as well as what I’m planning to do next:
For starters, check out this video I put together on my big year. Stay with me, as it’s loaded with metrics and numbers. Video notes below:
Let me start by saying that I hit my three major goals for 2015:
Be everywhere (as determined by how many people tell me I’m everywhere).
Connect with or help one person a day (I actually connected with 368, of which 21 are now great friends, and 3 of whom became my partners in new companies).
Push my limits by working 13.3 hour days (basically, 80-hour weeks) every day in 2015.
When you meet someone new, what happens? Chances are, you ask them questions in the hopes of learning more about them. Hopefully, they’ll reciprocate by doing the same. You try to unearth their story, and to tell your own (or some of it, at least). The end goal is to connect.
In business, the rules don’t really change. Telling your story is a critical part of building your brand. It helps to shape how people view you and enables consumers to begin forging a connection with your company. Do it right, and you’ll put building blocks in place that will allow you to develop a pretty awesome brand with an equally awesome future, a brand that people buy from simply because they love what you do and what you stand for.
The trick however… is to be authentic. Consumers aren’t stupid. If they think you’re fabricating stories and falsifying your brand they will find out. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But at some point, the truth will come out and the “brand” you built will be in need of some serious damage control if it’s to survive.
Some of the world’s biggest brands are guilty of, shall we say… stretching the truth. Do you remember when PepsiCo’s Naked Juice got caught making claims that the products were “all natural” and “non-GMO”? They ended up agreeing to a settlement that saw them pay out $75 to Naked Juice customers who could provide proof of purchase, and $45 to those that couldn’t. Ouch.
Or how about General Mills, who was called out in 2012 by California consumer Annie Lam for the misleading marketing of their “Strawberry Naturally-Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups”? Turns out that despite what we (i.e. consumers) would reasonably believe, there was no strawberry in a Strawberry Fruit Roll Up.
Of course, brands of this size can comfortably ride out these kinds of “hiccups,” in part because of cold, hard cash, but also because they produce so many products under their name. If a PepsiCo brand fails, they just launch another. Could you?
I’m guessing the answer is “no.” With that in mind, there are no ifs or buts here: just be 100% honest and genuine, 100% of the time.
Thankfully, for every PepsiCo and General Mills, there are heaps of awesome brands that are telling great, authentic stories. Let’s take a look at 7 brands that really are killing it with their storytelling.
Jewelry brand Dannijo was founded by sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder in 2008.
In the years since, the brand’s incredible storytelling, combined with a fantastic product (I assume – I’m not big on jewelry myself…) has amassed the pair more than 138,000 Instagram followers and built them a celebrity-packed fanbase that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Zosia Mamet, and Beyoncé.
When speaking with Fast Company, Danielle explained the sisters’ belief that authentic storytelling is key to creating a successful lifestyle brand. She said companies need to “create narratives that are so compelling to consumers, they want to build your products into their lives.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So what stories is Dannijo telling, and how is it telling them?
The sisters use Instagram to showcase snapshots of their own lives, alongside lifestyle photos of their products and pics of celebrities (and beautiful non-celebrities) wearing – and rocking – them.
They regularly post inspirational videos: Subjects include “Conversation Pieces,” which translates to casual interviews between one of the sisters and another influential figure, and “Portraits,” which showcase the products to a musical soundtrack that’s right on point. Each of their videos tells its own story, and each one is absolutely true to the brand.
One of my favorite pieces is this – a short, photo-led story which is presented as an infographic and tells us about the people behind the production of some of Dannijo’s products.
But for me… what really makes Dannijo’s content stand out is how Danielle and Jodie are almost always part of the story (if you look at the products themselves, you might even notice the sisters modeling some of them). They are just as much a part of the brand as the products are, and when people buy their jewelry, they are, in a way, buying a part of these sisters (and in turn, the brand). They know this is key to their success, so as much as possible, they put themselves at the center of the stories they tell.
Danielle and Jodie are what make the “Dannijo” brand. They feature customers and advocates in the stories they tell, but it’s the sisters themselves that are the beating heart of the company. This goes against what I, and most marketers, will generally tell you: that customers should be at the center of a brand and the stories a brand tells. I still believe this, but there are exceptions to every rule. Danielle and Jodie aren’t just selling jewelry, they’re selling a lifestyle, a lifestyle that they embody and impart a little bit of with each item they sell.
Conversely, Airbnb is 100% about the customer. How could it not be? Without the customer, there is no product. In this case, the customer is the brand.
For anyone who is not yet familiar with Airbnb, it’s an online marketplace in which homeowners can offer their property, or part of their property, for rent. Travelers then use the site to book a stay in their home. Or at least, that’s the general idea. Today you won’t just find private homeowners on Airbnb – many hotels offer rooms for rent via the site, too.
Regardless, it’s the customer that is the brand. Airbnb doesn’t own or manage properties itself (not as far as I’m aware, at least) – they simply provide a forum for customers to promote and book properties. Most companies still have a product, even if nobody’s buying, but not Airbnb.
Airbnb knows this, and instead of telling the company’s story, it gets its customers to tell their stories. This is so important to Airbnb that they have a whole section dedicated to “Stories from the Airbnb Community.”
The site’s Belong Anywhere section uses imagery and short films to offer a snapshot into the lives of Airbnb hosts and what a guest might expect a stay with them to be like.
Positioning the customer at the center of the brand – in effect, letting the customer be the brand – is such a key part of the Airbnb philosophy that they even designed a tool that allows customers to create their own version of the Airbnb logo.
I believe this technique works so well for Airbnb not only because it helps consumers to build an affiliation with the Airbnb brand, but because it helps consumers overcome one of the biggest pain points of using a service like this: who are the people I will be staying with, and what will the experience be like?
It’s understandable that first-time Airbnb-ers might feel a little anxious at the prospect of staying in a stranger’s home. I know I would be. But using articles, video, and imagery to show that Airbnb hosts are normal, interesting people, just like the people who stay with them, helps to put the minds of potential guests at ease, and can even help to drum up excitement about the prospect of enjoying a more “authentic” travel experience with the Airbnb brand.
It shouldn’t be hard for a brand with as rich a history as Minnetonka to tell great stories, but not every brand with a tale to tell tells it as well as these guys do.
Minnetonka has been producing quality, comfortable footwear since 1946. Minnetonka is a “quintessential American brand” – an ideology the company has lived up to and remained true to throughout its history, even as the company has gone international. Today they trade in 50 countries worldwide.
It’s clear that Minnetonka understands that staying true to its roots is key to building a brand with timeless appeal. Sure, products should move with the times, but wherever possible, what made a brand great – what attracted customers to it in the first place – is the foundation of the brand, and should stay firmly in place.
For Minnetonka, that means being a family brand which consumers can trust to supply them with products that look good, are comfortable, and that will last. It’s about providing quality products that are affordable and accessible to everyone, products that transcend class and generations. Cameron Diaz might wear them, but so do your parents, your neighbors, and your children.
These are the ideologies that the company pushes through in the many stories it tells.
It starts with the company “history,” which is presented as a short timeline and ends with an inspirational movie that delves into the brand’s beliefs and its relationship with the secret of its success – the customers.
It continues with a short article that illustrates a key component of the brand: the quality of the products and materials used to make them. We’re also treated to a short video that takes us through the story of how the shoes and boots themselves are made.
The stories continue onto Minnetonka’s blog, where recipes and style snapshots are supplemented with tales of adventure in which Minnetonka shoes have a starring role.
The stories the company tells seep through onto social media, in particular YouTube. It uses video to educate consumers not only about the Burt’s Bees brand, but also about one of the key ingredients in the brand’s success: the bees.
If you only watch one of their stories, make it “Burt Talks to the Worker Bees.”
The Burt’s Bees brand is about being 100% transparent. The company is proud of the ingredients it uses and the products it makes, and it shows. Burt’s uses storytelling as a mechanism to help customers buy into the company’s philosophy: that we should treat our skin, and the world with care. I think it’s working.
Nike has understood and has been leveraging the power of a great story longer than most people have been online. In 1999, the brand released a one-minute “commercial” that commemorated the career of Michael Jordan.
Despite being commissioned by Nike, there was no mention of the brand until the film’s closing seconds in which, over a school photo of Michael, the brand’s slogan “Just Do It” appeared, followed by the classic Nike logo.
This couldn’t have been more different from most commercials at the time, which tended to lean towards the “sell, sell, sell” principle. I get that. Commercials weren’t viewed online, they were viewed on television sets, and TV real estate was (and still is) very expensive. Wouldn’t a two-second mention of a brand in a one-minute ad be a waste?
But Nike knew better than to push its brand down consumers’ throats. It understood that what would really make a lasting impression, and what would help build the brand and allow the company to sell more products in the long-term, was an authentic story.
This ethos has held up even today, and is arguably what makes Nike one of the greatest brand storytellers of our time. Nearly everything Nike does is accompanied by a backstory.
The launch of FLYEASE, an “easy-entry footwear system designed to help athletes on the go and of all abilities perform better” was joined by a video and article that told “The Flyease Story“, the incredible tale of how the shoe came to hit shelves.
This video round-up charts “the year in Nike films” – in other words, it’s a collection of Nike’s 2015 promotional videos accompanied by a written commentary that describes the whats and whys of each film.
And yet Nike doesn’t just tell its own stories: the company is pretty passionate about giving others a voice, as well.
…while this video explores how NBA player Kyrie Irving found the strength to get back in the game following a serious knee injury.
It’s safe to say that Nike is really killing it with brand-driven storytelling, and while it would be fair to argue that it’s easy for the company – that it’s the biggest brand on this list by far – that doesn’t mean we all can’t learn from the stories it tells and how they are presented.
I love to see brands take steps to become more socially-conscious. I really love to see brands that build an entire business model on giving back to communities and making a genuine difference to the lives of those that live in them.
Krochet Kids is one of those brands.
Non-profit Krochet Kids produces simple, high-quality, hand-crafted, and affordable items of clothing and accessories including t-shirts, hats, and bags. But there’s so much more to get excited about with this company. It uses a “unique model” to “empower the women of Northern Uganda and Peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.” What’s more, it knows the name and story of each and every individual that is employed to produce its products.
The result is “long-lasting and sustainable change.”
Krochet Kids tells its own stories, and the stories of the people that work for the company. As we’d expect, the company’s history makes for pretty interesting reading. It began with a shared passion for snow sports and of course, crochet.
But there’s a lot more to this brand than its founders.
Each item comes with a label that’s signed by the person who produced it. Customers can then go and find that person’s profile, see their picture, and read their story.
Best of all, customers can continue the story by thanking the people who made the product and sharing a little about the life that item leads now. Take a look at the comments on Adelaida Mato Tolentino’s story to see what I mean.
The stories continue off-site, too. The company has a strong presence on Instagram, but where it really shines is on YouTube. Its videos add more chapters to the brand’s stories by telling us more about the products, the brand’s philosophies, and how the work and education provided by Krochet Kids has helped to empower people and transform the lives of the workers, and in turn, their families and communities.
What I think is so fantastic about Krochet Kids, along with how the company helps transform lives, is how each and every employee is an integral part of the brand. The founders themselves are loud and proud about the company and its achievements, but it’s the people who produce the products that really matter to Krochet Kids. Consequently, the manufacturers are given just as much, if not more prominence as part of the Krochet Kids brand.
Without the people that produce the products, there would be no brand. Not literally – it could outsource production to any old sweat shop and still have a brand of sorts – but Krochet Kids is what it is because of the fantastic faces behind it and how everyone gets the chance to tell their tale.
SuperJam’s story began more than 10 years ago when founder Fraser Doherty was just 14. Despite his age, he had masses of entrepreneurial drive and was clearly destined for great things. While most teenage boys were playing computer games and chasing girls (don’t look at me…), Fraser would spend his evenings and weekends cooking up jam, which he then sold to people in his home town of Edinburgh.
Fast forward 10 years, and “SuperJam” – and Fraser himself – are international successes, with many great stories to tell.
SuperJam’s “about” page features a no-holds-barred timeline that chronicles the twists and turns of the brand’s road to victory. Spoiler alert: SuperJam’s SuperHero packaging was a no-go (sadly).
But it doesn’t stop there.
Fraser is not one to shy away from the camera. Consequently, the SuperJam blog is jam-packed (pun intended) with brand-driven tales that detail Fraser’s latest achievements and recount his most recent adventures.
Just like with Dannijo, SuperJam is about much more than the product – it’s about the people that are the driving force behind the brand – in this case, Fraser Doherty, or “Jam Boy”.
To sum up, a great story is powerful and moving. It has heart and soul. But not every brand story will meet this criteria. The stories you tell don’t all have to move people to laughter or tears, they just have to be authentic, to be open and honest. Show that your company and your customers are real people with real stories to tell.
Have you told any brand stories yet? If not, what’s stopping you? Why not take a minute and share a story in the comments below?
Seventy-six percent of B2C marketers report using content marketing, yet only 37% say their strategy is actually effective. Blindly pursuing content marketing and hoping it works isn’t a useful strategy. In the early days of social media, a single tweet could be heard around the world. Brands just had to show up and chat, post a few coupons, engage with whatever audience happened to be hanging around, and their content would practically share itself. Today’s consumers are savvier and more discerning about what they pay attention to. Content fatigue overwhelms the masses, and it’s tough to attract the attention of your audience, let alone convert customers.
Today I’m going to show you some of the tactics I used to build a freelance business that last year did more than $250k in revenue.
And this was accomplished without spending any money on advertising through efforts like Adwords, Facebook or LinkedIn. But before I get into that, let me give you a bit of background on myself.
My name is Ross Simmonds and I’m a digital marketing strategist, author and entrepreneur. Over the last few years, I’ve worked with everything from startups to Fortune 500 companies around the world. I’ve recently written a book that includes my top 100 tips for making your first $100K in revenue after I was able to crack the six figure mark the first year I quit my job.
And in this post, I’m going to share with you some of my best tips.
Be aware – This isn’t a blog post filled with the generic advice like ‘add value’ or ‘engage’ with your audience. I’m talking about straight to the point pieces of advice that I wish I knew when I first got started.
Use it correctly, and a blog can be an excellent source of both traffic and links. However, while I’d never discourage you from creating the sort of content that can boost your traffic and potentially bring in links that will help you to climb further up the search engine’s rankings, on their own, traffic and/or links are not going to make a difference to your bottom line.
On that note, I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re here because you want your blog to do more than bring in traffic – you want it to drive sales, too. Well, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to get your blog working harder for you. Stick with me while we look at 10 of them.
1. The how-to
The how-to blog post is generally (though not always) a step-by-step guide that takes readers through a particular process. The best ones are based around clear, easy-to-follow instructions, and include images or video that help to illustrate each step. They should also be easy to skim through, so readers can quickly find a particular instruction.
The how-to is an effective sales tool in part, because it’s easy to optimize. Questions which begin with “how to” are common search terms – so much so, that whole websites have been built around answering these types of queries. Write detailed, useful, optimized how-tos and you should start to reap the rewards of additional targeted traffic arriving on your site.
Of course, we know that traffic alone won’t make us money. Real results happen when we’re able to convert that traffic.
To do this you need to…
1. Choose your topics wisely: Answer questions that your target market is likely to have and likely to ask towards the middle of the sales funnel.
For instance, a key goal of neilpatel.com is to encourage people to reserve consultations with Neil himself. It comes as no surprise then, that he’s writing posts like this.
“How to Determine if a Link is Good or Bad” is exactly the sort of question people who would be interested in one-on-one marketing consultancy would be asking.
2. Hold back just enough information to leave your readers wanting more.
Sometimes (though not always) if you give your visitors all the answers, they won’t need you. The more complicated your industry, the less this rule applies – sometimes you can give people all the information, but they will still need your help to apply the knowledge effectively. Still, it helps to keep a small part of the puzzle unsolved, to keep your readers wanting (and needing) more.
Key takeaway: Write detailed, long-form blog posts that answer “how-to” questions and target potential customers from the middle of the sales funnel onwards.
2. The cheat sheet
Cheat sheets are similar to how-tos in that they provide your visitors with valuable information that should help them to complete a particular action or set of actions. The cheat sheet differs from the how-to in its execution: they’re more of a “quick reference” kind of guide than a step-by-step walk-through. They also lend themselves well to infographic-style images.
In contrast, the how-to is usually presented as a text-based article.
Like the how-to, cheat sheets drive sales because they bring in highly-qualified traffic. The trick is to create content that captures potential customers at the right point in the sales funnel. By all means, create cheat sheets that help existing customers get the most out of your product or service. Anything that helps your customers use you more effectively will increase customer loyalty and retention rates. However, if you want to drive new sales, you need to create cheat sheets that help assist those who are in need of something you sell – not those who already have what you sell. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
Sorry for Marketing‘s Jay Acunzo’s specialism is guiding others on their content marketing. This cheat sheet fits the bill perfectly. It’s designed to help speed up the content editing process and is aimed at marketers who want to streamline and improve their content creation.
This cheat sheet on browsers that do or don’t support HTML5 targets consumers that are ready to – but probably haven’t yet started – design a new website. These are precisely the type of visitors that a company that offers web design and hosting services would want to capture.
Key takeaway: Create cheat sheets that act as quick reference guides to consumers who could benefit from your product or service. If you can get a designer involved to up their visual appeal, even better.
3. The checklist
Checklists are an excellent sales tool because they help readers identify missing components in an important equation. Imagine a store that sells products people buy before they go on vacation – a “packing checklist” would make a great piece of content for them.
In this context, a packing list could help drive sales because it would allow the store to link to relevant products from within the list and influence purchases from consumers who had forgotten they needed to buy x, y, or z.
A checklist can help drive sales in pretty much any industry. I see my fellow marketers use them all the time.
Moz compiled a detailed site audit checklist (if you’re ever carrying out a site audit, you need to use this – it’s awesome).
In marketing, this type of content works because it can help a potential customer realize how much help they actually need. Maybe they hadn’t considered they needed to do x and y. Maybe they don’t know how to do y and z. Either way, it illustrates to visitors how much or how little they know and encourages them to pick up the phone and make that call.
Key takeaway: Create on-topic checklists that are designed to help potential customers realize what tools or knowledge they’re missing that your company can provide for them.
4. The comparison post
Comparison posts pit your product against one of your competitor’s, as we see here in this post where HubSpot compares their CMS with WordPress’s. Is this sneaky? Maybe a little, but we see this strategy used all the time, across the board – not just online, and certainly not only in blog posts.
Ever noticed a supermarket advertising how much cheaper they are than the competition?
That’s comparison marketing in action. The supermarket is selling their products to you by highlighting how much you can save when you shop with them, instead of the competition.
You might wonder how you can legally get away with stating how much better or cheaper you are than your competition, and I wouldn’t blame you. Naming your competitors in your own advertising and marketing strikes me as something that would land you on shaky ground, too, but it’s actually okay… most of the time, at least.
This means you have to be damn sure about any claims you make, and be sure to include a disclaimer that gives the date that the claim was found to be true, in case something changes down the road.
Key takeaway: Write comparison blog posts that explore how your product or service matches up to your competitors.’
5. The guest post from a brand advocate (think extended testimonial)
If you’re a regular here, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of guest posting and that I regularly welcome guest authors to this blog. I do this to:
Diversify the voices on the blog
Build relationships with the people who write for the blog
Drive new audiences to the blog
Alleviate some of the pressure on me to keep the blog updated, all of the time
However… there’s another way you can leverage inviting a guest author to contribute to your blog – by asking a brand advocate to write for you.
Brand advocates are those people that love your brand so much that they regularly shout about it, and are willing to go out of their way to do so.
If you can track these advocates down, you should take the opportunity to speak to them about how you might be able to work together. This could entail getting them to write, or even film, a testimonial for you. It might mean asking them to mention your brand in some of their social media posts.
Alternatively, it could mean asking them to write you a guest post.
“Walmart Moms” is an excellent example of a brand that leverages their advocates.
The Walmart Moms are a group of Walmart advocates that have been selected to speak out on behalf of the brand because of how they embody the average Walmart customer.
The “chosen” moms (who are, I assume, paid) write blog posts for Walmart that offer advice and touch on their own experiences, while also linking to Walmart products and additional articles. Take a look at Linsey Knerl’s post “Growing from baby to toddler” to see what I mean.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, as mentioned above, you may have to compensate your advocates for their time. Asking them to write a short review is one thing; asking them to craft a 500+ word blog post is quite different. This effort should be rewarded, if not with cold hard cash, then with some sort of freebie or special benefit.
Key takeaway: Invite a brand advocate to write a guest post for you in which they talk about the merits of your brand or your products or services (just be prepared to reward them for their time).
6. The case study
A case study dives deep into a particular “case” in order to demonstrate the potential and effectiveness of a certain product or service. A case study is an excellent sales tool because rather than simply saying to a customer, “Use our product and you can achieve x, y, and z,” you use real-world examples to show them exactly how your product or service is going to accomplish x, y, and z.
It’s understandable then, that they’re a popular sales tool – the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Prof’s 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report found that of all of the tactics B2B marketers use, 58% percent of those surveyed said they found case studies to be effective. This graph shows the case study as the 5th most-effective B2B marketing tactic.
Neil Patel regularly writes case studies. In this one, he details the processes used to help earn Timothy Sykes an extra $1.2 million a year:
Here he shows how he grew Gawker’s traffic by 5 million visitors:
Putting an alternative spin on things, in this post, Neil actually writes a case study about case studies. Its purpose is to demonstrate how case studies can be used to generate more leads and sales.
In short: Case studies work. Although publishing case studies didn’t have a huge effect on the number of leads Neil was generating, they clearly helped his leads convert: He saw his sales increase by an impressive 185%.
Key takeaway: Hone in on a particular example of how your product or service helped a customer achieve a goal by writing a case study.
7. The wake-up call
The “wake-up call” is geared toward shocking your visitors into the realization that they’re doing something wrong, or at the very least, could be doing something better. The idea is that this scares your visitors into action – that action ideally being to purchase your product or start using your service.
It’s a common strategy used by digital marketers and SEOs. There are still a lot of shady companies out there and in-house practitioners who know less than they think they do. Consequently, it’s not difficult to “shock” companies into action. You just need to help them realize that their own online efforts, or the efforts of the people they employ to improve the performance of their site, are not up to snuff.
Take this post by Kissmetrics that explores how to determine whether or not your SEO company is in fact hurting, rather than helping, you. Or this article from BlogPress, which looks at 7 things you might be getting wrong when trying to write click-worthy headlines. This post from New State Films is another great example of this strategy: It explores five things you might be getting wrong when promoting your brand through video.
The key here is to avoid getting into a slanging match, or making yourself look petty. Be the bigger company and use a “wake-up call” post to not only show how others are getting something wrong, but to demonstrate that you have the skills, knowledge, and resources to do it better.
Key takeaway: Write a blog post that details what your potential customers might be doing wrong and how their mistakes could be affecting them.
8. The unique-findings post
Make a bold statement online, and you should be prepared to back it up with evidence. Why? Because it lends credibility to your argument. As stated in Lifehacker, “Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power. If you want someone to rally to your cause, support your position, or put you in a position of authority, you need to be able to back up your position and sway others from theirs.” (See what I did there?)
However… sometimes you might have a theory or want to make a statement that can’t be proven with existing evidence. Alternatively, you might question or distrust the information that’s already available.
When that situation materializes, what’s the logical solution? To carry out your own research, of course. Especially when the information you hope to find has the potential to help drive sales.
Want to see what I mean?
Here’s a post in which Marie Haynes, author of “Unnatural Links: The Complete Guide to Recovery” uses first-hand data to demonstrate why removing thin content can help site owners recover from a Panda penalty.
This is the ideal topic for capturing visitors that have been hit by a Google penalty, and consequently, may be interested in purchasing her book.
In this excellent piece from Moz search scientist Russ Jones, we see Russ perform his own research to figure out what makes content from the little guys (i.e. sites that don’t have a huge domain authority) rank.
Key takeaway: Perform your own research and use it as evidence to help drive home why potential customers could benefit from your product or service.
9. The expert roundup post
An expert roundup is a post based around quotes from industry experts.
Sometimes a roundup post is formed almost entirely of quotes from experts, with nothing more than a short intro from the actual author. Take a look at this post on Small Business Ideas Blog to see what I mean.
Sometimes the expert’s quotes will provide the framework for the article, with the author adding their own commentary and filling in the blanks. I wrote a post back in July that should show how this works.
Bloggers love them because, with a bit of luck and/or the right connections, they’re really easy to create, they can be super-valuable to readers, and they make the author look good.
Most importantly however, they provide the opportunity to tap into new, big, and engaged audiences. How? Most of the time, the experts who have contributed to the post will share it. This can potentially cause a domino effect whereby the post goes viral.
I recently spoke to Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard and the topic of conversation quickly turned to roundup posts. Turns out he’s a big fan. He said he’s done “a few expert roundups over the years, always got a decent amount of shares from it and traffic has been huge.” Then… he published this. Within a few days, it had been shared about 2000 times and had about 5000 views. Not f*in bad.
He told me he did this by:
Tweeting the influencers mentioned
Mentioning the influencers in a Google Plus post
Sending individual emails to each influencer to let them know the post was live and to thank them for taking part
But he didn’t stop there. In Adam’s words, “I then got in touch with Niall at TweakYourBiz.com about repurposing it as an infographic and publishing on TYB, so it would be a unique infographic for them.”
The resulting infographic (which you can see here) has had more than 32,000 visitors and been shared more than 2000 times.
Of course, we know by now that while traffic and shares are pretty damn awesome things to get, they’re not sales. But they do provide the chance to make more sales.
So how do you get them?
Choosing the right topic is key. It should be heavily aligned with what you do and should encourage visitors to want to take action. If you offer pay-per-click management services, you probably wouldn’t want to ask experts to comment on growth hacking. But if you can get them to talk about the biggest mistakes they’ve seen companies make with their PPC campaigns, you might be onto something.
Key takeaway: Ask experts to contribute to a roundup post with their answer to a question that is intrinsically linked to why someone might use your product or service.
10. The reverse psychology post
When we use reverse psychology on somebody, we are getting them to do what we want by asking them to do the opposite. It doesn’t work on everybody all of the time, but when it does work, it’s because the person fears their control is being taken away from them. In other words: They don’t like being told what to do.
It’s particularly effective on children and teenagers. Ever tried telling a child not to play with a certain toy? Chances are, they grabbed it the moment your back was turned. Even more concerning, research has shown that warning labels on violent TV programs actually encourage young viewers to tune in.
But this doesn’t mean adults are immune to the effects of reverse psychology. In an experiment led by psychologist Daniel Wegner, participants were told not to think about a white bear. Over the next 5 minutes participants were asked to think aloud, saying everything that came to mind. If they thought, or spoke, about a white bear, they had to ring a bell. Participants were ringing that bell every minute. More interestingly, when the 5 minutes were over, those who had been told not to think about a white bear were thinking about a white bear twice as often as those who had been told to think about it. You can read a little more about this experiment over on Business Insider.
This research should mean it comes as no surprise that reverse psychology is a tactic commonly used in advertising and marketing.
I think you get the point! But while we’re on the subject, whatever you do, do not share this post. (Cheers iMediaConnection for rounding up the above examples).
Key takeaway: Write a blog post that’s based around telling your visitors to do the exact opposite of what you want them to do. The trick is to be clear it’s tongue-in-cheek. You’ll tempt your visitors into doing exactly what you want them to do, without inadvertently making them think poorly of you or your product or service.
That’s it for today. Do you know of any other types of blog posts that drive sales? Or have you tried any of these out and are able to fill us in on the results you saw? Comments are below… you know what to do!
A huge chunk of what I talk about on this site relates to content marketing. I’ll talk about how to create it, how to optimize it, and how to help it go viral. What I don’t often touch on, is the distinction between content marketing in B2C industries and content marketing in B2B industries.
This is because, despite sharing a lot of common ground, both B2C and B2B content marketing come with their own, unique challenges. So to cover both sides fairly, I would essentially have to write two versions of the same post, and at the risk of sounding like a child… I don’t want to do that.
Instead, I usually try to generalize a little and include tips and ideas that can be applied across the board.
There are few better ways of building brand buzz than content marketing. In short: done well, it works. But that’s easier said than done. Great content takes time and is hard work. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of tools that can help you create better content and get better results, faster.
According to research from Fipp, of all the marketing channels used today, influencer marketing is experiencing the fastest growth.
This makes sense since in general, consumers trust influencers more than they trust brands.
In case you’re not yet familiar with influencer marketing, it’s a form of marketing that uses influencers (think bloggers, vloggers, journalists, and industry experts) to get your brand in front of new audiences (i.e. the influencer’s audience). This could be as simple as offering your product(s) to bloggers for review. It could involve inviting influential figures to events. Or it could mean forging long-term relationships in which influencers repeatedly create content that’s geared around your brand.
I spoke to Matthew Spurr recently about his thoughts on this (he’s the co-founder of Quuu, a very cool social media content tool that I strongly suggest you check out, if you haven’t already). He told me, “Influencer marketing is the most obvious strategy ever for improved engagement, yet so few people actually consider it in their marketing, let alone genuinely leverage it.”
Taru over at App Virality filled me in on a few of their favorite ways to work with influencers:
Writing about growth strategies of apps and including quotes of co-founders or early employees
Creating articles by blending in curation with influencer mentions
Including influencer experiences in relevant stories
Just writing age-old influencer lists!
It’s pretty clear that there are plenty of ways to get influencers involved with your brand. The hard part is getting them to agree to work with you. If you’re a big brand with a budget to match, you’ve got a head start on most of us (money talks and few influencers are willing to work for free – understandably).
But money isn’t everything.
If there are limited funds in the pot, all is not lost. You might have to try harder to get influencers to notice you, and you might have to give them more reasons to work with you, but there are ways to stand out and increase the odds that influencers will say “yes” to promoting your brand.
Let’s take a look at them…
Work with someone that’s just starting out
Instinct might tell us that we should work with the biggest and “best” influencer that we can afford – period. That makes sense – the bigger the influencer, the more people any resulting campaign will potentially reach.
And yet, while I would never discourage a brand from aiming high, I’d also encourage them to consider working with someone that’s up and coming. Why?
They’ll (most likely) ask for less compensation for their time, but more importantly…
It will allow you to “grow” together and build a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.
In my experience, working with the biggest names isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. You need them much more than they need you – and they know that. Sure, if they’re being compensated financially for their time, I doubt you’ll hear them complaining, but when you choose to end the relationship, there’ll probably be plenty of other brands lining up to take your place.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that working with someone smaller will be any different – a jerk is a jerk, whether they have five followers or five million. However, if you take the time to find someone that not only matches the interests of your brand, but that you trust and get along with on a personal level, you should be in a position to build a relationship that’s based on more than financial transactions.
Key takeaway: Work with someone that’s still finding their feet – that is in a similar place to you – and try to build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
Meet them at events
Research from Augure found that 66% of marketers use email to reach out to influencers, 57% use Twitter, and 52% contact them via their blog.
In the same study we’re told that “80% of the UK market stated that email was the most effective manner [for reaching out to influencers].” And yet, “some users feel that face-to-face contact with influencers or meeting them at events are the best approaches.”
When it comes to contacting influencers, there is no single “best” approach. Everyone is different. Email’s awesome because it’s efficient and leaves a paper trail. Obviously I love it – I based a whole tool around contacting influencers over email. However, sometimes it can come across as impersonal, and while email may be convenient for the person you’re trying to contact, the opposite can be true for those that are trying to contact them.
In that case, you might want to try pushing your outreach up a notch – by meeting people you want to work with in person.
While I don’t have stats to illustrate precisely how many marketers are going to the length of attending the same events as their target influencers, I’m willing to bet it’s few and far between. That’s understandable. It’s a costly strategy – in both time, and in most cases, money. But if there’s anything that’s going to make you stand out and ensure an influencer remembers you, it’s meeting them in person.
I’m a big advocate of this strategy myself. Email’s great. A necessity. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it. But I don’t hide behind it. Email is no substitute for real-time, face-to-face communication.
Key takeaway: Don’t rely upon, or hide behind, email. Make yourself stand out from everyone else that’s vying for an influencer’s attention by finding out which events they’re attending, and where possible, going along yourself. Just play it cool – you want to come across as genuinely interested in these people. You don’t want to come across as a stalker.
Send them a gift
This is another strategy that needs to be approached with a little caution: Send the wrong person the wrong gift and you could easily freak them out. You’ll generally get better results when you know a little bit about your recipient and are already in contact with them.
Let’s say, for instance, that you see someone you want to work with tweet about how much they’re craving chocolate. Sending them some chocolate and replying to their tweet to let them know it’s on its way opens the lines of communication. When the gift arrives, they’ll be happy and grateful rather than confused and concerned.
However… I think this tactic can also have a huge impact when you approach someone as a brand, not as an individual, and that gift is…your product.
Do you remember when Morton’s Steakhouse responded to this tweet…
…by actually showing up at Newark airport with a porterhouse?
That’s one surefire way to get yourself noticed.
Of course, as generous as Morton’s gift may have been, there’s no doubt it was a calculated gesture.
Peter Shankman’s a pretty famous guy. He’s a best-selling author, NASA advisor, and the founder of HARO. Today he has 168,000 followers on Twitter.
Would Morton’s have been quite so generous had Joe Average with 650 Twitter followers sent the same tweet? Probably not. And that’s okay. That’s marketing.
While this one was easy for Morton’s since Peter tweeted them directly, you can potentially do something similar if you keep tabs on the people you want to work with and jump in when an appropriate opportunity arises. The gift itself doesn’t have to be your product, but it definitely helps.
Tread carefully – choose a gift wisely, don’t send it cold (i.e. ensure you’ve initiated contact with the recipient first), and this sneaky tactic should prove to be a great way to make sure someone remembers you and will increase the odds they’ll say yes to working with you.
Key takeaway: Start monitoring the online activities of the influencers you want to work with (I like to create a specific Twitter list for people I’d like to connect with) and keep an eye out for opportunities to send them a gift they’ll genuinely appreciate and be grateful for.
Butter them up on your blog
When you have an influencer in mind that you really want to work with, you can start to get on their radar by featuring them on your blog.
This could mean just quoting them or linking to an article they’ve written. I do this regularly – sometimes it’s intentional, because I want to capture the attention of someone in particular. Most of the time it’s just a coincidence. I quote someone or link to them because it helps to illustrate a point I’m making. If it helps get my name onto the radar of someone new, that’s just a bonus.
Or, if they’ve been criticized in any way recently, you could write a piece that defends them. You might, in fact, simply write a piece that talks about how much they’ve influenced you and how you attribute some of your success to them. The trick is, of course, to “butter them up.” You need to make them feel good about themselves (just avoid being too overzealous – you don’t want to scare them!).
Once you’ve written and published your post, you need to make sure they know about it. Link to them from within the post (which you should do anyway) and they might find out naturally. Then again, if they don’t regularly look at who’s been linking to them, they won’t. So just tell them. Being bold and upfront will also open the lines of communication with them, which is exactly what you want.
Key takeaway: Feature your target influencer(s) in a blog post by quoting them, or if appropriate, linking to something they’ve written. Alternatively, write a post that’s specifically about them or an article they’ve written.
Target them using Facebook ads
One of the great things about Facebook ads is how specific they allow you to get with your targeting – so much so that it enables you to target certain people. So long as you have the email address, phone number, or Facebook user ID of the people you want to reach out to, you can target them specifically by creating a “custom audience.” Bear in mind that you need to target at least 20 people at once. If you only have one influencer in mind that you want to work with, this technique probably isn’t for you.
2. Click on “Tools” and select “Audiences”
3. Click on “Create Audience” and “Custom Audience”
4. Choose how you want to create your audience. “Customer List” will enable you to create a custom audience by matching emails, phone numbers, or user IDs with Facebook users. “Website Traffic” targets ads at those who visit your site (this involves installing a pixel on your site – it’s an awesome feature, but not much use in this context). “App Activity” allows you to create a list based on people who are using your app – again this is really useful but not relevant to what we’re trying to do here.
We want to target specific people, so we need to select “Customer List.”
5. Next, you can choose to upload a file (which has to be a CSV), import a customer list from MailChimp, or simply copy and paste your list. In this instance, you’re either going to want to upload a CSV or copy and paste the details of the influencers you’re targeting.
I’ve chosen to copy and paste my list. If you’re adding contacts by phone number or IDs, make sure to change the default email setting under “Data Type.”
6. When you’ve entered all relevant details, click “Create Audience.” You’ll then need to give your audience a name and click “Next.” Bear in mind that your audience might not be ready to use right away.
From the next screen you can go straight on to creating your ad by selecting “Create an Ad Using the Audience.”
You will then be able to create an ad in the usual manner (click here for more info on creating a Facebook ad). Just remember to select the Custom Audience you want to target:
I should probably point out that if your custom audience is very small, you will see this message:
That’s okay – you can still target the people you actually want to get in front of. You just have to expand your audience to reach other people, too.
Key takeaway: Use Facebook’s custom audiences feature to target ads at specific influencers. Bear in mind you’ll need at least 20 emails to build an “audience” and may then have to expand your audience further before your ad will be shown.
Send them business referrals
If someone sends you a business referral, you feel pretty excited, right? You’re not only happy about the potential to secure some new business, but you’re also pretty thrilled that someone thinks highly enough of you and your work to recommend you. What’s not to like?
Let’s assume that you do feel this way. If so, it’s safe to say that others will too. This means that referring business to someone you’d like to work with is a great way to break the ice and get them on board.
As I see it, there are three tricks to pulling this one off:
Get the balance right – The bigger the influencer, the more significant the referral you’re probably going to need to send their way to get them to notice you. Money talks, and if someone’s used to getting new business every day without even trying, you’re going to have to pull something pretty special out of the bag if you want to get their attention.
This next one should be obvious, but…
Make sure whoever you’re referring actually explains who referred them and why they (i.e. you) are awesome. If they can get the influencer in question to follow you on Twitter (or something to that effect) even better.
Follow up – A few days, maybe a week (don’t leave it too much longer) after your referral confirms as a new customer, follow up with your chosen influencer. Send them a friendly, casual email that mentions:
The details of the referral itself (to jog their memory of who you are)
Why you chose to refer business to them in particular (in other words: butter them up)
A proposal for what you’d like to happen next (i.e. work together)
If you do all of the above, you should wind up in a pretty strong position for getting exactly what you want.
Key takeaway: Butter up your target influencers by sending new business their way – just make sure that they know you’re the one to thank!
Take their content and make it better
In short, this entails repurposing a piece of content that your chosen influencer has created, and making it that little bit better. You might rework it into a different format, add extra information, or offer a contrasting view.
Generally, when we talk about repurposing content, we talk about repurposing our own content. However… when handled correctly, there is no reason we can’t repurpose other’s content. After all, no idea is truly original.
Just be careful with this one – you don’t want to offend the very person you’re trying to impress, or piss them off if they deem you to have “stolen” their content. Done right, this can really make someone sit up and notice you. Get it wrong, and they probably won’t want to see you or your name ever again.
So how do you go about repurposing someone else’s content without crossing the line into the realm of “theft” or potentially pissing the original creator off?
Ask for permission
If you’re going to be republishing someone else’s content in any significant way – this could mean publishing large chunks of their text or taking their work and reworking it into a different format – then always ask their permission.
You might think that crediting the original author would suffice. In some cases you’d be correct – some people are happy to receive the exposure, whether or not they’ve given their permission. But not everyone feels this way.
It’s always best to err on the side of caution (especially when you’re trying to get on someone’s good side!) and ask their permission, just in case.
If you’re writing a follow-up piece to someone else’s work – whether you’re adding to the conversation or offering a different point of view – seeking their permission isn’t necessary.
You’ll probably link to the original work and you might provide context to your own piece by quoting some of it. They would be well within their rights to request you remove references to their work if they had objections to its use, but free speech means you’re well within your rights to continue the dialogue as you see fit.
Of course, if you’re polite and respectful (and why wouldn’t you be?) I can’t see many people objecting to you using their work in this way.
The trick is to show how much you admire the original content and the person behind it – don’t criticize them, and certainly don’t try to hide the fact that you’ve based your content around their work.
Key takeaway: Repurpose content that an influencer has written. You might write a follow up, explore one of their ideas further, or rework their ideas into a new format. Just be sure to ask for permission if your repurposing could be perceived in any way as “content theft,” and make sure not to criticize the original work.
So that’s it for today. I really hope you’ve picked up a few ideas and strategies that you can take away and start putting into action. There’s more to working with influencers than the financial reward you can offer them – it’s pretty important that they like you and are on board with your brand and what it’s out to achieve, too.
As always, I love to hear if you have any ideas to add or your own experiences to share. Fire away in the comments below: