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You’re starting a new business. You don’t have a ton of money to throw at advertising. How do you get eyes on your stuff?
Enter: content marketing.
You may have heard this term “content marketing” thrown around before. Let’s clear things up—it’s really simple: it’s simply creating relevant content in various forms and various mediums as a means of attracting people to your site and your products and increasing your brand perception or awareness.
Posting a photo on Instagram is a form of content marketing. So is tweeting. So is uploading a video to YouTube. So is sending a newsletter.
We’re going to talk about what type of content to create, why you want to teach everything you know, the importance of planning your content, and how often you should be publishing.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
- Content marketing brings people to your site, helps you sell your services or products, builds your brand, and sets you apart as an authority.
- Successful offline businesses can do even better with online content marketing.
- Educational material is one of the best types of content to share.
- If you bring people in through your focus, they will assume you’re a specialist.
- Teach someone to be the ideal candidate you'd hire for your own company—not only do you then have a training resource for future employees, it also shows your customer everything that goes into what you do (this builds trust).
- Teach everything you know and give it all away.
- If you stop thinking of competitors as the enemy, it can open up a lot of opportunities.
- Word of mouth referrals are just an offline version of customer reviews.
- All valuable content starts with writing.
- You can’t have spontaneity without structure. Without structure you’ll have chaos, not spontaneity.
- Publish content weekly—people’s lives reset every week. Get inside that weekly cycle.
- You’ve got to laser focus and zoom in on a niche.
- You can’t go broad until you’ve established yourself in your specific niche.
- Every single year, the amount of video that is consumed increases by 50%.
- You may think you’re a small fish in a big pond, but you’re not.
- The 10/10/10 effect: 10% of people online are actually curating content, 10% of those who are curating are actually the ones who are creating the content—if you’re creating at all, you’re a part of the 1%.
- If you don’t have a plan to execute your idea, you’ll never get value from it.
- Successful people iterate and fail over and over until they succeed.
- 05:00 Sean: Today we’re talking about content marketing for new businesses and how to use content as a marketing tool. Traditionally, you can buy attention for your products and services through ads that drive traffic to your site, but for the new business owner there are a lot of expenses, and funds for advertising aren’t very easy to come by. Content marketing allows you to create things that interest the people you’re trying to reach and, as a result, the value you’re providing attracts people. Content marketing brings people to your site, helps you sell your services or products, builds your brand, and sets you apart as an authority.
- 06:49 Matt: I’m excited to hear from you about this topic, Sean. Content marketing is one of those things I haven’t put as much time into as I would have liked. I’ve had people ask me, “How have you been so successful with your business without having websites?” Out of necessity we recently launched a website for our carpet cleaning business. Just in the first two weeks of it having launched, we became incredibly busy. It’s amazing how putting just a little bit of content out there for people can drive business.
- 07:44 Sean: Offline businesses can do content marketing as well. For example, you could send out a direct mail campaign with education material that helps people. They’ll associate that value with your brand, but an offline businesses can do even better with online content marketing.
- 08:18 Matt: Gary Vaynerchuk had approached Trader Joe’s about social media marketing and they told him, “We don’t need social media. We’re doing fine without it.” I was that way too. I didn’t really see the point of having an online presence because I was doing so well. Gary replied to Trader Joe’s and said, “If you’re doing this well right now without a social media presence, imagine the percentage of your sales increase if you did have a social media presence.” I thought that was brilliant. You can do really well without an online presence, but you can be much more effective if you are putting content online.
- 09:12 Sean: It’s easier for the person who already has an established business to begin sharing content online. For the person who’s just starting out, it’s difficult because there’s more of an up-front time investment. When you’re established is actually the best time to start content marketing because you already have the time and financial resources.
What Type of Content Should You Create?
- 09:44 Sean: Educational material is one of the best types of content to share. Let’s talk about an offline example. Matt, what kind of services does your carpet cleaning service provide?
- 10:14 Matt: Carpet, tile and grout, and upholstery cleaning are our normal services. We also have fringe services like cleaning wood floors and granite sealing. As my customers or investors have asked about specific services we didn’t typically offer, I’ve hired contractors specifically for those jobs. A lot of my friends who have businesses disagree with this approach, but let’s look at an example: you have a graphic designer who designs icons. Would he only want to do that kind of design or would he want to be able to do other kinds of design work as well?
- 11:41 Sean: I like that approach because you’re focusing by telling people that you are a carpet cleaning company. You can do other things, but you’re not telling people about all of the different services you provide up front, you’re getting them in through the focus. In your example with the icon designer, someone will hire that person specifically for icon design, but then they can say “By the way, I can also do a full branding or logo design for you.”
If you bring people in through your focus, they will assume you’re a specialist.
- 13:13 The rest is a bonus. Going off of this example, let’s spitball some ideas. Many businesses in your position want people to hire their company, so they focus on telling people why they should hire their company. They’ll say things like, “Professional services. Money back guarantee. Always on time.” These things aren’t bad, but the focus is on why the customer should hire the business. Content marketing can reach the customer by giving them what they want and what they’re looking for.
- 13:44 In addition to talking about why the customer should hire the company, you should be talking around that. An example with the carpet cleaning business could be, “7 Ways to Maintain Your Carpets Between Annual Cleanings.” The customer thinks, “Wow. They’re helping me.” Meanwhile, you’re getting them to think “Carpet” and “Your Business.” They’ll refer back to your article whenever its time for their next cleaning and of course they’re going to hire the company that gave them a helpful article. You’d think that giving people a way to clean their own carpet would be bad for business, but it actually causes the customer to see you as the helpful pros.
- 14:40 Another example that seems a little crazy is to tell people exactly how you clean a carpet with professional equipment. Teach someone to be the ideal candidate that you would hire for your company. Not only could it be used as a training resource for future employees, it shows your customer exactly the kind of work that goes into cleaning a carpet. Even though it seems like something a customer wouldn’t be interested in, they’ll see that and think, “Obviously I don’t want to do that kind of work, but I can see that these guys are really thorough. I want to hire these guys.”
- 15:39 Matt: That’s one of the ways we get customers. When they call to inquire about our services, our guy will break down our step by step process. We’ve even had people call in late and say “I’ve just spilled some wine on my carpet, how do I clean this?” and instead of saying “Hire us! We’ll come out and clean it,” we’ll actually walk them through, step by step, how to remove the stain. Often, they’ll go ahead and hire us to come out and make sure it was properly taken care of. We even had an instance where a lady needed some advice for getting a pet stain out of her carpet, and even though she ended up hiring another company to come out, she paid us for the advice.
- 17:09 Sean: People might have a fear that if they put out free material, customers will ultimately go to one of their competitors. That is a reality. We’ve talked about how it takes someone hearing something seven times before it resonates (Related: e153 The Magic of 7). Your competitor may be putting in their sixth credit, then when the customer comes to you and you put your credit in, that’s the magic time for them and they hire you. When you share content online you’re putting credits out there and there is a small risk that when you put those credits in, those customers will end up with your competitors, but it’s more likely that you’re putting credits in for someone who is ultimately going to come to you.
- 18:15 Here’s another kind of article you could write: “What to look for when hiring a carpet cleaner.” You frame it as something that someone would actually look for, but what you deliver is everything that is unique about you. It’s “why you should hire us” but it’s packaged as something the customer is looking for. You might be concerned the customer will read that and go somewhere else, but it’s more likely they’ll go with the company that originally provided the valuable content.
You want to teach everything you know and give it all away.
- 19:20 Sean: Teaching is going to establish you as an authority. I talk about something called the Trifecta which is client work, selling products, and teaching (Related: e080 Making A Living With The Trifecta Part 1 of 3: Client Work, e081 Making A Living With The Trifecta Part 2 of 3: Products, & e082 Making A Living With The Trifecta Part 3 of 3: Teaching). We’re talking about using teaching to get client work, but as you share this teaching content, not only are you establishing yourself as an expert in your field which will bring clients, you’re also building an audience of people who actually want to learn how to clean carpets to whom you could sell courses, or provide learning guides or workshops.
- 20:33 Matt: There’s actually a company that hosts a carpet cleaning training workshop. I was surprised at how big this conference is. You can’t underestimate the demand for learning in any industry.
Collaboration and Competition
- 21:20 Sean: Another way you can produce content is through collaboration.
- 21:33 Matt: We actually have a relationship with one of our competitors where we will trade jobs and share equipment from time to time. That’s one way to collaborate and get information. Obviously, your competitor is not going to come right out and tell you their secrets, but as you build that relationship you’ll learn more about how they got started, what they’re doing now, and what they plan on doing.
- 23:04 Sean: Competition is great. Look at any of the large competitive companies out there. If you stop thinking of competitors as the enemy, it can open up a lot of opportunities. You likely have a shared audience and when you collaborate, you can have access to that audience. People don’t just subscribe to one newsletter or watch one tv show. They have extra attention that they’re probably going to give to you because they have already demonstrated interest in what you do.
- 23:47 Matt: I have such a good relationship with one of my competitors that we can bounce ideas off of each other and even share work with one another. I just had a deal with four large apartment complexes and we didn’t have the equipment or man-power to do the whole job, so I contracted my competitor’s company to do some of the work. Sure, I could buy more equipment and hire more people and keep the job for myself, but I want to keep my competitors close to me. I never know when I might need their help for something. I always come across business owners who are very possessive of their customers. When we first started the snow cone business we hated it when another trailer would move into our territory. Over time we realized that it’s the quality of our product and our service that keeps people coming back. We’ve got a snow cone trailer that’s been in the same spot for 10 years.
- 25:41 In that time there have been at least six trailers that have come and gone. That tells you that it’s not easy. One of the ways I’ve made my businesses successful, even without marketing, is through relationships. I’ll stress to my employees that the most important thing we’re about is customer service. If there’s an unhappy customer I want to talk to them. I don’t get to interact with customers as much these days, and I miss that, but what I tell my employee is, “You’re me. You’re the owner.” Then, they feel like the business is their’s and they take initiative.
- 27:05 Sean: A lot of people forget that relational aspect. They’re too focused on getting to the next job or up-selling their customer. If you would take a moment and press in on that relationship aspect, you could possibly open up half a dozen more referrals.
- 27:26 Matt: As a business, you still have to up-sell, but the way I tell my employees to up-sell is to only offer the customer something they actually need. We have information that we give our customer about our other services after we’ve provided the service for which they hired us. Almost every customer will either refer us to a friend for another service or hire us for another service. For example, a $150 job could turn into a $3,500 interior painting job, then that person could refer us to someone else and before you know it, we could have the business of an entire cul-de-sac.
- 28:41 Sean: An online person who is hearing what you’re saying may be thinking, “I’ve got to get some reviews.” I recently upgraded some of my equipment. We usually process the audio for the podcast through Logic Pro X. Now we’re using rack-mounted DBX processors that will give us clean audio even before it reaches the software, so what we’re hearing in our headphones will be the processed audio and not the raw audio. As I was upgrading, I really needed to get a power conditioner, which is a power strip that filters the electrical current to remove any buzzes or hums. When I looked through the reviews on Amazon, I found someone that said “I had a hum, and this power conditioner made it completely go away.” Because of that review, I bought that conditioner. What Matt is describing for his business is the same thing. Word of mouth referrals are just an offline version of customer reviews.
- 31:22 Matt: We do have a Facebook page for the carpet cleaning business which has given us some great social proof. Some of our high end customers will hire us just because we had a favorable review, without ever looking at the price or the specific services we offer. Taking care of your customers and getting those reviews really does help.
What Medium Should You Use?
- 32:31 Sean: There are a lot of ways to create different types of content. The most important thing, which may surprise you, is writing—that’s where it all starts (Related: e139 It All Starts With Writing). Whether you’re doing a blogpost, newsletter, podcast, or video, all valuable content starts with writing. If you want to make a video, don’t just turn on the camera and start talking, start with writing. The reason we can provide value on this podcast is because we’ve written an outline for this episode. We also allow ourselves to go off of the outline but the structure is what makes that possible.
You can’t have spontaneity without structure.
Without structure you’ll have chaos, not spontaneity.
- 33:54 You want to start out by asking, “What do I want to give this person? What are they looking for? What kind of value do I want to give them? How am I going to package that value? What vehicle am I going to use to deliver this content to my prospect?” If you want to develop one skill, start with writing. You should not only be intentional about improving as a writer, but also about the kind of value you’re providing. If you get a common question frequently, write an FAQ and pre-empt your audiences’ questions by sending those answers to them. If you deal with common customer service issues, think about how you can give people content that addresses those problems even before those problems come up. From writing I would go to audio. Audio is the next easiest thing to get into, with video beyond that. Good video is very dependent on quality audio.
- 35:41 Matt: How would you use audio to share content?
- 35:51 Sean: Podcasts are an obvious answer. They are increasing in listenership and downloads. Podcasting, though it’s been around for a while, is relatively new. Apple only recently made the podcast app a default on iOS. Imagine someone who has just gotten their first iPhone. They open up the podcast app and don’t have any shows yet, so they go to browse iTunes’ suggestions. One of the things that helps a show get into the “New and Noteworthy” category is the number of positive reviews it has in a relatively short amount of time. Your positive review could help us get into that category and bring the LamboGoal show to more people. Podcasts are a great way to get your content to people and this is only the beginning.
- 38:02 You can also have an audio version of a blog post. You could write something out and read it as audio, add some slides to it and now you’ve got something that, even though it’s only audio with some pictures, people can now consume as video on YouTube. You could also get some “b-roll” footage to make the video a little more engaging. Even though those pictures or b-roll footage aren’t necessarily interesting, the fact that you’re talking over it makes your content more engaging and it’s a great way to segue into video.
- 40:06 Matt: I love that because you don’t have to have great editing skills. A small business that doesn’t have a huge budget could go get an affordable microphone, record some audio, take some pictures, throw that all together, and have something really nice to show their customers.
How Often Should You Be Publishing Content?
- 40:56 Sean: My go-to answer for how often you should be publishing content is weekly. The reason for this is because people live their lives in weekly cycles. Sharing weekly will ingrain you in people’s minds. You know how people say, “Oh, it’s Monday. My favorite show comes on Monday.” You want people to think that way about your content. Every other week is too confusing. People wonder “Is this an on week or an off week? They missed a week, are they going to make up for it next week?” That’s too much information for people to process.
Life resets in weekly cycles and you want to get inside that cycle.
- 42:04 Matt: Don’t you hate it when your TV show misses a day for a holiday or something? It’s Christmas Eve and we’re like, “I don’t care, I want to watch my show!”
- 42:18 Sean: What do you do on Thanksgiving? You eat and sit on the couch and either watch football or browse on your phone. If you’re a smart marketer, you’ll schedule stuff out so while you’re eating your turkey, other people have content to consume from you. Weekly is key. If you can do it more often, that’s great, but do it at least weekly. Hire someone to do it if you have to.
How Niche Should You Go?
- 43:10 Sean: Moataz asks, “How Niche should you go? When are things too Niche? Is there such a thing?” I’m also going to bring in this question from Justin, “How focused does your content need to be? Should you laser in on one subject like, ‘web development’, or is it beneficial to talk about broader topics like, ‘creativity,’ since it’s a creative field?” You’ve got to laser focus and zoom in on a niche.
- 45:11 Kyle, one of our Community members, is doing an excellent job blogging regularly and providing value but, even though he’s talking about creativity in a broader sense, he should zoom in on his specific industry. Kyle does icon illustration. He should be known as the “Icon Guy.” He should get “icon design” in every single title. The other stuff is valuable, but you can’t go broad until you’ve established yourself in your specific niche. You have to ask, “What do you want to be known for? What do you want people to associate with You? What do you want to be associated with?” If it’s carpet cleaning, you darn well better get the word “carpet” in every single title. Put a spin on all of your content that puts your very specific focus in there. If you’re the “Icon Guy” and you want to talk about creative block, talk about creative block when designing icons. Make it very specific. People who follow you will see you as the icon guy who talks about creativity. The reason we can talk about carpet cleaning businesses on a Lambo show is because people know us as the Lambo guys who use carpet cleaning businesses as an example of something that can help us bring in revenue and reach our goal. You should only broaden your focus after you are established in your field. In the beginning, you cannot afford not to laser focus on a niche.
- 48:30 Sean: Terence says, “Thousands of people already create similar content to what I plan to offer. Should I be looking for a unique angle, or is my unique voice on a popular subject good enough?” I have two answers to this question. One, everything we just said about laser focus. If you have a broad topic, you’ve got to zoom in on it more. It used to be cool for me to talk about hand lettering. Now that so many people are doing it, you’ve got to niche down more to different types of hand lettering. You can’t just be the hand lettering person, you’ve got to be the person who does hand lettering and takes pictures of their lettering in front of waterfalls. If you’re broad, get into a niche. Part two of my answer is:
There are tons of people creating content, but there are even more consuming it.
- 49:48 Every single year the amount of video that is consumed increases by 50%. You may think you’re a small fish in a big pond, but you’re wrong. I talk about something called the 10-10-10 effect: 10% of people online are actually curating content, 10% of those who are curating are actually the ones who are creating the content. That means that if you’re creating at all, you’re a part of the 1%. Due to population growth and technological advances that make content more accessible, the number of people who are consuming content is increasing exponentially. There are thousands and thousands of people consuming content for the first time every day. If you think about it long term, this thing has only just begun. It’s about to blow up and you’re getting in early.
What Are Ideas Worth?
- 53:40 One more question from Moataz, he asks, “Are ideas really worth that much? Should you keep your business idea a secret or tell as many people as possible?” Matt, what are your thoughts?
- 53:52 Matt: Let’s say you had an idea for an app. You need to have a plan for how the idea will be valuable. If you don’t have a plan to execute that idea, you’ll never get value from it. Everybody and their mother has an idea and thinks it’s worth a billion dollars. Is it really though? Unless you have experience executing an idea, most people will frown on you sharing your idea. If you have a well thought out plan and you’ve actually done your research, then you might have a valuable idea.
- 55:04 Sean: If you look at the track record of every successful business person, you will find that they failed over and over. The difference between successful people and wannabe entrepreneurs is that the wannabes will hold onto one great idea for their entire lives, never do anything with it, and feel like they never caught their lucky break. Successful people iterate and fail over and over until they succeed.
- 55:53 Matt: Everyone is afraid of the possibility of failure. There isn’t a business god that you can present your idea to and ask, “Hey, can I make a living off of this?” You’ve got to take action, believe in your idea, and believe in yourself. You can’t wait for it to be comfortable or to not feel afraid. Every day I wonder if we’re going to make it, because any day I could go bankrupt. I’m not living extravagantly, but I’m taking living expenses and investing everything else back into my business.The only way to know if your idea is valuable is to act on it.
- 57:04 Sean: I know exactly what you’re talking about. Almost everything I purchase is something that I use to make content that I give away for free on a podcast with no sponsors. It is scary because at any point things could fail. You have to take a risk by putting your idea out there.
Ideas you hold onto are safe because they can’t fail in your mind, but they also cannot succeed.
- 58:23 Matt: You have to make a choice. If you want to have a 9-to-5 job that’s perfectly fine, but if you want something more—if you’re ready to grab life by the horns and go for a crazy ride—do it. Don’t just talk about it. Don’t make excuses. I like the way Gary Vaynerchuk says it, “Stop crying. No one cares. Put your head down and correct it.” Every plan that I’ve put together has had some component of failure in it. When failure happens, I adjust. If you’re playing Monopoly and you land on someone’s hotel, you don’t give up, you use strategy and keep playing. Don’t be afraid of failure.
- 1:00:25 Sean: If one of our main businesses fails, we’re just going to see it as a challenge. If you’re looking for excuses, you’re going to find them every time. You can’t afford to think that way.
- 1:00:42 Matt: We had a situation with the carpet cleaning business where a customer didn’t get taken care of and they were upset. When that happens, I tell my employees not to worry about it too much. Those kinds of things are going to happen. We expect them to happen. In fact, we want failure to happen because that’s the only way we’re going to learn and grow and make something out of this idea that we have.