Back in 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay for Microsoft insiders stating that Content was King – meaning that as the internet advances, it will be imperative to deliver timely, useful content in whatever form the platform demands. It was a statement so general that it easily became a meme for CEO's across the globe, and still lingers to this day as a key reminder that what you have to share better matter to the people consuming it.
Fast forward 30 years, and Gary Vaynerchuk offers this addendum: "Content is king, but context is God." He invites his audience to consider the medium and the platform as much as the content itself. Make sure that what you're saying and sharing makes sense in the context of how the audience is showing up. Don't start singing “Figaro” at the top of your lungs during a dramatic reading of Hamlet, for example. Don't sell tickets to your event at someone else's grand opening.
And yet, that's exactly what so many marketing messages do today. They interrupt us. They try to “grab” our attention. There's nothing subtle about them – which makes us feel slimy, smarmy, and out of integrity if we feel like that's the only way people will buy from us.
"Hey! Buy my stuff! It's on sale for hella cheap!"
"You'd be crazy not to buy this RIGHT NOW!"
"We interrupt your Facebook feed to bring you this useless advertisement..."
But there's a better way. One that keeps us in integrity with our values and still invites our audience to invest with us. One that still puts money in our pockets, pays our bills, and let's us be a force for good in the world. You can use it on any social media platform, in your email, and any other place where you might find yourself using marketing messaging on a regular basis (during the merch pitch at your concert, perhaps?)
By paying attention to the context of your audience – and providing content that meets them where they are at – you can draw them in – lead them through an experience that makes them eager to say yes to your offers without feeling like they've been marketed to.
There's a difference between an editorial/content calendar and a marketing calendar. Editorial calendars support your marketing efforts. So once you know what you're promoting at different times of the year (your marketing calendar), you can set themes and develop content that supports your promotional efforts. If you're not developing content, you probably don't need an editorial calendar.
That said, most of my readers ARE creating content – shows, videos, blog posts, sales presentations, classes, etc. And you're not just creating content for the sake of producing more stuff. I believe that you're hoping that content will ultimately lead to more sales of your stuff.
Not every piece of content needs to be for marketing purposes.
I recognize that there are times when content creation isn't about a set agenda – we post pictures on instagram about our recent trip because we're excited to share our adventure, not necessarily to sell our latest offering. But when you are creating content for marketing purposes, it's important to remember the journey your customer takes in order to decide to buy from you.
Most collegiate business textbooks outline the stages of the consumer buying process. It looks something like this:
This means that, you can use this process to generate your content.
For example, if you sell coaching, chances are good potential clients might not know they even need coaching. So trying to offer a coaching service to the uninitiated might not land well. You may have created an amazing offering, but if your audience doesn't recognize they have a need for coaching, they simply won't buy.
Educating the buyer around the problem has to come first. This is email-level and blog post-type content. This is awareness-building content. It's early stage content for your launch sequence. People have to know they need what you offer before they're going to buy, and your emails, newsletters, and social media posts can go a long way toward building awareness for your solution.
But you can't stop there.
Because even after they recognize they need coaching, why should they choose you? After all, there are plenty of options out there, right? So now, they're going to start investigating options – unless you've already laid the ground work for them that YOU are the only game in town. Quality content helps position you above other options.
Positioning yourself as the go-to choice is the early to mid-stage launch content, your opt-in content, and the opening of your sales and marketing materials. This is where you get to remind people that "yes, there may be lots of options out there, but this content I'm sharing with you now illustrates why I'm the best choice." And if they're still not convinced? That's where you take things deeper.
The more you personalize the content, the more they feel like you get them. Webinars, live streams, teleclasses or one-on-one sessions - any ways you can interact directly with your potential buyers are going to not only position you as the go-to person, it's going to elevate your stature with your client. They've invested time with you, so there's a greater likelihood that they'll choose you when it comes time to buy. There are no guarantees, however.
Because once they've narrowed their choices, they've got to be ready and able to buy. My husband has known for years that he wants a Cooper Mini, but he's not in a position to buy. He's done the research, he's evaluated his options, he's even made a choice, but he's not buying. He's not ready. He's not financially able or willing to make the commitment to buy yet.
You are NOT creating content for that guy. Sure, you want to make a compelling case for buying with you, but your content at this stage should assume the sale. Assume your clients want to buy from you. At this stage, you're mostly re-assuring them that buying with you is a great value. This is sales-page level content, or evaluative consultations, where you make the recommendation at the end of the consult to buy from you. This is your call-to-action content.
However, all call-to-action content is not created equally, and customers today are more knowledgeable than before. As a result, the typical call-to-action triggers fail to achieve the intended results. It's a narrow line between creating a sense of urgency and being aggressive. Fortunately, a few SEO marketing agencies can help you create the right content to get that guy's attention and make the sale.
That's four distinct tiers of content and if you're launching 3 or 4 offers in a given year, that's 12-16 pieces of quality content that you can craft that directly tie back to your offers, leaving plenty of room in your editorial calendar for lots of other content that isn't marketing a specific offer.
Every "problem" has a core solution of making someone's situation even better. So if you're a musician or a painter, it's the same story. How does your work make their life even better? Why do they need what you're creating? Why should they consider your offer over the offers of other artists or musicians? Macklemore still hosts an annual appreciation pizza party for his fans. What are you doing to create a community around you and your Great Work? Your content calendar can help with that.
Go back to the 4-step framework:
There's nothing slimy or icky about reaching out with an average of 1-2 marketing messages per month, especially when they don't feel like marketing messages! And while you may condense your timeline to 1-2 messages per week during a marketing launch, you're still not making your audience feel icky because the content you're creating is actually helping them make progress toward their goal.
I'm leading a call for my Accountability Club members and current subscribers at 1pm Eastern tomorrow. I'll share specific examples of content for marketing, and there's a Q&A session at the end. If you're already on my list, look for an email with details. The call is free to listen live, but only A-club members get access to the recordings. Learn more about Accountability Club and get access to all of last year's training too.
I am a sucker for procedural dramas. Criminal Minds and NCIS are staples in my late-night viewing. My husband and I have sort of a "silent bet" running on each episode. The first one of us to figure out "whodunnit" gets bragging rights for the night.
Usually, it's me. Sometimes I get it wrong, which is usually when my husband beats me to the punch.
I've spent years getting to know people: watching them, learning from them, and paying attention to behaviors, body language, and contexts. And I have two kids - who are walking laboratories of human behavior. Paying attention to all kinds of people gives me an insight into how they think and how they'll behave in a variety of circumstances.
You can't expect to consistently sell your Great Work if you don't know who will buy it (or why). You need to do something to get into your client's head and understand where they're coming from, where they're going, and why they'd choose you.
There are lots of ways to get into your customer's head, but a question I get asked a lot is "do I really need a customer avatar?"
Yes and no. It really depends on the kind of market you're trying to reach. This week's episode of Creative Freedom gives you some clarity on when an avatar is right for you - with a little help from Lionel Richie.
Ultimately, it's less about an avatar, and more about understanding your clients. Whatever method works for you is fine, just make sure you do the work.
You don't need a customer avatar. You just need to understand your customer. (Tweet this)
Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments . Who knows? Someone reading this may need exactly what you have to offer!
One of the most important first steps for a creative entrepreneur to make is getting clarity - around what really matters to you and making the transition to doing more of your Great Work in the world.
Today, we're looking at another big problem for creatives that want to make a good living doing what they love: confidence. Specifically, the confidence it takes to share your Great Work with the world.
Yes, we're talking about marketing, but it's more than that. It's being willing to step out of the vicious circle that keeps you from making progress and seeing sustainable growth in your business.
The Artisan Trap
So many creatives fall into what one of my clients called "The Artisan Trap". Les McKeown, former client and author of the book "Predictable Success," describes The Artisan Trap as a time when the entrepreneur focuses almost exclusively on bringing in sales, and then switches over to fulfilling the orders... which causes sales to stall because you're not "out there selling".
According to Les: "It becomes a vicious cycle of selling and delivering that prevents the business from growing."
Many creative entrepreneurs tell me that they "don't like sales" or that "doing marketing" turns them off. They'd just prefer to do what they love and not worry about "the selling part."
I get it. You may recall the line from Glengarry Glen Ross: "ABC: Always Be Closing." That feels manipulative, slimy, and not at all in integrity with the way I want to show up in the world. If you're anything like me, you probably feel the same way, too.
Yet, without a clear marketing and sales strategy in place, it's hard to consistently reach your right customers. If you're still working another job, you have even less time to devote to creative or sales efforts.
So you end up "throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks" until the orders start coming in. Then, with orders in hand, you stop "selling" and focus on delivery... until something else draws your attention (like when the day job calls again!). So basically, creative entrepreneurs that keep their head down and "in the work" never get their nose above water, and are constantly re-starting their business. They make stuff, they stop making so they can sell, then go back to making again once all their stuff is sold.
Vicious cycle, yes?
Plus, the idea of "closing" means the conversation has ended. It's over. There's nothing more to do. But I'm sure you'd like to do business with your clients more than once, yes?
That's why it's important to shape your marketing around who you are and what matters to you first. Otherwise, it feels slimey, sleazy, and you just won't do it.
Heart-centered marketing isn't icky, slimy, or inauthentic. Done well, marketing is a conversation with your right audience, to help them understand how you can better serve them - and to help them say yes to your offers more easily if it's a good fit.
So, let's create variation on the "Always Be Closing" theme - a variation that most healthy businesses take to heart.
If heart-centered marketing is about conversations, that means you've got to connect with people to have those conversations. So what if you looked at your daily tasks in a new way - what if anything that connected with a potential client was considered marketing?
Does that freak you out a little or inspire you?
Surveys suggest investing anywhere from 1-4 hours each business day doing marketing-related activities. That can sound daunting if you think in the "traditional" sales model. Instead, let's apply this new model of "Always Be Connecting" and see how it works.
I actually block out entire days each week as "marketing days" to focus on marketing-related activities. The key word is "activity". It's active. These are just some of those marketing-related activities:
* writing new content for my website
* recording new songs and training segments for my videos
* writing and sending my weekly newsletter
* connecting with clients and contacts in person, via email, or on social media
This list doesn't feel heavy, slimy, or icky to me. Some of it is even fun! These are authentic ways for me to reach my right audience, based on who I am and how I like to show up in the world. It's my way of sharing my Great Work with the world in ways that work for me.
Let's be honest about one thing, though: just because it works for me, doesn't mean it works for you. I love video, and you might hate it. That's fine. It's not about being everywhere. It's about being where YOU want to be, reaching your right people in ways that work for you.
If you believe in your message and your Great Work, there are people in the world that need to know about it.
Unlike "Field of Dreams" (a myth we'll bust next time), you can't just build it and expect people to come. Products and services don't sell themselves. Heck, even in Field of Dreams only one person came to the field! He's the one that told the other players to come check out the ball diamond (word of mouth marketing, baby!)
If you're not talking about your own Field of Dreams, who will?
Heart-centered marketing doesn't have to be a chore or a big to-do, but you do need to make time for it on a regular basis. And it can be in simple things you're already doing in your daily workload to connect with your right audience.
Otherwise, you'll be stuck in The Artisan Trap for life, which is no way to run a profitable, sustainable business.
Start looking for ways to make marketing activities part of your regular routine. Ask yourself these questions as a starting point:
Remember the list of non-negotiables you made. Make sure your marketing-related activities are in alignment and integrity with your non-negotiables. Then, share one of your ideas in the comments below and let's be a rising tide for everyone.
I am about half way through my next book, and have started seeking readers to review the chapters. If you're interested, leave a comment or contact me and I'll get you more information on how you can be part of my advance reader team.