Welcome to the first installment of Marketing Monday! I’ve decided to mix things up a bit by doing an ongoing experiment to demonstrate how various online marketing tactics work together to form a cohesive strategy in a real world scenario.
Author's note: Please strap in, as this is going to be a long post.
To start off, let's talk a bit about the business we’re using as our experiment, and what the goals are for the business at this stage. The site we’re optimizing is a side business for a client of mine.
The site itself offers tips and training for aspiring freelancers (mostly stay-at-home moms) to break into freelancing and build a part time consultancy.
We've chosen a relatively modest initial goal of bringing in $500 in sales per month. We chose this number for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that freelancing training is a very crowded niche and the second (and more important) reason is that we are targeting individuals who admittedly may not have a great deal of disposable income.
Note: When launching your own product or service, choosing a target audience with limited income is not ideal in most situations. For my client's purposes, this is is a deliberate choice.
As a first step to reaching our revenue goal, we will start with tactics to build an engaged audience that will lead to our first customers and advocates. The site has been around for a few years, and has a small social media following which can be leveraged to drive traffic and potentially add to our list. There were also some prior list-building campaigns, and these older lists can be reactivated to reach out to people who were interested in the past.
Here is where we're starting from:
- Email List: mostly inactive, 127 emails total
- Twitter: 106 followers
- Facebook: 1104 page likes
Today we begin the process of building on this foundation to grow our audience. We are starting with an email list rather than immediately going for the sale because in order to get someone to buy from us, they first have to trust us.
Building that trust requires showing expertise and dependability, while being relatable—we want people to like our brand, because people tend to buy from brands they like, or that their friends like.
Building an audience through awareness & expertise
Our planned campaigns types:
- Content marketing - the creation of free and paid templates, guides, ebooks and other content will establish the brand's expertise, and the promotion of these same items will boost targeted traffic to the site
- Influencer outreach - by building mutually beneficial relationships within the freelancing niche, we will be able to get our content in front of a wider audience while potentially opening up the opportunity for partnerships and cross promotions
- Email marketing - providing highly-targeted and relevant email content will help to build a relationship with prospects and encourage them to buy when the time is right
Content Marketing Tactic: The List Building Loop
List building, like most online marketing processes, works best in a cycle that reinforces itself.
What it is: A technique to reuse lead generation content across multiple streams of traffic
How it works:
Research - We research common problems that come up with our target audience when pertaining to our niche. In general, forums and sites like Reddit can work well for this, but other places like Facebook groups, Quora, LinkedIn groups and other similar sites can be just as useful.
Yelp is another good source for finding common themes with regards to what makes a good company stand out. Looking at the bad reviews will also help you to understand common issues that can result in a lost sale.
Content Evaluation - Once we have some ideas about the concerns that our stay at home moms have about freelancing, we want to find existing content that addresses these concerns and evaluate how useful it is. What we’re looking for is content that has been shared fairly often, but not necessarily content that anyone would see immediately if they did a quick search for answers.
To find great content that our audience likely hasn’t seen, I prefer to use a specialized research tool called EpicBeat. What EpicBeat does is give you results alongside stats based on social popularity — how often it’s been shared — as well as information about who’s doing the sharing.
Note: EpicBeat has a free version of this tool, so I recommend that you sign up and take a look for your own content evaluation—it’ll give you a good starting point.
Content Creation - We look for 3-5 high-value posts at this stage. By high-value, we mean posts that do a good job of addressing the concerns that people have been posting about in our research step. These are going to be posts that we use for several tactics:
- references to link back to in our own blog posts
- "inspiration" pieces, which we use as a basis for a content upgrade
- "foundation" pieces, which we use as a basis for posts on advanced techniques
Let's go through some examples. Let's say we find an excellent post on finding legitimate jobs to apply for. This can serve as:
- a reference for our own post about specific legitimate jobs we've found, in which we would link to the original article
- a basis for a some free cover letter templates that we promote while referencing the original article as our inspiration for the templates
- a foundation for a new blog post about how to find legitimate remote work that isn't advertised, while referencing the original article as a starting point for people who want to learn the basics
Content like the free cover letter templates can be used again and again as a content upgrade/lead generation tool for relevant topics, while the blog posts begin the task of building a relationship with influencers.
Add the Funnel - Depending on what kind of content you've created, there are several ways you might convert someone from a visitor to a subscriber on your webpage. The most common ones are:
- Offer your content upgrade for download in exchange for an email address
- Offer regularly curated content specific to their issues in exchange for an email address
- Offer more content upgrades or exclusive content in exchange for an email address
- Offer an exclusive discount in exchange for an email address
Some of these offers will work better than others depending on your niche, and if you have the traffic available for a statistically-relevant A/B test, I recommend testing offers to see which works best.
Close the Loop - Now that we have our own content, it's time to promote. To promote our content, we have several options:
- We use the content upgrade and a promotion tool like Snip.ly to share the original post and our content upgrade alongside it.
- We reach out to the influencer and pitch our new blog post taking their original post to the next level as a guest post.
- We write our own blog post to use on our own site, and reach out to the influencer who wrote the blog post we link to, to help us promote it.
Which tactic we use largely comes down to our relationship with the site owners or contributors, whether or not the site itself has a lot of traffic, and the site’s policies on guest posting.
All of these options will have the effect of "looping" the traffic from the original site back to our own, which is where we will then attempt to convince these visitors to join our email list.This is how we get multiple streams of traffic that can boost our list sign-ups and build our audience over time.
A bit more about Snip.ly: This is a tool that allows you to share content while placing your own call to action (CTA) over the content itself. Because of how this tool works, I only recommend using them for webpages that don't already have a content upgrade/lead generation funnel in place. For Snip.ly, you can get people to join your email list directly from the shared page, which can work well when your content upgrade ties in well with multiple websites/pages.
A few thoughts about promotion
If you already have a bit of a social following, sharing others' content will likely get their notice as your audience likes and shares their work. This is especially true if you .@ them on Twitter or Facebook so they are notified of the original share. I recommend re-promoting content regularly, as not everyone who follows you will see the first share.
If you share an 80/20 mix (80% other people's content, 20% your own content) you will be seen as a resource to follow, which will get your own content that much more exposure. If you don't want to schedule and reschedule your posts manually, there are several services which will do it for you automatically. I recommend using Missinglettr, as they will set up your schedule and will even pull in relevant images from your pages and quotes from your blog to share.
If you don't have a large following, there are still ways to get content shared through paid sources. We’ll discuss paid ads in more depth when we get into that tactic as part of our overall strategy, but for paid content promotion, Quuu Promote is one of the best resources for building your following and having your content shared across social media.
In particular, mentioning someone else's handle when you promote your content through Quuu Promote is a great way to give them a boost, and help you to build those influencer relationships that lead to guest posting and cross promotion opportunities. When they see the bump in traffic thanks to your mention, they'll definitely appreciate being included in your post.
Lead Generation Case Study, part 1: The wrap-up
To sum up, here are the steps to take to create a lead generation loop campaign of your own:
- Research concerns of the target audience
- Find content that addresses those concerns
- Build upon the content that you find
- New content on your own site
- Lead generation magnets/content upgrades
- Guest posts
- Set up your conversion funnel
- Promote the new content
- Build your email list
Next steps (whew)
Okay, now that we’ve set up this first round of the lead generation loop, we’ll build out some more content upgrades and set up some additional shares. In a few weeks, I’ll check in with numbers on how well we’re doing on our lead generation, and we’ll talk about what to do once we’ve actually got our list of subscribers.
Recommended Services for the List Building Loop
Please note that recommended services in this section are provided without compensation of any kind. They represent my actual experience with the services listed, and I use each of the products or services I recommend in my day-to-day consultancy.