Category: Resources

Mapping Your Content Marketing to Your Customers’ Journey

In an earlier post, I talked about defining the journey your customers take from being casual browsers to your biggest fans. Now, I want to look at how that’s useful when it comes to actually mapping  your content marketing to your customers’ journey.

When you define your customer journey, you start to get a clearer idea of what your customers want out of your content — which means you can be highly targeted in delivering it to them.

  • You can get them your “how-to” videos when they’re looking for DIY solutions
  • You can get them your thought leadership articles when they’re hunting for a new way to approach old problems
  • You can get them your most “sales-y” content when they are on the verge of buying

In order to do that, you need to thoughtfully map out how each piece of content fits along your customer journey. This creates a robust content marketing strategy that deliberately leads potential customers through each stage of the journey, ending with them purchasing your product or service.

The best way to think about creating content is as a series of laddered services leading from free to premium, with each rung on the ladder taking your lead that much closer to converting into a customer.

But right now, you may just have a pile of ladder rungs with no rhyme or reason.

We’re going to fix that.

 

Step 1: Audit Your Existing Content

Chances are, you already have a great library of existing content out there in the world: a blog, guest posts, podcast episodes, LinkedIn Pulse articles, newsletters, etc. But if you haven’t been creating it with your customer journey in mind, it may not be converting the way you want it to be.

Sometimes, the reason is because you’re targeting the wrong audience. You may have a popular blog series on how to land an interview out of college — but if your core service is coaching small business owners, you’re speaking to the wrong crowd.

(For example, I still own an abandoned hobby blog about crafting and bicycling that still gets almost 10,000 hits a month — but it’s never convinced anyone to hire me for content strategy or copywriting.)

Other times, the content may be perfectly geared toward your audience, but you’re presenting it to them at the wrong stage of the journey. For example, you may be aiming a masters-level summary of your consulting method at an entry-level prospect who doesn’t yet know what problem they need solved.

Or, your content might be perfectly targeted — you just don’t have a clear call to action (CTA) telling your lead where to head next.

It’s tough to tell until you can take a step back and look at the big picture. Take an inventory of all your existing content. What topics have you written about, and where? What videos have you made? Where have you been interviewed?

Gather all this in a list. It’s time to see how it measures up.

 

Step 2: Grade Your Existing Content

To help you evaluate the content you’ve already created, I’ve created a handy content audit rubric that grades content and indicates where it fits along the customer journey. (You can get that for free here.)

When you run your content through the rubric, it will help you prioritize what content needs updating, understand where to cut the fluff, and identify gaps in your content marketing funnel.

As an example, let’s look at a common customer discovery path for a consultant or service-based business: casual browser —> email newsletter subscriber —> customer.

Take a look at the type of content that moves people along that journey:

  • They may discover you on your personal blog, through a guest post, podcast interview, or social media post. (I call this type of content your Billboard content — it alerts passersby that you exist.)
  • They decide to sign up for your email for some reason, perhaps because of a freebie you’re giving away in the form of an ebook, guide, or email course.
  • They decide your list is valuable because your autoresponder series provides them with interesting insights and helps them to get to know you better.
  • They’re intrigued by an offer in one of your emails: to join you for a webinar, or take you up on the offer of a free call.
  • They enjoy the information you provided in the webinar or free call so much they decide to hire you.

For this example, you’d want your Billboard content to have a fairly low Journey Score; it should be free to your target audience and easy to consume in order to attract the widest number of potential subscribers. Your freebie might score a bit higher, depending on how you want prospects to engage with it, and your initial emails should be a mixture of low to medium scores. Your webinar should have a higher score, since you’re targeting people who already know a fair amount about your topic.

Everything should have a high Relevance Score.

 

Step 3: Optimize Your Content

Now that you have your existing content organized in terms of where it fits in to the customer journey, it’s time to optimize each piece to make it perform its best.

At this stage, you may end up junking old pieces that no longer align with your current content strategy or business mission. It’s natural to want to keep up irrelevant blog posts and other pieces that no longer fit — especially if they’re a big traffic driver for your business. But remember, even if they bring in more hits than the rest of your efforts combined, they’re not doing you any favors if they’re not attracting the right audience.

Take the remaining pieces and ask yourself:

  • Does each piece of content have a clear signpost pointing to what your reader should do next?
  • Is there a strong CTA leading each customer further down the content marketing funnel?
  • Is each piece written to the right level of understanding for the stage you’re using it?
  • Does each piece of content relate fundamentally to a service or product you offer?

Going back to our email example, does your Billboard content tell people to “sign up now” and explain why they should? Is your lead magnet geared at the right knowledge level for a prospect at that stage? Does your sign-up form explain exactly who will benefit from your freebie, and tell them to “click here”? Does each email in your autoresponder series invite the reader to stay tuned for the next bit of correspondence, or encourage them to hit reply to get in touch?

 

Step 4: Fill in the Gaps

At this point, you should clearly see the gaps in this content funnel. Maybe none of your Billboard blog posts, podcasts and guest articles are along the same topic as your mailing list. Maybe your freebie is attracting the wrong type of subscriber. Maybe you’re not nurturing them with an autoresponder series. Maybe your monthly newsletter articles don’t really relate to the core service you’re trying to sell.

It’s time to fill those gaps. Use what you’ve learned about targeting your audience at each stage of the journey to write compelling content perfectly tailored to draw potential leads further into your funnel.

You’ve got this!

For a more in-depth look at this whole process — and a guide to writing content that fills in the gaps — check out my book, Get More Leads: How to Create a Constant Flow of Inbound Leads with Content Marketing.

The Tipping Point of Brand Awareness: A Q&A with Cara Chace

Welcome to the latest blog post from CC: PDX, your Portland copywriting experts.  Terri Wangle, CC:PDX member and owner of Spotlight Ink, recently discussed social media, brand awareness, and practical business strategies with Cara Chace, a go-to professional in the digital marketing and social media strategy realm.

Terri Wangle: How do businesses pick the right social media platform?

Cara Chace: “First, business owners need to have a very clear picture of their audience and to research where their audience is online. Start by searching for ‘social media demographics.’ Besides Google, just ask people.”

TW: List must-do first steps when launching your social media account?

CC: “Decide how you and your employees will share online as a brand, and make a decision tree for who and how you answer clients’ questions. Consistently engage on platforms where you find your clients and interact with them, answer questions, and share valuable information. Remember timeliness is the rule of social media.”

TW: Explain the 80-20 rule.

CC: “Nobody wants to see your sales. If all you’re posting is a 20-percent-off promo, they won’t care. Make sure you’re sharing valuable, interesting, or entertaining information 80 percent of the time. You’re earning the right to share that 20 percent of sales pitches. Remember, the same people are engaging on different platforms for different reasons, like Facebook is a brain break and LinkedIn is for networking and expanding professional expertise. It also helps to expand your definition of ‘valuable.’ It could be that you make someone laugh—but the content always needs to align with your brand voice and your company’s two or three predetermined subject areas.”

TW: The fear of encountering an upset customer sometimes keeps business owners from using social media. How do you recommend businesses plan and proceed?

CC: “It goes back to the foundation and knowing how you talk and engage online, like the type of words we use or don’t use. You want to make sure your team is on the same page and that you’ve empowered your people to answer clients. Another way of looking at this scenario: Instead of freaking out, like deciding someone is just a jerk, remember that people who are upset will often become your biggest advocates when you (the business owner) make it right.

My biggest recommendation: take it off-line as soon as possible. For example, a restaurant responds quickly and publicly to an unhappy customer, showing others that they care and are paying attention. The restaurant provides directions and immediate connection the decision-maker who can make it right. Make sure everyone on your team knows the key person and how the plan works. Don’t just list ‘customer_care@restaurant.com’ or an 800 number. Also, never call attention to the ‘negative’ review by asking that person to change it. Hopefully, you’ll have gone above and beyond, and they will probably change the review themselves. Final thought, the absolute worst thing you can do is to ignore somebody. So, check your social media at least once a day.”

TW: How would you recommend dealing with an abusive commenter?

CC: “Depending on what platforms you’re using, you have different tools and approaches. Like if you’re on a Facebook group, you should have very specific rules for what is allowed and not allowed. I’ve adopted an idea that I heard from another expert: ‘I’m not here to give you a warning.’ There’s different ways to polish that message to match your brand voice, but if they are a jerk, they’re gone. At this point, customer service is protecting your ‘tribe,’ the people who are there because they want to consume your content. Some specifics: if someone is just being ridiculous and cursing, just delete the comment. There’s nothing wrong with that … there’s no obligation if someone is coming at you and your tribe with that kind of attitude. They are responsible for being a decent human being. And, if they continue to come back, block them.”

TW: What is the most helpful rule of thumb for using social media as a business or nonprofit?

CC: “Consistency! It’s the only thing that will ever get your business to the tipping point of brand awareness that social media is designed for. Your business needs to build that know-like-and-trust factor with people. It has opened up our world, and it lets people have a relationship with your brand. They are giving you their time and attention. Don’t take it for granted. It is invaluable. Also, don’t think of social media in terms of likes: ‘I only got two likes on my post.’ It’s more quality instead of quantity. So, challenge yourself and give the best—Remember? Valuable, interesting, or entertaining—and people will see that value and follow your brand. Another practical note about the importance of consistency: algorithms! Most platforms are based on algorithms. Facebook. Instagram. And they won’t show your stuff when you’re not consistently present. Start small and get your flow and system … don’t go crazy and burn out and drop off. The same goes for your website. If someone goes to your website and you’ve not updated it (especially your blog), it shows that you’re not serious. If you’re not consistent, people automatically wonder if you’re still in business. Be consistent!”

Need more help with your social media? Check out Cara’s “Top 5 Ways to Make Your Social Media Kick Ass in 2017.”  Need help crafting content? Contact a member of the CC:PDX.

What We’re Writing

The Copywriter Conclave of Portland membership consists solely of working copywriters and content strategists, so I thought it would be a great idea to let you know what we’re writing. Here’s an update from some of our busy members:

Ginny Figlar of Figmeant says that she took some much-needed time off during the summer, but she wrote eye-catching content for the global IKEA catalog.

Great work, Ginny!

Mike Russell of Pivotal Writing has developed the Convert with Case Studies site with a strong argument: “your customers’ success stories shorten your sales cycle and improve your closing rate.”

Looking forward to this exciting new project, Mike!

Mahesh Raj Mohan (yours truly) of Enlighten Writing recently wrote a blog post on “navigating the stormy seas of security compliance” for Sungard Availability Services, my first commissioned work for the information security industry.

That’s just a quick update from a few of us. Check back again soon for more advice-related content and other exciting projects from our members.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Feel free to leave us a comment and tell us what you’ve been up to!

Freelancers and the Ransomware Threat

by Mahesh Raj Mohan and Mike Russell

This article is a collaboration between CC:PDX members Mahesh Raj Mohan (Enlighten Writing) and Mike Russell (Pivotal Writing). They created this article to keep clients and freelancers informed about the ransomware threat.

You may have heard the term “ransomware” lately.  Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your computer or device so you cannot access your data or apps. There will often be a message on your screen demanding money (e.g. Bitcoins) to unlock your system.

Ransomware has become the “attack du jour” of hackers across the world. It is lucrative, catches many victims off-guard, and there are multiple methods of attack. Ransomware can be a virus or Trojan horse in an e-mail link. More worrisome, ransomware can be hidden in an online ad, as this excellent article from Malwarebytes Labs illustrates.

If you don’t have a robust firewall, ransomware can hide in a file that your system doesn’t recognize as a threat until it is downloaded onto your machine. It can cost you hours or lost productivity and income, and it can damage your relationship with your clients if their project data is on your system.

Okay, yes, ransomware is scary, but we don’t want to overdo the “fear” element here. There are steps you can take to defend your system and your clients.  Best practice  for freelancers and businesses dictates  a “layered defense” strategy where you have multiple defenses running on your machine.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some preventive actions you can take, their level of difficulty to implement, and the cost involved.

Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware

Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs should be as common on your system as an Internet browser. We won’t advocate for particular programs, and we hope that you already have anti-virus of some kind on all of your devices (even Apple products).

Difficulty Level:  Varies by the brand. Generally easy.

Cost: Varies; there are free versions, but we recommend the “fully loaded” types.  Here is a full list for PCs.

External Hard Drive

The one sure-fire method of ransomware prevention.  You buy an external hard drive that houses a copy of your data, as well as your client project data.  You could keep all your client data on this separate hard drive

Difficulty Level: Moderate.  External hard drives are simple to connect to your primary machine so you can copy files quickly and easily.  However, it may be inconvenient if, for extra security, you turned off your Internet connection while working on your client’s project (e.g. you may need to use the Internet for research).

Cost:  Varies.  A 1-terabyte drive usually runs $40-$100 depending on the brand and whether you are buying a hard disk drive or a solid state drive.

Cloud Backups

Dropbox is the most well-known data backup solution that is not housed on your hard drive.  Dropbox has 256-bit AES encryption. Dropbox claims that you can restore data to before the malware took effect, but you’d still lose the most current version of your file(s).

Difficulty Level:  Easy.

Cost:  Dropbox Pro costs $99/year or $9.99/month.

Password Managers

Ah yes, the dreaded discussion of passwords.  Using the same passwords on multiple sites is not recommended, but coming up with dozens (if not hundreds) of passwords can be impossible to track.  Password managers like 1Password and Roboform can help to make this easier.

Difficulty Level:  Easy.  Install them on your machine, and start collecting passwords.  Every time you sign up for a new website, the passwords will be automatically saved.  You can also choose “everywhere” options that reside in the cloud and can be used on more than one machine.

Cost:  $20 and up.

For Advanced Users

If you are really worried about ransomware and want to be on the cutting edge of defense, you can try a couple of solutions.

Turn Off Adobe Flash

Flash is a vulnerable deployment vehicle for ransomware, and turning it off gives more power to consumers. Once disabled, you have the power to activate Flash for in-browser applications that use it.

Firefox

Locate the three vertical bars at the top of your browser, choose “Add-Ons,” the Plugins.  Scroll down to Shockwave Flash and choose, “Ask to Activate.”  If there is any malware hiding as a “malvertisement,” then this should help neutralize the threat.

Chrome

Go to the URL bar and type “about:plugins.” Locate “Adobe Flash Player” and choose “Disable.”

Safari

Choose “Safari” in the menu bar, then “Preferences,” and then “Security.”  Click on the Website Settings” button next to “Allow Plugins,” then select “Adobe Flash Player,” and “Block” for the option, “when visiting other websites” in the menu that appears.

Beta Testing

BleepingComputer offers some recent anti-ransomware downloads that are in the “beta testing” stage that either stop ransomware scripts from running or export encrypted files.  These options are currently free.

Script Blocking Add-Ons

You can download a free Javascript blocker (such as NoScript on Firefox) that blocks scripts (Javascript and Silverlight) that can be exploited by hackers. The installation of the add-on is seamless, but you’ll find that a lot of sites use Javascript, so you will spend time “white-listing” sites that you trust.  It can also make some websites non-responsive, so only choose this option if you are willing to deal with the hassle of a layered defense.

We hope we allowed you to harden your defenses and think about cybersecurity and your clients’ data in a strategic way. How do you protect yourself against ransomware and other cyber maladies? Please add your suggestions in the comments below.

In Praise of Content Specialization

When I decided to become a freelance copywriter, I had no idea what I wanted to write, nor for whom. I took any project that came my way. Content specialization was far from my mind.  (In retrospect, I wish I’d made that my initial strategy, and spent more time on sites like elance.com and odesk.com.)

I wrote a brochure for a social water heater company. I wrote professor bios for an MBA program. I wrote copy for a series of postcards for Coconut Bliss.

Focus? What focus? It was 2009. I just needed gigs!

Besides, I had no idea what I’d want to specialize in. I just knew that I wanted to make it as a freelance copywriter.

Over the years, I latched onto a series of niches: professional bios, SaaS sales platforms, Digital Health. Each time, I happened to like a client I had in that niche, and thought that I might stake my claim in that space. But then a project would come from a client in a different industry, and my “specialty” would evaporate.

Follow your personal interests.

That said, I believe it’s harder to position and market yourself as a generalist. You’re clamoring against everyone else who wants to freelance as a copywriter. Before connecting with you, your prospects have little to distinguish you from other freelance copywriters. If you try to promote yourself by blogging, the world is your topic. If you blog about writing, you’ll attract an audience of writers. What if most of your work comes from marketing managers and directors?

After a series of projects for clients in related industries, I took stock of my portfolio and realized that I’d backed myself into a niche in the “online honesty” space: cybersecurity, identity and anti-fraud. I’m still carving it out. As I do, I’m coming to appreciate how helpful it is to have a solid foundation upon which to build my marketing efforts.

Is there a niche hidden in your portfolio right now?

It’s easier to visualize my target audience and define a list of companies that I want to commit to “chasing” until I either get a project or a clear “no, thank you.” To do that effectively, I also need a clear value proposition that resonates across my messaging. Having a clear specialty makes that easier, too.

My prospects also benefit. Because I’ve already learned about their industry while working for complementary -or even competing- companies, I need less ramp-up time. I bring a more-informed perspective, since I’ve had my eye on common content types in this space. That helps me elevate from “implementer” to something of a strategist.

But the aspect of specialization that has me the most excited is the long-play of lead-nurturing. (Ed Gandia lays out his lead-nurturing plan in chapter six of The Wealthy Freelancer, a must-have book on every freelance copywriter’s shelf.)

Choose a smaller target. Take better aim.

Say you’ve chosen to specialize in the sustainable food industry, and you’ve chosen 10 businesses in that space that you’d love to work for. Doesn’t matter if it’ll take 12-24 months to get that first project; you’re committed.

First step: You’re going to keep tabs on their marketing content. The marketing managers at these companies will be promoting the content on their LinkedIn and Twitter feeds, which means they will see any thoughtful comments or suggestions you post in response.

Soon, you’ll begin to see useful marketing ideas at “Acme Foods” that might be useful to “Farm to Table.” The two companies might not be competitors. By sharing a link to Acme Foods’s latest blog post with the marketing manager at Farm to Table -along with a short note about why you think the link is relevant, and how it can be applied- you’re keeping in touch in a valuable way.

This concept may take 10%-20% more effort than just keeping tabs on each company’s marketing efforts, but it allows you to accomplish two important lead-nurturing activities at the same time:

  1. Make thoughtful comments on the publisher’s pieces, and
  2. Share thoughtful comments with marketers at related companies

Your catch-up plays double duty. Over time, you’ll bubble up to the top of your prospects’ lists of go-to freelance copywriters. Because you’ve been positioning yourself as a specialist in their industry, you’ll have a stronger base upon which to enjoy the other benefits of specialization: higher fees and greater authority.

If you’re not sure how to go about picking a niche, listen to episode 80 of the High-Income Business Writing podcast. These are great tips to get you started.

  • Are you a generalist who’s resisted picking a niche? I’d love to hear about the advantages you’ve found by sticking with “l’resistance.”
  • Have you chosen a niche? What other advantages have you found?