When you write a #blog and put content out on social media day in and day out there are times when you may feel discouraged or ask yourself: Am I really making a difference? Is my work actually making an impact on people? And, then you get an amazing message like this!
It’s messages like this that inspire and encourage me to keep on going. Even if you only get a small number of views, you never know who may be positively affected by your online content. And, while I obviously do like making money💰(who doesn’t?), feedback like this makes my day like no paycheck ever could.
Ultimately, building an online presence or a brand or a business takes a great deal of patience. In the beginning or even for the first few months or years, it may feel like things are moving too slowly or nothing is happening, which is why it’s so crucial not to give up too soon. And, don’t knock that one or two views or those five or six followers, because you never know whose world you may be changing for the better.
I’m sure you have excuses for why you’re not yet where you want to be in life.
We all have excuses.
But, excuses don’t move you further toward your goals. Excuses don’t pay your bills. Excuses won’t help you win. While it may feel good in the short term, making excuses is distracting you from making progress.
In my line of work, I’m used to hearing people talk about wanting to grow their business or personal brand. They want more people to know about them. They want their phone to be ringing off the hook and the orders to be coming in. They want more customers or clients or more ideal customers or clients. They want to become more well-known or take their business to the next level. But, when they find out how much work is involved and how much time, money, and effort is needed to build a brand and grow an online presence, they’re not always up for it.
How do I get more customers? How do I get more awareness for my brand or company? How do I become the ‘go-to’ person for X, Y, or Z?
The answer is always the same. Put in the work.
It’s going to take a lot more work on top of whatever you’re already doing. The good news is that if you have a smartphone, it’s easier (and cheaper) than it was before to talk to the world, connect with others, and gain a following. The bad news is that there is more competing for our attention than ever before. The only way to be relevant and get on the radar screen of the people you’re trying to reach is by putting out content for social media and mobile devices that gets attention and provides value. Yes, it takes work to churn out blog posts, shoot vlogs, podcast, and connect with people on social media, especially if you can’t afford to hire a team that will do it for you. But, who said achieving success comes easily?
And because there is so much competing for our attention, it takes more effort to rise above the noise. It’s harder than ever to get people to pay attention to your ads and your content truly has to be quality as well as relevant and well-timed. Yes, it’s all hard, but it’s the only way. The only alternative is making excuses and wondering why nothing is happening.
If giving up is not an option, then stop making excuses and start taking action. Start doing. Start now.
You sent your proposal a few days ago and…Nothing.
So you wait and you wait and you wait….
Now, you’re getting antsy. ‘Surely, they received it!’ you think. ‘I know that follow-up is key, but how do I follow up with the lead without coming off as annoying or pushy?’
Recently, I read the book, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way by Jeffrey Gitomer. In this book, which I highly recommend, Gitomer explains that it’s not enough to simply send a message to the lead asking: “Hi, do you have any questions for me about the proposal?” You don’t really care if they have any questions. What you’re really saying is: “Hi, is my money ready yet?”
Now, I’ll admit I’ve sent follow-ups like that. I thought asking if they had any questions about the proposal was a good way of eliciting a response and it was way better than saying: “Hurry up already!”
But, in truth, a follow-up will be way more effective if you add something of value to the lead. Think about it. What’s more persuasive?: Asking someone if they’re ready to move forward or doing something for their benefit before you ask?
Many of us understand that it’s good to provide value before going for the sale. What we forget is that it’s important (maybe even more important) to continue bringing people value in the follow-up stage. When we’re trying to close the lead, that’s when we need to step our game up and not only be persistent, but also persuasive. And, I’ve learned that you get more with the honey of providing help than you do with the vinegar of pushiness.
Incessant follow-up phone calls and emails aren’t going to cut it. You should bring people value in every interaction from the first interaction to close and then continue to surprise and delight even after the sale is made. That’s how you instill loyalty.
So, how to do you add value in a follow-up?
Well, that’s a good question. I looked it up on Google. By the way, not sure if you already knew this, but you can learn everything on Google! Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
I found a variety of tips, but the two that stood out to me are as follows:
Don’t send a generic, ‘all-business’ email like: “Hi, following up. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss the proposal. Thanks.”
Use the lead’s name and open with something that will establish rapport. Engage them in conversation. Reference something you talked about. Use humor when appropriate. Establish a consistent tone for your brand’s follow-up emails. It could be quirky or a little more business-like depending on your audience. Perhaps, it’s a catch phrase in your opening line or your email sign-off. Get creative with it. There are numerous ways to differentiate your brand and stand out in every interaction you have with prospects and leads.
Share customized content.
As stated above, helping is a great way to provide value. The more you help, the more you sell.
Share useful, helpful, informational content in your follow-ups that is customized to the needs or interests of the lead. According to a report from Custom Content Council, 61% of consumers say they find custom content helpful and will be more likely to do business with a company who provided them with custom content. A study done by Demand Metric found that 82% of respondents felt more positive about a company after reading custom content.
Depending on your time and resources, you can either create custom content for specific types of audiences or leads or you can share content from elsewhere that your leads will find helpful. This content can be blog posts, videos, articles, infographics, ebooks, or podcasts that your lead will appreciate. Create separate email lists targeted to specific types of leads categorized by their interests and feature different types of content in your emails for each list.
Recently, I sent a follow-up email to a lead that featured an article from Hootsuite about the best times to post on various social networks as well as a blog post of mine that I thought would help them with a specific issue they were having. I then asked them if they had any questions or would like to discuss the details of the proposal with me. This email got a response whereas my first two follow-up emails, which simply went in for the ask, did not.
When you give away something of value, you make the lead feel more positively disposed toward you and your brand. An aggressive follow-up email can be quickly ignored and discarded. Most people will pay more attention and respond to someone who has first provided them with something of value. When you give something away, you make the lead feel more inclined to respond to you. And if you truly brought them value in your follow-up, they will be more likely to become your client.
If you need help creating custom content for your follow-up emails or email newsletters, feel free to shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a meeting.
There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days.
Every brand strives for it, especially on social media. We’re told millennials, in particular value it and expect it from the companies they do business with.
Aside from being a popular buzzword, what does ‘authenticity’ really mean? And what does it mean to be authentic?
Be genuine and up front.
Being authentic means not disguising or hiding your agenda. If you’re in it to make money, then don’t hide it. Be honest about your intentions. For example, don’t claim to be a conscious company like Tom’s Shoes if you’re only going to jack up the price above market value so that you can keep profit margins high. Don’t pretend to care about causes (or worse, tragedies) only in order to curry favor with your audience and make a buck. Authenticity means your brand only aligns itself with products, people, and causes that embody your values. Corporate responsibility is great, but please don’t pretend to give a f*#% if you don’t. Trying to put one over on your prospects and customers will only backfire. Everyone knows companies need to turn a profit so don’t hide it. Be real about your purpose and direction.
Unfortunately, one of the most common blunders in business (and other areas of life) is to give insincerely, or only in order to get something in return. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic is particularly ineffective, because people can often smell the insincerity and it turns them off from working with you. If you’re only helping others with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, people will notice right away or you will eventually be exposed.
The good news is brands who do a great deal more sincere helping than asking often win a great deal more sales than companies who don’t. We live in a word that is over-saturated with mediocre content and often tunes out ads mentally or with technologies such as Ad Block and fast-forwarding on DVR. Therefore, sharing engaging content that is relevant and educates, inspires, or entertains is the best way for a brand to stand out, grab attention, and stand head and shoulders above the competition.
It’s not “fake it till you make it.”
We’ve all heard the expression, ‘fake it till you make it,’ but it’s not really the best strategy. Now, I’m not talking about trace amounts of imposter syndrome, which we all feel at times, particularly when we are at the start of our careers. I’m talking about posing as an expert before you are one. Today, becoming known and developing a brand is not only easier than ever before; it’s almost a necessity. Establishing thought leadership and credibility is valuable currency, but if you talk about things you don’t yet understand or fail to deliver on your big promises, you will later end up looking foolish and compromise your reputation.
So, stay in your lane and tell the true story of you or your brand. If you do one thing particularly well or have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, stick to creating content about that and don’t try to swim in waters that are above your head. And, if you don’t yet have an area of expertise, find ways to inspire or entertain others as a means to break through to the market.
Above all, be passionate and real and people will feel it. I’m not just espousing the cliche “be yourself.” Obviously, this is not the best idea in every case. What I am saying is be up front about your intentions, provide value in a sincere manner, and stick to what you know and care about, and you will come across as authentic and believable and people will want what you have to offer.
When creating content, some think you should be careful not to reveal too much.
Perhaps, you should hide your “secret sauce” behind a paywall. Isn’t it all about giving just enough to make them want more?
Your content should provide value to your audience in and of itself. In other words, your free content — whether it be a blog post, a YouTube video, or a Facebook post — should be able to stand on its own as something valuable to the user.
A common fear about sharing content for free is that the competition might use it to compete more effectively. Another concern is that prospects may benefit from it to the extent that they will not need to do business with you.
Both concerns are understandable, but invalid.
People want to do business with those who help them.
Prospects in your target market may consume your content and utilize the information, advice, and tips you provide without buying from you. But, ironically, it’s the ones who consume you most religiously that will be more likely to do business with you in the future. As soon as they encounter a situation they cannot handle themselves, you are most likely going to be the solution they turn to.
By helping others, you earn their admiration and trust, which makes them more receptive to your sales messages. The helpfulness of your content is known as its “Youtility,” a term coined by Convince&Convert CEO, Jay Baer. Youtility is a specific type of content marketing with a tangible, specific usefulness. Your brand’s short-term youtility can go a long way toward driving more conversions in the long run.
Competition – So what?
When it comes to business, it’s well known that execution is more important than ideas. Everyone has great ideas, but few implement them successfully. So, when you share ideas, tips, solutions, or ‘how-to’s,’ you can rest assured that most people who consume your content will never execute or follow through on your advice anyway. Most people are too lazy to do the work, don’t make the time, or are simply not as talented as you are in your area of expertise.
And, most of the people who attempt to copy your tactics without the substance will look hollow and cheap by comparison, even if they do see some gains from it. Those who actually do use the advice you provide in your content to their advantage and go on to be successful will be few and far between.
Let’s not pretend everything is always “rainbows and gum drops.” This is business. Inevitably, there will always be competition. But, one can measure one’s success by looking to improve rather than by trying to tear others down.
Yes, you’ll always have competition, but your content can also gain you allies. While your content may help competitors or even generate new ones, it will also earn you more attention, respect, and admiration from others. Those who benefited from your content will feel more positively disposed toward your brand and, in some cases, may even feel a debt of gratitude. By getting more people to “like” you, your brand wins more supporters, or “cheerleaders,” who will want to partner or work with you. Pooling your resources, you can come up with ways to help one another grow and succeed.
Benefits outweigh the potential costs.
When it’s all said and done, sharing quality content will win you valuable relationships –clients, advocates, collaborators, partners, and investors — that will outweigh the annoyance of copycat competitors. As much as it might inspire competition, your content will also win over more prospects, put you on the map, and essentially drive more business than it will cost you.
When creating informative or useful content that attracts your target audience, you assume the risk of inadvertently helping your competition in the process. It’s just part of the price you pay for getting noticed, earning trust, and establishing credibility. Without putting out valuable content, you will not even be able to get your foot in the door of today’s competitive market, so you have no choice, but to do it. Dealing with the competition is simply a reality of doing business. Suck it up.
Think of benefiting the competition with your content as the cost of getting business. It’s worth it.
This is probably the question I’m most frequently asked.
Many new freelancers get stuck when it comes to finding new clients. Acquiring clients can certainly be challenging, especially when you’re starting out. If no one knows who you are, how are you supposed to get new business?
Since I started in May 2016, I’ve experimented with several methods of getting clients. A new freelancer should certainly try every possible tactic at his or her disposal. However, I have found that the best way to get new business is to create and share content online.
Create content to get noticed.
Rather than trying to find the clients, let them find you!
Create content that attracts and pulls them in rather than spend so much time and money on pushing your wares on people who may not be interested.
In an age where people often tune out ads and ignore interruptive, outbound forms of marketing, creating content that informs or inspires is a great way to catch the attention of prospects in the marketplace. Not to mention, creating great organic content online is often much cheaper than spending money on advertising.
This is great news for those of us who are a bit more introverted and have a harder time being outgoing. Creating content such as blog posts, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, photos, or infographics that educate, inspire, or in some way provides value can set you apart from the crowd and go toward growing your brand equity. Building a personal brand will keep you from becoming a commodity and allow you to get paid what you’re worth.
Be on social.
Social media is the primary medium of sharing content and communicating with others. Essentially, social media is the Internet. Learn how to navigate popular platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter as well as emerging ones such as music.ly and Houseparty. Get good at creating content related to your work that is native to each platform and earns shares, retweets, repins, or likes.
Be consistent in order to build an audience.
When you frequently and consistently churn out content that provides value, your efforts will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. People like doing business with people they know (or feel like they know). By giving people things that add value to their lives on a daily basis (a laugh, a dose of motivation, knowledge about an industry or niche market), you will slowly build a relationship with your audience.
Investing the time and effort necessary to create a relationship with the prospect before going in for the ask is well worth it. If people feel like you produce content for their benefit and in their best interests and not only for your benefit and in your best interest, they will be much more open to accepting your offer when you go in for the sale.
Besides helping to establish yourself as a “thought leader” (a cliche term that makes me nauseous just thinking about it), great content can truly help your audience filter the vast amount of information out there into something useful to them.
Find Make the time.
The challenge for some freelancers is making the time to create content on top of the work they must do for current clients. It’s sometimes too easy for freelancers to be satisfied with their current workload, but a viable business requires a steady flow of leads and sales. You cannot rest on your laurels! That’s why it’s important to create a content schedule and set aside time each day or week to come up with content that will attract qualified leads.
Not necessary to reinvent the wheel.
Creating content doesn’t have to be extremely challenging or difficult. Not all content has to be original. About fifty percent of it can be curated i.e. content you share from elsewhere, but always make sure to provide your own two cents or thoughts on what you share.
Most of your content can consist of simply documenting your journey. Take people through your work process, show them how things are made, and share things you are learning along the way that can be of help to others. And if you can do all of this creatively or with a sense of humor, the results will be fantastic. Imagine you have your own reality show “day in the life of a freelancer,” and make it interesting to watch or read about.
If you become prolific at sharing helpful and interesting things online, you will build a brand and stand out in a sea of competition. While it takes a ton of patience and hard work, the results of content marketing is cumulative and, if you are good, it will eventually pay off.
Now, it’s true that I am a content marketer and may be slightly betterat creating content and building a brand than your average freelancer. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it too. If you’re passionate about whatever it is you do (e.g. sewing handbags, fixing appliances, graphic design etc.), it will shine through and resonate with your audience in a powerful way.
And if you need any help with figuring out your content strategy, you know that you can always send me a message.
Have any questions or suggestions regarding building a personal brand, creating content, or closing new clients?? Feel free to comment below!