Small business owners have a lot on their plate. You’re neck-deep in running the business and all the while having to find innovative ways to attract more customers.
If you’re a brand new company in the area, maybe even going through the amazing eForAll accelerator program, your biggest task right now is to make your mark and get the marketing wheel spinning.
But where do you turn? Traditional advertising? Events? Social media? All of it?
In today’s episode, I’m going to explore the two things every business owner should do to succeed online. While it’s not the only path you should take, it’s certainly the most fundamental to succeeding online.
*You can read the transcript below.
Building an audience and e-mail capture
This is either your first time hearing this, or you can’t stand it anymore: build an audience through content marketing!
The #1 way to sell most customers online is to increase their trust with you. Simply having items in an e-commerce store isn’t the saving grace for your business. You must build trust with your potential custom and the best avenue for that is creating unique content.
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Engaging in comments
With all of these choices, it’s going to be difficult for you to settle on one, nevermind trying to hit all of these, which is where creating your cornerstone content comes into play.
Interested in attending a local workshop about Content Marketing? Previous We Are Here guest Sarah Athanas produces Content Camp at Groundwork!
As someone that has been consulting clients in the web and internet space for well over a decade, I still find it amusing that most of us struggle with filling out our ‘about page.’
Many of us go into a bit of shock when we’re confronted with a blank page to fill out, but the challenge is actually easier than you make it out to be. An about page is simply a place to position your story — the why — of getting into business in the first place.
- Why did you do it?
- What inspired you?
- Where do you want to take the business?
- Who do you want to impact along the way?
These are some of the most fundamental questions you should ask yourself to kickstart the discussion with yourself. Put these thoughts down on paper, in your WordPress website, or record it on video to repurpose later.
Hint: Listen to today’s episode on how we can repurpose this content to make your content marketing life a little easier.
The number one thing businesses forget: Collecting e-mail
Too many small business owners are cozy’ing up to social media platforms like Facebook.
It was only a few short years ago that if you had 1,000 fans on Facebook, you could make a post and reach 900 of them.
In today’s world, you’re lucky if 250 people see your post without you forking over your hard-earned dollars on every post. Facebook inspired us to grow an audience and attract viewerships to our pages, and then quickly turned the table on charging us to reach them all, in an effort to build on of the most powerful advertising platforms the world has ever seen.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a very powerful tool and if you’re interested in driving a ton of traffic to your site, just spend the money on ads — hands down the easiest.
But what happens when they change the rules again? Or if someday they say we can’t link out or embed our own website content on their platform?
Business owners: Own your audience!
At the time of this blog post, you can still e-mail your customers for free. Short of paying for a newsletter service like Mailchimp, if you have a 1,000 e-mails, you can reach 1,000 people. That communication isn’t filtered or gobbled up by a corporate advertising algorithm.
Your e-mail list is your direct access to customers. It’s your currency.
Getting your e-mail collection points setup across your website, content, and social platforms is a critical step to staying connected without the filter.
- Got a new product launch? Send an e-mail.
- Want to promote a new service? Send a coupon through e-mail.
- Going to be at an upcoming event? Send an e-mail to keep your audience informed.
Building an e-mail list is easier and relatively cheaper than spending money on ads. Yes, it’s going to take time to build up and you’ll need to invest time in providing it content, but it is your strongest digital asset over time.
Wrapping up this content plan
I’d love to know what you do at your business for creating content and capturing e-mails. Leave a comment below and if you liked today’s episode, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, or tell someone else to tune in!
You can also leave a review on iTunes which I’d love as well.
Expand the episode transcript
Matt: 00:06 What’s up everybody? Welcome back to the, we are here podcast on south coast dot. FM. As you know, I talk to folks who are building businesses who are inspiring entrepreneurs on the south coast of Massachusetts, which is about an hour south of Boston as we like to say. And, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that the, the rail system, the train system, we’re actually going to have a train going to Boston rather soon. So I guess I’m excited. I’ve just been hearing it for so long and many of you have for so long that we’ll, we’ll see it when we believe it, but, uh, it looks like there’s more proof in the pudding than ever.
Matt: 00:58 So yeah, congrats on everyone who made the, uh, the continued effort to push that through. So it’s been awhile since I’ve put out an episode today. I’m gonna do a Solo podcast and I’m gonna talk about something that comes up again and again and again in at least my line of business. And maybe if you’re a business owner too, that you, you’ve heard at Nauseum, right? So collecting emails, telling a story, attracting customers, building a content marketing plan, all of that stuff can actually be distilled down to, well, two particular avenues that I reinforce with any company that I’m either consulting with or if I’m mentoring through the for all program, something that I feel like 98% of the bulk of the potential businesses coming through the cohort year after year. And I’ve done it five or six times now they’re all missing the mark on these two things.
Matt: 01:57 And these two things are number one, telling your story and number two, collecting emails. Now you might say, oh, of course I do that. Well if you do, that’s awesome. And this is a practice. This is something that I think a lot of businesses fail to do and myself included, because in the beginning you get very amped up. You’re very, uh, you’re very ambitious and you hear this kind of advice and you go for it and you do it and you start to do it and then it just becomes just another one of those tasks that you don’t want to do. Um, social media, the technology side of it, the word blogging, the word podcasting, the word youtube video creation starts to become something of, well, it just seems insurmountable, but then it also seems like way, I don’t know any of the stuff. I don’t know what’s gonna work for me.
Matt: 02:51 And I really try to distill it down to, again, that storytelling and collecting emails. And in today’s episode I really want to just talk about that and we’re going to start with sort of telling the story as to wire and business and then giving you a couple pointers on collecting those emails and why that’s so important. There’s a lot in the technical side of it. It doesn’t have to be super technical, but it can get pretty technical and daunting for somebody who’s just not experienced in this. And if you do have questions about it, you can always reach out to me. Just go to south coast.fm the website, south coast.fm. Go to contact page and shoot me an email. A south coast firstname.lastname@example.org also works. So let’s just get right into this whole storytelling thing.
Matt: 03:37 So I’ve been helping businesses build websites for like the last 15 years. Like I really can’t even remember how long. I remember graduating Dartmouth High School in 99 we were and I was building websites for the high school back then and um, really didn’t get into it commercially, you know, to make a career out of it until a little bit after college. But the one thing that a lot of businesses still get stuck on today is filling. They’re filling out their about page. So if that’s you, just go ahead, raise your hand if you’re on the treadmill, don’t fall off the treadmill, but raise your hand if you have trouble filling out your about page. And to me it’s like one of the easiest things, right, is to explain why you’re in business. And let’s just frame this a little bit. So if you’re just starting out, like again, if you’re somebody who’s like in the [inaudible] program or you’re just starting your business, you need to unearth the why that you’re doing it.
Matt: 04:32 Aside from just, I’m trying to make a living with it or be a millionaire, but why is it, what drives you? What pushes you? What motivates you to do this every single day? Because starting a business, running a business is not for the faint of heart. And maybe you haven’t realized that lesson yet, but eventually you probably will. But uncovering that and displaying that, communicating that passion and that real true about [inaudible] that a word about [inaudible] of what you’re doing is so, so critical to finding the customers and not just finding customers, right? I mean, anybody can go and stand out in front of the Dartmouth Mall and just start waving a flag of your business name and in getting attention that way. But we want to find the right customers in today’s either online business or even traditional business, right? It’s not just about getting the people looking at us, but it’s also finding the ones that, that we want to do business with and that want to do business with us.
Matt: 05:28 Because let’s face it, there’s a lot of competition. I mean, I’m sure whatever it is you’re doing, there’s a million competitors. What I do, there’s a million competitors globally. Um, so we really want to find the right customers to work with us. And when you can break down the story of what you’re trying to change, how you’re trying to be a better person, how you’re trying to leave an impact on the community through your business, how you’re trying to hire a, you know, good community serving employees and keep them employed and you know, paying taxes and taking care of their family’s well taken care of, yours really hitting that will resonate with the right type of customer. The caveat to all of this stuff is a lot of people who are starting businesses don’t have time to create this content and they’re looking for immediate results. And I’ll say as somebody who’s been doing this for, again, well over a decade, if you’re looking for an immediate results, you just gotta throw down some money and advertise.
Matt: 06:30 Like if you’re just looking for immediate results, just advertise, advertise on social advertising, traditional, find new ways to, to, to get the best bang for your dollar. And you know, unfortunately at the end of the day, it never really is the best bang for your dollar content. Creating content. Telling that story across many platforms is what is the best bang for your bucket’s. Not the best sentence there, but it is the best bang for your buck. It just takes time and it takes time and once it compounds and gets out there, that’s when it really starts to pay off. So it’s not gonna pay off in a day, a week, a month, two months, three months, but six months a year you start to accrue this audience. You start to accrue this collection of content and then people understand your value. You have validated what you’re doing in your business and your a certain skill set, your, your particular product, your particular service has been fleshed out and there’s a lot of value and a lot of trust built up in this content.
Matt: 07:40 So at the end of the day, you know, the big missing mark for a lot of businesses is telling that story from the get go. And if you haven’t ever told you, been in business for 10 years and you still haven’t told that story, this is a perfect place for you to start, right? You start out with your metaphorical about page on the website. So if you’re thinking about blogging, creating content, cause you’ve been hearing about this stuff. And by the way, if you reach out to a groundwork, the coworking space in new Bedford, they do a content camp and a lot of this stuff and I’ve been a speaker there and I probably will be again in the future. Um, a lot of this is about, you know, creating content to make that impact to reach audience and stuff like that. And that’s a great outlet for you to connect with.
Matt: 08:20 Other people when, when Sarah from groundwork runs that, that event. But for those of you who are super busy, like I was getting to, when you’re super busy, you just don’t know where to start. You start with that. Just sit down one night if you can on a weekend, whatever, and just write out the whole storyline about why you got into this business. Whatever this business is. Is it a gym? Are you a lawyer? You’re an accountant, are you an artist? What is it? What motivated you to get, write it all out. And if it, if you don’t want to write it, just bullet point it all out and then you just take those thoughts. And if you brave enough and I really, really push you to be recorded, do audio, do a video. I-Phones android phones are amazing video cameras these days. There’s, try to shoot for better audio.
Matt: 09:10 Um, that’s the sort of downfall to get technical with this. Um, but just record all of that stuff. And then you have this nice big written piece of about content and you have this video of maybe, I don’t know, 15 minutes, 20 minutes an hour of you talking and demonstrating your story on video and audio. And this is what we call cornerstone content. And this is the big cornerstone piece to the, to the foundation of your content marketing that you start with. And from there, number one, because he sat down and you actually did it, you start to feel like, okay, I could do this for any piece of content. Now it sort of sort of just flexes those muscles, stretches you out. So you’re ready to go. And this is something that is now familiar for you to do. So when you have to just get into other creative, creative content areas, like talking about your product and service, this is something that we’ll just sort of flex that muscle to open you up so you can go ahead and start doing that stuff.
Matt: 10:06 But this cornerstone content can then be sliced up into a million different ways. Um, you know, if you sat down and record yourself for half an hour to 45 minutes to an hour, you can now split that up two or three series on a podcast. You can split up to three parts to a video, right? This is, this is stuff that just doesn’t have to be all dumped out at once. It can be used for many different pieces of content. Once you finally see your entire story in front of you, you can then find these different chapters or you know, storylines that you can pull out, right? You know, how did you find this business? How’d you find your business partner? How did you find the real estate that you’ve, you know, that you’re leasing for your business, whatever. Like you can find these threads within that storyline that you can pull out and write a whole other story about.
Matt: 10:53 So it’s really just building that, that foundation of content so that you can keep doing this stuff, uh, repetitively so that you have a nice content marketing wheel moving as your business moves, you attract more customers. Now, like I was saying, you can divvy this stuff up so you can cut it all up. You can put a little bit of video on Instagram stories. You could take a photo of, you know, your first dollar that you received and put that on Instagram. You can pull out paragraphs of your about page and post that to your, uh, Facebook or Twitter or linkedin. And you can really start to understand that, you know what, I sit down once a week, a month and I create this big lengthy piece of content for whatever it is and now I can repurpose it, right? Which is sort of another industry term. You can repurpose this content for different social media platforms. Okay. And hopefully finding the why, the passion in why you want to do whatever it is that you’re doing and getting that in front of people will motivate you to at least start your first big cornerstone piece of content.
Matt: 12:16 Now I want to talk about promoting this content and social media.
Speaker 2: 12:22 Okay?
Matt: 12:23 You’ve been doing social media for a while, especially for been doing Facebook. You remember the days potentially of when Facebook told you to get everybody to like your page and if you’re going, everybody will like your page. Let’s say you had a thousand people like your page, you could reach, you know, 985 people with a single post, right? Cause there’s other 25 people didn’t log on for the day and then as time went on, you started to realize what Facebook was doing. They were charging you up to build an audience and you could reach that audience. Every single one of them, almost every single one of them for free. And it sounded like an amazing thing. And I remember that was the wild west of Facebook. There was so many, you know, social media services and, and something that we had dipped our toes into a for a little while.
Matt: 13:07 And I do a lot of consulting back then on sort of social, but we started to slowly see what Facebook was doing and that was them building out an amazing advertising platform. And I’m not going to get into the ad Facebook ads in this particular episode. They are powerful. You do have to pay money, you know, that’s no way about it. Um, but what we quickly saw with Facebook is they started to diminish the results that you received as the business owner for each post that you made. So as months went by, you know, your reach of 900 out of a thousand went to 500 and then 300, then 200. Now, if you’re lucky, a hundred, you know, on an organic post, and what they did was started to push more, uh, pay per click advertising, right? For you, as you know, somebody who post on your Facebook page, you probably see, hey, boost this post for 10, $15.
Matt: 14:00 It’s sort of like, you know, the slot machines at a, at a casino. This is not something that is, uh, very well strategized or thought out. Um, but something that you can just throw some money out and it increases the reach. So you hope, and what Facebook did and what all social media platforms have done is monetize their platforms, uh, for you to reach your audience. So you spent all of this effort pushing people to use their platform and engage with you and then they slowly started to take the rug out from underneath you so that you could then pay them to reach that audience.
Matt: 14:36 And again, like I said, this episode is not about social, it’s not about advertising on social. There are some, there are definitely some upsides to that. I am somebody who really, uh, really, uh, puts into place organic content in organic audience building because there is something that once you build the audience organically, well through methods like this podcast, through blogging and through social, you don’t have to pay people. You don’t have to pay a platform to reach those people. And right now the only avenue to that is email and short of actually paying for an email service. Depending on how many subscribers you have, you don’t have to pay that particular email service, a fee to reach those thousand people. Once you get a thousand people on an email list, you can email them at will and it’s up to the consumer or your audience member, whether or not they want to engage with you, whether they, whether or not they want to stay subscribed or unsubscribed.
Matt: 15:40 So of course there’s a, you know, a fine balance and an art to email marketing, uh, in content creation through email, but it’s still the only avenue that is uncontrolled by another major platform right now. And you know, and it is August 28th, 2019 and Google and Gmail and hotmail still have not, you know, put us in a, in a position where we actually have to pay to receive certain types of emails. So, uh, as of right now, nobody controls that. And what I tell every entrepreneur sort of starting out, and again, if been in business for 10 years and you haven’t done this, create an email list immediately, immediately. And the best platform to do that on is a platform called MailChimp because it is free up to 2000 subscribers on a certain amount of emails per month. And they have some pretty good tools that can make it even more powerful, but in the beginning, as you start to tell that story and you start to engage your customer or audience member, you tease to them, hey, there’ll be more on the email list. Don’t forget to subscribe
Matt: 16:51 if you want the latest updates. Don’t forget to subscribe to my email newsletter, and one of the things that I do here at this podcast all the time is when I close it out. It’s always south coast.fm/subscribe. Do you want to stay connected? It’s the number one way to stay connected through the podcast. When I have new things coming out and have new guests, when I have new contests or whatever, south coast.fm/subscribe and it is the call to action that you should have on 90% of your marketing and promotional materials, especially if you’re doing traditional advertising. A great way to measure the return on investment on traditional advertising is to have an email sign up in, you know, your display ad in your newspaper article, in your radio spot, whatever it is that you’re doing. Get people to join that newsletter because you’ve captured their attention.
Matt: 17:43 You’re halfway there to engaging them for your product or service. The worst thing you can do is spend on advertising or create content and have no way to capture these people other than one your social media platforms, which again is controlled by the platforms and it’s their rules and number two, you don’t have an immediate way to reach out to these people once they they’re engaged, at least somebody who signs up to your email list is a potential warm lead, right? Whatever it is that you’re doing there, they’re probably interested in what you have to say and if not, if they’re not ever going to be a customer that maybe they’re just a fan. Maybe whatever content you’re putting out. Maybe if you’re doing a podcast or you’re doing a youtube channel and they’re just like, hey, this, she’s really awesome at what she’s doing.
Matt: 18:24 I’m just going to subscribe to this list. I might never buy these these socks that she’s, you know, that she’s knitting herself. Um, but I might tell other people about it, right? So if you’re doing something awesome with content or your story’s really great, people are subscribing to that email newsletter. You can build an audience of referrals because referral marketing is still the number one way to get business. People might just share your stuff just because they generally like you. And that’s what organic audience building, organic content creation is all about. You know, in my view, again, immediate results come from advertising. If that’s what you want to do and throw money at it, that’s the avenue you want to take. But it’s not your rules. It can change with competitors, with new features, with new technologies, with new social platforms, those things are always changing.
Matt: 19:11 And as soon as you shut off the dollars, the traffic stops. With organic, you build up that audience through content creation, through engagement. You get people excited and you say, oh, by the way, south coast on FM slash subscribed to join that mailing list or whatever your call to action is. And then you can immediately email those people when you have a new product, a new service, a special, you know, especially with the holiday seasons coming up, you might be thinking about, okay, I’m gonna have to advertise on Facebook and spend, you know, whatever, two, $3,000 to push my gift certificates to my salon. And you know, what, how many gift certificates am I going to sell? If you had a thousand people on an email list and you just sent out an email that said, hey, uh, you know, for $80 you get $100 worth of, of, you know, Hair Salon, gift card, product, whatever it is, you can immediately send that out at any time that you want and then make sales happen.
Matt: 20:08 And I famously tell a story to a lot of my entrepreneurs, a gentlemen that I mentor through the fall program is great graphic designer. Had this product and uh, I don’t know if he wants to mention it, so I won’t say his name, but he was, you know, really a stickler on building out his website and he wanted everything perfect. And you know, it had to be absolutely perfect as he was a great designer. And I kept telling him, look, let’s just get this thing up. Let’s leverage the small email list that you have now, few hundred people. And let’s just email them and say, hey look, the store’s open, I get three products up there. Let’s just go out and buy something, right? No Facebook ads, no Instagram stories, no, you know, paper, click on Google, nothing like that. Let’s just get the site up, make it as clean, as fast as possible, and just get those products on the homepage and let’s tell them, hey, this stuff is ready to buy. So he worked out through all that stuff and it would went all weekend. And he said, you know, I finally sent it out on Sunday night and I woke up Monday morning and I had hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of orders overnight. And he said, that’s exactly what we want to happen, and you just need to put this on repeat. And it was all done just through a small email list in a super basic website. Again, no advertising, no social stuff. Just push it through email whenever you want.
Matt: 21:34 So where do you capture these emails? Like I said, if you’re doing video, if you’re doing traditional ads, if you’re doing a podcast, you just verbally say it or visually represented in your traditional advertisement, southcoast.fm/subscribe. Don’t forget to say that. That should be today’s new business card. I don’t use business cards. People that come up to me have a card. No, and they laugh like, why don’t you have a gun now? I don’t. I don’t do cards. If you want some, you want to be a part of it, just join the email list or just email me. That’s, that’s pretty much it. But just make that part of your business card right slash. Subscribe, put that, direct that towards your email list. If you’re doing blog posts, the most obvious thing is to embed your email signup form, which again you can do through MailChimp at the bottom of your blog post.
Matt: 22:24 You can always remind people on your social media platforms, right? You can always do a Facebook post and say, hey, some of the best content I put out comes from my email list. Don’t forget to subscribe southcoast out of him. Slash subscribe. You can make a nice graphic, which I’ve done for this podcast and put it on Instagram. Tell people that the link is in the profile and make a cool looking graphic. That sort of implies like my best content or my specials, my bonuses, my coupons all come through them from my email list. Don’t forget to subscribe. If you have a ecommerce store and you’re selling things, I mean, how many times have we seen, very commonly you go to an ecommerce store and it’ll pop up, comes up, say save 10 bucks, get free shipping, save 5% on your first order by joining the email newsletter. You can set that all up through your website and through something like a MailChimp.
Matt: 23:14 Looking for the areas that you can capture. The email is critical, but just always, always capture email everywhere you go. And the last bonus piece to all of this stuff for creating new content for creating new products is to use your email list to survey your customers. So once you’ve engaged somebody through email and you finally sign up, you have a little autoresponder that goes out and you ask them, how did you find us? Did you like the product? Did you like our service? How would you rate us? You’re able to get now feedback from customers, which makes so much sense. But so few of us do it, again, myself included, uncertain products. You want to capture that information because only going to reinvest into how you create new content, how you create more product and service for your business.
Matt: 24:09 So to quickly recap, create content. If you’re struggling with content, you create your about cornerstone content, really dive into why that is what you’re doing, who you are, where you’re going, why you’re doing all this stuff, who you want to serve, slice and dice that all up. You know, write it out, bullet point it, record yourself, and then you can split out 10 1220 blog posts, email posts, Instagram posts just from that one session of sitting down and doing all that stuff. Capture an email list and reach out to your email list with new content, with surveys, places you’re going to be, events you’re going to and use that as your currency to push more traffic to your product and service when it’s available for sale online or again, when you have some kind of in-person promotion and you can use mailchimp.com not affiliated in any way, but you can use mailchimp.com it’s pretty easy to set up.
Matt: 25:06 There’s some more advanced ones and again, if we want to talk about that stuff, you can just reach out to me at southcoast.fm/contact and a well, hey, don’t forget to join the newsletter. southcoast.fm/subscribe if you like this show, go ahead and share it with other entrepreneurs in our little south coast part of the world. Leave us a five star review on iTunes is greatly appreciated, or on Google play or wherever you listen to these podcasts, and leave me a message on Facebook if al, how do you listen to, how did you find us? I have a few people reaching out lately that want me to interview them and it’s really awesome. I’d like to hear how you’ve come across this podcast. All right, we’ll see you in the next episode.