Today I would like to review a great book that changed the way I approach marketing and in fact revolutionized our business. I am talking about Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi.
Let me get straight to the point. Paid advertising is dead. You actually need to produce content, such as blogs, videos, whitepapers etc. to thrive.
Well, it is a bit of an overstatement. Paid advertising can still be used by any business and it still works for large businesses who need to create mass consumer image, but its ROI is gradually decreasing. Producing your own content:
- Does not require significant cash outlay
- Does not lead to ‘tuning out’ of customers, which is usually the case with sales messages nowadays
- Helps you distinguish yourself from the crowd
- Gives you ownership of your time and money investment for the long term, rather than paid advertising investment, which is fleeting
- Allows you to repeatedly talk to the same consumer (and a sale usually requires 5-6 points of contact, so a one-time advertising, however well designed, is usually wasteful)
I hope I convinced you that you need to consider content marketing. Now comes the hard part. You might ask yourself: Am I capable of creating unique and appealing content, when there are so many professional writers and great websites of every kind?
Joe Pulizzi gives a great logical answer to this question. You have a business (in this case offering financial advice). If what you offer has any value, then you do have something useful to say on the topic (if you don’t, you have bigger problems). Now the only question is how to get this value you already have into the right form and onto the right platform. It is as simple as that. Or to take a short logical path, if you are in business, then you are able to create great content. I cannot emphasize this enough. Until you are fully convinced that you are capable of putting out valuable content, content marketing will not work. Now come some implementation points.
Joe suggests that you define your audience to be narrow. It might be tempting to go wide, but then it will be hard to overpower the noise on the web. For example, as opposed to blogging about financial advice in general, find some group of people that need your advice the most. Those may be people already in retirement with a unique type of pension or financial instrument, or millennials (who notoriously lack savings), or expats, or some other group with which you have dealt. You don’t have to write only for that audience, but you can pick one audience to start with to get initial readership in that segment. Gradually, you can widen your topic list.
What You Write/Produce
What do you write?
- Use your existing prospect and client conversations. The best way to start is to actually harness interactions you have with clients and prospects on a daily basis. You can write about any particular retirement question, if the answer might interest someone else. You can also write about any particular misconception people have that you may have to dispel again and again.
- News hijacking. I am sure you read the news that relate to financial advice and discuss it with colleagues or friends. Write the essence of those discussions down in a conversational style.
- Book reviews. I read quite a bit and have been blogging professionally for 15 years, yet only recently did I start writing up book reviews (you are reading one of my first book reviews, thank you for that).
These three points above can give you unending stream of content.
Writing Style & Inexperience
What if you are not used to writing or blogging? You will have to get used to it. I am serious. Writing is one of the most valuable skills you can pick up in your career. It will drive growth of your business and enhance your reputation. But that is not all. It is a skill that will also revolutionize everything else you are doing in your work and life. As you write things out (painfully at first), you will be forced to think the topics through in a way that you have not before. You will polish your understanding of many topics and will earn the capability to discuss them as a true authority on the subject (which you certainly will become).
As to writing style, I suggest keeping it conversational. Always write as if you are talking to a single person. Forget jargon, it is often used by people who don’t quite understand the subject to obscure that lack of understanding.
If you try hard for weeks and still cannot get yourself to write, then you can record your conversations and hire a freelancer to make them into a coherent blog (additional cost). I don’t suggest doing that for the long term, but it is a way to start. Platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr offer virtually unlimited freelancing talent.
Once a week is a minimum and twice a week is best. Consistency is key and you should wait at least 6 months to see results, assuming you tirelessly promote your content. But once you get results, nobody can take them away from you, because the readers and subscribers will be yours.
Owning a platform
You should never use social media as your main platform. There are people who invested years and thousands upon thousands of dollars into Facebook only to realize that Facebook changed the algorithms and their own subscribers don’t see their content (until they pay Facebook some more money). More on the Facebook saga and generally about centralized social media, read my story How Facebook Exploits You & What It Means For Your Portfolio. So, own, not rent. You can have your own WordPress blog. Or you can create your own website with an embedded blog, but that is a larger effort.
You need to be fanatical about growing your email list. Ask all clients and prospects for permission to send them your thoughts on financial advice. Your website and your content needs to have prominent email sign up forms. Email list of your subscribers is worth its weight in gold! It will start slow, but do not despair. Once you reach a critical mass, the list will start growing exponentially. I very much recommend a book by Jeff Walker called Product Launch Formula. You may not be launching anything, but this is the best book on email marketing you will ever find. If your list is more than a couple of hundred people, you cannot send it from a regular email account and you will need a platform to send emails. I recommend Sendinblu, a good platform with a reasonable cost.
Early on, you may have very few subscribers. It is a great idea to reach out to other bloggers to offer to write guest topical content on condition that there is a link to your website and you are introduced as the author prominently at the top. This will help you get some traffic, and will enable you to send this blog to people in your network. This will give you credibility and is a great reason to ask them to sign up for your own blog. We also invite you to submit a guest blog to our portal, just reply to this email, if you are interested. We will review your content and can even help edit it.
Caveats About the Book
Epic Content Marketing is a must read for any financial advisor or entrepreneur. However, the author does get carried away at times. For example, he is ecstatic about a teenage girl platform called Being a Girl. Apparently, it is a website that helps teenage girls emotionally in their process of growing up. Joe excitedly tells us about this great content project. However, when I find out that this girl-friendly platform is owned by Procter & Gamble, I got creeped out. As a father of a not yet teenage daughter, I will tell you I am not excited about her taking any advice from P&G marketing gurus on anything, especially on growing up. But I believe the author just got carried away as a professional and this is a rare blemish on this book.
Proof is in the Traffic
I can personally attest to the value of Epic Content Marketing, as someone in charge of marketing at a startup business. We have done email marketing for years and it definitely worked. Why didn’t we have our own active blog? Well, we felt that we don’t produce enough regular content to really try this strategy. We typically wrote for large publications every month or two months and didn’t pay enough attention to our own blog. After reading this book and realizing that we already have all of the content we need (see first two paragraphs of this article above), our team at Larkspur-RiXtrema never looked back.
And here is proof. Below is a chart of our traffic over the past year, I think it speaks for itself. One year ago we only did email and writing for other platforms. Once we started to actually write content (and pretty much everyone at Larkspur-RiXtrema does that now), our growth went parabolic. Not bad for the first year of niche blog targeted at financial professionals.
Conclusion: What are you waiting for? Go buy the book (or audio book if you commute) and start implementing Epic Content Marketing!