186 FS Why the Advice for You’re Getting About Content Marketing is Probably Wrong for Your Business

00:00 0:57:08
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04:27 - The Skyscraper Technique

11:05 - Impressive Examples of Teaching Activities; Increasing the Trust-O-Meter, and Opt-in Techniques

  • Giving A Talk (In person = best)
  • Podcast Guesting
  • Talking at Local Meetups
  • Webinars

30:28 - Introverts and Freelancing and Nurturing Your Clients

35:47 - When You’re Intimidated by Speaking

40:12 - Is there a way to skip content marketing? What is considered content marketing?

49:30 - First Steps to Content Marketing


Todo.txt (Philip)The Everyday Messenger by Peak Design (Jonathan)Jonathan Stark: Public Speaking Tips For Consultants (Jonathan)Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin (Reuven)


[This episode is sponsored by Hired.com. Hired.com is offering a new freelancing and contracting offering. They have multiple companies that will provide you with contract opportunities. They cover all the tracking, reporting and billing for you, they handle all the collections and prefund your paycheck, they offer legal and accounting and tax support, and they’ll give you a $2,000 when you’ve been on a contract for 90 days. But with this link, they’ll double it to $4,000 instead. Go sign up at Hired.com/freelancersshow.]**[This episode is sponsored by Nird.us. Do you wish that somebody else would handle all of those operation details when it comes to hosting your client’s web applications? Nird.us is a Ruby on Rails managed hosting designed to make your life easy. They migrate everything for you, and new sign ups referrals come with a $100 discount or referral fee. 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It’s crazy that we’ve moved everything we do for the business over to the digital world but still need to pick up, sort and manage physical mail. With earth class mail, you can get all your mails scanned and accessible online 24/7. You can search your mail, send invoices over to your accounting software, sync important documents into cloud storage, deposits checks and really just make running your business a whole lot easier. You also get real professional address to share publicly with customers, business partners and investors, and you’ll never need to worry about someone showing up at your door if you run your business from home. Visit freelancersshow.com/mail and you’ll get your first month of service free when you sign up.] **REUVEN: Hi everyone and welcome to episode 186 of The Freelancers’ Show. On this week’s panel we have Jonathan Stark. JONATHAN: Hello. REUVEN: And Philip Morgan. PHILIP: Howdy. REUVEN: And I’m Reuven Lerner. And this week we are going to talk about – well, I want to say content marketing, but Philip, why don’t you give us a better nuance description of how – the problem we’re going to try to attack? PHILIP: Well, here’s the headline version, and then we’ll get into the full version. The headline version is what you have probably seen online in terms of advice about how to do content marketing is mostly wrong if you're selling professional services and if trust is really the primary lever you're trying to pull in your content marketing; increasing trust in prospects. If that’s you and you're out there online and searching for ‘how do I do content marketing, and what kind of stuff should I create’ and so forth, you're probably getting advice that’s not meant for you; it’s meant for somebody else. And we can certainly get into that, but way of a headline capsule summary, that’s what I think would make for a great discussion today. REUVEN: Yeah. So the classic advice is if you are, let’s say you're a Rails developer and you want people to come, and so you're going to write lots of stuff demonstrating your expertise in Rails development and people will discover your fantastic content about it and say ‘this is the person I want to hire’, and you'll be getting lots of calls. Is that what you're trying to push against? PHILIP: In a nutshell, let me get one level more specific. And I guess by way of background, I should say that for a while I had a service called My Content Sherpa that was – it was a subscription service for creating content marketing for people. So I learned a lot of this stuff the hard way [chuckles], which is how I tend to learn things. Speaking from experience here, if you go out and search online for ‘how do you do content marketing’, one thing you'll find in particular is what's called the skyscraper technique. And I ran across this when I was doing My Content Sherpa, and it seemed to make a lot of sense. The recommendation is that you go to tools like BuzzSumo which tracked the popularity of content based on how often it’s been shared on social media. And you use a tool like that – that’s not the only one, but that’s a good example that people might be familiar with – you use that tool to find out what's being shared and what's popular and who the ‘influencers’ are who are sharing a lot of content. And you take that, and you try to isolate some pieces of content that you could write that would make good content marketing for your business, and you basically improve upon whatever is the most popular piece out there. So if there's some piece about why you should choose Rails over Python, you might say ‘yes, I can write that. That would make a great way to demonstrate my credibility, and so I’m going to write an even better version of that’. So you're not copying or plagiarizing; you're just writing a better version of an article that speaks to a theme that has a track record of being popular. And that, in a nutshell, is the skyscraper technique. And I was doing stuff like this, and I’m getting great results until I took a completely different approach to content marketing. And that’s what I think would be interesting to talk about is that – and I think the starting point is to question the assumption that that skyscraper technique is based on. And here’s the assumption that it’s based on: the assumption is the function of content marketing is to be the mouth of your online sales funnel. And the way it’s the mouth is it’s – if you think about someone who has never heard of you and they just come across your site, the first thing they might see isn't this article you wrote, this great amazing article on why Rails is better than Python. And maybe they saw that article because someone they follow online shared it, an influencer they follow and trust shared it, or it came up in organic search results. So that’s the assumption that this whole approach is predicated on is organic traffic from – in other words, Google is going to send you high quality search results who land on your article and say ‘wow, this is amazing. I need to start a relationship with this person so I can later hire them’, or ‘I need to find out more about them’ or whatever. That’s the assumption. Google or organic is going to bring traffic to your content marketing, and then from there, you'll start a relationship with people; maybe they’ll sign up for your email list, or maybe they’ll follow your blog in their RSS reader, ha ha, or something [inaudible]. And I think this assumption is not – I think it works better for B-to-C companies that depend on a lot of scale, and it works very poorly for B-to-B consultants. And I think the reason why is because of trust, and we should get into that; I’m sure Jonathan is going to have a few things to say about that too. But anyway, that’s the assumption and that’s where I think really is a starting point for this conversation. REUVEN: Everyone does say you have content, people sign up for your mailing list. The other stuff, I’m not – I’m far less convinced about that some will see your website and say ‘wow, this is who I want to hire’, but the ‘huh, I like their content. Maybe I’ll sign up for their mailing list’, and over time you [inaudible] mailing list. Not only does this make sense to me, but I've been building toward that on my own and I think I've even seen it start to work. So where is the flaw in that? PHILIP: That’s fine if it works that way, but from the perspective of how to best use content marketing, I think that that assumption that someone’s going to – well, first of all, here’s a couple of flaws with it. Google is not a great business partner, unless you are paying them money and then they're a better business partner for you. They have a history – and by Google, I really mean all search engines – they have a history of updating their algorithm and that affecting people’s search rank; and they do that for good reasons, but you are kind of – there's probably a saying for these like the tail wagging the dog or something like that. But anyway, you're at Google’s whim if you depend on them to bring traffic to your content marketing. And if nobody sees your content marketing, it’s completely ineffective; that goes without saying. So you need to have some – I think you should have some control over who sees your content marketing, and to do that you either have to pay money to Google and essentially advertise your content marketing, or – and again, when I say Google, I mean all search engines – or you have to assume that Google will never bring you traffic and you have to find some own way to get traffic to your content marketing. And then once you do that, everything changes. Everything changes for the better. If you say ‘I’m not going to depend on Google to bring traffic to my content marketing’ or ‘I’m not going to depend on influential people on social media to share it’, those things do work, but if you say to yourself ‘I’m not going to depend on those. I’m going to find another way’, your content marketing becomes, in my experience, dramatically more effective. And hopefully, that raises the question ‘ok, if you're not depending on Google, how do you get traffic to your content marketing?’ And my answer to that is you get out in the world and you teach people something. There are a number of ways to do that, and in doing that you build their trust a lot so that when they move from experiencing you teaching something to following up by looking at content marketing you’ve created, there Trust-O-Meter is already way above zero. And the effect of your content marketing is much more effective at that point because they're not just some cold web traffic that’s landed on your site; there's someone who’s there because they experienced you doing some kind of teaching thing – giving a talk, guesting on a podcast, etcetera. JONATHAN: Maybe you got a couple more examples of that? Of [inaudible]. PHILIP: Of teaching? JONATHAN: Mm-hm. PHILIP: I do. Some of those come from our conversations offline, Jonathan, that there's a hierarchy of what is most impressive in terms of the teaching activity and what's least impressive, or what increases the Trust-O-Meter the most and what's not as effective. So what's the most effective is giving a talk, a live talk, in front of people where you're physically there and they can see if you're sweating bullets and if you – they just get the vibe of whether you really know what you're talking about and you're confident and whether you can handle yourself on a stage in front of an audience. That’s pretty much the gold standard for a teaching activity that will increase people’s trust the most. Podcast guesting is – we already mentioned giving talks at smaller events or local meetups is another option that might be more accessible to people. That brings up the question, of course, of whether you're talking to your peers or people who could potentially hire you, and that’s always something you want to think about when you're deciding how you're going to do some sort of teaching activity. Webinars are somewhere in there. I couldn’t say exactly where they are exactly on the scale of ability to increase trust, but they're a lot better than nothing and they're scalable and they don’t require you to travel most of the time. Wow, that’s my shortlist, anyway, of teaching activities [crosstalk]. There's others. REUVEN: I give lots of talks at conferences, but I don’t see how – and that’s translate into work, but I've never thought about a connection between the talk at a conference and someone signing up for my mailing list, or someone just getting more content marketing for my site. Can you, maybe, bridge that gap a little better for me? PHILIP: Yes. Well, forgive me for having such a strong opinion on this, but you absolutely – if you're going through the effort of preparing a talk and delivering the talk and potentially traveling and you are not creating a very well-aligned next step for people who are interested in you, then I think you're missing an opportunity. So the next step could be – at the end of the talk, it’s usually ok to have some sort of ‘if you're interested in this, take this next step’; some sort of called action for people who want to learn more. And again, that’s where your content marketing can start to come in. So it’s no longer the mouth of the funnel; it’s somewhere in the middle of the funnel. People have witnessed you doing this extraordinary thing called getting up in front of people and talking and teaching them something, or having a contrary in opinion that you can support or something like that. You should have a next step for them that is ‘hey, if you found this interesting, go here and do this’, and I’m intentionally keeping that part vague. It’s some sort of called action. I think it should get people on a list so you can start to market to them, but it doesn’t have to do that, but what it does is it just takes that one-time event of you being in a conference and giving a talk and turns it into a relationship. That’s really what that next step should do. In some way, it should turn it into an ongoing relationship so you start to further dial up the Trust-O-Meter in these clients and keep yourself top of mind and so forth. REUVEN: Which means that my typical last slide when I give a talk of ‘if you want, you can contact me at blah blah blah blah blah’ should really be replaced with ‘if you like this, there's lots more at’ – like ‘go here to sign up’. And I guess, probably even the shorter the URL, the better, because people can then enter it on their phones and sign up. PHILIP: Yeah. I know Jonathan has experimented with text SMS based called action for talks – that’s an option; or just buying a really catchy easy-to-remember domain name, and having that point to a landing page where people can download the PDF or sign up for the email course or just put in their contact info. Any one of those would work, but yeah, if it’s just like ‘here’s my email address, here’s my Twitter handle’, I really think you're missing an opportunity to deploy content marketing in a way that it’s most effective. So here’s some examples; some concrete examples. Anytime I’ve done a site-wide opt-in for any kind of lead magnet, I get about 1.5-3% opt-in rate. And I know that people who are vastly better at this than I am, the best they can do is like a 10% opt-in rate on a site-wide opt-in for some piece of content marketing like an email course or a lead magnet like ‘download this PDF checklist of things you should know before you do this’ – that kind of thing. I routinely get opt-in rates of 30-40% on landing pages that receive traffic that’s a follow on to something like a podcast guest appearance or a talk – I don’t do live talks, really. I will at some point, but I don’t really do them now. So my numbers are related to people who listen to me as a guest on a podcast. They get to the end and my called action is ‘go to this landing page and sign up for an email course’. And those landing pages routinely convert between 30 and 40% of traffic, which is if this is like a headline for some link [inaudible] article, the headline would be ‘how I got a 3,000% increase in’ [chuckles] – or was it 300%? I don’t know. Anyway, [inaudible] some mind-blowingly big number increase in opt-in rate. And again, that’s because I did the hard work of building people’s trust in something that feels just more powerful to them than reading an article, so that when they go to my content marketing, they're already warmed up and they are in a much different place. Anyway, that’s my – we've laid it out, I think, now in it’s fullness so we should probably just try to pick it apart, but that’s my hypothesis about content marketing. It should be the middle of the funnel, not the mouth of the funnel. And the mouth of the funnel should be some kind of teaching thing. JONATHAN: Yeah. It’s all about taking control and doing something a little bit more proactive than the feeling of – probably everybody listening to this has – ‘New Year’s resolution: this year I’m going to start blogging more because that’s going to make my business better’. And if you're a solo freelancer or a solo consultant or a small firm, you probably tried this and maybe get a few articles out, and then 6 months later, you're going to do another one and the first line is ‘wow, it sure has been a long time since my [inaudible]. Sorry’, like apologizing  as if anybody cared [laughter]. And I totally agree with this or completely on the same page, and I – geez, I took some notes  while you're talking [inaudible] jump around a little bit and support the argument, I guess, and then add a little bit of depth on a couple of things. But I think trust is the big one for me. What Philip said about speaking to a group of people in person where you're on stage, you're like anointed by the conference organizers to be worthy of holding the attention of 20, 50, a hundred, a thousand people who are probably paying to be there. That gives you that third party endorsement of the organizers. And then you go up there and kill it and people get the sense – people in the audience who are going to potentially be ideal customers for you are going to – there are people who will like your personality as it is projected from the stage and people who you will probably also like. So I guess I would say that it’s not like the entire audience is not going to trust you more than they did before, but the people in the audience who are your ideal customers are going to run to the stage at the end to give you their card. And that leads me to the next thing, which is that you want – if you're going to do speaking gigs, which I think are definitely the gold standard for building trust as fast and high as possible; it’s like the needle up – spike the needle really quickly – conferences definitely do that. But it is tricky to get that conversion at the end; to make that – bridge the gap from them being anonymous to you to them being a known person to you. So like I said, the really hot leads will come up to the stage, give you their card, ‘please email me’ – that kind of thing. And then there are other people in there that have tried a couple of things like using text message opt-ins, which worked great in one case where I worked the SMS thing into the meat of the talk. It was part of the content, so it worked amazingly for that. Other times, I've tried it at the end and said ‘if you want to demo the slides for this talk, just SMS Future to 12345’, and that didn’t work really that great. So –. PHILIP: Jonathan, do you have a – sorry to jump in – do you have a sense sort of a bribe that you're offering them in exchange [inaudible] just getting the slides from the talk? JONATHAN: I usually – I find that people often, without fail, people want the slides. And the slides that I give people are not just the slides; they're the slides with all my speaker notes, like a work – what's it called – it’s like a workbook. You can actually choose from Keynote to print it out with the notes, and they do like 3 slides per printed page with the notes next to them. You can see this on SlideShare if you look for Jonathan Stark on SlideShare. There's some examples up there. And without fail, I think that is the thing that people want the most. And then what I do rather than putting too much – I’m a little sensitive about being too market-y in a talk; the types of talks that I do wouldn’t be super appropriate to get real sales-y at the end even if I had – I think it’s always an appropriate called action to say ‘hey, if you want these slides, you can download them here’. But then in the download, I put an additional slide at the end that I didn’t show during the actual talk where I’ll put that stuff in. And in the PDF, it’s actually clickable. So I’ll have a slide at the beginning which I tend to skip over in an actual talk if I feel like people already know who I am. But they don’t – they're definitely not – they don’t know everything about me. They might know me in a particular way, like ‘oh, he’s the responsive web guy’ or ‘oh, he’s the PhoneGap guy’, which gives me enough cred to give the talk, but I don’t really spend like 5 minutes talking about myself in the beginning of the talk. But I will still have that slide in there, skip over it pretty much in the talk, maybe I’ll talk to it for 10 seconds if it’s relevant, but in the download it’s there. So for the people who have taken that next step of downloading the slides in there is going to be ‘oh wow, he’s also the CTO [inaudible]’, ‘oh geez, he was that Jonathan Stark guy’ and all these other things about me that are relevant, but aren’t – relevant in general, but maybe weren’t relevant to the talk I was giving. REUVEN: Right. That’s really interesting. JONATHAN: Sneak it in there and it’s all clickable because it’s a PDF so they can jump off in there to any place they want. I have experimented with specific landing pages for a particular conference, and that works well. It just takes a little bit of planning where you have a, like Philip said, a particular landing page that would be very easy to remember; easy to say and easy to remember URL that is short where you say ‘go to – whatever – independentconsultingmanual.com/tedtalk’ or whatever it is, and ‘oh ok’, and then they go there and then you have –. I think Kai Davis describes this as continuing the conversation that you started on stage, and so it’s a real natural flow; they went on the page that says ‘hey’ – if it was a TED Talk, it says ‘hey, Ted’s [inaudible]. Wasn’t that awesome? Blah blah blah, and this and that, and here are the things I promised’ and you can have – it’s one of the few places where I’m fairly cool with having lots of links on a page. I’m generally not a big fan of having lots of links on a page. I like to pull the reader through a particular course of action that I want them to take and putting lots of links throughout the body of text forces them to make a decision every time they hit one, it’s like a speed bump. It’s like ‘oh, should I click on that? Should I come back later? Should I open it in a tab behind this window?’ I don’t want them thinking that. I want them reading what I’m saying. But with a page like a conference landing page, I think it’s cool to have a bunch – it’s almost like a little resource center where you’ve got all these links to all these things, and people can quickly get an overview of the depth and breadth of your expertise which is the perfect time for that to happen. And certainly on that page, you're going to want to have some kind of next step they can take like, of course, signing up for your mailing list or perhaps something a little bit more further down the funnel like ‘click here to have a 15-minute free call’, or ‘click here to have a paid call’ or something like that. [Crosstalk] PHILIP: Absolutely. To me, the – from a content marketing design perspective, it’s all about the alignment. So whatever teaching thing you do whether it’s talking at a big conference or appearing on a very lowly podcast with a small audience, whatever that next step you present should not be ‘hey, go to my website. There's awesome stuff there. You can learn all about me’; ergo, ‘read my blog’. Those are really terrible calls to action because they don’t encapsulate some kind of benefit and they lead people to a website usually that has at least 10 different things you could do, and so those don’t make great calls to action. What does make a good called action is all the examples you gave, Jonathan, and those all are – what makes those work is how closely they're aligned with the talk. They're like the natural next step. So they extend the value of the talk. They let people learn more. They let people go deeper. They let people get closer to you. Any of those things, as long as they're just a hundred percent aligned with what the talk or the teaching event was about, those make for a great next step. And those make for great mouth – not really mouth anymore, but entry to your world of content. And one of the nice things about getting people on a list is you can structure their journey through your content. So instead of saying ‘here's an index of all the articles I've ever written’, which is what a blog really is; sometimes it’s categorized, but usually it’s just a sequential list of everything you’ve ever written and published on the blog. That’s not like a curated experience. So if you have a fair bit of blog content, you can get people who listen to you appear on this podcast, you can send them to a landing page and once they're on a list, if you know that they are in your list because they came to that landing page, then if you want – it’s not always necessary to do it this way, but if you want, you can curate their experience of your content and you can structure it for them in a way that makes sense and hopefully accelerates their journey from person who just joined your list to newest client who just gave you money. REUVEN: So it sounds like if I give a talk, or even if I give a webinar or if I do a guest on a podcast somewhere, what you're saying is don’t say ‘learn more about me here’. Instead, I should think about what is the message that I’m giving? What is the topic I’m talking about at that particular venue, that particular talk, webinar, podcast, whatever, and create – if I don’t have one already, create an email course, and it might even repeat some of the stuff I had there or that I've got on my blog. But the mere fact that it’s an email course means people are going there [inaudible] more about that specific subject, and then I can even do what I do now on my email courses, which is [inaudible] into my mailing list, but I've basically then built the trust and given them what they wanted, which is more on that subject which is better for everyone. PHILIP: Absolutely. Keep in mind who you're talking to if it’s C-level people, I don’t think a lot of them are going to sign up for an email course. They don’t really do business in their inbox quite the same way that people lower in the organization do. But as long as you're keeping in mind – the way that I say it is they need to be naturally incentivized to pay attention to your marketing. So if it’s like a training manager or director level, they would probably, in most cases, sign up for an email course if they see value in it. But again, the CEOs are probably not going to want to invite any email into their inbox that’s not curated by their own gatekeeper, their executive assistant. [Crosstalk] Jonathan has more experience with this, so he should probably answer that question. JONATHAN: Yeah. I’d go with like a white paper in executive summary or something like that that they would be able to download [inaudible] try and capture that way, or just tell them to pick up their phone and call. And if you're dealing with people at that level, I would much prefer to just get them on the phone; that’s well worth my time to have a 15-minute call with the CEO level person. There's a theme that’s coming up and this show doesn’t really need to be about speaking engagements or that sort of thing, but a common thread here which is that in all, I think without exception, all of the things that you recommend putting in front of traditional content marketing, all of them include your voice, your actual voice. So whether it’s podcast, webinar, meetup, speaking gig, whatever, the listeners or the audience can hear you and that communicates so much – I think it just – it communicates a lot about a person; how they speak, everything. It’s just really personal. It’s like a fingerprint. And when they do get to read something that you wrote, they’ll hear it in your voice. So when they – I get this a lot from people who have read my books, they’ll say – friends of mine, so like the guy who edited my first book for me, he was laughing; he was like ‘when I’m reading this book, I’m hearing you say it to me’, and I think that that amplifies – if someone comes into your funnel through a personal interaction like that, I mean a more – let’s call it intimate interaction like that – it’s going to amplify the effect of the articles that they read later whether it’s email or whether it’s slides that they downloaded or whether it’s articles on your website. It’s just a gut instinct, but I feel pretty strongly about it. And the – what was that – there's something [inaudible] related to that. No, it’s escaping me. PHILIP: I’ll give you a minute to think about that. Again, one of the things that I know [inaudible] about offline is a lot of people end up doing work we do – freelance or going out in your own type work, because maybe they're a little introverted, maybe they don’t – maybe they're really actually not a team player, which I think is fine. In fact, I’m really – to be honest, I’m not a team player. I’m not wired to want to surround myself with a team and work everyday with a team. And then it’s like one day you wake up and you're like ‘oh my gosh, I am in the relationship business’. When you realize that that’s a huge part of freelancing and having that be a sustainable long term career, it’s like half of the game is being good at starting and maintaining relationships, and it’s a sort of cool irony for those of us who are not naturally gifted with that, because is if we were we would probably be in an organization or being in sales or something. But to tie that with what you were saying, Jonathan, when people hear you speak, it kickstarts the relational part of our brain, I think; I don’t have any science to back this up, but it starts a conversation which – that’s really what your marketing should be as much as possible as a two-way conversation that increases people’s trust. And so, if you start that with ‘hey, I was Googling around and I landed on this article’, that’s a very different starting point than ‘I saw this person talk. They clearly knew what they're talking about. And they're together enough that they can handle themselves in front of a group’. Well, the relationship has already begun. And like you said, the follow on content that they might see on your site or on an email list, they're literally going to hear it in your voice inside their head. They're going to hear that North-Eastern accent or that Southern accent or whatever it is. And it just deepens the relationship. And all of a sudden, the content marketing is deepening an existing relationship rather than trying to start a new relationship. And if you're WP Curve and you depend on a lot of scale for your business to work, then you don’t need to do it this way. But if you're like us, you're a small shop or a solo person and you can – you live like a king with 10 clients a year, then you really need to build those relationships, don’t you? JONATHAN: It’s so much easier. It’s like a shortcut. PHILIP: Yeah. JONATHAN: I did remember what I was going to say too, which is still on the same topic. It’s the flipside where the other day I – I don’t remember where I came across it – somebody shared a link and the headline was [inaudible], I clicked on it, it was an amazing article, I shared it with some other friends who I thought was [inaudible] for. I have no idea who wrote it, and I don’t care. It was on medium, so [inaudible] – the only way I’d be able to probably go back and find it is to remember where I shared it – it would probably be in Slack – and find that link again. And that, to me, is the problem in a nutshell of using written content as the top of your funnel is that it’s just not – it’s too anonymous in both directions. So we were talking this, I think, yesterday last night, it’s like – maybe I'm getting something like – let’s say it’s 10,000 uniques on my website a month. I would trade that in a second for 500 people on my mailing list because I don’t know – I can’t do anything with the information, like I look at Google [inaudible] ‘oh, it’s interesting that some people are totally bouncing off this page or some people are following this path through my site’, but it’s totally irrelevant to me because I don’t know who they are. So I can maybe look at it and like ‘oh geez, I should do something about this bounce rate’. Well, maybe those people are terrible clients. You know what I mean? Without knowing who they are, I’m just twiddling knobs on my content to try and change numbers in Google analytics or whatever package you're using. Without knowing who the people are, you might be doing the exact opposite of something effective. Maybe you should be bouncing all these bad clients away. So you just have no – it’s useless information, frankly, for someone like us. If you're selling sneakers, if you have a Shopify store and you're selling tennis shoes or something, then it’s a different story because it’s a scale game. But for people who need – looking at my list, at the end of 2015 I did a retrospective what worked, what didn’t work last year from a business standpoint, and it was close to 90%; it’s like 80 something percent of my income last year was from 2 customers. PHILIP: Yeah. That pattern is not at all uncommon. I have some product revenue in my mix, but the right 10 clients would keep me in clover for a year or two, really, and I think most of our listeners are in a similar boat. The number of clients you need goes down, of course, as your rates and fees and profitability go up. But one question occurred to me, which I think we should touch on, which is what [inaudible] terrified of any form of speaking whether – even if it’s a podcast where you can go back and edit it later, I still know people are super intimidated about that because they're still potentially going to be on the spot. It’s like a live event, in a way. And they get even more high stakes when you're up in front of a group of people; there's no do-overs and no delete button. JONATHAN: I would say that you need to pick a communication channel that you're comfortable in, and if that means starting a Facebook group or that means just doing what you can to get people in your email list and engaging with them there, you need to do something where you are no longer posting anonymous content to the anonymous world. And you pick a very small niche, maybe start with watering hole somewhere where you are having a conversation with actual people who are not anonymous. And if you're more comfortable with the written word – I know plenty of people who are that way – then great, do it like that. Doing your own podcast where you are the only person, like you do Philip; I think – but you do interviews too, so it’s a nice mix, but I think if people are uncomfortable live, then maybe doing a scripted podcast might be a way to approach it. I would recommend trying it if you think you’ve got that in you because I think the – I think spoken word is much more persuasive and powerful than written word, but maybe not. And if you're – if that’s maybe too uncomfortable for you, maybe you can consider interviewing people, bringing your – I’m a little nervous about doing too many interviews because then you're presenting yourself as a good interviewer and not maybe an expert in your space, but anyway, just a side note. REUVEN: Yeah. I remember back in college, I was in MIT and there's a writing requirement, and there's almost like a riot in my freshman year by a bunch of students who said ‘we’re going to be engineers. We don’t need to learn how to write’. And basically, a bunch of the faculty members said ‘you guys are idiots’ [laughter]. Because what is – a part of what you need to do as part of your career, you're going to be writing and you're going to be presenting, and these are crucially important skills. And I would argue that part of being in business for yourself, whether you like it or not, is being able to write and being able to present to people. So it’s something that you – now, it doesn’t mean that you're necessarily going to be confident with it right away, and for most people it takes time to edge into being comfortable, and everyone has different ways and different styles. But in many ways, I think it’s worth almost forcing yourself to try to learn to speak in public because it’s really going to do you a lot of good. And you can start really small if you feel better doing a local meetup where you know the people and you're doing a topic that’s really really simple for you but they don’t know; or even if they do know it, it doesn’t matter. Start small, and you'll build up, and it’ll take time, but you can get more comfortable talking to people. And I really do think that’s an important part of then unlocking a lot of these other things. And by the way, I’d say that in many ways, doing a webinar or a podcast is harder, at least for me, than doing an in-person because in-person I can feel the audience in the room and see what they're like. Granted it can be a little scary at first, but when you're doing a podcast, especially just on your own, or a webinar, you feel very lonely and you feel like – you don’t get the feedback from others that’s immediate, which maybe can be calming, but also has a surreal feel to it. PHILIP: Yup. I would agree with that completely. For people who have trouble with even the idea of getting up in front of a group, probably starting with your peers, even though I recommend against that as your marketing plan, but as your ‘get more comfortable with this and practice’ plan, I think your peers are going to be more forgiving. They're going to – they're [inaudible] easiest crowd to start with. I think it’s what I’m trying to say. JONATHAN: It’d be interesting to do a whole show on this. And at the end of the show, one of my picks is going to be an article I wrote about public speaking tips for consultants. So we can probably talk more about that. I don’t know if we really want to go – I want to get back to the content marketing stuff. REUVEN: Yeah, but we should – I think it’s a good idea we should do a show on that. JONATHAN: So Philip, what about this: is there a way to skip content marketing? PHILIP: Well, I guess we have to define content marketing because I want to answer yes, but I don’t know exactly which you mean by content marketing. To me, content marketing is anything that can be recorded either through writing or it could be screencast, it could be YouTube videos, it could be podcast, it could be live talks – any of those qualify as content marketing. So under that broad definition, maybe not, but what I will say is that the faster you can get a prospect on a phone, the better, and that certainly may not involve anything that we think of that traditionally is content marketing. But back to your question, what are you thinking there – [crosstalk] – because I think maybe –. JONATHAN: Yeah, I was thinking of a much narrow definition, much more in the blogging type of realm. PHILIP: Ok, yeah. Sure, you can skip that and you probably should if you're not a pretty decent writer. You should find – what I tell people, what I tell my clients is we got to find your strength and just use those. And also, [inaudible] be a match for your audience. I have a client who’s [inaudible] is a – she’s a web designer and the audience is yoga studios. So 1,500-word blog post are not a good content marketing choice for that for her client. She needs to be doing more visual and more bite-sized. So that’s a terrible answer, but yeah, you could probably get [inaudible] writing blog articles depending on your audience. JONATHAN: Yeah, that’s great that you brought that up because I was not thinking broadly enough about content marketing. I really do – in my mind, really, my definition of it was really stuck back at what you said at the beginning of the show where it’s like the white hat version of keyword stuffing a page. It’s like actually writing good content that you’ve determined – you looked on the internet, you determine what's popular, you're going to write even better articles about that, and you're doing the right thing and being a thought leader on your space and all that stuff [chuckles], and it’s –. I don’t think it’s going to hurt you in the sense that it’s going to penalize you in some way, but it’s a lot of work. And if you can – and the goal isn't for you to write a bunch of blog posts and get paid for it, the goal is to get clients for what you actually do. And if you can – if your strength is talking to a microphone with a couple of people every week and that’s easy for you, then I would say maybe do that instead. But you still do need – I think it’s really hard to have a called action anywhere but on a website, so that’s like – I guess the farther end down the funnel, closer to the pointy end of the funnel, when you get – where do you put calls to action other than – see what I’m doing now? I’m equating content marketing with my website, and I think that if I get nothing else out of this episode, it’s going to be to break that misconception. REUVEN: Well, if we think about content marketing as blog posts, articles organized in ways, can or should the content marketing also be audio or a video? PHILIP: Well, this is an example outside the world of consulting, but bear in mind that content marketing can easily be a YouTube channel or an Instagram feed. That’s more from the world of products where you see people selling like fashion stuff through an Instagram feed or a YouTube channel. And those are risky because you don’t control the platform, but those, for the right person, could be a devastatingly effective content marketing channel. If you wanted to demonstrate a skill and the best way to do that is a screencast, then your YouTube channel could be where you do 90% of your content marketing. JONATHAN: Yeah, [inaudible] great. In that particular example, I've had great experience – well, I've gotten tons of likes and tons of views on screencasts that I've done on technology stuff. I don’t know if it’s translated in anything because I haven’t tracked it, but to your point, I didn’t really think of that as content marketing. But here's a distinct – I see there it is, now that you call it like that – so here's another distinction. Is an email list content marketing? PHILIP: Absolutely. JONATHAN: It is. REUVEN: Sure. PHILIP: Ok, tell me your thought on it. [Crosstalk] REUVEN: You're getting content and you're hoping to build a relationship that people will then buy from you, I’d call that marketing – and content marketing at that. PHILIP: Yeah, I would too. But you said it’s not public. What's going on there with that thought? JONATHAN: The thinking is you're not getting any SEO from it, that’s for sure, so I feel like there's some kind of – I've got some block mentally around – I think your definition of content marketing is way bigger than –. PHILIP: It’s very broad. Yes, it’s very broad [chuckles]. JONATHAN: It’s like any thoughts that you capture in some sort of sharable medium becomes content marketing. PHILIP: Right. I think that’s – I’m sorry to interrupt – I think that’s based on my understanding of marketing, which is how can we build a relationship that’s based on me being helpful and results in increasing trust? JONATHAN: Yeah. See, that’s not my definition. PHILIP: Gotcha, ok. JONATHAN: My definition of marketing is creating awareness of my products and services in the marketplace. And at some point, it turns the corner into sales. And I think what you're talking about, for me, falls more into sales. But this is totally splitting hairs. PHILIP: It kind of is. And there's a big gray area there anyway. But where are you going with that thought that email list is a different animal? JONATHAN: Well, here's why. Because I was on Side Hustle Nation podcast recently, and a lot of the audience on that show are at a day job and they're looking to break out of it. And a big part of what I advised people to do is you need to become a recognized expert as an authority in your expertise. So you want to become the go-to person for this very specific thing, this very specific expensive problem that you solve for someone. And a lot of people who listened to that show don’t want to blog about it because – and they don’t want to put up a sales page or any of that because they're afraid that their employers are going to see it. So they feel like the world of content marketing is shut off to them, and that they can’t share their passion – as I’d like to put it, they can’t share their passion online because that’s going to out them as having one foot out the door. And my advice to somebody in that situation where they want to build their authority with an audience, but at the same time stay under the radar, I feel like is a – maybe it’s a subset of – you're focusing on a subset of the entire planet and not everyone, and it’s stuff that’s never going to get you any SEO because it’s all either not crawlable or it’s behind a paywall or it’s behind some sort of opt-in or something; it’s just not public. So what I would say to people on a situation like that is like ‘ok, network people directly. Offer them free webinar times, like once a month or once every couple of weeks, your do a free webinar. You get the email address, you have a communication – so all of your interaction with them is over email and there's nothing – there's no website for your thing; just sell stuff through your email’. And it’s – I don’t know – it’s such a different tactic that it feels like a different thing to me, but maybe I’m confusing the two things or maybe I’m [inaudible] them, I should say. PHILIP: Well, incidentally, that’s pretty much the same way I would recommend somebody try to test a new position that’s dramatically different than their current market position and feels risky to them. You just described [inaudible] recommend testing as direct outreach and a backchannel or a hidden channel that through which you communicate and market to people that become prospects and leads to this hidden marketing channel. So I find that interesting, but to me, again, I don’t know that it really matters. I would just call that content marketing. It’s just using a different distribution channel for it; one that’s not available to the general public. And it follows that same shape of we create a relationship somehow and then the content is a follow on to that one-on-one type relationship we did; or one-to-many, but still has the same qualities of people are listening to your voice and hearing you speak. JONATHAN: Yeah, content marketing really boils down to education, right? I guess it doesn’t really matter what channel you're doing it through, if it’s public or not public. PHILIP: I define it as demonstrating your expertise. So it’s any way on which you can demonstrate your expertise, but oftentimes that is educating, although sometimes it’s like ‘hey, let’s see how this approach work for this other person’ and maybe you can see that working for yourself. That can also be a sales tool in that way, but yeah, demonstrating expertise is really what it’s all about. JONATHAN: Got you. Huh, it’s wild. REUVEN: Any last – we should probably wrap up, so any last gotchas or considerations people should think about? What if they don’t have no content marketing at all? What's a good first step for them to take in this direction? PHILIP: The first step is to paint yourself into a corner. Bye [chuckles]. Getting people on a list to whom you will feel beholden and also they’ll help you create content if you ask them the right way. So basically, what I’m saying is you create a lead magnet of some sort, some reason for people to sign up for your list in exchange for an email course or a PDF download or something like that. So giving a reason to be on your list through a lead magnet, and then that will create some incentives that you previously did not have, and you'll start creating content marketing. I guess that’s my one takeaway, but people, I think, for their content marketing to work, they have to get out in the world somehow, and that’s hard for us people who prefer being at home or introverts, but with the internet, there's always a way to do that. JONATHAN: Yeah. I've got another suggestion that I think has been helpful for a bunch of my students, which is to e-bomb. So go around and you look for – this all presumes that you're good at something and it presumes that you have at least some focus on an audience; you have a rough idea what audience you wanted to serve – go and hang out where those people hang out online whether it’s Subreddit or Facebook groups or LinkedIn or wherever, and when somebody brings up an issue that you can help them with, type up nice 500-word answer right there in whatever platform you're on and say ‘this worked for me’ or ‘this worked for somebody I know’ or ‘this is what I would do in that situation’, and then that becomes a blog post. So I would go back and forth [inaudible] my list exactly like Philip described, and also doing e-bombing, and there's something about answering a particular person’s question that makes it really easy to write for me anyway. So then I’ll copy that and save in a text document and – sometimes you have to edit it a little bit after the fact, but I’ll probably turn that into a blog post or you could turn it into a – turn the whole thing into the base of a webinar, a podcast episode or something like that. But going around water holing and looking for questions to answer has been really helpful for me to break through a writer’s block. REUVEN: Very good. Well, what started as a really short simple question or it would seem like one – well, we can probably continue to dive into this for many, many more episodes. And we will; have no fear, listeners. PHILIP: If it’s up to me, we will. [Chuckles] REUVEN: We will. Or fear, listeners [chuckles]. Alright, let’s try to do some picks. Philip, any picks for us this week? PHILIP: I have a pick. I’m a polygamist when it comes to To Do list managers. I've tried them all [chuckles]; maybe not all of them. REUVEN: At the same time? PHILIP: Sometimes, and trust me, you don’t want to do that. That’s a disaster. So I’m back to experimenting with Todo.txt, which is a very simple text-based format that – the problem I've always had with To Do lists is if you can associate too much metadata like ‘what sort of frame of mind do you need to be in to do this task’, which like OmniFocus lets you do – that’s not good. That doesn’t work out well for me. Maybe it works better for other people. So I’m back to something very simple: Todo.txt, which if you just search online you'll find all kinds of apps, mobile and desktop, that lets you manage a simple To Do text-based To Do file. And maybe I’ll check back and let you know how it goes. If history is any indication, I’ll be back writing my To Do list on a 3x5 card [chuckles] before I know it, but [inaudible]. That’s my pick for this week. REUVEN: Slowly then moving in to [inaudible] form. PHILIP: Yup [chuckles]. Scrap it on the wood surface of my desk. REUVEN: Jonathan, any picks for us? JONATHAN: Yes. I've got two this week. The first is The Everyday Messenger bag from Peak Design. This was something I backed on Kickstarter and it recently came in, and I love this bag. It’s just amazing. I could go on to the details, etcetera, etcetera, but they really reinvented every class and the strap and the internal pockets; it’s just – it looks like a regular messenger bag, but it is not. And if you're the type of person that is out and about frequently like I am, carrying my computer and a million cords and all that stuff, you should really check it out. It is meant for photographers, but I think it translates pretty well to people who, like us, have a bunch of little weird shape gadgets. So check that out. It’s reasonably priced, and it’s well worth the money, in my opinion. And the other thing is a blog post that I wrote a while back called Public Speaking Tips for Consultants that I think is relevant to this episode where I basically talk about – it’s not tricks, but it’s ways to really take that – take the edge off. If people have stage fright really bad, then I've got some tips for that. And if that’s not your problem and you just want to have a better idea on how to basically crush it, then that’s a – also some tips there for you. So you can check that out at expensiveproblem.com; I’ll link to it in the show notes. REUVEN: Excellent. I've got a pick as well. I started reading this book and I’m not even close to all the way through it, but it’s really good, what I've read so far. It’s called Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, and it’s about breaking habits. The subtitle is What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits - to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life. So given that I would like to sleep more, eat less sugar and procrastinate less, this sounds like a great book for me. And I’ll get to it really soon [chuckles]. Anyway, so what I've read in the book is very interesting, and I heard an interview with her as well, and she talks about – a lot about the psychology and cognitive science about habits and forming them and how we can use the brain against itself or use ourselves to improve ourselves. And she uses herself as a guinea pig in the book to try to change. And that’s very well written, very interesting, and hopefully will allow me to make 2016 better. And worst case, I’ll just lose sleep reading this book [chuckles]. Anyway, that’s our show for this week. Thanks everyone for listening, and we will be back next week with lots more tips for The Freelancers Show.[Hosting and bandwidth is provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit cachefly.com to learn more.]**

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