“In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.”
– Tom Seaver
As an audience, we’re exposed to near 1000 new pieces of content a day. We have all the resources at our disposal to make informed decisions. For every choice we make, we decline 999 other options.
It can seem overwhelming for marketers and startup owners to try and stand out in this deep ocean of content.
What differentiates the people who stand out from those who don’t? They consistently add genuine value to their audience.
Genuine value is when you give or do something from an altruistic angle not expecting anything in return. It could be giving your time, attention, ideas, money, gifts, emotions and infinite other things.
The best content connects with audiences on a visceral level and stands out more than content created from a logical perspective (even if that content is awesome).
How do you differentiate between logical and emotional content?
Emotional content is created when you deeply understand your audience. If you share similarities or you are the audience then you have a head-start. I recommend that you regularly research and fine tune your audience personas. It’s even better to visualise an archetype or identify someone you know very well and create content to address their problems.
Delivering once or twice won’t be enough. To deliver genuine value, you have to enjoy the process enough to go beyond once or twice.
When people first read an amazing piece of content on your blog, they might not necessarily share it. They might not even intend on deliberately coming back to that blog. There’s too much great content out there to remember that person who wrote that epic post on productivity.
You have to continue delivering.
“In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.”
Consistency breeds familiarity. You start building trust and likability by regularly delivering great content.
People Who Consistently Deliver Great Content
The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking – Neil Patel
The Distilled Guide to Online Video Marketing – Distilled
The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing – Kissmetrics blog
All of these are examples of great content. There are many people beginning to produce outstanding content of near this level. But the people that produced all of the above stand out more because they do it consistently. That’s a different ball game.
There are also a lot of one hit wonders. These are people who spend time and create one or two pieces of epic content and you rarely or never hear from them again. They don’t realise that you can’t give enough value by just delivering a couple of epic pieces.
You have to do it again. And then again. And again. You keep producing great content to serve the audience. This differentiates the great from the good and from those who disappear. It’s only through seeing your content again and again that people start associating you with good shit!
The equation below highlights my point.
Success = Consistency (Great Content + Emotions)
Success = Consistency x Content of Genuine Value
Define your audience. If you don’t know who they are, how can you provide them with value? You need to know what makes them laugh, what problems they have.
Serve them with genuinely amazing content experiences. Only by knowing their problems can you serve them best. This doesn’t just mean writing a great blog post. It also means being personable and engaging with them. This means having an easy on the eye website and brand. It could mean introducing them to like-minded people (community). Give them a hub to express themselves, a hand in fulfilling their potential.
Most importantly: Don’t do it once or twice and then stop. Keep delivering genuine value. Consistency is the biggest denominator separating those that build traction from those who wither away.
By consistently serving your audience with content that resonates with them – everything will naturally fall into place.
If you’re trying reach new audiences for your online business or website, one of the most effective ways is by getting exposure on popular blogs in your niche. Who wouldn’t want to be exposed to a highly relevant blog of 10,000 unique visitors a month and a mailing list of 5000+?
The challenge is in initially building a relationship with the blog owners to get that exposure. Most successful bloggers are less likely to initially see any value in collaborating with you because they get 100’s of introductory messages a week. You’re just a needle in a haystack!
There are ways to work around this.
By making a few tweaks to the way you approach your blogger outreach, you can start seeing better results. The following tweaks will make you stand out among the many marketers who send messages to popular blog owners.
(1) Build credibility
You must get those random emails from people asking for a meeting or an introduction for whatever reason. Imagine if Tim Ferriss emailed you asking to publish a post on your website. You would instantly jump at the opportunity. Why the enthusiasm for Tim but the reluctance to answer to anyone else? Credibility.
Most of us have to prove our credibility and build familiarity and relationships from scratch. We could make our lives a lot easier if we implemented some principles from well known influencers.
- Creating our own high-quality content which adds value to our readers.
- Participating in online conversations around the web on the topic of the blogs we are contacting.
- Having a solid presence on social media platforms to show there is a face behind the name. People they know are also engaging and following you.
- It helps if you have built relationships with other bloggers and familiar names in your niche ecosystem. This could be through guest posts on their blogs.
- A credible looking website with relevant and non-generic pages.
These factors will put the blogger at ease that you are not some random spammer or dark-hat marketer. You are credible source.
This rule applies even more when you are trying to reach the audiences of well-known blogs and news journals. I see it as best practice to have a few remarkable blog posts on your website which add value to readers before trying to reach other bloggers.
(2) Start thinking about building win-win relationships
A better way of looking at blogger outreach is to perceive it as building meaningful and lasting friendships because you both share a similar audience. You can both collaborate to create amazing experiences for your audience personas, write amazing guest-posts on each other’s websites, and also introduce other dedicated bloggers in the same area to each other.
Once you start making friends with bloggers it becomes second nature to guest post, collaborate and possibly (if things go well), get an influential friend becoming an advocate of your brand.
By approaching a blogger with the intention of getting only a link or blog post is an obsolete practice and can only be seen as a short term SEO hack. If the blog is any good, he is likely to get plenty of templated emails from marketers and SEO’s asking for a guest for their own business or client, offering no value in return.
(3) Be patient and don’t expect too much
Like anything that involves persuading people, there will always be mixed outcomes. You might think that you have built a solid relationship with blogger A but then you email and mention writing an amazing post for his blog. He doesn’t reply. On the other hand blogger B, who seemed less invested in the interactions, instantly publishes a post that you sent him.
With such a dynamic nature to blogger outreach, it’s easy to get into pushy salesman mode and send reminder messages and never hear from the blogger again.
There is no rule for how many follow up emails to send. But my general rule of thumb is to politely follow up a few days later. If you don’t hear from them again, take a step back. Let them be. Carry on with what you do best – blogger outreach and building relationships with bloggers. You can politely tell the blogger that you are publishing the blog post that you sent him somewhere else. If he does want a publish a post, he will be more than happy to get in touch.
I’ve had bloggers not reply for various reasons e.g. illnesses, death of a loved one, or just being extremely busy. These same people that had “ignored” me, eventually returned my emails and we did some work together.
(4) Be honest and transparent
No one likes a bullshitter! Once that feeling of uncertainty that someone is trying to use manipulative tactics creeps in, it’s game over!
Let me give an example. You tell them that they have an awesome blog or you send them a generic email which you have already sent to another 100 blogs! They see through these disingenuous attempts to get something from them. Put yourself in the same position – imagine you had that many people seeking value from you? Your bullshit radar would have strong detectors.
Start being honest and you will find it easier to win these bloggers over.
A simple way to be more honest is by following their blog. You will then find it easier to send an email which will pass the lie detector test, just by the genuine language of being someone that reads and enjoys the blog.
I would normally allow a 2 to 4 week window to slowly get used to their blog:
- Read the latest blog posts.
- Read older and most popular content.
- Follow and engage on Twitter and on other social networks.
- Join the newsletter.
- Make contributions such as posting useful comments.
- Post a response (agreeing or disagreeing) to an idea on your own blog.
By doing these things, you will be separating yourself from the other 95% of outreach marketers who didn’t bother reading the blog and sent an insincere post.
Note: Some people will disagree here, but if you still can’t get yourself to be interested in their blog, then maybe the blogger might not be the best fit for you. Move on!
Over to you!
By applying these four simple tweaks to your blogger outreach you will start adding value to bloggers and get better responses.
What are your thoughts? It would be good to hear your ideas.
Getting a website to get organic traffic should be a fun and rewarding process. Rather than focusing on building links, it’s more fruitful to focus on the user experience, making good shit and building genuine relationships.
Among the many websites hit in 2013, Interflora were the highest profile. They got caught flush by Google for using advertorials. From one angle, they were simply just doing an outreach campaign to boost their profile on relevant blogs. But the urge to get link juice passed on from these blogs hurt them badly.
Of course, links are still needed to improve the search engine rankings for your website, but you risk a perilous campaign if you put too much emphasis on them. Rand Fishkin sums it up well here.
Even today, you can get short-term success from linkbuilding and black-hat SEO techniques, but you leave yourself vulnerable to future Google algorithm updates. Is it worth it?
What you really want is a Google proof and robust inbound marketing machine which will continuously generate organic traffic without being at the mercy of penguins, pandas and hummingbirds.
Whether you’re starting up a company or already have a website that you do linkbuilding for, you can still refine your approach. All that is required is a change in your mindset towards SEO and inbound marketing.
You can start by following the principles below and everything will start falling into place.
Make use of your company vision and values
A lot of companies fail with their marketing endeavors because their strategy is too reactive to the surrounding environment. They are doing things in response to Google updates, the latest fad or technology. They have no identity of their own.
Stop all this and go back to the roots of why your company is in existence. This requires getting in touch with the core ideology of your company. This is beyond any product, CEO or technology. The core ideology is the core purpose and core values of your organisation.
For the sake of this post, I’m just going to stick with the core values.
Core values are three to five tenets which an individual or an organisation holds tightly, independent of whatever happens in the external environment. These 3 to 5 principles would stand the test of time or any scenario the individual or company faces.
They should be used to remind you and your team about your vision. Moz does a great job with their TAGFEE tenets. These tenets help them stay consistent with their approach to everything they do. Rand also uses his blog as a great tool to practice the TAGFEE tenets.
Another example is Coca-Cola, they have a mission to refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create value and make a difference. This is reflected with the content that they are regularly producing.
As SEOs and inbound marketers, by understanding our core values or those of the client, we step away from a micro-mindset of just linkbuilding or writing a blog post for the sake of it. Instead we awaken a desire to produce something consistent in line with our organisational values. We enhance our ability to make congruent decisions with all areas of the marketing strategy.
A few quick ways to get closer to your core values is by asking yourself some questions.
- If you had enough money to retire, would you take your core values with you?
- What are the core values that you envision will continue to be valid in your organisation in 2123?
- Would you still hold your core values if they were to become a competitive disadvantage?
- If you were to start a new organisation regardless of industry, what core values would you build it upon?
By applying your core values to your marketing strategy, you will be stepping away from the environmentally reactive mindset.
Take time to understand the customer
How valuable would it be if you could read the minds of your current and potential customers? It can happen. You just have to start paying more attention to who they are, what they do, their motivations etc.
You can get started by asking yourself who are your customers. Split them into 4 or 5 separate personas. Create a hypothetical composite of your customer. Initially, it will be very blurry but the aim is to make each persona clearer with time.
Include their demographic information, their goals and motivations, how they define success, their biggest obstacles and challenges, what media channels (online and offline) they frequent etc.
Once you have something, you can start to test these assumptions. Do everything to get as much data on your market and buyer personas. Set up Google Alerts, participate in forums, use social networks and create surveys. But nothing beats speaking to a potential customer, present customer or a customer that chose the competition. The insights that can be gained from buyer persona interviews are priceless.
For each persona, have a place to store and update all the quantitative and qualitative data and information. I would recommend that you use a mixture of Trello and Evernote or Google Docs.
Over a period of time, you will have developed a thorough understanding of your target customers. The words they use, things they hate, the websites and social networks they frequent.
Based on this information, you will have the leverage to provide them with content they like, do outreach on the websites they frequent and connect with them on their favourite social networks.
Build remarkable content
Being just good isn’t good enough. There’s a lot of good websites with good content. The reality is that no one shares good content.
In order to build a website that will convert or content that gets shared and builds loyalty – you have to work towards being exceptional. Pay attention to the small things. Make the design look great. Make sure that the blog posts are amazing enough for someone to take time out, read and share. Make sure that the social media page is beautiful. Make sure every single pixel related to your business kicks ass. Optimise everything.
Intercom is a great example of a company who know how to produce the remarkable (visit their blog and see). Their blog posts are well-researched, relevant to their audience and get shared a LOT. In fact, everything from their homepage, documentation and about page are examples of optimising everything.
If I don’t feel something is good enough, I’ll go back to the drawing board and make it better. If you’re not good at something, I understand that there’s a learning process. But there’s a few things you can do to boost this:
- Build an awareness and appreciation of what is good and what is considered shite.
- Putting time into a blog post or piece of content. Some of the best bloggers are known to spend a significant amount of time per blog post. For example, Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich spends 12 to 18 hours per blog post. He gets 300,000 visitors per month. This is an extreme case, the point is that rarely is anything great built with half-hearted effort.
- Make things that have a WOW factor. You know it’s ready when you’re excited to ship it. Look at the WorkforceFM app, it’s in a “boring” niche but looks exciting. The website and product both look and function great, bringing an air of confidence which can’t be faked by crappy websites and products.
Start building genuine relationships
When someone is trying to build a relationship with you, they either want something or they are genuinely interested in you. I’m not sure about you, but I hate reciprocating a relationship with anyone with an ulterior motive.
This principle applies to outreach. Start building genuine relationships with people without the feeling of needing to get a link on their website, or them to promote your product to their vast readership. Most popular bloggers get hundreds of generic and disingenuous emails from people asking for things. Try to differentiate yourselves.
For me personally, outreach is about building genuine relationships. I enjoy meeting people and discussing and sharing ideas with them. If I see a great blog post, I will retweet it and may even send an email to the writer complimenting them about their work.
Outreach should never be about getting in touch with a blogger, journalist or influencer because you want something from them. That’s the beggar frame. Instead you want to be reaching people without looking like you are after something.
The aim should be to continuously network and build friendships, retweet their content, post a genuine comment on their blog post and show some genuine loving. When you are writing a blog post, if relevant, mention them in your blog. Tell them.
Make these influencers and bloggers genuinely want to be part of your network. This will automatically open many opportunities for writing guest posts, co-marketing or even getting introductions to other bloggers they know. You will be genuinely tapping into their readership and earning plenty of links along the way.
So next time you think of sending an email for a link, take a step back. Instead start following them on Twitter or Linkedin. Read their content and share it with your followers. Tell them they have a great piece of content. Ideally, you would have already had some sort of contact with them in the first place.
Whatever you do, DON’T send a generic email asking to post a guest post with a link back.
Keep testing new ideas
If you want to innovate, then you have to remove that fear of failure. The only way for this to happen is to allow some room for failure. For this there needs to be a space for innovation.
A lot of successful companies are doing this already. A good place to begin is by using the 70-20-10 model. 70% low-risk and bread butter, 20% innovating what has worked in the past and 10% on more high risk stuff and brand new ideas. Regardless of whether that 10% might become the next 70% or it will be a failure and be forgotten, it allows the team that space to try new things that they wouldn’t have done without this rule.
Google are big advocates of this principle. Everything new that comes out of Google is from the 10% of time the engineers spend on their side projects.
How can this be applied to content marketing? Simple. Spend 70% of your time focusing on the core things that need to be done. 20% of the time on premium stuff like ebooks, epic pieces of content. The remaining 10% is for trying new things regardless of if they fail.
Olga Vidisheva of Shoptiques, allows each member of her team to get creative by giving them a $1000 budget. It doesn’t matter if they fail, the main objective is that they experiment and try something new.
Instead of worrying about the outcome, just go out and test it and see what happens. Based on the feedback, you’ll know whether to repeat & scale or to eject.
The main takeaway is that you can build sustainable inbound marketing which naturally earns links, improves your keyword rankings, builds your brand, & converts traffic into leads and customers. All of this by simply following these principles.
- Know your vision and core values.
- Know your customers.
- Be remarkable at everything or at least try.
- Build genuine relationships with people.
- Keep testing new ideas.
I would love to hear some of your thoughts and stories on this area of creating a sustainable approach to SEO and inbound marketing.
CC image courtesy of LyndaSanchez on Flickr
By getting your buyer personas (or audience personas) right, you’re setting the foundation to begin your marketing efforts. Very often, buyer personas can be overlooked or misused. The problem is that marketers don’t dig deep enough. There’s too much guessing.
The aim of this post to help you better understand your buyer personas by getting closer to them. I hope it pushes you to go out there and implement what I’ve written.
Outline of blog post
- What is not a buyer persona?
- Okay then, so what is a buyer persona?
- What does a great buyer persona look like?
- How to get these insights from buyer personas?
- Questions to ask.
- Putting it together.
- Final word.
What is not a buyer persona?
Quite often, when companies talk about getting a buyer persona together, they assume that it’s a composition of age, gender, job, marital status, children etc. Sure, this is useful information. But it’s not enough. You can easily find this information by conducting a survey or by stalking people on Linkedin and Facebook.
You then just put all the information together, average it out and you have a “buyer persona”. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way. Buyer personas are not some random name with a stock image and some demographic information.
Okay then, so what is a buyer persona?
Well, buyer personas are all about taking things a step further and acquiring better insights into customers rather than vague demographic or psychographic profiles. Of course continue gathering demographic and other important data. Just don’t rely on it.
A real buyer persona should be an amalgamation of detailed insights into the mindset and motives of a particular group of customers or people involved in the buying process.
If done properly the buyer persona will allow your team to better understand why a customer makes certain decisions instead of others, what their biggest priorities are, where does your product fit into these priorities and much more. Notice the difference? What would be more useful to your team? A vague quantitative demographic profile. Or a buyer persona with qualitative & detailed insights into their core characteristics?
What does a great buyer persona look like?
Buyer persona evangelist Adele Revella, pioneered the The Five Rings of InsightTM. This toolkit really does go deep into the core characteristics of your buyers and potential buyers. If you can cover these five insight areas in your buyer persona, then your team has something of great use. Let’s move forward and talk about these five insights.
1. Priority Initiatives – These are a few of the biggest priorities that the buyer persona dedicates most of their time, budget & political capital towards. These 3 to 5 priorities are likely to take up most of their energy. They will be different for each buyer persona and influenced by various factors. Such as, their environment, whether they are B2C or B2B customers and numerous other factors which will be saved for another blog post.
2. Success Factors – How does this persona measure success? These metrics could be tangible or intangible. The tangible metrics might be things like revenue growth, saving x amount of £ in a financial year etc. Whilst, intangible metrics tend to be more emotional, they could be ego related i.e. one upping a colleague, or just simply keeping their job.
3. Perceived Barriers – This insight identifies why the buyer persona would choose a competitor over you or why they choose not purchase anything at all. It’s great fuel for content marketers because you can uncover a lot of overlooked factors. For example, they might love your product but office politics and infrastructure may complicate the buying process. Sometime it could be that they don’t know enough about your products or have inaccurate presumptions about them. You see why perceived barriers are of great use to marketing teams?
4. Buying Process – In simple terms, this insight uncovers the buyer’s journey. You will understand what first prompts their interest in your product. Where they did the initial research. Who’s involved in making the final decision. To make things easier, it could be worth drawing out the sales process on a mind map.
5. Decision Criteria – This fifth insight outlines what aspects of your product or alternatives a buyer assesses and compares before making that final purchase decision. It’s a good idea to include those buyers who chose the competitors and those who chose not to buy.
How to get these insights from buyer personas?
There’s plenty of ways to gather information and data about customers and potential customers. Nothing beats having an actual conversation with them. Yes, this means picking the phone up and having a real conversation. The aim of the conversation should be to find out about the five insights. The benefits of this outweigh any form of quantitative or secondary research for the following reasons:
- You’re getting a chance to dig deeper into why a buyer persona makes choices.
- You get a chance to get insights which you don’t get from an online survey or someone else’s consumer profile report.
- If done properly, the information gained will be content marketing dynamite. Allowing you to build targeted and synchronised content which engages visitors.
How do I get information for buyer personas?
- Create a list of relevant companies to call and find out who are the people you want to speak with.
- Prepare some questions to ask based on The Five Rings of Insight by Adele Revelle.
- Be prepared for excuses and rejections. Alternatively, you can initially contact potential people via email, Linkedin & Twitter, arrange a time to speak with them.
- If you want, you could entice them with an incentive such as an Amazon vouchers or a free ebook.
- Be honest and up-front and make sure you tell them you’re NOT selling anything.
- It’s a numbers game and it does take time, people are not at their friendliest when they get called by random people, but don’t take it personally.
- Once you have had 5 or 6 good conversations with a buyer persona capturing the above 5 insights, it’s enough (for now).
- Gather all the qualitative insights and build a buyer persona with more than just basic demographic info but also deeper feelings and thoughts.
Questions to ask
It’s not about following a script and asking questions, otherwise you will come across like a monotone robot. Try be natural, it gets better with practice, however, there’s no harm in having a raw list of questions to ask (as long as you don’t use it like a script). See some examples of raw questions that I’ve used in the past.
- What are the priorities in your day to day job?
- How do you go about making sure that these priorities are met?
- What are the consequences if you don’t meet these goals?
- How do you measure the outcome of your work?
- How much do these goals mean to you?
- If you didn’t have to worry about these goals, what would you focus your energy on?
- What are the biggest challenges / objectives you face in your role as _______________?
- How do you ensure that you overcome these objectives? What are the most effective tools that you have encountered?
- Tell me about these tools?
- What made you realise that you needed a change?
- When you were doing the research, how useful were the online resources?
- What were the best places, websites and resources to find out about _________?
- Why did you pick _________ instead of the alternatives?
- What is the criterion when picking this product over others?
By thinking about the right questions, you don’t fall into the trap of looking like an idiot on the phone or face to face with persona.
Putting it together
I believe that having conversations with buyer personas should be an ongoing process. Buyer insights are always evolving and you have to stay on top. If you’re starting from scratch, you just need to have a good conversation with 4 or 5 people for each persona. This should be enough to get you started.
Make sure are alert and listening to the person, for each question they answer, try and ask further questions and statements based on what they say. The interviewee could give vague answers, but it’s important that you respond to these vague answers with more probing questions, sometimes just asking them “why” is all you need. Just make sure the conversation flows naturally.
So there it is your guide to buyer personas. Hope it’s been useful and please do share with as many people. Now that I’ve said my bit, I’d love to know what you think, please join the conversation by sharing your opinions and experiences with buyer personas.
This is my 3rd blog. One thing that both blogs shared in common was that they were not in line with my personality. I worried too much about how my blog posts would be received.
My vision with this blog is just be true to myself and not worry too much about how my posts will be received. Of course, I want to write posts readers will enjoy but it shouldn’t be a primary objective for a personal blog.
The mission of neildesai.co is to simply share my thoughts and lessons in life in the form of elaborate blog posts. Hopefully people in the startup, marketing, tech communities will appreciate & relate to what I’m writing, but the main priority is I write for myself.
Most of my posts will be on the following core topic areas.
Startups – I love working with startups. It’s not like a typical 9-5 job, a lot more is on the line. When you’re a startup marketer, you have to cover a wider range of responsibilities on a smaller budget.
One day, I might be writing some copy, the next day, I’m setting events on Google Analytics and interviewing customers. To make best use of time, I’m always looking for ways to hack these tasks without effecting the quality of work.
SEO and Marketing – I consider myself an experienced marketer, but I have to have always been keen to keep my skills as sharp as possible. This means finding new resources to learn and starting new side projects just to keep myself ahead of the game.
Life-hacks – I enjoy finding new ways to better the quality of my life. This means I’m always on the lookout for ways to be more productive, more energetic, smarter, healthier etc.
Challenges & experiments – I have a lot of ideas and thoughts. I want to use this blog to challenge and test new hypothesis’s in the form of journals.
Others topics – Occasionally I may ramble on about other topics of interest such as football, boxing & London.