There is no shortage of choice when it comes to the ways you can reach new audiences.
Social media, blogging, Facebook advertising, webinar lead gen, speaking, podcast outreach…these are just the tip of the iceberg.
As if the choice of how to spend your time weren’t difficult enough, any of these marketing channels could work for you — as long as you do them consistently.
There is no one right answer, or secret to marketing your work, that once you learn it will change everything for your business.
How do you decide what to spend your time and energy on?
I recently spoke at a conference, where I met Lauren Hom. Lauren is an artist, who makes a living licensing her lettering, teaching online courses, and collaborating with major brands like Starbucks, Google and TIME Magazine.
Lauren has a real passion for launching creative projects, and as an artist, it’s only natural that her work found its natural home on a visual channel like Instagram, where she’s amassed 152,000 followers on her primary account.
Instagram is the ideal place for Lauren to showcase her work and personality. As someone working with brands, it’s important for her to be a social media influencers in her own right.
Hearing this story, you might be tempted to think, “Maybe I need to spend more time on Instagram,” or “It must be nice to have 150K followers! Of course she’s successful!”
But Lauren’s runaway success on Instagram doesn’t really tell you anything about Instagram itself.
The magic was in how Lauren found the right venue for her particular personality and skill set.
If she wasn’t an artist able to create her own images, if she didn’t have an irreverent personality that adds a dash of the unexpected to her medium, and if she weren’t comfortable putting her ideas out there, and sharing what’s going on behind the pretty pictures…
Which marketing channels play to your strengths as a CEO and as a company?
This has all come up for me, because I’ve been forced to re-evaluate what I think about podcasts.
When I first started booking clients podcast interviews two years ago, I was seeing huge traffic bumps from each interview. I was pitching podcasts based on the strength of this traffic — clients were getting 10x the traffic and leads from podcasts than they were getting from guest blog posts and traditional media coverage.
Podcasts still outperform these traditional media channels, but the traffic bump has dropped quite a bit.
So I had to take a hard reckoning.
Could I still in good faith recommend podcast interviews to clients?
This line of inquiry prompted me to review what my clients have told me about the value of their own podcast interviews.
In paying close attention to their feedback, I’ve come to see is that podcasts, like Instagram, are a very specific kind of marketing channel with a very specific set of strengths.
They are amazing for companies in some conditions, but may be a less important channel if none of these apply to you.
What kind of business owner gets the best results with podcasts?
1. When you talk about your business 1-to-1, you have a high close rate.
At the most basic level, what you’re doing on a podcast interview creates a similar set of conditions to 1-to-1 sales. You get an hour to talk to another expert about your work, company structure, and expertise.
If people are routinely sold on your work when you talk about it, podcasts give you the opportunity to have those conversations at scale. You’re still talking 1-to-1 (it’s just you and the host, or in some instances, co-hosts talking), and that conversation is being distributed to thousands of people who are incredibly receptive to hearing what you have to say.
2. You love to have deep, meaningful conversations about your work.
One thing I hear over-and-over again from my PR clients is, “I don’t want to water down my message for the media.”
The challenge with traditional media is that you get, at most, 5-7 minutes in a live interview, or maybe 800 words in a guest post or contribution to a site like Entrepreneur or Fast Company.
There just isn’t space to get into a meaningful discussion about your work.
Even on your blog, where you can write about your topic in depth, only 20 percent of people will read to the end — and these stats are for people who already follow your work.
Compare this to podcast engagement rates, where 35 percent of people who start a podcast interview listen to the entire episode, and 80 percent tune in to most of the episode.
These listeners are typically new to your work, which makes these numbers even more powerful for your company.
Podcasts are the ideal marketing channel, for any CEO who loves to have deep conversations about your work.
3. You want to network with other influencers in your field.
One of the first things you learn running your own business is just how crucial it is to build a strong network.
Other business owners and thought leaders in your industry are an important source of referrals and other partnership opportunities. I’ve had colleagues recommend me for paid speaking gigs, lucrative client projects and even my teaching on CreativeLive!
I cannot overstate this: There is no way I’d have the company I have today without these relationships.
When you go on a podcast as a guest, ultimately what you’re doing is having an hour-long conversation about the work that lights you up to another expert or influencer. It gives you an unparalleled opportunity to cut out months of networking in forming a relationship.
No worrying if they’ll have time to talk with you at a conference, or buttering them up on social media.
You just get to show up and meet them as equals.
4. Referrals are a big revenue source for your company.
The #1 question I get from people who are already lining up interviews for themselves is, “How do I leverage my interviews once they air?”
I know that most people are looking for an answer that helps them use their coverage to draw in and attract more people, so my answer often surprises them.
When you get media coverage of any kind, it’s an opportunity to check in with any open leads.
Your interviews also give your fans and clients an opportunity to share your work with their network. We often forget just how much people want to support our work when they value it. Your interviews give them an opportunity to email a colleague or two, inviting them to get to know you.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully you can see how you can start linking your PR efforts with your sales efforts a little more effectively.
Now, let me reiterate that I’m not saying podcasts are a magic bullet for your business.
There are lots of other marketing channels out there, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Speaking can be amazing if you love being on stage, and want to get paid to generate leads. I’m lukewarm about speaking (although I LOVE panels and workshops), because it is just so much work, but I know many who love it.
Facebook ads are great for people who want to create a consistent formula for churning out leads. But you’re also at the whim of the algorhythm, and with costs rising, I know a lot of people looking to diversify.
The point is that no one channel is perfect — the trick is figuring out which one works with your strengths.
Now that you know a little more about the kinds of companies podcasts work best for, is podcast outreach a good strategy for your company?
Do you ever feel a crazy amount of resistance to something everyone says you should be doing to market your business — but you just can’t bring yourself to get on board?
For me, that point of resistance has long been around social media.
Ever since Twitter started its decline (gosh, 5 years ago now?), I’ve been incredibly resistant to marketing my work on social media.
Give me an opening, and I can give you ALL the reasons why I don’t use social media to market my business.
Just for starters…
- I HATE it when people message me on Facebook instead of emailing me. If you want to reach me, just reply to one of these emails!
- I also find it weird when someone I don’t know sends me a friend request. Why is that a thing?
- Back in the day, I was a low-key lifestyle blogger, who regularly wrote about personal development. Now, the idea of turning my every move into a business metaphor gives me hives.
- My work isn’t consumer focused, so it doesn’t lend itself easily to places like Pinterest or Instagram. I don’t think photos of my cats are going to sell you PR or marketing advice. Actually, on second thought…it probably would!
- The last thing I want to do is share the same-old inspirational quotes you see everywhere. I’m not against those quotes, but I’m not setting out to be a guru or life coach.
When I sit and really look at this list with an open heart and mind, what it tells me is that the typical formula for social media marketing feels like the absolute least authentic way for me to communicate.
As a writer, I already have a tendency to narrate my life as I’m living it. I don’t care to feed that tendency by taking the things I do for myself — things like hiking or political canvassing — and turning them into marketing lessons.
For the longest time, I couldn’t think of another way to engage, especially in a space like Instagram.
I’m much more comfortable sitting down and writing an email, because I feel like I can be fully myself and not adopt a persona for likes.
I will probably always feel that email is where I show up best, and yet, I’ve also had a breakthrough that has completely transformed how I think and feel about social.
I’ve come to realize that I’ve been thinking about social all wrong…
For most people, social media is a discovery tool. It’s a way to spread your content and your work to more people.
But I’ve come to realize that the way I use social media is to deepen relationships.
There are two recent events that flipped this switch for me.
First up was my realization that I’m constantly advising my clients to share their PR wins, not to reach more people, but to energize the tribe they’ve already gathered.
After YEARS of giving this advice, it finally dawned on me.
I was not practicing what I preached…
That’s when I decided to start sharing more of my client’s press coverage, on the blog, in email but also on Instagram.
The second event was starting to tune into Instagram stories more, and messaging with friends and clients.
There is one client in particular, where a lot of our communication is through Instagram!
In my own company, I talk about how our remote team needs to work extra hard to create “watercooler moments” — spontaneous gathering points like you’d typically see play out in an office. For the past month, I’ve realized that Instagram messages & stories are playing this spontaneous, light-hearted role for my clients and me.
It’s deepening our relationship, now that not every conversation is specifically about the work or a deliverable.
I’m still pretty sporadic on Instagram, but if you’d like to connect over there with me, I’m @brigittelyons.
I won’t even complain if you show up in my messages. 😉
I’ve been doing some deep thinking about how social media might become more integrated into the marketing strategy we do for our clients, but in the meantime, I invite you to reflect on the role social media plays in your business.
How do you feel about social media? Do you use it for your business at all? Is your focus on discovery or depth — or both?
When you look at the data, there is no question that blogging, aka publishing content consistently on your own website, is a non-negotiable for small businesses and nonprofits that want to make it online.
This is because blogging regularly has a disproportionately high return on traffic and lead generation for micro businesses (companies with 10 or fewer employees).
And yet, I still get pushback from clients when I tell them they should be blogging more.
Today I want to address the most common objections head on, because if you’re not blogging at least once a week, you are losing revenue.
On the flip side, if you start blogging twice a week or more, you greatly increase your chances of attracting more customers.
So let’s knock down those roadblocks, shall we?
1. There’s no point in blogging until I build an audience.
This first misconception is the most common one I hear, and it stems from a fundamental misunderstanding in how a blog builds your business.
I think the challenge is that blogging doesn’t build your audience overnight. Instead, it’s a slow burn that provides cumulative benefits over time.
First, simply by producing content, you’re doing SEO…even if you don’t understand how SEO works.
The specifics of search engine optimization (helping your site show up in relevant searches) may change, but the fundamentals remain the same. Google, and other search engines, prioritize websites that produce regular, relevant content.
If you’re producing content for your audience, you’re going to get SEO benefits.
These benefits don’t show up overnight, which is why so many small business marketers get discouraged. It can take 6 months to see the bump in traffic you want, from producing content alone. But if you’re not creating content, your search rankings aren’t going to go anywhere.
Second, your blog gives your growing audience a reason to share your site on social media.
If you want your audience, no matter what the size, to promote your work to their network, you have to give them something to share.
Think about it. Have you ever seen someone just link to a company’s home page on Facebook, and not a specific blog post?
It’s pretty rare.
Every time you publish a piece of content, you’re giving your readers a fresh chance to share your site. Combined with the SEO benefits, these one-off shares add up to a lot of traffic over the course of a year.
A blog isn’t just something you do once you have traffic, it’s something you do to grow your traffic.
2. I only need to blog when I release a product or have something to sell.
I used to have a boss who said the trick to effective marketing is reminding people you existed in precisely the moment they need what you have to offer.
There’s something to that. You don’t ask your friends to refer a plumber until the toilet breaks down.
Blogging gives your audience a reason to stick around and remember you, even if they don’t need you that exact moment.
And in the meantime, you’re able to deliver value to them time-and-time again, so when they do, they know exactly who to call. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to build trust with your audience if you’re not delivering value on the regular.
By far, the easiest and cheapest way for you to do that as a small business marketer is to produce content.
3. No one cares about my story / I don’t have anything to say.
Maybe you know you should be blogging, but you don’t know what to share.
I totally get that — in many ways, blogging is message testing in real time. Because I promise you, you can’t think your way into a perfect strategy or platform. You have to put content out and see what resonates.
When you’re first starting out, it’s especially hard to go it alone, because you don’t get a lot of feedback. It takes a little time before you build enough of an audience to get any clear signal of what’s working.
If you’d love to get prompts, writing tips and promotional strategies for your blog , Megan Auman and I are taking a cohort through our live program 50 Day Blog Boost. You can get more info on the program right here.
Here is what helps me figure out what to write about. I bring to mind a specific person, maybe someone I talked to in a coaching call or exchanged a couple of emails with, and write a piece of content I think they’ll need.
It’s always better to write with one specific person in mind than try to reach the crowd. Ultimately what you want to do with your marketing is attract a ton of folks with similar qualities that make them a great fit for your work. So writing for one person who you know is a good fit is a great way to do that.
In fact, I’m doing it right now. :-)
4. I don’t need to blog, because I post on social media.
We’ve already talked about how blog content gives your audience a reason to share your website.
But there’s another reason you should be reluctant to give all your time and effort to social media.
You don’t own that content. People could move on from Twitter, Facebook could shut your page down without warning, or Vine could get shut down.
Wait, all of these things are happening…
Your content is way too valuable to invest in someone else’s property.
That’s why I advocate that you position your website as the hub of all your content. Social media channels are valuable promotion tools, but they shouldn’t be given ownership of your best content.
Are you reading this list and feeling motivated to start blogging every week?
If you need a little help and extra push to get going, Megan Auman and I are running our 50 Day Blog Boost program.
For 6 weeks starting January 9th, we’ll be giving a blog prompt, writing tip and promotional strategy, so you can make blogging a habit, improve your writing skills and promote your content.
With our support, you get the information and accountability you need to make blogging a weekly habit.
Registration is open now for the 50 Day Blog Boost. You can check out the full program details at www.50dayblogboost.com.