TL;DR – Ok, so the post is mostly on how content marketing resurrected my career. And yeah, I made a ton of money from it – mostly for my boss 🙂 I am now on Upwork too – and landed two gigs in my first month! Doing what? Content marketing of course!
I used to fix holes in firewalls. And do all sort of other geeky tech stuff. I still do when our network decides it’s gonna make me earn my pay cheque.
Tech has its moments. But spending long hours in chilled, windowless server rooms – up to a point where the purring chassis fans sound like a strange kind of music, you know it’s time to get out.
Luckily my company needed someone to revamp our online strategy.
And so I found my ‘calling’ in life as a content marketer. Every day brings a new opportunity or idea to explore. In the eyes of the uninitiated, I play around on the internet all day. But that’s the playing field of the world today, ain’t it? You better know how to swim online. It’s where the world meets, talks and transacts.
Online success doesn’t come easy, though! No sooner do you get complacent, than an upstart competitor is ready to take over. That’s why I have an SEO hat. Are we still number 1? Who’s the up and coming new kid on the block? These are questions on my mind. Mercy to the poor soul who attempts to capture my Google rank. “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger…” and all that stuff! Seriously, though – Content is your friend here. Publish epic pieces, and you’re Mrs Google’s bestie.
The motor industry is another hotbed of competition. We usually set the trend with our deals, and a week or two later, the other dealers follow suit. Systems are critical here. Basic things like adjusting prices or adding new vehicles on the site have to be followed up. I put up a chart behind me with four boxes for each week. At a glance, I can see if we’re on schedule or missed a check.
Now, what if you have incredible traffic to your site, but the leads aren’t coming? (This happened to me by the way) Well maybe the enquiry form is confusing, or the visitors just don’t dig the submit button. Or the text is too small on mobile. You get the picture. There’s a term for that too! Conversion Rate Optimisation.
Lastly, my favourite hat of all. Delivering stunning content to our reader. All at once now, say – “Content Marketing!”
Still, it doesn’t end there!
No no, the game doesn’t end with the lead. Leads don’t pay bills – sales do.
In a large corporate company, you can get away with getting the lead. Your job ends here and responsibility passes over to sales or lower down the marketing funnel.
But here I am ‘marketing’. There’s nobody else to pass the buck to. So I need to be versatile, which sometimes means stepping out of my comfort zone.
It’s not what I signed up for, but looking back today, I’m happy to have gone through the many stretches.
Here are my favourite ways that content marketing has impacted my career.
1. Meeting New People
Online leads are real walking, talking people. Once they’re happy with the pricing and have decided on a car, the next step is to visit the dealership. Now comes the awkward ‘face-to-the-voice’ moment. Not that I wasn’t comfortable meeting people, but more that I wasn’t prepared. “So what’s the towing capacity of this truck?” or “What’s the difference between the GL & the GX models?”
Say “uhmm..” and you risk losing trust instantly.
After a few uncomfortable encounters, I decided to take matters into my own hands. So now I have a cheat sheet with answers to the most common questions. I also committed to myself, that every day I would make at least ONE sales call. I’m still to get consistency here, but the important thing is, it’s on my mind.
Humbling? Yes. Problem solved? Getting there!
2. Deliver Your Promise
Ever get over your head in an email auto-responder series? You know when you say, “We’re different. I will personally ensure your deal is given top priority.” Or something along those lines.
The thing is – it’s easy to make bold promises in an email sequence, but even easier to ignore it when a customer takes you up. Especially when the customer replies with a complaint smack in the middle of a hectic Monday morning.
I was determined to live by my email words! So when a customer replies to say, she hasn’t received her quote requested 2 days ago – I get up from my chair and kick up the storm I promised.
It’s not always easy. Customers can be demanding and at times, downright rude. But I choose to focus on my promise and then deliver on it. Otherwise, my emails are empty words on a screen.
3. Get Sales to Play The Game
Salespeople have it tough. You’ve gotta pick up the phone, even if you’re about to catch a Pokemon (or sip a fresh brew of Arabica coffee). There’s no time to pick yourself up on a rough Monday morning. The customer sits at your desk, demanding immediate attention. #Respect!
So…they tend to gloss over many leads. Especially the ones that need more TLC (tender loving care). I don’t blame them. I really do understand where they’re coming from. But I needed them to convert my leads; as many as possible.
I learned early on that I cannot email the lead notification and expect the sale to fall in place. You get a customer like that every now and then. She sends the lead, we call, agree on price, money in the bank and DELIVER. Everyone’s dream customer!
But for the most part, you need to sweat for every conversion. So that’s where I got to learn basic people skills. Grab a cup of coffee, sit with a colleague and share a few stories. Then in between, I’ll ask to go through their CRM pipeline and review each lead.
Caffeine overdose? A little. Better relationships? Yeah!
4. Be a Trainer
Anyone here needs CRM advice? I almost feel like an expert on CRM’s. We’ve tried em all. Zoho, Highrise, Pipelinedeals and now, PipeDrive.
We ran on Zoho for years. But recently our currency took a beating against the dollar. And at $40 per user, the cost of staying on Zoho kept on increasing. So I eventually migrated the team onto PipeDrive. It’s only $12 per user. And the sales “pipeline” view is a great feature which Zoho lacked.
New CRM’s mean new training.
Not a comfortable experience for someone with public speaking jitters. But I needed the team to fully understand the system, so we could use it to increase conversions.
How’d it go? Great actually. Once you get over the initial nervousness of addressing a group, the thrill of being the centre of attention kicks in. And it feels great to share inspiring stories with other people and help them grow with you.
Come to think about it – I need to book myself into a Toastmasters group!
5. Prove my ROI
Content marketing is a dream job – Until the Director asks you how much money you brought in! Uhh..numbers? Dollars? And no, the financial dudes are not interested in your unique visitor count or re-tweets.
They wanna know one thing, and one thing only:
Show me the money!
“But I know it works, cos our customers tell me they love reading my emails!”
That’s as good as saying, you shouldn’t be fired because you care about polar bears. (No offence Greenpeace!)
You get the gist, right?
So you need to follow the visits, re-tweets and likes’ paper trail all the way to the bank.
Surely some of those awesome fans bought something?
Hence I make super sure any lead that enters our CRM points to a source. Some of it can be automated. Sometimes it’s manual. But it’s critical to have a lead tied to a source.
Just FYI, when my Director recently asked me to prove my ROI, I was able to pull out every online deal won, work out the profit and show him MY MONEY!
And I lived to tell another tale.
So What About The Stash of Money Made?
I can’t disclose the figures we made as a business. But I’ll show you something else. Of course, I believe I’m more valuable to my employer as a marketer than just an IT engineer.
In most companies, IT is seen as a necessary evil. We know we need the infrastructure to operate, but the costs are mostly perceived as an expense, not an investment.
Well, in marketing I am able to add real value. I can account for the money invested online. We spent $10 and made back $100. Simple math and as a result, you’re instantly more valuable as an employee.
Here’s the thing. I needed to prove to myself that the skills I learned were valuable outside of my job, in the real world. In today’s hyperlinked world there really is no excuse. All you need is a laptop, an internet connection and your imagination. But knowing where to start, is a dilemma for which for there isn’t any clear cut answers. You’re gonna have to hit and miss a few times until something sticks.
There’s an extraordinary thrill seeing real money cross continents, traverse deep-sea cables and into your bank account!
I forever thought it was impossible for me. After speaking to few people on this phenomenal entrepreneurship training site, Fizzle, it wasn’t long before my long-held myths were shattered.
Making My First Online Dollar
In a nutshell, I posted a plea for advice on making my first online dollar. You see, membership to the site costs about $35/month. Worth every cent! But after currency conversions, it totals about R500 here in South Africa. So I needed a return on my investment, and fast…
The awesome Fizzlers (as they are called) chipped in with a variety of ideas. Prior to my Fizzle forum post, I was convinced my fortune would come by building an ad-revenue niche website. Deep down it’s still something I’d love to do. (Confused? Read this post on building money-making niche sites)
But the Fizzlers advised that it’ll be easier to get consulting experience under my belt and break the ‘first dollar’ barrier.
I was hooked. I followed Danny’s tips on creating an Upwork profile that sounded like a human as opposed to a robot (resume style bullet list of skills). And I pitched for jobs on copywriting and content creation – stuff I was already doing.
It wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I had plenty of doubts as the first few pitches met with dead silence. But after roughly 10 pitches I got a response! An Australian performance coach, needed an email autoresponder done for her audio product. We chatted a little about the job before I got the green light.
I alternated between nervousness and more doubts on whether I could deliver. Then I just hunkered down and got working. Two days later – my first dollar!
I write this out of gratitude and not pride. I made a couple hundred dollars in my first month. And it feels unbelievable. There’s nothing like jumping into the deep end, crushing limiting beliefs I held for so long. I am so excited for the future, now more confident that there are real people willing to pay for my skills!
So that’s it for now. Let us know the journey to your first online dollar. Or if you’d like to know more on breaking into Upwork. Whatever, I’d love to hear from you…
It was a cold and wet day in Durban today. The perfect day to stay indoors with a good book and a steaming pot of filter coffee for company.
I had none of that luck, though. We needed a trip to the mall to buy a pair of tekkies (sneakers in S.A. speak) for my little daughter. Not wanting to surrender to the miserable day, I left without freshening up and resembled a scurvy sailor, back from a 6-month long expedition.
My wife ran the errands at the mall, while I waited in the car, away from any sign of human life. I dozed off, partly due to the gloomy weather, and was woken up about 30 minutes later, by a knock on the window.
It was my wife, accompanied by a young lady, eager to tell us that we stood a chance of winning a week-long getaway at an exotic hotel – all we had to do was scratch some cards. Even though the odds heavily favoured me scratching a winning combination, as this was obviously a set-up, I somehow managed to miss the jackpot. My wife, though, hit the 777, to which the lady exclaimed: “Are you always this lucky?!”
She tried to bundle us into the nearby Palm Hotel to sign some papers and claim our prize. I wanted nothing more than getting back to my warm bed, as quick as possible, so I politely shooed her away and sped off.
That got me thinking: Surely a classy 5-star hotel could come up with a better campaign to market itself?
We’re in the new millennium! People just don’t market like that anymore. And then I tried to figure out what exactly irked me about the lady’s proposal. It dawned on me that it was down to this:
Yes, the pitch was totally out of context. I was NOT in a holiday mood. Neither was I in a state to even pretend to be excited about winning some pseudo prize.
But that’s exactly how most traditional methods of advertising works. Billboards, bright digital signs, television and radio ads. The list goes on.
You’re trying to watch your favourite show, and keep getting interrupted by an ad trying to tell you how this latest formula “keeps whites whiter, and brights brighter.”
This mentality is so antiquated! It’s one of the reasons I hardly switch on the radio while driving. I much rather listen to an audiobook or a podcast. I can consume the content, that most interests me at this point in my life.
Which brings me to the topic of this post.
Long Live The Mighty Email
Email may be the dinosaur of the internet, at 44 years old! But it’s still one of the most effective marketing channels at our disposal. Yes, email in the wrong hands can be just as interruptive!
But I’m not referring to the shotgun approach of broadcast emails most companies send out. I’m talking about personalised opt-in emails, going out to people genuinely interested in your content. This is at the heart of inbound marketing.
It’s not for the lazy marketer. You will need to first understand your customer – what’s referred to as a “buyer persona.” Once you’ve nailed your ideal buyer’s persona, with her goals and frustrations, you will have a good idea of the content to create. You don’t need to be pitching your product in every piece of content. Just being there, and being helpful, is earning you valuable brownie points. And when your buyer is finally ready for your product, you will have a valuable foothold in their imagination. Or inbox.
So if you’re ready to send out the kind of emails I’m talking about, here’s why the humble email should STILL be one of your main marketing platforms.
- There are 4.3 billion email accounts that send 196 billion emails every day
- 91% of consumers check their email daily
- Email is a channel that you own
- 77% of consumers prefer email for marketing communications
- Email lets you be highly personal
- Email has a marketing ROI of 4,300%
The last point alone is mind-blowing. For every R1 you spend on email marketing, you should get R43 back!
You do the math. But it’s like most other things in life: What you put in, is what you’ll get out of it. If you need to learn more about developing your buyer persona’s or sending out emails that people love, check out the Hubspot Academy’s FREE Inbound Marketing course. There is a ton of awesome video clips on creating your persona’s and the importance of segmenting your email list so that you send relevant emails to your subscribers.
Let me know in the comments about your favourite marketing platforms, and the reason you chose it!