Every Thursday evening from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade entrepreneurs sell more products and make more money. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners and artisans who make handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
Yesterday's chat was sponsored by Bramble Berry, soapmaking equipment, fragrance oils, classes, videos and more!
Our topic was Ten Steps To An Efficient, Effective Content Marketing System. Our guest was, well, moi! Here are some of my best tips for creating a content marketing system to help your business grow.
Q1 WHAT IS CONTENT MARKETING AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Marketing activities communicate the things of value that your business has to offer. Content marketing is a type of marketing that uses content created by you and sometimes, by others to communicate your value. Yes, that FaceBook “share” button comes in handy sometimes.
The content you create will drive traffic to your site, improve search engine optimization and, over time, convert visitors into buyers.
Think of sharing content is an exchange. You give your audience content, and your audience gives you attention.
Q2 YOU SAY WE CAN APPROACH THIS TOPIC IN TEN STEPS. WHAT ARE STEPS 1 AND 2?
Step 1 is to know what it is you want to sell, and Step 2 is to know to whom you want to sell it. This is critical. Knowing who you want to buy your products directs the kind of content you create.
For example, if you sell handmade jewelry, who are you selling it to? Teens? Baby boomers? Single women? Men? Likewise, if you sell handmade lip balm, who is buying it? This question must be answered as part of the business planning process. If you know who you are selling to, you can target your content creation efforts to things they are interested in.
Q3 WHAT DO YOU DO AFTER YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SELLING AND TO WHOM?
Step 3 is to decide what tools you will use to host the content you share. You have several options. (Don't become overwhelmed by the options. Know what they are, and know that you have to use more than one. But you don't have to start out using more than one. Assess options, then choose.)
Common content marketing tools that work well for handmade entrepreneurs are email newsletters, blogs, FaceBook, YouTube. Blogs are great. They are practically free, Google loves them, they are easy to update, and they link to all of your social properties. Blogs can incorporate text, still photos, videos, slideshows, Flickr feeds and more. If you don't have a blog, get one.
For handmade entrepreneurs, YouTube is great because you can use video to show off your colorful products. FaceBook is superb for engagement. It's fast and easy to create conversations. Publish your blog post links and videos there.
This is a critical point: Use FaceBook, Twitter, etc., but your core content outlets should be owned by you.
Q4 WHAT IS STEP 4 TO CREATING A CONTENT MARKETING SYSTEM?
Step 4 is to be aware of and respond to concerns of your target customers. What matters to them? How can you enhance their lives? As you reach out to people, they will ask questions, tell you what they need, and share what concerns them. Use that information to create content.
For example, if you make cosmetics and customers are concerned about dry skin, blog about ingredients that help dry skin. If you make jewelry and customers are concerned about matching gemstone colors to skin tones, blog about that.
Create relevant videos, text, photographs that help your customers, and they will begin to look to you for help. You can also share content created by others via FaceBook, Twitter, etc., to help your target customer see your value.
Q5 YOU SAY STEP 5 IS TO PUBLISH YOUR CONTENT ACCORDING TO A CALENDAR OR SCHEDULE?
Yes. Once you know what you're selling, to whom, have content platform, know concerns, create your editorial calendar. This is vital, so you are organized and not overwhelmed. Choose what you'll start with (email, blog …), and create a calendar.
For example, my calendar includes publishing an email newsletter on Sunday, publish a social site update on Tuesday, publish a #HandmadeChat blog post like this one on Friday. I do other things, but you get the idea. They are all on an editorial calendar and my team and I stick to that.
We also change it when necessary. The point is to have a system and then adjust it as needed to accommodate emergencies or shifts in your business.
By the way, we often use Google calendar to maintain the schedule. The whole team has access to it, so if anyone is out sick or can't get to something, someone else can fill in the gaps.
If you are a solopreneur, you'll have to take that into account and be more flexible if something has to be missed. Yes, there are times when you'll have to skip it altogether, but if you do that, skip it once, not twice or three time. Get back to your schedule as soon as possible.
Q6 ONCE YOU CREATE CONTENT, HOW CAN IT CONTINUE TO WORK FOR YOU?
I love this question, because it highlights the power of the Internet. Good content never dies. It works for you forever! Once you create a blog post that helps your customers today, it will also be helpful to your customers next year. By way of demonstration, many of the posts linked in this post were written two years ago and they are still relevant today.
You can turn a text post into a video. You can turn a video into a podcast, a still photo into a slide show, etc. You can turn a series of blog posts into an e-book, which you can sell or give away in exchange for more customer contacts.
Content is a red carpet invitation to view the products and services you offer. It's intellectual property too, which increases the value of your business!
Q7 HOW ELSE CAN YOU MAKE CONTENT WORK FOR YOU INTO THE FUTURE?
Step 7 is to make your content shareable. Make it as easy as possible for people to share. Do this by including social sharing options, like Tweet and FaceBook links. Make it easy for people to comment. Post your content to Twitter so people can ReTweet it. Post to FaceBook so people can share. There's nothing wrong with asking your close friends to help you share as well. (Don't overdo …)
If you make content shareable, people will share it months and years after you create it. This is extremely powerful because the content will drive fresh traffic to you, without you having to do anything fresh.
Content lays the groundwork for the sale long before people even get to your website! More about that in The Sale Is Made Before People Get To Your Website.
Q8 ONCE PEOPLE ARE SHARING MY CONTENT AND DRIVING TRAFFIC TO MY SITE, WHAT DO I DO?
Step 8 is where the money part comes in; where you convert the new traffic to buyers. Welcome onlookers. Embrace them, show them how you can serve them, and make their lives better. Doing this builds trust, and the onlookers begin to seek you out for more information. When the information is good and they trust you, they'll want to know how you can help them beyond providing information, and a natural sales ecosystem develops.
Maintain this by using the calendar we discussed above.
Q9 OK, I'VE CREATED CONTENT FOR A WHILE, AND I HAVE A SYSTEM. HOW DOES THIS GENERATE SALES?
Glad you asked! Step 9 is to follow these steps and let your customers will tell you what drew them to you. Natural opportunities to ask them will come up. Use surveys, and phone calls to ask your customers questions. They will tell you how they heard about you.
If a customer says they heard about you via a FaceBook conversation you started, then do more of that. If a customer finds you through a blog post they discovered through a search engine, then the blog posts are working. If a customer forwards you email newsletter to a friend, and that friend makes a purchase, well, publish more of them!
Pay attention to where sales come from and do that more. If a content marketing strategy does not lead to sales, stop doing it.
Q10 WHAT IF I DON'T WANT TO CREATE CONTENT? CAN'T I JUST BUY ADS?
A10a Another great question. And Step 10 is to assess your other options and weave them into your content marketing system.
Ads are great, but most #handmade biz can't afford to buy enough ads to create a profitable sales stream. The best option is to combine a reasonable amount of advertising with content marketing, and then leverage the two for power and depth.
Business is changing because customer preferences are changing. People don't respond to ads like they once did. As a handmade entrepreneur, create content that develops relationships with onlookers. They'll become first-time customers, and they loyal repeat buyers and evangelists.
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat is not yet scheduled. Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime, you can enjoy all of our prior #HandmadeChat posts here at the blog!
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