Inbound

Building an Audience Before Building Your Small Business

If it’s true  what Jim Rohn says, that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” then I am feeling pretty good about myself.

I have been lucky recently to spend time with a number of fellow entrepreneurs at early stages of their dreams. Some were close friends and family - others are new friends and new business. All of them impressive and inspiring.

I have found myself discussing a variety of business plans with varied leaders. Two newlyweds taking steps toward opening a locally sourced food and wine business on Long Island. Another the co-founder of a Charleston, SC based brewery. Another a distiller and expert on Korean Whiskys planning his own Brooklyn based brand. The last is an innovative furniture maker in the midst of raising a series A in New York.

These are all vastly different businesses that I felt emphatically compelled to give the same advice: Begin building your audience before you begin building your business!

People tend to humbly and quietly go about their planning, waiting until they are farther along and can more thoroughly prove themselves. But the smart move - and the brave move - is to take a risk by putting yourself out there much sooner.

Start interacting and building trust with the audience your business will serve. Learn what they like, what they want to know, and what they need to know. Then start giving it to them.

Launch a blog, or a video blog. Start a podcast or make series of educational videos. Host a webinar or interview an industry expert. Write - take pictures - network - design - create - share… Whatever!

Just honestly and vulnerably share what you know and love with people. That inspires excitement, trust and eventually loyalty. The sooner you start the better off you will be.

I have been giving this advice so much that it was clear I needed to write it down. Here are some of the benefits to beginning to build an audience before you are ready to open your new business.

Develop the habit

Creating a habit of content creation is a real challenge. Start developing that muscle as soon as possible.

Get in a mindset where every part of your journey is viewed as a content generation opportunity. Everything you learn - every challenge you face - every connection you make - All can be an inspiration to create something interesting and helpful.

People think they will immediately begin pumping out great content when their business launches… It doesn’t work that way. You need to cultivate the habit of creating and sharing until its part of your identity.

Get to know your audience

You will learn about your audience as you build it. The process of building that relationship will teach you what your audience responds to, who influences them and what they need.

You will be in a much better position to design and sell your product when you better understand your target customers.

Steepen your learning curve

Immersing yourself in the audience development process speeds up the rate at which you learn all sorts of things.

You’ll be researching posts, sharing data, interacting with people, meeting influencers, answering questions, finding new distribution channels, testing tactics and much more. Content creation puts you in the role of teacher and teaching is often the best way to learn.

All that work naturally increases the pace of your own learning. As an entrepreneur you need to be learning as much as possible and audience development can be a key driver.

Hone your message

Creating content for your audience is a great way to continually hone your messaging.

As a small business or startup owner, you likely won’t have a team of top copywriters to start. You will need to work exceptionally hard to develop messaging that will resonate with customers.

They say “if you want to be a better writer… write!” Committing to building an audience will force you to practice your craft and hone your messaging in time for your business to benefit.

Reach early adopters

A new business needs to be strategic about who they are targeting at each stage of their growth. Beginning your audience development at the earliest stages can help your reach the all-important early adopters.

The broad-market customer you may target when you are established is precisely the wrong group to target at the earliest stages. That’s because a broad-market customer won’t consider an unproven new option - they won’t consider you.

However, there is a small portion of the market comprised of early adopters that want to be first to try something new. This group will also be interested in your struggle to build something new.

The story of your entrepreneurial journey may catch the attention of this early adopter customer. And that customer type is the single most important factor in the early success or failure of your business.

As your business grows, the early adopter crowd will lose interest in you because you are no longer the hot new thing. But by then you are a proven entity which is now attractive to the broad-market audience that ignored you in the beginning.

Use content as a networking tool

Becoming a content creator can be a great way to support your in-person networking efforts.

Successful networking can be vital to the planning process of your business. Whether you are raising funding, looking for a co-founder, recruiting early employees, or prospecting for your first clients - you need to be taken seriously.

But it can be difficult to establish your expertise in the early days when you don’t have an established business - or even a business card and website.

Pointing to content you have created gives something tangible to showcase your expertise and make you memorable. Having a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, or some other creative output can really help bolster your credibility.

Head start on SEO

Getting a jump on content creation is going to provide you with a big SEO advantage when it comes time to actually launch your business website.

Google values unique, relevant, frequently posted content above all else. Quality is the most important factor but it is unrealistic to believe that quantity has no impact.

The majority of new small business websites launch with only a handful of pages - which makes sense. Your site should be easy to navigate and should focus only on what is most important.

But if you are able to tie in an existing blog - or other resources like video, infographics, podcasts, etc - you add additional content without distracting users. In fact, it will improve the user experience - which is what search engines reward.

Don’t worry if you don’t know your eventual company’s name or have its domain. The majority of any SEO value you gain can be passed to your site later using 301 redirects or canonical tags.

Your business will have a big advantage at launch if you have already built a treasure trove of content.

Build a photography collection

Building your community will have the side effect of forcing you to develop your own photo library.

Getting attention online generally requires great images to pair with your written work. Your posts will perform far better with a visual to help tell your story.

Getting in the habit of producing content will also get you in the habit of collecting great photos. I have written in the past about the importance of building your business photography collection.

Start producing content and you will likely become your company’s first photographer without even trying.

Build while you still can

Another advantage to building audience before launching your business: you don’t have the distraction of running your business.

The best marketing is a great product or service. I recommend you remain exceptionally focused on design and execution in the early days.

That won’t leave much time for building an audience. You will be distracted from developing your product - or you won’t have an audience to tell when the product is ready.

An audience-first approach allows for extreme product focus at launch. When the product is just right, you’ll already have loyal fans eager to hear about it.

SUMMARY

  • Begin cultivating an audience long before you launch your new business
  • Don’t wait until you are ready - Take a risk and just start creating and sharing
  • Develop a habit of being an “always-on” content creator
  • Start learning about your audience by interacting with them
  • Force yourself onto a steeper learning curve
  • Craft, test, iterate and improve your messaging before the pressure is on
  • Reach early adopters by sharing your journey as an entrepreneur
  • Use your content to accelerate your early SEO results
  • Use content creation as the impetus to build your own photography collection

How to Apply Inbound Marketing Principles to Networking

The beauty of inbound marketing is that if you execute well, you can truly build a lead generation machine. So, could you apply inbound marketing principles to networking and build a relationship generating machine? When you think about it, the parallels between inbound marketing and effective networking are quite strong.

The key there is “effective” networking. I don’t mean the process of showing up at a networking event, plastering the room with your business card, and aggressively pitching your skills and your company with an “Always be closing” mentality. Come to think if it, that reminds me a lot of traditional advertising.

When I talk about networking I mean steadily and strategically building mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded people.

Building a new relationship – not an acquaintance – takes time and energy which means you can’t cast a very wide net. You need to be strategic about where you devote your time. That relationship must be carefully nurtured from a first introduction so a rapport can be built. You need to show the person how you can be valuable to them without coming on so strong that you scare them off. And you need to tactfully develop a dynamic that is valuable to each of you.

Those truths apply to networking just as they do for inbound marketing. So how can we apply some of the time-tested principles of inbound marketing to strengthen our approach to networking?

In this post I’ll look at how the inbound marketing methodology - Attract, Convert, Close, Delight - can be harnessed to help develop a robust and valuable professional network.

Define Your Purpose

You need to develop concrete goals to drive your networking plans, just as you would in developing a marketing plan.

Those goals need to be long term and reasonably specific. Waiting until you’re in the midst of a job hunt or until your company is behind on revenue goals means you’ll be too focused on the short term to build real relationships. You’ll seem desperate – and desperation is remarkably reliable repellant.

In addition to planning ahead, you need to have an end goal in mind. Simply networking because it seems like you should will leave you untargeted and dispassionate.

Personally, I’m trying to accomplish a few specific things with my networking. First, I generally want to be a valuable resource to as many people as possible. The more times people think or say, “Sam could probably help with that,” the more I’ll be involved in interesting stuff – both personally and professionally. My own skills and knowledge are only so scalable, so for the times that I can’t be the expert, I want to make sure that I know somebody that is an expert. “I’m not sure if Sam knows about that but I’m sure he’ll know somebody that does.” I’ll take it!

Second, I want to be part of a support network of people with similar passions and goals. When I have a big failure or a big success I want to be able to go regroup or celebrate with peers that will understand. When I’m debating a decision I want to call on a mentor with more experience to help me think it through. And I also want to be a resource for other people – both because it’s good karma and because, selfishly, it makes me feel good.

Knowing what I’m after while networking allows me to filter and devote my energy to the relationships that will be most valuable.

Does this person have a valuable skill that is complementary to mine? Would this person benefit from my expertise? Does this person have similar passions and goals to me? If I can’t give a strong yes to any of those questions, it’s probably a waste of time for both of us.

Develop Target Personas

A tremendously important step of developing an inbound marketing plan is developing your buyer personas. You likely already have a vague sense of your target customers. But the exercise of defining detailed personas helps you better understand the subgroups and develop strategies to connect with each.

The same goes for networking. Once you’ve established your broader networking mission, put a semi-fictional face on the types of people you want in your network. Some personas will be in your industry and could be more senior, more junior, or at your level. Others will be in different industries but have complimentary skills, shared interests or shared experiences.

For instance, I’m on the agency side so one target persona of mine describes a marketing services professional at another agency. They perform similar services but for a different type of client. We have a lot in common with our day to day and can commiserate or share tactics.

At the same time, I’m also really interested in early stage technology startups. The folks there tend to be adventurous, tech savvy and always looking for the next big thing. Relationships like that help me stay on the front end of change. And I can be valuable to them because I spent years running an analyst group at a fast growing, mid-stage startup that was scaling rapidly and recently had an IPO. We aren’t working in the same professional sphere but there is a lot to be shared between us.

My approach and preparation for these two targets is quite different. Defining them carefully helps develop a plan to make connections with each.

Think About Your Funnel

Try thinking about the process of building relationships the same way you would think about your sales funnel.

The top of your funnel is the stage where you first making contact and catch the attention of a new acquaintance. Think of it as the Attract phase of the inbound methodology – Attract,  Convert, Close, Delight

In the middle of your funnel you’ll begin to develop a rapport and convert from being somebody they’ve met to somebody they know. This is where you begin to provide value to one another and a trusting relationship is just starting to begin.

Late in your funnel, the stage that might be closing a first sale in an inbound marketing funnel, is where you turn that professional relationship into a professional friendship. You’ve established trust with one another and have proven the relationship is valuable to you both.

And in the final stages, you’ve each found the relationship so delightful that it no longer feels like just a work buddy – there is a friendship that is personal as well as professional.

Top of Funnel Networking

The top of the funnel is where you start your networking process but, unfortunately for many, it often stops here and never moves to a more meaningful stage.

Top of funnel networking activities are things like attending a networking event and introducing yourself to somebody. Friending someone or messaging them via social media. Shooting an email to someone you saw in an interview.

The first step is to establish whether there is a basis for a relationship at all. Do they meet some criteria in your target personas? If so, you then need to give them the information they need to decide the same thing.

If they’ve caught your attention in some way, tell them and give a compliment. “I read you’re blog post about x and I was totally sucked in” or “I’ve been following your company for a while. You seem like you’re onto something.”

Demonstrating your interest invites their attention and helps alleviate any reservations they may have about whether you’re interested in what they have to say.

Also, give a bit of information about yourself - but keep it brief. It’s not time for your 15 sentence elevator pitch because they haven’t demonstrated that they’re interested yet. “I help companies develop their web presence and develop content marketing strategy. I’m also kind of a startup junkie in my spare time.”

Look for signs that they are interested in hearing more. Are they asking follow up questions? Are they telling you something they think may be relevant to you? If so, share more about what you do and what you’re passionate about. Just make sure you’re also demonstrating that you are interested in them… provided you are.

If that interest level isn’t mutual, don’t continue to waste time. You need to focus on the people that share interests with you. Building relationships takes time so you can’t do it with everybody. Focus your attention on the interactions that seem most promising.

Transitioning to Mid-Funnel

The key to moving into the next stage of your funnel is to begin some sort of exchange.

In order for a relationship to be meaningful, the give and take needs to go both ways. So start thinking about some things you can give to and get from your contact.

In inbound marketing you might be offering premium content like a whitepaper in exchange for their contact information. In networking the exchange may be more subtle.

It should start really small. You don’t go from a first introduction to picking each other up at the airport or helping with an office move… Any Seinfeld fans out there?

A good thing to offer or ask for early on is a recommendation. “I just read a great book about that. I can text you the title if you’re interested.” “There is a new startup out of Boston that’s working on a tool for that. I’ll email you a link if you want.”

A simple recommendation is also small enough that you can ask for it from someone you don’t know well. If you’re at a conference you could ask “Are there any sessions you’re excited about and would recommend?” or “I’m really trying to figure out XYZ, is there anybody you can think of that I should try to speak with?”

Plus, if you take the advice, it’s a perfect follow up. “I read that book you recommended and it was awesome. I’m going to read X by that author next. Have you read that?”

Once you have begun an exchange, it’s easier to start ratcheting up the stakes. “I’d be happy to take a look at your new website and give you my impressions if you’re interested.” “If you had any time, I’d love to get your thoughts on a blog post I’m working on.”

Just try to always be giving more than you’re asking.

In many cases the progression will stall. In an inbound marketing campaign, not every contact with become a marketing qualified lead. That’s fine. But try to keep upping the stakes of a relationship that is progressing. Offer more and don’t be afraid to ask for a little bit more.

As the depth of what you’re giving each other grows, so will your relationship.

Closing – Solidifying the relationship

I think the best way to cement a networking relationship and move it into the realm of true professional friendship is to move it offline and into the real world.

The marketing funnel equivalent to solidifying the relationship might be closing the first sale. A potential customer can get a good sense of your company by the interactions they have before they become a customer. And those earlier interactions are a necessary step. But until a prospect has used your product or service in the real world, they can’t truly know or become an advocate for your company.

Once you’ve reached a level of familiarity that feels appropriate, invite your contact to do something in person.

One good option is to simply ask the person to lunch. But that can be a little bit awkward if the conversation gets slow. You also run the risk of the invitation being confused as something more than professional.

I suggest finding some sort of professional event that you both might enjoy and ask if they’d like to go with you. Maybe there is a good speaker presenting somewhere nearby. Or maybe you could ask them to be your wingman/woman at an upcoming networking event or conference.

It won’t always work but sometimes you’re just going to click with someone. Those times that you share laughs, talk about family, or save each other from an awkward networking moment are what will advance the relationships to a friendship.

Again, it won’t always work. But you probably don’t stand a chance of deepening the relationship without spending time in-person and out of the office.

Delight – Building Valuable Long Term Partnerships

A very small number of the relationships you develop have the potential to become career defining friendships that transcend a mere work friendship.

The inbound equivalent is the customer you make so happy that they try every new product you release, recommend it to their friends, write glowing reviews and retweet your every post.

In networking, these are the people that recruit you to come with them to a new company, ask you to be a part of their startup, send you customer after customer, or ask you to join their board.

They are the relationships that truly change the nature and level of your own success. And nobody manages to achieve great success without building some of these types of relationships.

To be honest, I can’t give you any specific advice for building relationships this deep. They form in all different ways for different people.

What I can tell you is that they all start with a first, seemingly minor interaction. Then they develop over time, built on a foundation of trust and sharing.

So focus on building relationships methodically, slowly and strategically. And if you’re lucky you’ll find lifelong friendships that are professionally and personally rewarding.

Summary

  • Inbound marketing and good networking have more in common than you think
  • Understand your why you are networking in the first place
  • Develop target personas for the relationships you would like to build
  • Use a sales funnel framework to think about the process of building professional relationships
  • Focus early stages on assessing whether a new contact is a good fit
  • Advance your relationships by looking for ways to initiate an exchange of some type
  • Cement professional friendships by moving offline – Go do something together
  • Your deepest relationships are the most valuable thing to your career and your life – So get started

How Technology Has Democratized Content Marketing

Have we reached a point of content saturation on articles about content saturation? It’s true that there is a lot more content and a lot more noise competing for attention. For bigger brands this may not be a welcome development. After all, they always had the resources, content and access to distribution that made content marketing effective.

But for smaller businesses on tighter budgets, changes in the content marketing landscape have been decidedly positive. Laments about content saturation from that crowd just seem like hollow complaints.

The fact is that the technological advancements that have increased content output are the same factors that have allowed smaller brands into the game in the first place. Would you rather have access to a content marketing toolkit in a competitive landscape or not have access at all?

In this post we’ll take a look at the technological innovations that have democratized content creation and distribution and allowed small businesses to benefit.

Content distribution on your terms

The barriers and middlemen between you and your audience have dramatically and consistently melted away over the last decade or so.

Consider the options you had to distribute any content you created in the past. Your options basically included books, magazines, newspapers, direct mail, billboards, television or radio… and let’s not forget skywriting.

As a business owner you don’t control any of these channels. Your content must be accepted by an editor or you must pay for the privilege of communicating with your audience.

Contrast that with similar channels today that offer far more control. You can easily self-publish written content with a blog, eBook, whitepaper, or slideshare deck rather than going through a publisher. Television can be substituted with video hosting and sharing tools like YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia. Podcasts can replace radio, be distributed for free with iTunes or Stitcher, and consumed on demand. Direct mail becomes email…  and I guess Twitter is the new skywriting. Haha

Content can be shared on a much larger scale without the marketing budget that would have been required in the past. Social media and SEO have become key methods for reaching a new audience. And you can maintain that audience like never before with owned channels like your website or email list.

Even when a major channel like Facebook drastically reduces organic access to your audience, there are dozens of other social channels with fewer barriers able to pick up the slack.

So yes, while content saturation is real and there is more competition for attention than ever, small businesses and organizations with tight budgets have more direct access to their audience than ever before.

Inexpensive devices to capture amazing audio and video

Advancements in hardware technology have opened up content formats that would have been unapproachable for many small businesses in the past.

The cost of cameras, video equipment and microphones continues to fall as quality and usability improve. Even the capabilities of a smartphone make amazing content achievable for any business. For just a few hundred dollars – which you probably already spent – and you have the tools to create striking visual content.

The camera quality on the latest phones is better than most high end cameras were not long ago. With each iteration new features like improved panoramic capability and slow motion get better and  better.

The sound capture on phone microphones is pretty amazing too - especially if you are able to keep the phone close to the sound source. Picking up a few other tricks - like using one phone to film and another to capture audio - will improve the output even further. For more suggestions, Wistia has a piece on creating great video with only an iPhone.

There are also some very affordable shotgun microphone attachments that enhance audio even further. An inexpensive lighting setup can provide even more polish with a minimal investment.

The increasing affordability of drones offers new opportunities as well. Check out this video featuring the Lily Drone. It promises the ability to capture aerial video all by yourself that would have required a helicopter and camera crew in the past.

Your ability to create something amazing is limited only by your own creatively and knowledge of your audience.

Software to design and edit content like never before

The job of editing, enhancing, designing, and packaging your content used to require an entire team and tens of thousands of dollars (or more) in equipment.

Today, an inspired creator can put out a remarkable product with nothing more than a laptop, a smartphone and some enthusiasm.

An out-of-the-box MacBook basically serves as a fully equipped creative studio. The Pages application allows you to mix text and imagery to create magazine quality documents. The Photos application offers basic photo editing, retouching and organizaton. iMovie serves as a very capable mobile video studio. GarageBand enables musicians or a podcast creators to generate amazing audio content. And Keynote provides  a great tool for giving compelling presentations.

If your budget is even tighter, many of the primary capabilities of those applications can be performed directly on an iPhone with standard or inexpensive mobile apps.

Design help is even easier to get. Freelance job sites make finding and working with a professional designer more convenient and affordable than ever. Other platforms like 99designs are innovating on the process further by providing a platform for small business owners to setup design competitions and choose their favorite result.

The ease and low costs of today’s tools make it possible to produce content that many small brands would never have been able to attempt just five or ten years ago.

Summary

  • Technology has made great content marketing more achievable for SMBs that ever before
  • Today’s distribution channels put far more control in the hands of low-budget marketers
  • A smartphone in the hands of a creative person is a content generation wonder-tool
  • Standard creative apps make polishing content cheaper & easier than ever
  • “Content saturation” is merely a symptom of a golden age of small business content marketing

The Growth of Podcasting as a Marketing Tool

How can podcasting be taking off just as the iPod itself seems to be fading away? Its seems counterintuitive but a number of factors – timing, technology and luck among them - are coming together to move the podcast audio format into the mainstream.

The smart content marketer is recognizing the circumstances and attributes that make podcasting such a valuable tool in building customer relationships.

 

A Technology Before It’s Time

It was starting to look like podcasts were going the way of the CD, VCR and the 8-track.

One problem preventing podcasting from breaking out was that it sort of came too early. The technology has been viable for well over a decade but there was too much friction in the user experience. A listener first had to download the audio file to a computer and then upload it to their iPod. Not a big problem but definitely an impediment.

With the introduction of the iPhone that step was no longer necessary, but podcasting felt like old news. It was a term that many had heard but a format few had adopted.

There also wasn’t a breakout discovery tool to help people find the content that would speak to them. Music discovery tools were at the heart of the file sharing movement going back to Napster. Pandora offered to “map your music genome” but a successful equivalent for podcasts didn’t materialize until much later.

Now the technology is mature and discovery apps like Stitcher have been widely adopted. Further, in 2013 with the release of iOS 7, Apple began including a standalone podcasting app on every iPhone.

The user experience is no longer an impediment.

 

The smash hit that changed everything – The Serial effect

As recently 2014 only a select few programs, most notably This American Life, had managed to break through and gain mainstream notoriety.

But then podcasting had a breakthrough hit that changed everything. Serial launched in 2014 and took off in a way that no podcast had before.

Serial followed the dark, murky and intriguing case of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student murdered in 1999. Serial investigated the case and conducted exhaustive interviews with the victim’s ex-boyfriend, who was ultimately convicted of the crime. I won’t get deep into the detail or try to diagnose why it touched a nerve for so many listeners - but trust me, it was gripping.

The show spread faster than any podcast before it, reaching 5 million iTunes downloads in record time. Suddenly creator Sarah Koenig was a guest on Colbert and being parodied on Saturday Night Live.

The lasting effect of Serial was that it introduced many people to the format for the first time. It became clear that the technology was now easy and friction-free. Those listeners finished the series and found themselves asking, “What do I listen to now?”

 

Startup is a great show – An even better content strategy

Another hit podcast called Startup highlighted just how powerful a podcast can be as a marketing tool.

Startup followed the show’s host, Alex Blumberg, as he launched his own business, a podcasting content company called Gimlet Media. In the first episode, during a pitch to legendary startup investor Chris Sacca, they discuss “what is the unfair advantage” Alex has going for him. They seem to settle on his experience in the industry as the unfair advantage.

I’d argue the real advantage he had was that the first show they produced was about the business itself. Listeners spent hours empathizing with the founders and their families, understanding the unseen challenges of the business,  and learning about the collection of skills that made Gimlet unique.

As a listener you couldn’t help but root for them. I felt like I knew Alex and when I recommended the podcast it felt as though I were doing a favor for a close friend.

When they launched a second show, Reply All, its creators became a part of the storyline – thereby launching the next hit.

When it came time to raise additional funds they pitched the audience and hit their goals in a matter of days.

All this happened while entertaining the listeners. We sat there eagerly soaking up all the information that a marketing department might otherwise spend millions to communicate. But the information was invited – not pushed to us. It was fantastic content marketing.

That was the “unfair advantage!”

 

The elements that make podcasting special

There are a few elements that make podcasting stand out as a content tool. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons I think podcasting presents a unique opportunity to marketers.

1) Opportunity to connect with the audience

Podcasting offers a chance to connect with the audience on a human to human  level more easily than many other formats. Hearing the voice, inflection and emotion of the host makes the listener feel like they are really getting to know a person. It’s a difficult sensation to replicate with a written piece, infographic, or photo.

2) Long-form acceptance

Podcasting is a long-form format that people actually want to remain long-form. Trends in written and video seem to keep moving shorter and more concise. People are busy and it’s a big ask to require their attention for an extended period of time.

In contrast, people often consume podcasts when they are driving, exercising, walking, running errands, doing chores, etc. The multitasking element lends itself to long-form content. That extra time gives you the opportunity to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship.

3) Ability to reach a guest audience

Most podcasts don’t attempt the highly edited narrative format a of Startup, Serial or This American Life. It’s much more common to follow an interview format. This certainly cuts down on the time needed to put together a quality show. But the interview format also benefits through accessing the guest’s audience. A blog mention or tweet from a well-networked guest can have a big impact on your number of listeners.

4) Less content saturation

Though podcasting has been around for a while, it’s really just starting to take off toward its full potential. It’s an opportunity to get in on a growing format with less competition for attention. For people lamenting the fact that they didn’t start their blog in 2006 – this could be your chance to right that wrong.

5)  Low barriers to entry

Technology has made podcast production easily accessible to anyone. While some small equipment and software upgrades could improve the output – start with a directional microphone - you could produce a solid podcast with nothing more than an iPhone. Just be careful not to confuse the ease of creating a podcast with ease to master the channel – a great show takes work.

6) Multiple revenue sources

Podcasting also lends itself to generating multiple revenue streams. My interest in podcasting is primarily as a content marketing tool to engage the audience of your core business. However, a successful show with a large audience can also monetize with advertising. Affiliate marketers have also found Podcasting to be an effective tool to drive commission revenue by referring products to listeners.

Summary

  • Podcasting is becoming an increasingly powerful tool in content marketing
  • The format is hitting it’s stride in part due to recent technological advancements
  • Hit shows like Serial have helped bring podcasting to a larger audience
  • Startup represents an ingenious example of podcasting as a content marketing tool
  • Podcasting has unique attributes that make it a special content channel
    • Authentic person-to-person connection
    • It’s a welcomed long-form channel which is harder and harder to come by
    • Less competition for attention than some other content formats
    • Podcast interviews give you access to your guest’s audience
    • It’s easy to start – though difficult to perfect
    • Podcasts can be monetized in various ways

First Blog Post Anxiety – 4 Realizations to Relieve the Pressure & Get Started

I’ve been agonizing over this one blog post for months now. And that’s because it’s my first post. Not my first blog post ever, just the first of my very own blog - My own forum, with my own topics, written in my own voice. My success or failure will impact my own reputation and that’s daunting. The first post will be the hardest, right?

I find myself putting so much pressure on this first post. It has to be AMAZING! I tell myself that it should address a perfectly defined target audience. It should reflect my voice and convey the range of my personality.  It should entertain, inform and inspire my theoretical readers. It should be shareable, searchable and feedable. And it should not make up words… like feedable.

It should be unique and entirely original yet rely on established practices that have proven successful. It should have a narrative but should obviously be a list… aren’t all successful blog posts lists?

The easy but dangerous analogy is that this is the first page of a long book that will be my masterpiece. That’s an unfair analogy though.

The author of a book isn’t expected to write a perfect first page and publish it before they even know where the story is heading. They don’t have to design a cover or develop the marketing plan in order to complete the first page. A distribution plan or a system for collecting and responding to feedback isn’t a required first step. A blog needs all that. A book author can start by just writing a first page - and they don’t even have to do that first.

But there are many other characteristics of a blog that make it much easier than creating a book or some other piece of long-form content. And those characteristics are where I think you should focus to ease the pressure and just get started.

For this first post I wanted to share a few of the realizations that gave me comfort and helped me get rolling. It will fall short of AMAZING, but it turns out that’s okay.

1) Nobody is reading yet

I found relief when I started reminding myself that none of it matters that much because nobody will be reading it in the beginning anyway. That sounds like a demotivating thought but it can also be really liberating.

In fact, if you are really expecting significant readership early on then you’re probably setting yourself up to burn out and quit anyway. Success requires a long term commitment that must last after the excitement of starting has long faded.

My realistic side knows that I’m going to have to write dozens, maybe hundreds of posts before I build the audience I hope for. That means I have a lot of time to improve my approach and my style as I work on building that audience.

It can take a lot of the pressure off knowing you have a lot of time to hone your skills without the added pressure of actual readers.

2) Blogs can be edited

A blog is one of the few publishing mediums that offers the opportunity to screw things up and fix them later. Nothing goes to press. There is no elaborate video-editing or re-shoot. It won’t sit on a shelf stuck in eternal mediocrity.

If you have ideas for how to improve a blog post later - You can simply make the edits, click a button, and your blog is better.

In fact, it’s probably a good idea to plan on revisiting your content later so you can keep it up to date. The search rankings of a post are also likely to benefit from being edited and republished because Google likes to serve recent and up to date content.

Pamela Vaughan and her team at Hubspot have been looking hard at how to get new life out of their older content. She also talks about it in more detail in this podcast interview with John Bonini from Impact Branding & Design.

Some blog posts will be truly evergreen, never needing an update to remain relevant. But that is probably the exception, not the rule. Other content can be made to be evergreen by going back to it, keeping what remains relevant and adding new information and insights that keep up with all the change.

3) A blog will evolve

I find myself getting too caught up in the long term planning of my blog. What topics will I cover over the long-term? Do I address a particular topic when I’m writing about that other related topic, or are they separate posts? Should I offer more ‘how-to’ type suggestions or focus on big picture strategy or motivational thoughts?

Before I know it, I’ve spent all my time creating a theoretical three year content calendar instead of writing. Having a plan is good but you may need to force yourself out of the planning phase.

It helps to accept that a blog is a living thing that will continue to evolve. It doesn’t have to have a long planned arc that begins here and ends with some profound conclusion.

A common thread of advice I keep hearing from writers I respect is that the best way to get better at writing is simply to write. Ann Handley’s new book Everybody Writes does a nice job of imparting confidence that the act of writing itself will help you find your tone, hone your process, and discover the topics that excite you.

Basically, at some point you have to stop planning so you can start typing. Your work will evolve and improve with time.

4) You can cut yourself some slack

I’m just going ahead and giving myself permission to put out some lighter blog posts.

Don’t get me wrong. I want every single post to provide value to my readers. That’s my obligation if I hope to keep them. But I’m giving myself permission to occasionally put out a post that is shorter, requires less research and takes less time.

Part of my anxiety with finally launching my own blog is that I know I need to be consistent and extraordinary in order to be truly successful. Once I get started, I have no choice but to deliver week in and week out. But I have a day job, a wife, a baby, another baby on the way, hobbies, exercise, things I want to read, things I want learn, chores, errands… and sleep… I want some damn sleep. Haha

I could easily keep pushing back launching my blog because there is always a week I can see coming where it’s going to be nearly impossible to find the time to put out a 1000+ word post that is thoroughly researched, well written, properly edited and entertaining.

Giving yourself permission to occasionally publish a post that is a bit short or light on research makes the whole process seem more approachable. I look to marketing legend Seth Godin for some inspiration on this one. Seth writes a blog post nearly every day. Many are long, detailed and require lots of research. But many are short, punchy and probably pretty quick to write. But those posts are usually still amazing.

Now, I don’t have the genius of Seth Godin to rely on. But I have spent a lot of time learning and thinking about my topic. In a pinch, I’m going to allow myself to draw on those reserves and bang out a quick post.

So cut yourself some slack on your expectations of what has to go into every post. Having high expectations for yourself is great, but cutting yourself some slack may help get you going.

Summary

  • The first post can be the most difficult – It will (hopefully) get easier
  • Don’t agonize over the first post – Nobody is reading yet – And that can be a good thing
  • You can always go back to improve or update a post – In fact, you should be anyway
  • Your blog can and should evolve – Don’t spend too much time on the master plan
  • Give yourself a break sometimes – A short and quick post can be powerful too