Back in late 2009, I became antsy.
I’d helped people market their businesses, organizations, practices, and publications for over 20 years.
Between the variety of clients I was privileged to serve, the wide variety of marketing problems I’d solved, and my ongoing education (which was always a priority), I knew I had a lot to offer. I wanted to get my knowledge in front of a larger group of people than just the clients I served in person.
So I decided to write a book.
Except, while researching writing a book, I stumbled onto the idea of building an online presence and reaching an audience that way instead. This site you’re reading has been — up until this year — my “book.”
Now, I’m in the process of finally writing that book I dreamed about back in 2009.
If you want to follow along (and discover the answers to all the questions a newbie author has along the way), listen in to my podcast with Jeff Goins. Jeff is a bestselling author who’s coaching me through the process of getting my first book published on the Zero to Book podcast.
How to create effective content marketing easily — that’s the topic of my book, Master Content Marketing.
And you may wonder how content marketing — sharing useful information online — fits into my overall big brand picture.
Today’s post will show you how content marketing builds your brand — and where it fits with the rest of the big brand essentials we talk about here.
Eyes first: why a big brand starts with design
When someone finds your business, there’s an order in which they begin learning about it. And it starts with what they see.
Before prospects read and absorb your marketing messages, they notice the way they’re presented visually.
And this is where design plays its most important role — it helps you make (and maintain) that positive first impression.
Design doesn’t have to be complicated.
Choosing your brand colors is as simple as following a formula. Color is one of the first visual elements people perceive, and getting your brand colors right will communicate your brand messaging on a visual level that goes beyond what words can do.
Finding and displaying your brand fonts is also relatively straightforward. Gone are the days when websites were limited to about twelve standard fonts. Your choices now are almost unlimited. Which can seem a bit daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Creating a website for your business is now a DIY project if you want it to be. With minimal or no input from a web developer, you can either:
- Start a WordPress-based website with a premium WordPress theme that will cost you less than $100
- Build your site using all-inclusive (and easy to use) software like the Rainmaker Platform
Both of these solutions allow you to feature a designer’s decisions on your site with a minimal investment. And they give you the controls: once your site is up and running, you add new information, new content, new products and services. You don’t have to pay a developer every time you need to change something on your site.
Your visual brand style will be influenced by the colors, fonts, and style of your website and any print materials you create. The kinds of images you use — their subject matter, overall style, and any filters you use will establish a “look” for your brand that will help people remember it.
Strategic actions: how marketing builds your brand
Marketing strategy refers to your action plan for marketing your business. Your marketing strategy will be in a state of constant evolution, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan of action.
The worst kind of marketing “strategy” happens when people jump from one marketing tactic to another, never tracking their results to see what’s working.
Instead, a big brand happens when you research marketing techniques, make a plan for how you’ll apply them to your own business, assign a period of time during which you’ll track your plan, and then carefully watch your results.
The best marketers approach the act of marketing like a big experiment. They form a hypothesis, they set up experiments, they give themselves a deadline, and they examine the data.
Before you can develop a marketing strategy, there are a couple of basics you must have in place:
You need to know who you’re trying to reach. Before you begin your marketing efforts, you need to have a thorough grasp of the people you want to attract to your business.
I call these people your “ideal customer.” And identifying them is part of the behind-the-scenes research you must do to lay a firm foundation for your marketing efforts.
You can’t expect to reach someone with a message if you don’t know who they are.
You need to pinpoint what you want to say (and how you’ll say it). Part of this is your business name and tagline, which are one of the first “verbal” brand elements your ideal customer will see and absorb. Get your business name wrong and you’ll be fighting it for years (I have seen this myself, and it’s not pretty).
The other part of what you’ll say (and how you’ll say it) is content marketing. And that’s the topic of my book.
Content marketing is how you’ll attract and inform your prospects. It’s how you’ll build trust in your big brand.
Content marketing means sharing helpful, useful — and sometimes entertaining — information with prospects and customers.
Content marketing helps people to find your site: they search for information about a topic and — if you do it right — come across your website. They see that your business seems to “know its stuff” and to speak authoritatively about the topic they’re searching.
Your site (and your business) become their go-to resource on that topic. And when it comes time to make a purchasing decision, they can’t imagine going anywhere else.
There are a few tried-and-true methods for marketing your business with content.
- Blogs: what you’re reading now is an example of a blog. I post on-topic articles here and have done so very consistently for years. When people search for information on branding, this site is one they find. And when they see the depth of information here, they begin to trust me as a reliable resource — even though they’ve never met me in person.
- Podcasting: a podcast (here’s mine) is a way to broadcast audio to a group of subscribers on a consistent basis. When it’s hosted on your own site, you have an easy way to share it on social media, offer show notes with more information, and drive people to other pages on your website. Podcasts can be more intimate than blogs — you’re in someone’s ears, after all!
- Email marketing: a primary element of any online presence should be the drive to build an email list. Your email list will consist of qualified leads — people who’ve raised their hands to say they want to keep in touch with you. You can send helpful, useful content directly to their inboxes. And because they’ve given you permission to contact them, you can send them occasional offers, too.
Where does social media fit into all this? Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are an excellent way to complement your content marketing efforts.
You create content on your home base — your website. And you share that content across social media platforms to send people back to that home base.
Social media platforms can share content that’s unique to those platforms as well — content that can’t be found elsewhere.
But remember — growing a following on social media platforms will never be as reliable as building an email list of prospects and customers that you own and control.
Time and consistency — elusive (but essential) elements
Finally, the last key elements are time + consistency. When you market strategically, and complement your efforts with design decisions that establish a recognizable visual brand — and implement it all consistently over time — that’s when an amazing thing happens.
All your efforts behind the scenes begin to pay off. People know your brand, trust your brand, and want to do business with you.
It may sound daunting now, but look at these building blocks as small pieces you can move into place now. Then keep at it, and watch the power of time work its magic!