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How To Build A Viral Presence Online – A Detailed Audio Walk Through

A comprehensive guide to creating, sharing and nurturing viral content online.

Listen and read along as we teach you how to build a strong organic online presence.

People ask me all the time…

“How do you get so many people to your website?”

They want to know what I have done to increase my online exposure and how I get such got such a large audience in such a short amount of time.

Most of what I have done has been trial and error and even now we are constantly experimenting with different formats of content in an attempt to perfect our art, but there are a few things we have learned along the way that can definitely help you reach your online goals.

In this podcast…

We talk about the process of creating, sharing and nurturing viral content in some serious detail.

I invited Sean Smith to join me in this episode of RayDO (pronounced Ra-di-o) Uncensored. Sean is a prolific writer and you can find his work on a number of national publications including the Hufington Post, 99U, Moz and Medium.

I suggest you take notes along the way, as we dive deep into the process of creating, sharing  and nurturing viral content. You should also listen to the entire podcast for a deeper understanding of our entire content conversation, especially since the notes below are just an overview of everything we talk about in the podcast.

As always, if you find value in the podcast, please be sure share it with a friend, subscribe and grab us on Stitcher. That way you can get all of our newest content first.

2:50 – Skip the audio intro

I always like to let you skip the intro so if you don’t want to hear the lead-in to the podcast just skip to about the three minute mark. Just remember, a baby squirrel will get run over by a car every time someone decides to do this.

In all seriousness, the beginning of these podcasts is where I briefly explain what the show is about and I also give occasional updates on what we are trying to build here at Raymmar.com. If you are interested in getting involved or want to know more about what we are doing then I suggest you listen all the way from the beginning.

4:00 – A quick intro to Medium

I have enjoyed some recent success on Medium (especially when my article reached #1 on their top 100 list) but I think they are changing some of the things that made them great. I am working on on article about why I think they might have messed up big time but I have also had some great success by sharing some of my posts on Medium.

I am not sure whether the changes they have made recently will affect their long term viability as a social sharing platform but I think you should know about it as a content creator because after all, finding new places to showcase your work is a big part of increasing your audience and building a viral presence online.

6:15 – Starting a blog

The race to stand out online is on in full force and most people are doing it all wrong. At this point in the podcast we start diving into the theory behind creating, sharing and nurturing the content in an attempt to create a continual viral presence online.

These strategies, although helpful when creating any content online, are not intended to help you get one specific article to go viral. The internet is a finicky place and you should worry less about creating individual pieces of viral content and instead focus your efforts on always putting your best work out there for the world to see.

Once you start driving enough traffic (assuming the site is interesting) people will start spilling over into the other sections of the website. What we are hoping to teach you on Raymmar.com is how to build a consistently strong arsenal of quality content and how to elevate your entire blog  so that everything you do has a chance at going viral.

8:05 – It starts with a title?

For me it all starts with the title. I get an idea and then it evolves in my head as a theory but I am never fully inspired until the title hits me. Sean and I both agree on the importance of the headline as well as why it is so important to think about getting the readers attention early on. On the internet, many people do judge a book by its cover so be sure that your blog titles are as thought out as the content inside of them or in the end you re really just wasting your time.

It would be like throwing a huge party and then forgetting to send out the invites. Not the proper way to plan a party right? So why would you take the same approach to creating your online content?

9:30 – The evolution of an article

Most great content is not a one and done proposition. In this part of the podcast we talk about letting the content sit on the shelf and why you should let your stories and simmer. I think it is important to throw down all of your thoughts and then sleep on your idea for a few nights. Then you can come back and clean up the content to make sure you are always delivering your “A” material. I do not know many people who do everything perfect the first time around so if you really want your content to go viral then you really do need to take your time and make an art out of writing your articles.

11:30 – The structure and flow of the article

Sometimes you should just spit out all of your thoughts and then look at them on the screen and work on the structure and flow of the article. Then you can start moving pieces around and assembling the article in the way that makes the most sense. The structure of your article is important and you need to hook the reader early, especially online.

Blogging Tip:

You should be telling two stories through the course of the article and also make sure you are formatting it properly for online distribution.

Story one: Should be told in the headlines and subheadings. Consider this the top level story. A fly by of your high level ideas if you will. People are really impatient online so you need to make your article easily skimable while also trying to suck the reader in and get them to commit to reading the entire story.

Story two: Should be the article itself. This is the long form version of your story. This is where you can dive in and let your work shine. The other benefit to formatting your content like this (besides the value that long form content brings you in the sense of SEO) is that it makes long form content digestible. You can deliver more information in one place and not overwhelm the reader with a page that looks like it was copied and pasted from an encyclopedia.

15:05 – Delivering value to the reader

In order for your story to have a chance at going viral, there has to be a strong story line. At the end of the day, if your story sucks then no one is going to listen, read, watch, etc. You should make an attempt to educate and entertain your reader while telling that story. Think about the stuff that engages you online and then try to mimic and copy that approach but be sure to make it your own along the way.

You can use metaphors and other creative writing practices to give the reader some creative liberties while reading your work. This allows the reader to make your story their own and it allows them to create the environment in which the story takes place inside of their own head. You allow them to paint for themselves the vision that you are trying to share and then you put yourself in the perfect place to entice the reader to actually share your story.

17:06 – Leave the story up to the reader

The point that we are trying to make here is that getting something to go viral online becomes more about getting the reader to attach their emotions to the blog than just writing something interesting. Most businesses, entrepreneurs, etc. just want to pitch their products on their blog, but they forget about connecting with their audience in an emotional way. They forget to give something to the reader in the form of digestible value before asking for the sale.

Business blogs would be well served to understand the concept of connecting with their readers and should strive to turn their website into a place where their customers come to not only hang out but learn from you. Think of it as if you were building an online lobby for creative thought.

19:33 – Reading is the ultimate virtual reality

People can immerse themselves in your words. When they watch video they see the exact vision of what the person who created the art wanted them to see. But, when you are reading someones words or listening to their voice, the reader gets to become the artist. This leaves you with a beautiful opportunity as the author, to connect on multiple levels with your audience. It allows you to reach directly into the heads of your readers and paint with your words.

You also have to remember that it takes time to build an audience and a following online. You have to be willing to invest the time and hone your skills as not only a writer but a self promoter of the things you write. No one is going to read your early articles so don’t feel bad when you publish something and no one reads it. It happens to all of us when we first start out. You should use this early part of your online development process to test your writing style and keep experimenting with different techniques in order to find out what is going to work best for you.

23:25 – Building Credibility online

You can expect to spend as much time online building credibility in what you do as you do creating and distributing your content. In order to have the best chance to stand out online you need to find people in your area of expertise and start sharing content, connecting and engaging with them on their websites, blogs and social platforms. You need to connect with your readers, not only through your writing, but inside of your interactions as well. Building real relationships with your readers is important to maintaining a viral presence online and you should make it a top priority to respond to all of the comments made on your website as well as the social media sites that you are active on.

24:50 – Become an expert

You have to know what you are talking about before anyone is going to listen to you online. It is easy for anyone to start a website but that does not mean that everyone with a website is an expert. You should make it a point to become the best at whatever it is you are trying to explain to your audience. You have to prove to them that you know what you are talking about by being able to do what you are telling them to do for yourself.

If you doubt yourself or are making things up as you go in an attempt to fill up space, then your reader will not only know that you are faking it, but you will also destroy any small amount of credibility that you might have built up until this point. You must believe in yourself but that does not mean you need to be a tyrant when talking to your audience either. You need to know that what you are talking about is right and then find creative ways to relay that to your reader.

26:15 – Having actual authority vs. thinking you have it

Finding credibility online and building an overall viral presence on your website becomes a process of getting involved in the existing conversations online. This is a piece that many people forget about when trying to build their own blog from the ground up. Whenever you want to get other people involved in your conversations, then you should look for places where people are already talking about the things you are trying to talk about and find a way to get involved in their conversation. Do not be so naive that you think people are going to rush to your website when to talk about what you want when they are already in the middle of that discussion somewhere else. Instead, you should learn how to hack those conversations and become someone that they look to for advice on the issue. Then you can start funneling that conversation to your website and separate yourself as a thought leader in that category.

34:30 – Getting involved

If you are a regular listener then please join the conversation. We have a lot of people who come to the site more than 5 times a month and I would really like to get to know those people better. I want to know why you come to the site so regularly and what we can do to make that experience better for you. Please take a moment to reach out and leave me some feedback about your experience on the site and with this podcast, etc.

We are really trying to make this about the consumer experience and we want to build it into something beautiful for our readers and listeners.

37:05 – Remaining a student

Make sure that you are always learning. You should always think that other people are smart too and that other people can teach you something you mifht not already know. You should become a sponge and then regurgitate that info to your audience in a way that they can relate to or understand. The best teachers are always learning and the beauty of the internet is that it can easily become a medium by whitch information can be passed from one person to another and that is helping all of us learn at a really fast pace. More so than ever before.

Podcast correction – In the podcast I mention that we have shown up more than 100,000 times in Google search results but that number is actually closer to 1.3 million. Turns out I had some filters applied to the webmaster tools and that was restricting the results. Talk about a great mistake! 

38:25 – A few final tips

Here is a link to the Gibbon.co learning platform that Sean was talking about at the end of the podcast.

As we wrap up the podcast, here are a few final thoughts from both Sean and I that will help you take some steps towards building a viral presence online.

Get in the habit of reading your writing out loud.

Seriously, this has been one of the best things I have done for my writing. It allows me to write as if I was actually speaking to someone which is important because when someone reads your work, the concepts could be entirely new to them. You cannot assume they know the things you know, or that they are thinking like you are thinking. It is up to you as the author to make sure that the flow of your work makes sense and reading your work out loud is one of the best ways to do just that.

Leave internal cliff-hangers.

When you tell your story, leave something for the reader to discover later in the writing. This will ensure that they remain engaged throughout the entire post. It can be difficult to learn at first but as your writing style matures you will get better at teasing out the hooks of the articles early on in the content and use them to drag the reader throughout your work in the exact manner which you intended. When you learn to do this then you can really have a chance at building something special online because it really does become about more than just reading a blog article at that point.

Get creative with the article structure.

Start from the end and then bounce around. Or in the middle then to the beginning. Don’t just think that your story has to go in chronological order. A little confusion for the reader is a good thing. Again, this is like leaving little hooks throughout the article. Things that draw the reader in and keep them around until the end.

Building An Online Presence. Hire A Pro Or Do It Yourself?

In this episode of RayDO…

Jerry Banfield joins us to talk about building a presence online and whether you should hire a professional or try to do it yourself.

1:15 – Rated “R” for Raymmar

Why some of these podcasts have been a little crude in the past and how this is all a learning process online.

2:30 – Meet Jerry Banfield

Jerry has a large organic search presence on YouTube and is a monster at getting  ranked in search on YouTube and Google. He helps clients manage their online advertising campaigns and optimize sales from paid advertising.

Many people have recently asked me how I approach building a presence online so I thought I would give you some insight on how you can take our knowledge and use it to propel your website to the next level.

4:15 – It started as a personal blog

I explain a little about the beginning of Raymmar.com and the problems we have faced while transitioning the site from a basic online resume, to a full fledged content-engine. Do you pay for advertising? Do you use social media? Should you hire someone to help build your online presence? All of your questions about building an online presence will be answered in this podcast.

9:00 – The who behind the what

Companies segment themselves from their audience through their brands and their products, but I think that more companies should start letting the world see a more personal side of the operation in order to really stand out online.

11:05 – The difference between organic or paid traffic

Before moving too far into building your presence online, you should understanding the basic difference between organic and paid traffic . Your focus should be on creating organic traffic but once in a while, you might want to pay for a few ads to give your content a boost. Personally, I like to focus on building my presence purely organically, while Jerry thinks paying to spark some of that sharing is a smart strategy. What do you think?

 16:00 – What is a keyword?

We discuss the basic context of understanding keywords. Both long-tail and short-tail keywords. We discuss how to target them inside of your content so that Google and the other search engines can properly index your work.

You need to learn how to speak to Google but also understand that Google is getting very smart at understanding and reading what we write. Their artificial intelligence is getting good at reading the article much like a human does, so make sure it makes sense to you as an individual reader and not like some piece of keyword bait for a robot. You need to focus on writing for a real audience, not for Google, but, you must also understand Google in order to be as effective as possible in optimizing your website content and building your online presence.

19:00 The shift that is happening in Search Engine Optimization

We dive a little deeper into SEO and some of the trends we are seeing across the web. We are creating the future of SEO and how you think the game is played is not how you should be playing it. This is where the crux of our podcast theme comes into play, as we discuss whether you should do these things yourself or whether you should hire a pro.

21:12 – Agencies who steal from their customers

How do you know who you can trust when looking to hire online help and how do you decide who to pay when-and-if you do decide to hire someone to help you build your online presence. So many companies claim to know what they are doing and they do a good enough job of making it look like they know what they are doing, but there are a few ways to tell. (We give a few specific resources later in the podcast.) Me? I like to look at what they have done for themselves. Why would you want someone to build you a beautiful web presence when they have not yet done it for themselves.

24:03 – Is there a magical price you have to pay in order to get a good website?

Jerry tells us about a presentation he sat in on once where they said that you have a worthless website unless you spend more than $30,000. We discuss whether there is any merit to that statement or whether it is complete garbage.

25:40 – Vetting the agency

Look at the work. Look for them to be doing for themselves what they say they can do for you.

26:50 – Resources for learning to build an online presence

Hubspot – Visit their website, subscribe to their blogs and get your inbound marketing learn on.

Moz – The online leader for search engine strategy and beautiful content on understanding SEO

Copyblogger – Copy writing for the creative entrepreneur. Tips and advice on writing strong online copy.

29:58 – Paying people what they are worth

It is very easy to overpay when it comes to online advertising, exposure and presence. There is a reason that the people who know what they are doing  charge a lot of money. Sometimes we just trust people who have the storefronts and brick and mortar locations so even though they might not be the best, people seem to trust them to do business.

34:02 – One of the tools I use – Alexa Traffic Rank

Alexa has a chrome widget that I use which allows me to quickly rank each website I explore. It allows we to vet and explore a companies online reach and help you determine whether or not the person you are hiring actually has any real online credibility.

 35:59 – All that matters is what happens when I get to your website

The battle we are seeing with business owners and their attitudes towards the web sometimes. Cost per conversion, online sales are so much less expensive than selling

37:30 – It is a closed store when someone wants to visit

And that is stupid as a business owner. Some of these Buffoons are in big offices, charging lots of money and delivering shit work. Just because someone has a beautiful storefront does not mean they know what they are doing online.

43:10 – The corporate counter culture

What we are seeing as trends in the business world and how the workplace is evolving to a more results only work environment. We are going to lead the charge in changing the way that businesses do business.

47:45 – Jerry Stumbles into my master plan

This was seriously unplanned but after my mini rant, Jerry literally stumbles into my master plan. In a nutshell, he states my vision for Raymmar.com and how we help lead that corporate counter culture and how we can make sure that we are always delivering beautiful products and getting things done. #DoWork

51:10 – Don’t be afraid to try something new

Building an online presence is like tuning a musical instrument more than building a house. It is something that has to be constantly tweaked as opposed to just built once and done. Online collaboration and exploring with content is a smart thing and our final point is talking about trying new things online.

Sometimes showing some of your flaws and making yourself vulnerable can be beneficial in the long run.

 

Understanding The Buyer Persona; A Guide to Branding Your Business

No matter what stage of business you are in, you should focus on your brand now!

What is your brand?

Find it tough to answer that question?

Your brand is everything.

If you don’t have a well defined brand, purposely thought-out, clearly articulated and wrapped around researched buyer personas, then you have nothing.

If not you should stop what you’re doing instantly and read this article.

In this post I’m going to teach you why you should focus on branding first using sailing as a metaphor. I’ll also link to extremely valuable resources to help you define your brand.

Of course if you’re reading this odds are you’ve already started a business. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been doing it for years. Does this article still apply to you?

Of course!

Why?

Because you can instantly change the course of your business and choose a direct tack that will lead you where you really want, and need to go.

If you could have another chance at a fresh start with your business it should begin with researching, architecting and building your brand. Though, many entrepreneurs (including yours truly) tend to be the ready, fire, aim type in which case you’ve probably already built a business that works to a certain extent. That’s awesome! I’ll get to you lot in a bit.

So why work on branding first?

Simply put, a brand isn’t just who we are, it’s who we want to become.

A brand is a goal on the horizon. If running a business is sailing a boat on uncharted waters then defining a brand is choosing a rich and abundant port to end your journey.

Without a clearly defined brand you’re destined to spend your seafaring life fighting tropical storms and drifting East and West, lost at sea. When a major wave comes over the bow in the form of a new competitor in your market who is stealing share left and right you won’t know how to respond or why you should in the first place.

After the tumultuous fight is over and you wake up to a red sunrise you know the challenges aren’t over and you’re not even sure why the hell you’re floating out here all alone anyways.

If you’ve felt like this in business then you’re like so many others. The good news is you can actually start this process whenever you like and reap the rewards immediately. Of course the longer you take to define your brand the further out to sea you’re planning to go before finding yourself lost.

Imagine instead you have a clearly defined brand in place. You’ve studied the globe and chosen a rich port in a tropical climate half way around the world. A country where the people will happily take you in, exchange goods with you, entertain you and care for you for the rest of your days.

So how do we get started?

The first step in branding is to clearly define your buyer personas.

Go back to your captains quarters and imagine spinning the globe daydreaming where you’d like to end up. What kind of people do you want to spend your life with as a sailor at port?

These are the people of your personas.

Why should we define personas?

Traditional marketing called for a brand that was simply creative or clever. Something memorable and perhaps cute. Then companies became clever through the guerrilla marketing era and began crafting brands that separated them from their competition, creating a clear gulf.

An example of this is seen during the rise of Intel. Prior to what some of us remember as the Pentium 1, computer microprocessors were named with numbers like 186dx, 286dx, 386dx, etc. At that time there were literally thousands of manufacturers of these processors and they were all scrambling to gain market share. When Intel announced the Pentium 1 processor 90% of the market disappeared seemingly overnight and were never heard from again. That’s the power of a good brand.

The past 60 years has seen the branding geniuses of Ogilvy & Mather and other admen, the tactics of which have been tirelessly played out.

While traditional branding still exists and thrives to this day we have access to deeper amounts of qualitative data on consumers and businesses allowing us to build more detailed profiles than ever before. Now our brands can be made to represent an umbrella that houses multiple personas that are served by the brand.

Ultimately you need personas nowadays if you want to succeed online and furthermore if you’d like a tight and relevant brand.

How do we define personas?

Right now you’re on your home continent unable to do business with this distant culture. So first you need to get in touch with them (carrier pigeon perhaps?) and survey them as a stranger from faraway lands. You need to find out who they are, what they value, what they’re like, what they want and need, what is their day-to-day life like?

These are all elemental questions in buyer persona development.

You shouldn’t start by asking your existing clients and customers these questions, because they’re right here lost at sea with you. If you just want more of this lost at sea business then define your personas that way, but seldomly will those who are lost provide good direction.

Instead you should start by surveying people who you think would buy from you, but whom don’t know you and aren’t familiar with your brand. These are the people in this rich port across the blue.

The reason you want people who don’t know you is because they’ll give you the most accurate descriptions of what they value, their pain points, triggers, contentions, etc.

I’m very interested in the work of Adele Revella at Buyer Persona Instituteas a consultative body for defining buyer personas. Their process for defining personas seems to be the most comprehensive, sophisticated and thoughtful while remaining very accessible in a world rife with industry jargon.

We’re currently sending clients to them for consulting and pursuing certification as buyer persona consultants ourselves.

Their 5 Rings Of Buying Insight™ methodology is bulletproof for defining personas and without getting into too much detail they are as follows:

· Priority Initiatives: Why do some buyers choose solutions like yours and why are some buyers happy with the status quo?

· Success Factors: What specific results do these buyers expect to see from buying your solution?

· Perceived Barriers: Why do your buyers think your solution won’t work for them?

· Buyer’s Journey: What details does a buyer consider throughout the process of deciding on a solution like yours and where are they impacted in this process?

· Decision Criteria: What does your buyer consider to be the most important elements about your competition’s offering and what are their expectations for each element?

If you learn by example then take their Example Buyer Persona and replace the info in each section with your own. Here are some more example buyer personas from Inbound Marketing software behemoth HubSpot.

For surveying your audience it’s best (not to use carrier pigeons) to use a manual process such as finding 3-5 people that might buy from you and asking for a detailed interview.

If you’re unable to easily track down a few people that you think may buy from you, or if you’d like a larger data sample then it’s possible to use a survey tool such as Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) to do the heavy lifting and sourcing participants in your survey.

Heck, you could even try Google Surveys, but I’m not as familiar with their ability to handle non-consumer related panels.

We’ll be using surveys later in the process of further defining our brand so keep those handy.

Once you’ve taken the time to develop your own personas, it’s time to craft brand messaging around those personas.

How do we start building a brand identity and messaging?

Now that you know a few things about these people from far away you understand they’re an entire culture. We just have to figure out where exactly we need to go to meet them, and what specifically we need to bring.

To do this I recommend starting your brand research with a SWOT analysis or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.

If you’ve ever sailed (or seen Captain Phillips), then you know the captain and the crew perform ship-wide inspections before leaving port. Everyone on the ship checks every part to make sure there is no crack, no broken jib or pirate gate that could pose a threat. All the engines, rudders, sails and lines need to be carefully checked to make sure there are no weaknesses. The team is assembled and assigned parts of the ship where theirstrengths can be leveraged. Maps are drawn out and weather patterns are scanned to determine opportunities for smooth and fast sailing.

How do we do a SWOT analysis?

So as in a ship ready for maiden voyage, you need to assemble every member of your company in a completely open discussion with dry erase boards, Internet access for quick fact-checking and reference, and plenty of time to cover all the bases. Then begin the SWOT analysis checking for each of the following:

· Strengths: These are internal elements that give you a competitive edge. Always compare strengths against competitors apples to apples, not your recent improvements to previous states of the company. Anywhere you’re perceived as outpacing a competitor is considered a strength. Examples of strengths may be highly unique talent in the design department versus boring designers in your niche, or a negotiator on your team who happens to speak multiple languages.

· Weaknesses: Call on the most negative and critical person at your company for weaknesses. I jokingly say negative because I’m an optimist to a fault. So in many cases someone’s just being realistic when I call them negative. You don’t need an optimist to point out your weaknesses, they’ll take it too easy on you. Examples of weaknesses may be a shoddy customer service department for a fast growing company, or a failing infrastructure due to poor maintenance protocols.

· Opportunities: This is where an optimist can shine. We’re looking for temporal or time-related opportunities where agile decision making is key. If a gap opens up for a moment this serves as an opportunity. Intel seized the opportunity to name the first microprocessor something memorable and push the hell out of it. From our sailing allegory, consider this the man in the crow’s nest looking for tailwinds to push us in the right direction.

· Threats: Threats are just the opposite of opportunities. Again think of a person in the crow’s nest looking for icebergs and storm clouds ahead. Examples of threats may be a declining trend in proprietary technology such as Sony Memory Sticks, or environmental factors that wreak havoc on your company such as floods or tornadoes, also strong competition from larger brands or low price competitors.

The SWOT analysis exposes all the hidden details about our business and brand and allows us to lay all the cards on the table in front of our company internally. If you’re truly forward-thinking about your management style you’ll then allow your team to start addressing all of these issues by giving them autonomy to be creative and find a fun solution for each one.

Now you know where your company is positioned in the market and you can begin crafting your brand messaging around your persona’s and your SWOT analysis.

How de we define the brand?

There are ultimately 5 steps that will lead us to a well defined, bullet-proof brand. You’ll hear them called all kinds of different things and we have our own sexy name for them, but they pretty much work the same way no matter who you ask. When faced with a difficult question in each of the 5 steps below, reference your Buyer Personas established in the previous steps to find good answers:

· Vision Statement: The Vision Statement describes that port on the distant horizon. This is what you want your company to become in the future. Ultimately this should be one sentence long and not explain howthe vision will be met, we’ll get to that in a bit. What are your most important products and services and which ones will you never sell? What is unique about doing business with you and how will people describe your business? Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Here are some example Vision Statements:

San Diego Zoo will become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.

NPR with it’s networks of independent member stations, is America’s pre-eminent news institution.

Smithsonian is shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.

· Mission Statement: The Mission Statement is defined as the purpose of the company. Mission statements should be simple, clear and concise.Don’t use industry jargon and focus on motivating people inside and outside the company. What are the specific market needs for the company to answer and what does the company do to answer them? What guiding principles define our approach?

Here’s a great example Mission Statement from Google:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

· Essence: The essence is the intangible parts of your company that you want people to feel when they do business with you. The essence of the company should typically be defined with one word. What do people experience when they interact with your offering? Check out this great deck on the 9 Criteria For Brand Essence.

Example essences from a great HubSpot article include:

Volvo = safe
Disney = magical
Lamborghini = exotic

· Personality: This is what makes a brand really human. Personality is all about the behavior of a brand. This can be difficult as there can be too many characteristics you’d like to consider, but try to keep it simple. Think, are you smart and helpful? Are you polite and curtious? Are you deep and creative? Are you fun and easy-going?

· Unique Selling Proposition: The USP (Value Proposition or Brand Positioning Statement) is probably the most important part of the brand identification process. You’ll want to keep it down to a sentence or two that clearly describes your offering’s unique value and how it benefits your personas. This statement should define the audience, category of brand, offering benefit, differentiate brand from competition, and confidently assert the brand will deliver on it’s promise.

Consider the following for your USP; Whom are you speaking? (think persona) What market segment does your offering benefit? What’s your brand promise (rational and emotional) What makes your brand different and why should your personas care?

Here are some examples of good Value Propositions:

CampaignMonitorEmail marketing software for designers and their clients.

BaseCampEasy cloud project management software for companies.

How do we put it all together?

The final part is to put all of this together in a way that makes sense and works seamlessly across your marketing media.

I recommend creating a single Branding Guidelines PDF document that has all of your personas and branding work in the order we built it here. Then share this document with everyone in your company to make it absolutely clear what your company is and does. These are the captain’s orders.

Through the process of designing your logo, you’ll pull from this document and actually add to it once the logo is finished.

When designing your new site, you’ll be better able to architect content and map out pages because you’ll be trying to aim content at your individual personas and you’ll use your brand messaging to answer their needs in the most concise way.

When creating ads you’ll be targeting specific pain points for your personas and you’ll be able to segment campaigns to your various different personas.

Blog articles can be written to answer concerns your personas may have and bring down their barriers to entry.

As you’re sailing across the wild blue yonder you’ll notice that when challenges come up like new competition or outside threats, just hold your bearings true with your branding and personas and focus on your customer’s needs and you’ll be able to pull through.

Over time, your brand may need small revisions just like a rudder needs frequent adjustments to steer the ship straight. Before you know it you’ll feel the heat of foreign latitudes, hear the sound of unfamiliar sea birds and commerce bustling in the port of your dreams. Your business will then become what you once imagined it to be.


This article is a deep dive on the topic of branding originally covered in Who Wants A Powerful Inbound Marketing Plan For Free?


Jeremiah Smith runs SimpleTiger, an Inbound Marketing agency focused on helping businesses grow on the web through lean, simple marketing.

They specialize in SEO, content marketing and driving conversions through your site. Hit recommend below and follow me on Twitter

How To Implement An Effective Inbound Marketing Strategy; For Free!

Inbound Marketing is a loaded term, and it’s expensive as hell. I’m going to unload it for you for free.

Read the original article here

Do you want a simple Inbound Marketing plan?

Why not learn a perfect plan first before paying a dime for help?

In this post I’m going to pour out the same plan I’ve told countless clients while they were insisting on just an SEO campaign. I’m going to show you how simple it really is to craft a bullet proof Inbound Marketing plan that almost any business can do on almost any budget and how SEO is really just one part of the process.

I’ll follow this outline in this specific order which is important if you want it to work correctly:

  • Brand Messaging
  • Developing Personas
  • Analysis, Research & Goal Setting
  • Getting Traffic
  • SEO & How It Fits
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Networking

Brand Messaging

It all starts with your offering.

Good branding should be done at the offering level. Let’s take your offering and wrap it in a message that people can understand.

The key to good brand messaging is to keep it simple, stupid.

There are 2 rules to branding;

  1. Be clear, not clever.
  2. Be different, not better.

You’ll never be the best so get off of it. And what the hell am I buying from you? Honestly. Just tell me. Don’t beat around the bush or try to woo me.

Branding in 2 rules:
Clear, not clever.
Different, not better.

Be ruthlessly clear and different in every way you can. No one should be able to out you, you. How about you buy this weight loss pill, it’s the best and it’s shaped like a diamond! No go? Ok, how about you buy this weight loss pill, it’s the only one that normalizes irregular hormones so you’ll burn fat safely. I just made that up. Don’t buy weight loss pills, silly.

To make an elephant statue from a single block of marble you simply cut away what isn’t the elephant. So in your branding, cut away what doesn’t matter and leave only what truly does.

Developing Personas

Now you need personas.

So what is a persona and how does it work?

A persona is a marketing concept for a grouping of people in your target audience that share the same marketing characteristics. For instance, a large portion of your audience may be C level executives at large corporations that have a pain point of financial trust, or middle managers at ad agencies that need creative help.

You need someone you’re pretending to tell your story to. Behind that persona is real people who we’ll be talking directly to later.

When you’re defining your personas I recommend naming them something memorable. For example; Jaded Jessica the ad agency middle manager who’s jaded because they don’t have a creative solution to offer their clients. Or Timid Tim, the CEO of a major corporation who needs a financial planner he can fully trust.

Grab this worksheet and fill it out for each different persona you might sell to. This is what it looks like:

Personas can be as simple or as complex as your offering and the pain points it addresses.

How many personas should you have?

I recommend no less than 3 personas.

If you have 3, then those are your 3 customers. That’s it. Think about them when you do anything for your business. How will it help them specifically?

Why 3? It’s a good number.

For real though, if you just have two you’ll notice through an 80/20 analysis that one means more than the other and you’ll end up focusing on one persona.

What happens if that persona no longer needs what you have?

If you’ve diversified your personas then you’ll always have someone who can use what you have.

Analysis, Research & Goal Setting

Let’s setup analytics on your site.

Which analytics platform should you use?

You’ve got optionsTons of them.

Just make sure it can track goals and specific events. We’ll call these conversions throughout the site.

Let’s say that again: Conversions

Set them up on your site so you can track progress on what works and what doesn’t. I recommend monitoring contact form submissions, purchase links, download links, anything of value. These are all conversions.

Landing Pages
Setup some landing pages on your site, at least one for each persona. Whether you’re using WordPress, SquareSpace, or some other CMS, you should be able to create landing pages on your site. If not, or if you just don’t want the technical hassle, do your self a favor and get an Unbounceaccount. You can create lot’s of amazing landing pages and get super nerdy with ‘em.

Unbounce is hands-down my favorite tool for building landing pages regardless of what site platform you’re on.

Once you’ve created said landing pages you need to have contact forms on them and set conversion metrics (e.g. goals) in your analytics platform. The contact form not only offers opportunities for your sales pipeline, but it should also subscribe new users to a lead nurturing program. Lead nurturing is just pedantic jargon for an email marketing campaign. Setup a MailChimp account and nag up to 2,000 people monthly with your emails for free, dude.

If you need a more involved platform there are marketing automation tools such as HubSpotMarketoPardotEloqua and I’m sure many more to follow. Most of these don’t just do email, but landing pages, conversion forms, CTAs, analytics, blogs, CMSs, the whole nine yards.

I recommend taking your product or service offering and writing your best sales pitch into a simple ebook or PDF document that’ll sit behind your contact form. When I say sales pitch I really just mean if you could only get one customer and you had to give them everything in order to get that one sale, give it to them. Don’t schmooze them with silly gimmicks. I mean sell to them like you sell to a bored teenager in today’s Netflix, DVR, Twitter, ad-less, 1 second load-time impatiensphere.

Your PDF should speak to the persona by answering each one of their major pain points, or contentions about your product/service/industry.

Finally, it should offer a gentle nudge in the right direction, a CTA if you will. (CTA = Call To Action)

Buy Some Traffic

Now that we’ve got our personas targeted with landing pages and answers to their problems, let’s bring in some people who fit those personas.

Though I’ve been “doing” SEO over 8 years, I highly recommend you start with an AdWords campaign. Even more so now that Google (not provided) is among us.

Trust me, you don’t want to invest 6-9 months and tens of thousands of dollars in genius content creation and social network back-and-forth, link building efforts, etc. only to find out the keywords you targeted don’t convert.

It’s better to spend a couple thousand dollars and a month or so to find out specifically which keywords will bring you sales. You should run ads to get enough clicks so that you close a few conversions from your site. Then track down the source of those conversions in your analytics and focus all efforts on those few keywords, ad-copy variations, etc.

Go back to your landing page solution and run some A/B tests on design variations. If you’re not using something sweet like HubSpot or Unbounce then sign up for Optimizely and generate multiple versions of your landing pages without knowing jack about code.

Optimizely offers idiot proof CRO and A/B testing.

Optimize your ad campaigns by bringing them from either broad to phrase, or phrase to exact match if you’re getting plenty of traffic, or the other way around if you’re not getting enough traffic. Also, run a negative keywords query report to find any BS keywords you need to exclude from showing your ad. This’ll drop your average CPC. There are lot’s of other things you can do to optimize your AdWords campaigns as well including:

Lowering your ad position to decrease CPC. This one is often overlooked as people tend to think you should be #1 but it can cost 10x more to be there for not 10x more clicks.

Launch a remarketing campaign and install the script on your site to bring back visitors who may have forgotten about you.

Optimize your landing pages from an SEO perspective in order to increase your Quality Score and lower CPC. We’ll get into a little more SEO stuff shortly. 😉

Now you’re probably wondering “Jeremiah, you just recommended buying ads, but I thought this article was about Inbound Marketing!” Well spank you for asking helpy helperton! The type of ads I’m recommending are only on search engines and only after people have searched for keywords that are directly relevant to your business. This means they’re ultimately Inbound.

SEO — How It Fits

There’s really no voodoo to SEO anymore.

Back in the day I’d tweak a few title tags and watch my clients roll in cash.

Not really, but it used to be a lot easier than it is now. Now you have to be totally legitimate if you want to win. There’s no quick and easy way, but there are shortcuts. I’ll get into some of those in a bit.

SEO nowadays is pretty much made up of three major buckets, each representing a different weight to the search engines:

Onsite Technical = ~25% of the search algorithms but if your site isn’t crawlable or accessible to the engines then it should be 100% of your concern. No amount of further optimization or marketing will save you from your site being completely inaccessible to the engines. Stroll over to WooRank and give your site a quick once-over. They’ll list a few major technical issues on your site and a few ways to address them. This should never be a replacement for a quality technical site audit from a company like mine. 😉 But it’s a great place to check for free and quickly.

Onsite Content & Usability =~25% of the search algorithms look at content for relevance meaning anything from text and blog articles to videos, images, ebooks, web apps, etc. We’ll dive into the world of content momentarily. The delivery of that content is increasingly important. Search engines can see how people use your website and determine whether or not your users are having a good experience. Engines will reward those sites with good usability with high rankings. Think Amazon or Wikipedia.

Offsite Everything Else =~50%+ of the remaining search algorithm and that + means it’s increasing. If you think about it, the first half of the equation; onsite technical, content and usability can all be easily controlled and manipulated. But building inbound links from relevant trusted domains and getting original followers to share and mention your brand on the various social networks is much harder to manipulate. That’s why it’s so important to the algorithms. The best part about this difficult element is that if you build the best content you can find, they will link and share it.

Invest In The Best Content You Can Find

When I say the best content you can find I’m putting an emphasis on “find”. In the end, we’re going to create good content that people on social networks will be happy to share, search engines will be happy to promote and your target personas will find.

People will “bubble up” whatever they’re interested in and they find valuable on social networks. That’s exactly what Google wants too. They want to know what we’re talking about and what we like.

Now that we know our target personas, what keywords those personas are using to drive sales due to our ad campaigns, we know our landing pages convert into leads, and our site is well optimized for search, it’s time to start building some content to bring traffic in from organic and social sources.

Where should you start building quality content?

I recommend looking at your sales process first. What are some of the questions everyone seems to ask about your offering or industry? Chances are there are more people that have those same questions. You should answer them with a blog article.

Conversion Rate Expertshelped SEOmoz jack up their revenue by breaking down Rand Fishkin’s bulletproof sales process into one long landing page.

Then when someone asks that question online in the form of a search query (which more people are doing now than ever before proven byHummingbird’s Conversational Search) odds are they’ll find your post.

There are so many opportunities to write about your offering. For starters, get a stranger who truly doesn’t care about your business to critique it for you. Write down everything that comes to mind, you’ll find a list of blog articles.

There’s definitely a science to writing effective headlines and you should start your blog articles there. Why? They make a promise the article needs to keep. You’ll find it easier to stay on track with a good headline leading you, and readers will be more likely to look for that promise to be fulfilled by reading your post.

Write a long list of headlines and consider each of those a new blog article. Then come up with ways to argue against some of the headlines you’ve started, or maybe dive deeper into specific elements of each article with a new article.

The goal here is to completely cover every area of your business with information unique to you and answering the problems of your personas.

Part of this content process can actually take us back to our PDF we created before. Maybe by now we have all kinds of interesting info we can add to it. Beef that page count up and pitch it on your landing pages and ads as “37 Pages On Home Energy Savings” for example.

One of my favorite ideas is after you feel your blog has exhausted a topic, take all the articles on that topic and reformat them into a big sexy PDF document. Now pitch this to your email subscribers with a new landing page built specifically for this document and topic.

Hang Out With People On Social Networks

Don’t go try to lock down every damn social network, spreading yourself thin. Odds are your target users are only in a couple places. If it’s Twitter, then go to Twitter. If it’s LinkedIn, go to LinkedIn. You may not know for sure at first, try them all until you do know. But at some point, you’ll realize there’s one or maybe two social networks that really bring you the most quality traffic, sales, influence, content shares, etc. Maybe you get content shares on Twitter, but sales on FaceBook. Tweak your strategy to reflect this reality.

Ultimately, the best way to choose the one or two social networks you really need to be on is to find out which ones you like the most. It’s not rocket surgery.

If you like Twitter more than any other network odds are you’ll participate on Twitter more than any other network. If you really don’t care then survey some people that fit your personas and ask them what social networks they look at most for business related stuff. Keep in mind, just because I use FaceBook 32 times a day doesn’t mean I want to see SEO solutions there. I keep it personal on FaceBook and Twitter is more business for me.

Now that you’ve found your target network(s), what’s next?

I can’t tell you how many clients I work with that don’t have their Twitter bio filled out, or they’re using the default background and theme colors. Twitter literally gives you an inbound link in your bio, just type in your URL and it links it. It may not be an SEO friendly direct link, but it makes it easier for your followers to jump over to your site.

Fill out your Twitter bios! You won’t believe how many people don’t realize it can link to any site you want, just type in the URL!

Jab Jab Jab

Take it from Vaynerchuk; jab jab jab right hook.

A right hook in boxing is often the finishing move, but it’s made up of a series of well placed and timed jabs beforehand. If you just go in throwing right hooks you leave yourself open for a simple takedown from your opponent. The same is true in social networks. If you stumble in like a cocain charged sales junky hocking your shit at everyone they’ll make you look so stupid your brand will be tarnished and you’ll lose followers.

Say fun human stuff, be a normal person, link to something silly then share something important that you want to promote. Chit chat chit and then ask for help.

I totally recommend Gary Vee’s new book
Jab Jab Jab Right Hook

Think about it like this; you walk into a Starbucks and without making eye contact with your barista or even saying “hi” you just place your order. Sure you’ll probably get your order and be happy with it (if you even know what happiness is you antisocial dick.)

But what if instead you looked right at her and said “Hey there! How’s your day going so far?”, you’ll get a response and after 10 seconds of totally innocent banter you ask “What do you recommend?”. Sure you may know what you want to order already, but take a step outside your little comfort zone and find you might enjoy something different. The best part is the next time you come to this place, she’ll probably remember you.

That’s how social networks operate. They give you a chance to get outside your comfort zone, talk to real humans like a real human, learn something, share something, and grow with your community.

If a blog is a place for a business to let it’s proverbial hair down, then a social network is a porch for you to sit on with a beer and holler at your neighbors that stroll by.

Right Hook

Now your strategy can’t be all jabs. At some point you’re going to have to land a right hook.

Jabs are short, simple and repetitive, light impact. Right hooks are long, fully invested and should be well thought out and crafted before executed.

This is where you start to push your own blog articles, videos, ebooks, guides, web apps, calculators, tools, landing pages, etc. You answer people’s questions in short form on social networks and back up your answers with links to long form answers on your blog.

One of my role models Tim Ferriss is very good at delivering strong right hooks when he needs them. He has his audience so enraptured by what he says that when he asks for something we chomp at the bit to help him out.

Tim Ferriss delivering knock-out right hooks to a thriving audience.

For example; Tim will promote a book he truly likes and believes in on his own site where he gets a kickback of all sales. He’ll promote a startup that he’s invested in by recommending it to people who are looking to learn French for example.

An interesting thing to note here is that he’s helping himself by helping others more.

Once you deliver that right hook and give someone a link to one of your pieces of content or ask them to do something for you, switch back to jabs. Don’t bludgeon the shit out of your personas with right hook after right hook or they’ll delete you.

Every time you post a new blog article, carefully construct your right hook. Think about social proofs, psychological triggers, promises you can make with the least amount of words, etc.

Conclusion

Now you’ve gone through the entire process of building an Inbound Marketing campaign.

But wait…

Remember that landing page we created a while back? Well now it needs to be optimized a bit more to see if we can get more conversions from all this traffic we’re bringing in.

But once you’ve optimized your landing pages, you notice they don’t fully match your site anymore. Time for a quick UI redesign on your site.

But through the site redesign process a few technical issues have cropped up that need SEO attention.

While looking at your analytics for SEO indicators of performance you notice some interesting new search queries you haven’t seen before. This leads you to create some new content ideas!

Now you have more to share with your audience of followers who are all sliding down your funnel.

You’ll realize about Inbound Marketing that it’s a cycle that needs attention on an ongoing basis, and you’ve built the foundation. Just rinse and repeat.

Enjoy!


I run SimpleTiger, an Inbound Marketing agency focused on helping businesses grow on the web through lean, simple marketing.

We specialize in SEO, content marketing and driving conversions through your site.

If this post helped you out, good, those are my jabs. Now here comes the right hook:

Hit recommend below and follow me on Twitter!

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