In 2009 I was hired as a digital marketing consultant and brought on to augment the digital product platform for a $6 billion dollar corporation.
We had over 340,000 small business customers and a very aggressive sales force. Our fulfillment department pushed out roughly 17 websites a day.
Needless to say the key to all of this being successful was how efficient we could be.
What we quickly learned was that the longest part of the process was the design. With so many clients, we could not afford to go the template route; that would mean that two competitive businesses could end up with very similar websites.
The development end of things actually went pretty smooth. We developed every website on WordPress and packaged up groups of plugins to meet the needs of each business category we served.
We were providing a premium product with an Open Source software and lowering the cost to manage a website, effectively. Still, the issue was we were taking too long to design each site.
Naturally, the websites became more minimal, more content focused. We filled in the white space with words instead of pictures.
We were Forced to Tell a Story.
To get the proper amount of content, and to keep it original we found ourselves interviewing the businesses we served. We developed a questionnaire for each business to complete; a template that helped organize the content creation process.
It felt like we were interviewing people. In fact, I started to explain the job as more of a journalism opportunity rather than a marketing or advertising gig. It seemed to attract a more intelligent employee too, which was great.
We’d basically take an order, drop off the questionnaire, schedule an Interview and get started with the site build, almost immediately.
Efficient and a Much Quicker Process than Expected
What’s funny is the performance of the websites exceeded our expectations. We looked into this and discovered that we were ahead of our time in terms of organic local SEO. We were providing far more content than the local competition in almost every industry, and our clients were climbing to the top of SERPS.
That was when we started paying heavy attention to content marketing.
I tell this story for a reason. The best digital media — edit or ads — is organic, built from the ground up, not bolted or welded to the side of something old – Lewis DVorkin, Forbes Staff
At the time, PPC advertising was still the default way to “do Internet Marketing”. We met with small businesses that allocated thousands each month for PPC.
The campaigns they ran were slow bleeds of revenue, money wasted on paid media that would have been better spent on creating content.
It was actually kind of sad.
However, when we explained this to people, the response we received was unusual. Most businesses were scared to change and furthermore, looked at creating content like a job, a chore.
Instead of adopting a publishing mindset and following a native advertising approach, they continued to throw money away.
OF course, not everyone felt that way. Some businesses loved the idea of becoming an industry thought leader, and they saw the investment of spending time creating content.
Those were the ones that crushed it.
They consistently produced quality, authoritative content at a pace they could handle. My favorite example is Neal’s, an Interior Design & Home Remodeling company in Cincinnati Ohio.
They shared expertise through content by producing blog posts, videos and images of the showroom; helpful how-to and remodeling advice that people loved. Subsequently, it was shared on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
As a reward, Neal’s remains at the top of SERPS for the most important keywords in their industry, and are in contention on a National scale for some very competitive search phrases.
The effort they began back in 2009 has snowballed and has continued to make them a dominate player in their industry today.
Fast forward a few years, the web marketing world moves through a design metamorphosis. Evolving from gaudy “Web 2.0” design and into a more minimal approach.
We found new ways to bend the code and present the content, but all-in-all, things stayed pretty minimal. We instead focused on simple website design that focused on content.
The content consultation was productive with clients and soon, more and more of our clients were getting it. The real issue for most was finding time to brainstorm and publish quality stuff.
So we started a process that is similar to what we did during my consulting days at the giant corporate level. We developed a journalism approach and began interviewing clients.
Content Extraction is the process of outlining, finding, collecting, organizing, editing and publishing of content.
It’s actually a really cool process. We build an outline that serves as a table of content for your expertise. We then schedule a series of interviews on each specific topic of expertise and build content assets to sell your products and services.
Clients loved it. They felt like celebrities.
It also gave us time to interact with our clients because it’s fun & collaborative.
Some people even find the process therapeutic, and began articulating features and benefits that were not previously discovered.
Lightbulbs went off.
The effort then became second nature, like answering the phone.
Those are the ones that really crush it.
They realize that THEY are the industry natives with a knowledge base that consumers crave to acquire. Once this is realized, clients begin cranking out content and actually quite enjoy it.
Long story short, they develop individuality, share expertise and become trusted.
Those are fundamental goals to have as a thought leader.
The overarching goal as a business owner is to dial-in on what your native abilities are, then develop content. Is it a product, service or point of view?
Whatever it is, finding that and leveraging it to focus your marketing will be the greatest investment you can make.
When you’re native to something, people recognize it and they value your opinion more–because they’ve seen you live it.
Then it’s no longer advertising or marketing, it’s education, and it’s fun.