Treat educational content like a passive index fund.

TL;DR = Invest in educational content. Spend the money. Build a strong portfolio. Spread out the risk. Use your content wherever it makes sense.

Happy Monday!

Last week I published a blog post about Reach Teach Sell. It’s my practical framework for marketing and content strategy. It includes seven steps aligning to the customer lifecycle:

  1. Reach potential customers where they already are.
  2. Teach them something new with educational content.
  3. Sell them what they need by providing all the necessary info.
  4. Support the onboarding process, set customers up for success.
  5. Retain your customers by staying in touch.
  6. Reward customers for their loyalty and success.
  7. Refer new business by helping customers spread the word.

Most of my day-to-day work at GoDaddy focuses on teaching through educational content. You’re going to find a ton of articles on the GoDaddy Blog filled with tips for small businesses.

Read more…Treat educational content like a passive index fund.

Reach Teach Sell: A practical marketing framework

Reach Teach Sell is a practical marketing framework that I’ve iterated on since ~2013. It was originally a means of thinking about marketing funnels, but it has since evolved to encompass the entire customer lifecycle.

Reach Teach Sell informs how I think about marketing, and within the scope of my day-to-day work, how I think about content strategy specifically.

Here’s how it plays out, at a high level:

  1. Reach your target customers where they already are.
  2. Teach them something new.
  3. Sell your customers what they need.
  4. Support the onboarding process.
  5. Retain your customers.
  6. Encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

Let’s go through each step.

Reach your target customers where they already spend their time.

Tactics include paid placement and earned exposure: Advertising, PR, strategic partnerships, community engagement — pretty much anything that will get you in front of the people you want to reach.

You can get paid placement up and running faster than earned exposure, but earned exposure sustains you over time. So for a new business, lean on paid placement for a short-term lift (ads, PR & sponsorship), while investing in the assets that’ll get you long-term return (content and community).

Teach them something new.

Educational, inspirational, and helpful content is an evergreen asset. It demonstrates your expertise and shows that you know what you’re doing. It builds your credibility, authority, and social capital. And by injecting your own opinion or perspective into the content, you’re able to call out the things that make you different.

Jimmy Daly, of the enterprise content agency Animalz, recommends building a library of evergreen resources on your website. That content library is like an investment portfolio, with a value that grows with each additional asset.

I think that advice applies just as well to small, local businesses. Why? Because trust and relationships are two major reasons that customers choose to shop locally.

So, by consistently producing helpful content over time, you can get a head start on building that trust before your potential customers ever walk through the door.

Sell your customers what they need.

Help customers make an informed decision by providing all the details they need. If they have a pre-purchase question, that question should already be answered on your website.

Selling products? Include all the features and specs. Use photos and video to show them what the product looks like in different environments. (That applies to both hardware and software, by the way.) Include reviews from customers. Heck, even review the product yourself!

Selling services? Describe your process. Walk customers through the steps. Include case studies, success stories, and testimonials as social proof. Have credentials or certifications? Display them next to contact forms as reassurance.

An FAQs page is another way to get detailed information in front of your potential customers. You can also roll those FAQs into the educational content (under “Teach”) and link to that content where appropriate.

Support the onboarding process.

What happens after you bring in a new customer? Are you setting them up for success from the beginning?

Create your own welcome package with “getting started” guides, orientation sessions, and documentation. Then make on-demand support available through email, phone, and live chat.

This may sound like stuff that a customer care team would be responsible for, but it’s just as important for marketing. Why? Because everything affects marketing, especially bad customer experiences.

Retain your customers by helping them succeed.

Customer success comes from a strong customer relationship. And like any relationship, it requires effort. You can’t just set it and forget it.

How do you keep building your relationship? How do you stay top-of-mind with your customers? How do you help them succeed with your products or services?

There may be a lot of overlap between this and the Teach content. So if you can, try to go a level deeper with your retention.

At this level, you should have more insights into what your customers need, and the specific challenges they’re facing. So go for more intimate tactics like exclusive content, interactive webinars, 1:1 calls, and even in-person workshops or events.

Recognize and reward your customers for their loyalty.

Don’t chase new customers at the expense of your current customers.
Love the ones you’re with. Celebrate them.

What can you do for the customers who’ve stuck with you? It could be a personal email, a thoughtful note, or a small gift. Those little touches are the things that people remember.

You have a massive advantage here if you’re a small, local business. Chances are you’re able to have the real, personal relationship with customers that bigger companies struggle to emulate.

Lean into that strength. It’s what sets you apart.

Encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

What can you do to help your happy customers tell others about your business? Can you ask for referrals outright? Can you give them something to share? Can you support and amplify their advocacy by including them in case studies and testimonials?

This final step of the framework closes the cycle. You first showed up where your customers were spending their time. You built your credibility by being helpful and sharing your expertise. And when they were ready to buy, you gave them everything they needed to make an informed purchase.

But you didn’t drop them and move on to the next potential customer. You helped them get started and succeed with what they bought. You kept in touch with thoughtful gestures and checked in on them even when you had nothing else to sell.

And now, at this final step, you’re asking for a personal endorsement. The word-of-mouth referral. It’s the most powerful form of marketing that every other channel strives to match.

It’s not something that comes lightly. It’s earned through consistent effort, and by providing an excellent customer experience. But that’s exactly what the Reach Teach Sell framework is meant for. It gives you those milestones to think about.

What next?

The Reach Teach Sell framework isn’t unique. It’s inspired by the work of other businesses and marketers, and I continue to tweak and expand on it as I come across new concepts.

Up until now, I’ve kept most of that thinking and iterating to myself. And I realize how contradictory that is, considering Reach Teach Sell is built on the core idea of sharing what you know and how you approach your work.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to start writing and talking more about this framework, the various components of it, and the work of others that it intersects with.

Goal progress: January 2019

Happy Thursday, and welcome to the end of January. That’s 1/12th of the way through 2019, or 8.3%. (Yikes!)

I set a dozen goals for myself at the start of the year. Each month I’m checking in to see what incremental progress I’ve made, if any.

Here’s where I’m at:

What’s working?

Reading one book per month: I finished Essential McLuhan and am nearly done with Company of One by Paul Jarvis.

Publish one new page per week to my site: I covered how to do a website refresh, how to build a WordPress site, and how to come up with topics to blog about. I’m happy with their depth, but they still need images and links. Heading into February, I need to ease off on the length so I can publish them faster.

Spend more time with family: We just came out of the holidays with tons of family time. Will have a better sense of this in a month.

Take road trips & share the experience: Partial credit here. Took a mini-roadtrip from Phoenix to Flagstaff last week but didn’t share any photos or write about it. Planning to do a mini-roadtrip up to Sonoma and Napa next time I’m in California. Will write about that one.

Return to a healthy lifestyle: Another partial credit. Been pretty good with the food and doin’ spin sessions 2-3 times per week. Need to step up the resistance training.

What’s not working?

Complete coding courses and share the results: No progress here. Haven’t touched code this month. Been deep in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint for the last few weeks. Heading into February: Diggin’ into SQL and Python because they’re relevant to my day-to-day work.

Do more creative work and share it: I’m doodlin’, busting out the sketchbook several nights a week, but I need to start publishing. I’ve spun up a new Instagram profile to follow other artists (inspiration!), and set up a new website for sharing the work.

Record and publish one podcast per week: Nada. Haven’t done anything here. I said I’d stack this on top of other activities, but I haven’t blogged regularly this month. Posts = podcasts, so I need more posts.

Learn audio & video production, share notes: These are slated for deep dives in April and May, so I’m not too concerned (yet).

Get back into gaming & streaming: I planned to do an hour each weekday and set a regular schedule, but that hasn’t worked out. I still want to crack this. I’ll try stacking it on the creative work in February.

Monthly newsletter: Another zilch. To fix it: Write shorter posts more often (daily). That’s fuel for podcasting. Stack em’ for a monthly newsletter.

What else is going on?

I flipped my site’s theme from GeneratePress to McLuhan by Anders Noren, and not just because I was on a Marshall McLuhan kick earlier this month.

Creative work is my personal priority for 2019, and while there’s a lot of creativity that goes into customizing a site’s design, I felt like the amount of time I spent on tweaks could be better spent elsewhere.

I chose the McLuhan theme because it’s restrictive, has a nice index of blog posts by month, and the layout reminds me of early blogs.

Anders writes his themes with incredibly clean markup, so if I want to throw on some custom CSS in the future, that’s not a problem. And because the pages are so minimalist, I can add a touch of personal flair with illustrations.

Also: When I relaunched my site late last year I said I’d create a new blog for curating articles. It’s live, and it’s called Press This.

It’s not about business or marketing — I have something else in mind for that — but instead covers uplifting news, thoughtful quotes, creative work, and useful tech.

Here’s to February.

The shortest month. Very cold. Lots to do. Let’s go!

My 2018 year in review

Happy Holidays! I started drafting this post on Christmas Eve., but got so deep into writing that I ran out of time. The next few days were a flurry of family functions: An evening with the inlaws. A Lord of the Rings marathon for Christmas. A trek north to see my relatives on Boxing Day.

So here we are, a few days later. The chaos is behind us and the year actually feels like it’s coming to an end. What better time to publish a self-reflection than now?

Why bother with a “year in review” post?

Whether you consider these sorts of posts interesting depends on your personal perspective. I’m fascinated by the lives of others, and I enjoy skimming stories from people around the world.

It feels like a throwback to the old web, when we blogged for the sake of sharing and discovery.

So, with that, here’s what I’m thinking about as the year comes to a close.

Read more…My 2018 year in review