When you’re a content strategist and you’ve written a book called “Make a Killing With Content,” people are going to expect you to have a pretty cool looking website. I’m talking about my guest today, Lacy Boggs. Lacy is the director of The Content Direction Agency. She helps personality-driven brands create and implement content marketing strategies tailor-made to support their customers and reach their goals. When you visit her site, it really does speak for itself as a calling card – from the high-concept look and feel to the fun and engaging copy on the site – well, she kind of has you at hello. Lacy is a strategist, as well as a super-talented writer.
In today’s episode we talk about taking the long view, or as Lacy puts it, the 30,000-foot view. Which is to say, you can’t be everywhere, and you certainly don’t want to come off as all over the place… it’s so much more effective to be intentional with what you are doing and where you are showing up. This is a great episode for anyone who cares about persuasion, conversion, and quality vs. quantity. So, if you want to find out ways to distinguish your brand from all the noise out there stay tuned!
In this Episode
- [00:29] – Stephan introduces Lacy Boggs, content strategist, author, and the director of The Content Direction Agency.
- [06:25] – Lacy shares one of her most memorable marketing accomplishments.
- [12:33] – Stephan talks about the benefits of turning his podcast into a long-form blog post to optimize his SEO.
- [18:42] – How The Content Direction Agency can help you with your business.
- [24:12] – What are the three kinds of yeses, and how can you determine them?
- [31:33] – Stephan and Lacy interpret how understanding the ideal customer in an immersive way is a great way to put yourself in their shoes.
- [37:56] – Lacy tells a great story of how she helped her client successfully launch a business by creating content on videos tailored to the client’s ideal customer.
- [44:46] – Lacy shares one of the rules when you have a copywriter hired to write for you.
- [51:03] – Lacy gives the most significant tip about concept marketing.
- [56:25] – Visit Lacy Boggs’ website lacyboggs.com to learn more from her blog posts. And check out lacyboggs.com/marketingspeak to get your free guide template.
Lacy, it’s great to have you on the show.
Thank you so much for inviting me.
So let’s first start off with, why the title Make a Killing with Content?
Sure. If you go to my website, lacyboggs.com, my brand is actually sort of a vintage film noir detective agency visuals. So the idea I was trying to look for a title that would sort of tie into that without being too kitschy and the idea of making a killing going with film noir detective agencies came up for me, that’s where we went with that. Actually, if you get the book, I tie in a lot of film noir references. I was a film student a long time ago in another life, so I’m very into that period of the film, things like MacGuffin, and your Chekhov’s gun but applying it to marketing so it all kind of came together that way. But it’s also because my big platform is that all content should lead you to make more money in your business.
Gotcha. And I’m curious, how did you build this whole brand around Film Noir? How did that come about? Because I’ve seen your website, it’s really cool. So listeners do check out lacyboggs.com, it’s very memorable and remarkable, and it’s not kitschy or cliche. I just think it’s really well done and really elegant, good job on that.
Thank you. I worked with a woman named Sarah Ashman of Public Persona. She’s a brand strategist. She was my client at first, I did some writing for her. And then I went to her for branding, and she has a really great in-depth process for coming up with what is your hook going to be, and we were trying to come up with something that was me but dialed up to 11, I guess you could say. And so that’s where we came up with the idea of sort of the film noir and that look and feel, which has been my brand for almost six years now, so it’s aged well as well.When you have a strategy, you understand why you're doing it. You know how to promote it and how to get it in front of the right people. That is how something becomes so much more indelible. Click To Tweet
Very cool. And you did a special photoshoot for that. How did that come about?
Sarah directed it for me, we kind of came up with the idea of the hook. And then the big part of my message was, “Don’t write your message in disappearing ink.” We liked the idea of the detective agency, that kind of spy film noir, that kind of thing, and so the visuals really came out of that hook, and then the language came as well out of that hook. So it’s always fun to work with Sarah and her clients because when you have that very memorable brand hook, it’s so easy to create a really great, engaging copy that goes with it because you’ve got that memorable way to get started.
Got you. Now you use the term disappearing ink. How does that manifest for marketers or folks who do not know what they’re doing or they’re making this mistake inadvertently?
Absolutely. Well, we live in this period of peak content, right? No matter how tiny your niche is, it’s very likely that neither you nor any of your customers could possibly consume all the content in that niche any given day. We’ve all heard those statistics about how much content is being produced on any given day. And so what I mean by disappearing ink, because when we write a blog post, write a Facebook post, put something on Instagram, put out a podcast, if we’re not doing the right things, if there’s not a strategy around it, it’s like writing into disappearing ink, right? It’s there for a moment, and then it’s gone. It’s ephemeral. But when you have more of a strategy, you understand why you’re doing it, you know how to promote it, you know how to get it in front of the right people, then it becomes much more indelible, it lasts much longer, and your words and your message gets to the right person at the right time.
Many of my listeners will recognize this quote, and one of my favorites from the Art of War by Sun Tzu, it’s “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
So if you’re being tactical, you might think, “Oh, this is very clever what I’m up to,” but somebody with strategy can just run right over you.
I think the best tactics in the world really won’t even get you very far if you don’t have a big picture plan of where they’re going, right? I had a student once, who had a blog post go legitimately viral, she got something like 35,000 hits to a blog post within a very short period of time, a couple of weeks. But the problem was that they all bounced, that she didn’t have a strategy for how that blog post fit into her bigger ecosystem of content to drive leads and drive sales. And so even though she had this huge viral opportunity because there wasn’t any strategy behind it and fitting it into a bigger picture. It didn’t turn into any additional leads or sales for her at the time.
Do you have an example where it was strategic working with one of your clients, or maybe it’s your own marketing? It just lined up really well with what you are trying to accomplish? So that big spike in traffic or whatever did actually yield some bottom-line benefit.
Yeah, I find that it’s rarely the big spikes in traffic that are really gonna move the needle. Of course, we have to have traffic. Without traffic, we don’t have any eyeballs looking at our content, we don’t have any sales, etc. But it’s usually for me; the biggest wins have come when we play the long game. The example that comes to mind the most is I was working with a company that sells men’s technical clothing, so clothing you would wear to traveling, it doesn’t wrinkle, so it looks good, that kind of thing. He started on Kickstarter, and so his original marketing was very much around him, the CEO, the man who invented it. And so they brought me in to help write his blog, it was from his perspective, his voice, etc. We worked on this for about three years when they decided to do a round of angel investing. So because we had this personal blog happening as part of his brand, we did an email in a blog post saying, we’re opening it up to angel investing, and here’s why. And there’s a lot of rules you have to follow around angel investing. You can’t come right out and say, “Hey, give me money,” things like that. But as a PS to the email, we said, “Hey, if you are an accredited angel investor, and you’re interested, respond to this, and you can get on Stephan’s calendar.” Well, within the first week, he had 16 people respond interested in giving them money, and of that, three ended up giving them $300,000. So I call that my $300,000 email. I wish I could say that it was because the email I wrote was so awesome. He got $300,000, But I really think it was more because of the three years we had spent building up that brand with those people. And so they knew that they could trust him, and were ready to give him money to continue his business.
Got you. Now, that’s a great example of using copy like in a blog post or in an email to get a powerful outcome. A lot of folks will say that blogging is dead, and now it’s podcasting, or it’s TikTok or whatever. Are you of the mind that blogging is still here to stay, it’s still super valuable over the next few years?
I think so. I’ve been doing this for about eight years now, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that blogging is dead, and yet here we are, we’re still going.
Well, I’ve heard SEO is dead multiple times that I can’t count.
I hadn’t heard that TikTok was dead yet. So that’s new to me, but I haven’t even got on there yet.
Well, China needs to make sure that stays alive because that’s how they’re gonna get on our phones.
Yeah, I think blogging is not dead. And it really won’t be less than Intel, the nature of the internet changes dramatically. What I mean by that is like, we’ve certainly evolved considerably since I started doing things on the internet in terms of having video more accessible and audio more accessible and things like that. But in its main state, internet marketing is words, text, and visuals, right? And so, until that fundamentally changes, I think blogging will have a place in the ecosystem. It may not be as big as it used to be. It may not be as dramatic as it used to be. You can’t just write a blog post and get found by thousands of people anymore, but there’s still definitely a place in using it to have that conversation with your audience. That is content marketing that leads to a sale. You brought up SEO, the other thing I always tell people is, Google’s little spiders aren’t good at crawling audio content or video content yet until they make a pretty fast leap forward to that. SEO is still very text-based, so we have to be mindful of that in terms of including appropriate texts with our video and audio.
Yeah, so one of the things that I did about a year and a half ago with this show and my other show, Get Yourself Optimized, was to start creating long-form blog posts. Now, I can’t take credit for this idea, it was actually from Brandcasters or Podetize. Tom Hazzard told me about this that it is a better, more content-rich, show notes page, than simply a bullet list outline. I thought that was pretty clever. Because I did already have transcripts for every episode, but those tend to be really boring and just filled with just text and no images to break up the text. It’s just this huge wall of text. And it’s also not really that interesting to read when there’s a lot of back, and forth banter and the sentences are not necessarily grammatically correct. You get away with a lot more speaking than you can with writing but to take the transcript and turn that into a long-form blog post is ninja, that’s brilliant to break that up with images that you pull from sites like Pexels and Unsplash, adding captions underneath, and taking the best sound bites from the episode, and turning those into click to tweets that are visually set apart from the rest of the text.
That’s all I think is brilliant, and my traffic for both websites for the two shows has definitely improved because of it. In fact, the show’s been going on for four years now I had several years of back catalog that had the old style of show notes. So I had somebody in the Philippines at $3 an episode go through and convert every single one of those previous episodes and all that back catalog into this new format. So everything on my two shows and my wife’s show, she’s a podcaster as well, Stellar Life Podcast, they’re all turned into long-form blog posts, and I think it’s really smart. It’s a powerful way to leverage to repackage your podcast and turn something that’s just locked in audio format, and many people are very busy and don’t have time to listen to an hour-long show like mine, but they can scan through this long-form blog post and get what they need. So I highly recommend that strategy.
That’s actually something that we do. That’s one of the services we offer is we can turn podcast episodes into totally unique, and interesting articles that are separate from, which is great and awesome for your SEO. But it’s also really much easier to repurpose for other sites, and you can put it on LinkedIn, you can put it on Medium, places like that, that don’t necessarily accept audio clips yet, suddenly you have the second piece of collateral that you can repurpose in many different ways.
Yeah, that’s a great point. And I actually want to talk about this a little bit because medium.com, LinkedIn Pulse, putting those blog posts on LinkedIn, is that really a great idea? Now I have my own thoughts about that, but I want to hear yours first because You don’t own the racecourse, as James Schramko likes to say, right? You don’t want to own the racecourse if you’re putting all your efforts into building a community, let’s say on Facebook groups, and then they’d be pulled the rug from under you by canceling your account.
Which they do.
Then you just worked for free for them for a period of time. And now you got nothing to show for it.
No, I 100% agree with that. I always tell people to build their platform on their own land, so to speak. However, I think that repurposing a post that’s already been on your site or let’s say a podcast interview that you’ve turned into an article can be valuable if you’re interested in reaching new and different audiences. So the idea for me with Medium and LinkedIn and places like that where you might be syndicating content would be that it’s more of a discovery platform and that people outside your existing circles might be able to see it. So I repurposed an article on medium recently, and it got picked up by one of the biggest magazines on medium as part of their content. So a whole different audience was exposed to my work that would never have seen it otherwise, right? So in that way, it was valuable for me to get my work in front of it, I always do recommend to people that you have links back to your own site, and a strong call to action at the ends of those articles so that people know how to get in touch with you, not just follow you on medium or LinkedIn. But I think it can be a good way to build your platform a little further out of your inner circle,
Right. And when you do this, are you just taking the article as is and republishing it, or are you paraphrasing, rewriting? How do you do that?
More or less, I take it as is. I don’t do it with every single article. I kind of watch which ones seem to be getting traction within my community and then think okay, that one probably has the best chance of getting more traction outside my existing community. So I don’t do it with every single blog post I write. But yeah, I pretty much just copy and paste that whole cloth. I know there is some question about Google penalizing you for having duplicate content, and what I’ve been told is that as long as the originals on my site, and we’re not doing it like a content farm, going out to 50 different sites, you’re probably just fine.
Duplicate content isn’t really a penalty, it’s a filter. So if you’re first to publish on your site, and then you’re republishing it on some other site, then you’re going to be seen as the originator of the content. In most cases, I mean, you might publish on a very authoritative site, and then that one kind of hijacks the content that’s possible. What I tend to do is not just copy and paste, you know I have my team do this for me, but I have them rewrite, paraphrase even come up with a different angle or hook which is based on the same research and this strategy is from Andy Crestodina, it’s called “the evil twin.” Let’s say it’s the five biggest content marketing mistakes you should never make. Well, the evil twin of that might be the five best practices that the biggest content marketers in the world are doing.Be very mindful of what people are saying about their problems. That is where the gold really comes from. Click To Tweet
So it’s just the opposite, but the same research is just a different hook in the headline and different copy. So it’s some work, but it’s much less work than starting from scratch with a brand new article, and many outlets are requiring exclusivity. So for example, I’ll write for Search Engine Land, for example, I am not allowed to publish these articles that I submit to Search Engine Land anywhere else on the web for a period of multiple years.
Right. They own the rights when you sign that contract.
Yeah, in fact, Adweek literally has me assign the rights to the article. Search Engine Land just requires exclusivity; they don’t say that they own the copyright. Adweek, however, which I’m also a columnist for, does require that so I don’t have the right to even use my own content that I submitted to them.
Right, on your own site, it has to be exclusive.
Anywhere, like it’s theirs now, it gave me a bit of heartburn. I almost didn’t sign the contract for that. To be honest.
We have a client who submits a lot of his stuff to the Financial Times, and it’s the same sort of agreement with them. That’s exclusive to them once he turns it over.
So how many clients are you working with at any given time? And then what kind of work are you doing with them? Is it done for you, done with you, or a combination of both? How does that work?
So, right now, I believe we have eight retainer clients, which is where we are producing their blog posts or their weekly emails done for you. So each client is a little bit different in terms of how we get the information to write the blog posts. Some clients are as little as like, here’s the topic, go research it and you’re done. Others want to be much more hands-on; they want to tell us their thought leadership around the topic. And so sometimes we will interview them, or they’ll leave us long voice messages on something like a boxer or even a few people like to sort of outline it in their email. We try to meet the client where they’re at, so however, they like to think we will try to meet them there and get their thoughts out, and then polish it up into a blog post as best possible. So yeah, right now we have about eight, I believe it’s eight clients, and then we do one-off projects for different clients at different times. So I do have a service now where we can do all of your launch content, and soup to nuts for a program launch. Obviously, I can’t take a ton of those because that’s a lot of copy. Or we might do something where somebody comes in and says, I’d like to create emails for this funnel, or I’d like to write a sales page, those kinds of things. So we do one-off projects as well. But I would say most of our clients come to us for those ongoing content retainers, that’s sort of our sweet spot.
Got you. Okay. Now, you mentioned the phrase thought leadership. I’m curious about your thoughts on this because I’ve heard folks say, one person, in particular, said that he just rails on thought leadership, and he says, “Anybody can have a thought. That’s really not impressive.” The impressiveness that happens with results like what are the results leaders out there doing versus the thought leaders? That’s what he cares about. So what are your thoughts on that?
I feel like I use the term thought leader because there’s not a better term, I should come up with a better term, but what I guess what I mean by a thought leader is, when you have something unique, and interesting to say, in your space, that’s going to help attract the right customers to you. So I 100% agree that results are where the rubber meets the road. But we are engaging in a conversation when we’re doing content marketing, and to engage somebody in a conversation, you have to get their attention. And so a lot of times that might be saying something that’s different from what other people in your industry or in your niche are saying. And to me, that’s where the term thought leadership or whatever we’re gonna call it in the future comes in, and it’s your intellectual property. It’s your IP that you’re putting out there to say, this is where I’m drawing my line in the sand in terms of how I think and feel about whatever topic.
Got you. And so getting these people’s attention, so then you can move them through the funnel. It’s getting harder and harder, a lot of noise out there. So what are some of your best strategies for getting people’s attention and moving them through that funnel? And I’m guessing that maybe the funnel might be the AIDA funnel, perhaps?
Let’s walk through that.
Yes. So AIDA, obviously, is a classic copywriting formula. I think it can be applied to blogging. You can, of course, hit all four in a single blog the way you would in a sales letter or sales page, but I also think it can be dripped out over time. So instead of stretching it out long like a sales page, stretch it out wide. So we might have intention posts, an interesting post, desire posts, moving someone to action and so on over a period of time, rather than all in one. My idea for that is just simply that we are engaging people in conversation, and the more we can get those little yeses, “Yes, you got my attention with this post.” “Yes, I’d like to hear the next post.” “Yes, I’d like to sign up for your email newsletter,” whatever it might be, etc. Then the easier it will be to get the bigger yes, which is, “Yes, I will give you money for whatever you’re going to do to solve my problem.” In my experience, what I found is that a lot of business owners tend to end up in one of those places like they’re always getting attention or they’re always doing interests, I find that how-to posts tend to fall in that interest category, and a lot of people get stuck in the how-to post mode because that’s where we’re experts and we want to share our expertise, and so it can be one of the easier things to write about is “How to do X.” But maybe your client doesn’t care how to do it if they want to hire you to do it for them. So that’s not always the place we want to be stuck. So I find that having that formula or that framework for my clients helps get them out of that stuck mode and instead helps move them along the customer journey a little more fluidly, so they’re reaching, hitting all of those milestones.
Yep, makes sense. And when you were talking about getting all these different yeses, yes, I want to get more there. That reminded me of something I learned from Chris Voss, who was also a guest on the podcast. He’s the author of Never Split the Difference, and an ex FBI hostage negotiator turned one of the world’s leading experts on negotiation. And he talks about three kinds of yeses, and you don’t want to just get these other two yeses, you want the right kind of yes. So the yes ladder doesn’t work if you’re getting the wrong kinds of yeses. So the three kinds of yeses are the good one is the commitment yes, then there’s the confirmation yes, and then the worst one of all is the counterfeit yes. Where they’re basically just wanting to get rid of you. They’ll agree with you just so that you’ll shut up, basically. Have you heard this before this?
I’ve heard of this, and I think it’s smart. It’s a question of, are you asking the right question? Are they saying yes to the right question? At least with my clients, I see sometimes that they have a lead magnet, for example, that converts really well. And so they think they’re doing exceptionally well at list building or whatever, but then they have trouble converting to sales. And when we go back and look at it, we find there’s a mismatch with those yeses like the people who are saying yes to the lead magnet are not good candidates for the product, and so they’re getting this false positive, right? They think they’ve done well by creating this lead magnet that gets lots and lots of conversions, but it’s actually not the right audience, or it’s not the right kind of people. And so the yes is, as you were saying, it’s not valuable at all, because it’s not the person who will convert to a customer down the road. So sometimes those are the problems we have to fix in a funnel even if the numbers look great upfront, if it’s not attracting the right person, if it’s not solving the right problem, then it’s going to be much harder to move people through the funnel to become a paid customer.
Yeah. And what are you doing to identify who that ideal customer or client is? Are you mapping out what their pain points? Are you doing like before forces exercise, talking more like to do with fears, frustration, wants, and aspirations what you’re moving towards, you’re moving away from and immediate and future all that? Looking at maybe the internal problem, not just the external problem if you’re familiar with Donald Miller’s Story Brand Framework, even the philosophical problem that is underneath even the internal problem, like mapping all that out, I find it very effective and helpful for, let’s say, keyword research as part of an SEO engagement so that I know exactly who we’re trying to attract with the right kinds of keywords that the words that they’re typing is based on the problems they’re having, or the situation that they’re in or the environment that surrounds them.
Right. Well, as I was coming up in the internet world, there was this glut of people telling you to fill out these incredibly long profiles of your ideal customer. And it was like, oh, her name is Suzy, and she drives a minivan and she has 2.7 children, but it wasn’t based on anything, it was all conjecture. And I really hate those kinds of ideal customer profiles because I don’t feel like they actually teach you anything about your customer. I want to see testimonials, and I want to see surveys, I want to talk to the clients, I want to go stalk people on your Facebook and say, “How are they describing the problem?” I want to go look at your competitors on Amazon and look at the comments, the reviews of the books and say, “What were they saying their problem was whether the book solved the problem or not,” right? Because that’s where the gold really is, is what are they saying? How are they describing the problem? A lot of times, as experts, we have ways of describing the problem, or we know what the root of the problem is, but people aren’t searching because they’re not waking up at four in the morning worried about that thing. This comes up a lot when I’m working with people like life coaches or mindset coaches, things like that people don’t wake up at four in the morning and think, gosh, I wish I were more empowered every day. That’s not the root thing that they’re looking for, and yet that’s the language a lot of life coaches and people like that because that’s what they think they are doing. They’re empowering people or giving them the tools to empower themselves. That’s not what we’re googling for, right? But we have to find what is the language they are using, so that we can repeat it back to them and they go, “Oh, it’s like you were in my head.”As entrepreneurs and marketers, we have to find what language our customers are using. This is so that we can repeat it back to them, and they go, 'Oh, it's like you were in my head.' Click To Tweet
Yeah, a long time ago, I worked with Kohl’s department stores. They were an SEO client. And they were fixated on ranking for the term kitchen electrics, and that was just the stupidest idea in my mind because nobody’s searching for that. Nobody uses that terminology, except industry people, and there are very few people that are even in the industry using that term. So them ranking number one for that keyword was of no benefit to anybody. It just may be saved their jobs because their CEO was actually searching for that keyword making sure that Kohl’s is ranking. But yeah, you have to understand what is in your customers’ or your prospects’ mind and how they’re articulating that either through a typed in search or speaking it to their Google Assistant.
That’s a whole new world, isn’t it?
Yes, it is. Now, I love what you said earlier that you actually interview the clients’ customers to find out what their problems are, what keeps them up at night, and so forth in addition to reading the testimonials and so forth. I think that’s really important because there are things that they’re just not going to be able to articulate or even know that that’s going on behind the scenes or under the surface. So what are some interview questions that bring that bubble up some of that great intel that you can use?
Yeah, I have to be totally candid. I have a gal on my team that does these scores, mostly because she comes from a consumer research background. So she’s great, she’s the one we rely on who asked the great questions. But what I find most is that it’s not as much about asking the questions, it’s about listening and encouraging the person to talk. So it’s more about just giving them the space to talk and talk through the story, tell the story, ramble a little even because that’s when you get to the meat of what they really think and what they’re really interested in, and what’s important to them. We were doing one of these recently for a client who hired us to write some case studies, and so she was interviewing a happy customer of this client. It was a benefit we never thought of where it’s a SaaS program. So when he had this SaaS program, and his salesperson could whip out an iPad and do all these cool things, his client was impressed at that, “Oh, they’re so technologically advanced, look how adept they are.” And that wasn’t something that the SaaS company ever really thought like, it makes you look good, and it makes you look like you know what you’re doing and so that was a whole kind of exciting. Oh, we didn’t really ever look at that. You make a great first impression when you use this, and you really look like you’re on top of your game.
Right. Sometimes things come out of these that you weren’t expecting if you give them space to just talk.
It’s very wise. Now. You were talking about the ideal customer and trying to understand and put a big persona kind of document together that’s a little overkill. I don’t know that I completely agree with you because I’ve heard some case examples where companies have gone full tilt and understanding their ideal customers even to the point, it was Adidas I think that had the room with lockers and lifesize posters next to each locker. These were high school students, I think, you could open the locker next to that person’s picture and see what their locker was like, how it was decorated, the kind of sports gear they had in there, what books they had, etc.
And what Adidas they had, right?
Yeah, so you could get a full immersion into that person’s world. I thought that was brilliant. Now having a huge document doesn’t do it that way, I don’t feel the full immersion effect from reading a five-page document about a hypothetical person who doesn’t even exist. But that experience that you give the marketer, full immersion in that room with those lockers and those life-sized posters, I think that’s brilliant.
I would agree. I think my distaste for it was that a lot of these people were doing it without the research without anything that they were just making Suzy Homemaker up out of their minds, rather than putting in the time in the effort to research it. And that’s where I think the disconnect is for me is that these exercises exist to say like, well, what kind of magazines do you think she reads as opposed to go ask her what kind of magazines she reads.
Totally agree with you on that.
I remember, I think it was Airbnb when they were getting started, they hired a storyboard artist to come out, and they would storyboard different customer experiences. Well, what happens when they get to the house, and they would have different almost like a choose your own adventure, when it was a good experience, and when it was a bad experience, and they had these storyboards up in the office for quite a while, because they were trying to improve the experience of the customer, and that I think is brilliant as well. It’s a really great way to put yourself in their shoes and say, “How is my content?” or “How is my UX?” or the customer experience adding to their positive experience instead of detracting or, how are we ensuring that they’re having a positive customer experience and storyboarding it out that way? Even if you don’t draw it, even if you do it with post-it notes is a great way to say how is my content adding to that experience instead of just being noise as we were talking about earlier.
Speaking of Airbnb, I just heard Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, speak at Abundance 360 and share some of these early stories of how they got started and how they’ve grown the company. It’s impressive what they’ve been able to accomplish, and how they started from nothing.
Yeah, literally sleeping in somebody’s living room or whatever it was.
Wild story there. Yeah. Anyway, so I’m curious, you mentioned post-it notes like how are you using post-it notes to strategize and ideate and map out the different kinds of structures and campaigns and things like that? Because I can think of multiple uses for post-it notes to like card sorting all of those sorts of stuff, so I’m just curious how you use post-it notes since you mentioned it.
Yeah. As I said, I come from a film background. So we used to do scenes, log lines on each post-it note when you’re screenwriting, and then you can shuffle and rearrange. I think it’s useful for campaigns as well if you’re planning an email campaign, or you’re planning a big launch, and you have lots of different moving parts. But more than that, I actually use a pretty simple spreadsheet when we’re doing content plans and content calendars. I use basically an Excel spreadsheet because I like to be able to see things from a 30,000-foot view of what’s happening all over the place, kind of in a snapshot. I was telling somebody the other day she was like, “I get these ideas, and I want to do it, and then that’s not part of my plan, and what do I do?” I said write it on a post-it and save it somewhere. Just because it’s not part of the plan right now doesn’t mean it’s not part of the plan in the future. It’s just we have to be a little more discerning about what we’re doing at any given moment, instead of chasing the shiny object.
Yeah, I do a bit of that. I have to admit. I’m prolific with ideas.
That’s good. That’s a good habit to have.
It’s a quality problem. It’s actually a very big blessing. And I have to really focus in order to get powerful work done, I have to set all those shiny objects aside, and that’s hard.
It can be.
So let’s walk through what goes into like a program launch or building out a funnel from your perspective as the person who’s providing all the copy, the emails that go out and the different drip campaigns, or the landing page copy that you might be writing or squeeze pages, etc. From your perspective, what makes for a good funnel or a good launch?
Yes. So I think my biggest thing that I always want to start with a client is what are we doing that is unique? What are we doing that is going to get the attention of the right people? So I’m very much against lately just following the crowd in terms of what’s popular or what’s happening everywhere in terms of marketing formulas. Marketing formulas can work, they’re popular for a reason, right? They get results for a certain number of people, but I think we’ve reached a tipping point of saturation with a lot of the formulas that have been popular over the last few years where they’re not working as well. I don’t know if you’re seeing this, or for yourself and your clients, but I’m seeing anecdotally a lot of people saying that these funnels or these templates that have worked in the past and aren’t working as well.A strong message is more about trying to get people to know who I am, rather than selling them my product or service. Click To Tweet
Well, especially when it leads to a webinar, the showup rates are just abysmal these days.
Dropping like a stone. But I actually have a great story about that. So we were doing a launch for a client in Q4 of 2019. And she wanted to do one of the launch that started with a video tree, video series, and then moved into a webinar and sells from the webinar. And as we were talking about it, as we were brainstorming, we talked about the fact that her ideal customer is actually the time-starved entrepreneur, right? It’s the CEO or the solopreneur who has no time because they’re doing everything themselves. I’m like, they’re not gonna sit and watch three 45-minute videos and then a webinar. So instead of doing it that way, we planned a much shorter series. They were five-minute videos, and you mentioned post-it notes, the challenge that we have to do all the information with it on a single post-it note. And so that was sort of the hook, it was like, “If you don’t have time to watch this for five minutes a day you definitely need what we are gonna sell you because,” and it moved into her webinar and her webinar actually converted at something like 26.5% which is very good from my experience, and it was because we took what worked from the template and adjusted it for her people rather than just following the blueprint blindly. We tried to adjust it for her voice, her brand, her customers and, what the data was showing us as you said, showup rates are plummeting and these kinds of things. So I think that was how we created a plan where she could be a leader in her marketing in her space and then really differentiated herself that way and it worked out really well, they did a great launch, very successful.
Very cool, and what sort of show up rates did she get, and did you help with increasing those show up rates with any kind of like texting campaigns or anything like that to remind them to show up.
You know, I don’t have the show up rates off the top of my head, but we did do an email campaign, we were not doing any texting. We did an email campaign, but we did increase the conversion from something like 10% the last launch to that 26 and a half, which means that the people who did show up anyway, were the right ones because they were interested in what she had to say.
And are you using webinars in your business?
I do have a webinar. I don’t run it, it’s not like I’m on autopilot, I run it when I have a partner that’s interested. I find that it’s more about getting people to understand what I do and who I am rather than trying to sell from the webinar for me, and I think that partly because working with a copywriter is a very personal relationship. You’re putting a lot of trust in them. And so it’s more about getting them to know and like me than it is to hit the button by now kind of thing. So my goal with the webinars is always to get people on a call, or to ask them to opt-in for more information about something as opposed to like, buy this program right now.
What kind of clients or prospects do you turn down because they’re not a fit?
Oh, that’s a great question. Generally, the people who are not a fit are either they’re not ready to outsource, so I can usually tell when they’re very concerned about individual word choices like they want to change beautiful to lovely or when they get extremely nitpicky about that, that tells me that they’re having trouble letting go, right? Because it’s not that I don’t want to meet them and write in their voice, I absolutely do, and I am wholly ready to hear feedback about I wouldn’t say this, I would say that, but when they start to nitpick things that aren’t really indicative of the overall efficacy of the piece. That’s when I can say, oh, they’re not ready to let go of this.
That sounds like a micromanager, and the epitome of that is Pointy-Haired Boss from Dilbert. This is one particular comic that I love and Dilbert, where the Pointy-Haired Boss is hovering behind Dilbert, who’s at his computer working. His hand is on his mouse, and Pointy-Haired Boss has his hand on top of Dilbert’s hand. So that’s the epitome of micromanagement, and I don’t think anybody enjoys that.
Yeah. But otherwise, it’s mostly when I don’t think I can get them a return on their investment. If I think to myself, you’re going to spend X dollars with me, but you have no way of returning that with what you’re selling or it would take a miracle at this point, then I would probably suggest they do something else because it’s in nobody’s best interest if they don’t get a return on their investment.
Well, another possibility, I guess, is if the client is just already pretty well set. I mean, I never find that from an SEO perspective, even the really big brands that are making a lot of money off of SEO, I find tons of stupid mistakes. So I’m guessing this is probably a similar situation where you find issues pretty much across the board with their copy doesn’t even matter if they have an in house copywriting team that’s been trained by Dan Kennedy. It doesn’t matter, and they’re probably also making mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes, and more often with me, it’s not that the existing copy has mistakes but more that there’s so much copy that needs to be produced at any given time. When they come to me, it’s usually because they’re burnt out or they’re overwhelmed, or they’re just not ready or don’t want to do it themselves anymore. So I would like to say I can do it better than the average Joe, but it’s more like God I just can’t handle this anymore. Please take it off my plate.
Do you do any kind of copy audit, when you’re taking on a client, and you see issues with their website, I know for example, with my website, I’ve got multiple websites but the stephanspencer.com website, there are pages that I, cringe might be the too strong of a word, but I get uncomfortable when I’m looking at the copy like the Work with Me page needs an overhaul. It’s a beautiful looking page, a really well-designed site. I love the design, the company that did the work Studio1 is amazing. But the copy itself on that page kind of rubs me wrong. It’s not congruent with my brand. The copywriter didn’t really get my voice, and there are some mixed metaphors in there, I’m a stickler for grammar, and I hate mixed metaphors. The same sentence, it’s just annoying, and that stuff is in there. I know it needs to be cleaned up, and I just haven’t gotten to it yet. So I’m curious if you’re on that side of the business too of auditing their existing copy.
Yes, sometimes. So more often than not, they’ll come to me with a complaint like that. They’ll say, “Oh, this page isn’t working,” or “I just hate it because of XYZ,” or they’ll say, a lot of times recently, I’m getting, “Our email funnel isn’t converting the way we’d like it to, can you help us?” And so then I always want to see not only the original copy but also the stats, what’s the data saying? Are there any outliers that are saying, well, this one’s working, but this one’s not or people are opening it, but they’re not clicking or those kinds of things because that’ll help me understand. Where’s the mismatch? Where is it not doing its job? And so hopefully, we can fix it from there. But a lot of times, it’s just like what you’re saying, I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “The copywriter just didn’t get my voice.” And gosh, I will say this as a hard and fast rule for your listeners. I don’t care who the copywriter is, I don’t care how expensive they are or how cheap they are, if they can’t get your voice, they’re not the right copywriter for you. And that goes for me too, if it’s not a good match, it’s not a good match in your business, and your marketing will suffer.
Yeah, in your bio, you mentioned that you help personality-driven brands. So part of the personality is the way that your voice comes across and all these different copywriters that you’ve hired over the years with different kinds of voices, and if there’s no cohesiveness to that, you’ve got a problem, you actually kind of schizophrenic.
Totally. I think that’s where I always recommend people have a brand voice style guide. So a lot of people are familiar with brand style guides that tell you what fonts to use, or what colors to use or what logos but I also would recommend if you are ever outsourcing copier content, that you have a voice style guide and what that includes is things like you were just saying. Like if you’re a stickler for grammar, do you do AP style or Chicago manual style? Do we like Oxford commas or no Oxford commas? And we never want these mixed metaphors. That’s what I would put all in your style guide, things that the copywriter will understand. We put things about tone, we put things about diction, syntax, and then we also have a list of like words and phrases that you might use commonly or that you would never use. If you would never say amazeballs or something like that, we could put that on the list.
Or literally. Every time I hear that, I give the person a hard time, especially if it’s my kids. I’m like, Was it literal, or was that figurative?
And that way, when you have that document, it’s a living, breathing document, we add to it all the time or change it up. But when you have that, then anytime you are, for example, hiring your contractor in the Philippines is going to turn your podcasts into articles, you can hand that to them. And they can understand or at least then you’ve done your due diligence handing it to them and saying, if you’ve got one person writing your tweets and somebody else writing your sales pages, they have to kind of come together.It's less important that you be everywhere, and more critical that you're intentional with what you are doing and where you are showing up. Click To Tweet
And that’s what I do have. I have a different person writing my tweets, and a different one writing the sales letters, the different person writing the blog posts.
It can be tricky when you’ve got a diverse team like that.
Yeah. Do you have an example of a voice style guide?
Do you mean that I could share it with you guys?
No, that only you can see. I want my listeners to be able to see an example. It doesn’t have to be one of yours or clients or anything, it could be just one that you find online, but it would be great to see an example like a mood board or something that many people have never come across a really good mood board. Studio1 does these beautiful, powerful mood boards.
I haven’t searched for it in a while, but MailChimp actually used to have a voice style guide that was public that you could find. It was excellent, and it was really well done, and they had something that I actually started adding to mine that I do for clients where they were talking about things like “We are cheeky but not rude.” “We are funny, but not crass.” All these things which I thought were a really great distinction in terms of how to portray the MailChimp brand so Google for that and see if it’s still available because it was an excellent demonstration of that, but I also have a template people can download for themselves if they’re interested. We can put it at lacyboggs.com/marketingspeak, and you can go grab that there. That way, you can build one for yourself.
Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you so much. And I will Google for that. We’ll see if we can find it. I’m actually looking right now. I’m pretty good with searching because I do have a book on it, The Google Power Search.
Yeah, that’s kind of what you do.
SEO, of course, includes being a power searcher, but I actually have a book specifically just about power searching. So there’s got to be something out there. I’ll dig it up, and I’ll include it in the show notes.
Yeah, maybe we can find it on the Wayback Machine if it’s not there anymore.
Yeah, and by the way, for listeners who don’t know what the Wayback Machine is, oh, my goodness, this thing can be a lifesaver. I remember I was speaking at a BlogHer conference once, and I shared the Wayback Machine with a blogger. She had gotten hacked, lost all of her content, and it had been months ago. She didn’t know what to do, and I told her about the Wayback Machine and my oldest daughter, who is also an SEO and was on the session with me; she was my co-presenter. She said she was in the bathroom after the session. And that lady was crying with gratitude in the bathroom just because I told her about the Wayback Machine. It’s pretty cool. So archive.org is where the Wayback Machine is, and you can put in a URL and navigate that website back in time. It has different snapshots, it can go back decades, even if you go look at, for example, netconcepts.com, which was my previous agency, which I sold in 2010. You could see what the website looked like in the 90s. Just so cool.
Yeah, it is cool.
All right, so we’re getting close to time here. What would be some of the more important strategies or tips or tricks that we didn’t discuss, or questions that I didn’t ask that, but I should have?
Ah, gosh, I think that my biggest tip for people, when they’re trying to figure out content marketing, is really just to take a step back, look at it from that 30,000-foot view and remember that it’s less important that you be everywhere, and more important that you’re intentional with where what you are doing where you are showing up. We have the opportunity to be on, I mean, dozens I almost said literally, and I caught myself, but literally dozens of channels.
There you go. Just to get me going like, thank you.
Where we can put content on many, many different things, we have opportunities to be present in all these places and ask yourself, is it necessary? And where should I be focusing my efforts instead? I think unless you are a corporation that’s huge and global and worldwide, it’s probably less important to be everywhere and more important to be focused on doing quality work in a few places so that you can really curate that conversation with your ideal customer and create that journey that we’ve been talking about that will lead to a sale. So less is more, I’m a big fan of essentialism, finding out where I can do the most quality content and really provide the best experience for that customer that will lead to a sale as opposed to trying to just throw a spaghetti at a wall and see what sticks. Spaghetti is not a strategy.
I have not read The One Thing yet, but the Essentialism, like lives on my bookshelf.
What is the most important concept or tip or something from that book that’s maybe changed the way that you do things?
Really, it’s the concept that less but better is the focus of essentialism. It’s not minimalism as in doing the least amount possible, but it’s determining where I can do the best, the highest quality good, and then focusing on doing less but better. And I think that’s true in business in general, but in content marketing, for sure, in this day and age, unless you have a team of dozens that can produce content for every channel, you have to focus, and you have to try to do, the way you’re going to stand out is to produce really quality content, better content, and that may necessitate it there being less of it, or fewer channels, or whatever that might look like but really getting focused on where you can have the biggest impact and doing quality work there.
That is so important. And there’s one platform that I know I should be on more Instagram, and I just am not I, it’s a lot harder for me to produce content for Instagram. I’m very guarded about my personal life, like I have a five-month-old baby. We posted one photo of that baby on social media so far, and I’m not in any hurry to post a bunch more. So Instagram doesn’t get a lot of my attention. There are folks who insist on being on every single platform, and that spreads themselves very thin, and they’re trying to be everything to everybody, I think, but is there a platform that you neglect?
Oh, yeah. I am still technically on Twitter, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I logged into Twitter. I definitely neglect that. But I never got much traction even when I was trying to be more intentional about it. So that is when I have let go of more or less because, as you with Instagram, it’s not one that I was able to focus on or really do work for my clients or me in the right way. I tend to spend my energy on Facebook and LinkedIn with a smattering of Instagram thrown in. But again, I have a team, but we’re small, we’re a very narrow team, and so there’s only so much we have time to do only so much we can give our all to. So I would rather be putting out really great content. I focus on putting out great content on my blog and then distributing it through a few channels like Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s really where I’m focused right now.
Yep, yeah, makes sense for me. I am quite active on Twitter. Well, my team is. I have no idea what I’m tweeting because it’s not actually me. But they’re probably seven or eight tweets a day, they get posted on my @sspencer Twitter account, and we get over a million impressions a month and reach. So it’s working.
Kind of on autopilot, and they do get my voice, and it is congruent with my values and what I care about and stuff. So we did nail Twitter pretty well.
All right. I think we’re out of time, so if you could share, again, that special URL with the style guide template and also your website.
Absolutely. So if you can go to lacyboggs.com/marketingspeak, I’ll put that template up there for you to grab. And lacyboggs.com is where to find me. As I mentioned, there are those case studies up there, and I have whatever seven years worth of blog posts, you can go read through. There’s lots of good info there, but that’s the best way to reach me.
Awesome. And so if they want to hire you to do a content retainer. They need a one-off copy audit.
Want to talk about strategy. Well, I’m here. That’s what I love to do.
Program launch, funnels, all that sort of stuff.
All that good stuff.
Great. Well, thank you, Lacy.
- Lacy Boggs
- Twitter – Lacy Boggs
- Facebook – Lacy Boggs
- LinkedIn – Lacy Boggs
- Instagram – Lacy Boggs
- Youtube – Lacy Boggs
- Make a Killing with Content
- Art of War by Sun Tzu
- Never Split the Difference
- The Google Power Search
- The One Thing
- James Schramko – previous episode
- Andy Crestodina – previous episode
- Chris Voss – previous episode
- Get Yourself Optimized
- Stellar Life Podcast
- Work with Me – StephanSpencer.com
- Twitter – Stephan Spencer
- Film Noir
- Sarah Ashman
- Public Persona
- Brandcasters or Podetize
- Tom Hazzard
- LinkedIn Pulse
- Search Engine Land
- Financial Times
- Donald Miller’s Story Brand Framework
- Tom Cruise
- Minority Report
- Suzy Homemaker
- Joe Gebbia
- Abundance 360
- Pointy-Haired Boss
- Dan Kennedy
- Wayback Machine
- BlogHer conference
- Mailchimp Content Style Guide
- Voice and Tone Guidelines
- Voice, Tone & Content Guides Samples
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Build a strategy for how I want to convey my message to my target audience. This creates a clear direction for how I can accomplish my company’s goals.
Make sure that all the content I publish stays aligned with the company’s branding. It’s not just about the logo, font, and colors. It’s also about the tone of voice, language used, and style of communication.
Play the long game and always remember to take a step back to see the bigger picture. Create content that can be timeless.
Don’t set aside text content. From an SEO perspective, Google can crawl text faster in the SERPs.
However, don’t just place a slab of text on a web page. Utilize other forms of media such as infographics, videos, and images with quotes to make it easier on the eyes.
Be crucial about intellectual property. Make sure I protect what is mine and not steal other people’s content. It’s always best to credit the owner of an original work when using it or emulating it on my end.
Create a content map for my customers. For every checkpoint, they reach in their journey, make sure I have the proper messaging and information to guide them to whatever they need.
Treat testimonials, survey answers, and reviews like gold. This information can help make the best decisions for my customers and business.
Listen to the customer and try to understand where they’re coming from. It’s not how I present my product, it’s how my customers respond to it.
Check out Lacy Bogg’s website to learn more about finding your perfect voice online and grab a copy of her free guide exclusive for Marketing Speak listeners.
About Lacy Boggs
Lacy Boggs is a content strategist, author of the bestselling Kindle ebook, “Make a Killing With Content,” and the director of The Content Direction Agency. She helps personality-driven brands create and implement content marketing strategies tailor-made to support their customers and reach their goals. To learn more, go to lacyboggs.com/undercover.