If you’re trying to decide on the best social media strategy, you’ve probably missed this crucial first step…

This is a pretty common scenario: I’ll get on the phone with someone to consult with them about their business and somewhere in the conversation they’ll ask a question.

The question usually sounds something like this: “Should I get a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile? What about Pinterest? Or Instagram?

It’s a good question to ask… unfortunately, business owners frequently ask it too early in the process.

My response is always this…

WHAT DOES YOUR SALES FUNNEL TELL YOU?

Your sales funnel is the most important part of your business. It’s the flow of your customers from first hearing about you… allllllllll the way through developing a relationship with you… allllllllll the way to the point when they buy from you, and beyond.

It’s the step-by-step sequence that people go through as they become leads, then prospects, the customers, then evangelists for your business.

I think most business owners know that (at least intuitively, even if they don’t know their sales funnel as deeply as they could).

However, business owners also encounter an onslaught of messages that tells them: “You need to be on social media and if you’re not on ALL social channels, your business is as good as dead in the water.

THE MYTH OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE FACT OF BUSINESS

Social media is a means of communication not a universal business strategy. It’s a way to engage with people, to connect with them, to listen, to have conversations, to advise, to help, to share… and yes, even sometimes to sell. Because it’s a means of communication, it’s also a useful marketing tool… but it is NOT a universal business strategy.

The reason is: Not all of your prospective customers are active on every social media channel or even ON every social media channel.

One client found that his target market of older professional men with an interest in cars were active on LinkedIn but not Facebook and definitely not Pinterest. Another client found that his target market of a specific group of real estate investors was active on Facebook but not Twitter or Instagram. One client found that his clients weren’t on social media at all.

Consumers use social media to connect and learn and share. But not all consumers do. Some don’t get it, others don’t feel the need, others don’t have time.

Many business owners seem to assume that ALL of their customers are on ALL social media ALL the time so they invest a lot of time and energy and money into building social brands. They discover a significant lack of engagement and zero return on all of that marketing investment.

The truth is very different: Some target markets are using some social media some of the time. (Sometimes more than others).

There are situations when a different approach works better. From direct mail to print ads to cold calling, just to name a few.

HERE’S WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

Before you invest heavily into every social media channel, figure out where your best customers spend their time. Are they hanging out on Twitter? Are they hanging out on Facebook? Great. Invest there. Or, as I suggested in another blog I run about copywriting or real estate investors, if your target market is spending more of their time at their kid’s softball tournaments, then skip social and sponsor the team.

Invest time thinking about where your audience’s attention is focused and that will tell you exactly how to connect with them.

It might be one or more social media channels… or it might not.

Ideas to generate passive income with content

Running a business — one in which you provide services to your clients — sometimes ties you to the clock: You can only perform so many services in a day and that puts a cap on your income. As a copywriter, this is a frustration I face.

Yes, you can become more efficient, yes you can raise your prices, yes you can work longer hours, yes you can outsource some of your work. I do those things and I know other people who do those things too. But if you’re THE person who delivers value as a service, you will face the simple reality that there are only 24 hours in a day and at some point you have to stop working so you can eat a carrot or watch an episode of House of Cards.

Don’t get me wrong, I love service businesses and I think if you want to start a business, you should start by offering a service. But there comes a point when you want to grow your business but you can’t squeeze more productivity into your day.

Expanding your business to create income that isn’t chained to the clock is a great way to help you make more money without having to invent a time machine. This is sometimes called passive income.

One way to create passive income is to create content that you monetize. Here are the 3 steps to do that…

1. IDENTIFY THE BURNING NEED

You’ll only attract eyeballs to your content if you give people a reason to view it. And the best reason to get someone to view your content is if you solve a pressing problem or alleviate a burning need.

I’m not going to go into more detail about that here. It will be different for everyone and if you’re not sure what your audience’s biggest problems (that you solve) are then that should be your homework.

So, I’ll assume that you know what the problem (it’s got to be a BIG problem) and how you solve it.

Okay? Let’s continue…

2. FIGURE OUT HOW YOU’LL COMMUNICATE YOUR SOLUTION

There are many ways to deliver content that earns passive income.

Here is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Print book
  • Ebook
  • Report
  • Ecourse
  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Video
  • Social media post
  • Email
  • Toolkit
  • Swipe file
  • Webinars
  • Seminars
  • Podcasts

I’ve mixed offline and online content deployment channels together, and as you read this you can probably identify a handful of options I didn’t include.

3. DECIDE HOW YOU WILL MONETIZE

There aren’t that many ways, actually. Only two. Here they are at a high level:

  1. You can sell the content (actually, you’re just renting access to the information because you continue to own the information). It might include permanent access or temporary access. Examples: selling a book or ebook, selling tickets to a seminar.
  2. You can run ads or affiliate offers on or near the content so that you earn money as people view or click. Examples: An ad enabled video or an email with an affiliate link it.

You can also combine these together. I frequently write for clients who offer sold content that also has affiliate links inside of it.

For more info on monetizing your content, check out this blog post: 5 levels of content monetization.

There are many ways to put these pieces together and have them offered regularly through your sales funnel. So if you want to grow your business and start earning a bit more passive income to help bump up your income without working longer hours, start creating and deploying monetized content.

(Hey, want to see a case study of this very thing in action? Check out this passive income case study).

Case study: Fixing $5 haircuts

There’s a humorous business story about two competing barber shops that were next door to each other. One barber shop cut their prices so ridiculously low that they were sure the other shop wouldn’t stay in business much longer: They put up a sign that said “$5 hair cuts”. Not to be outdone, but not interested in competing on price, the other barber shop put up a sign that said, “We fix $5 hair cuts. $20.00”.

When businesses choose the cheapest alternative, there is a price you pay. Sure, sometimes the cheapest choice works out but many times (I would even venture to say “often”) the cheapest choice is the cheapest for a reason.

On several occasions, new clients have got in touch with me because the cheapest option didn’t work out. The most prominent examples were from back in the day when search engine optimization was based on keyword content (it’s much smarter now) and they had hired $2.00/article English-as-a-second-language writers to jam keywords into articles.

Maybe that worked in some industries, I don’t know, but I work in the financial and real estate industries and you don’t position yourself authoritatively when search engine results return nonsensical keyword-stuffed garbage.

Two clients in particular stand out as case study examples of how I helped fix their $5 content-related haircuts:

One client was a tax attorney and the first thing we did was determine that his website was in desperate need of some authoritative content. He was using low quality search engine copy to send low quality leads to a low quality website. Although we would go on to improve his offsite marketing, we started with his onsite content by creating a high quality resource site of useful, interesting, entertaining copy.

Another client was a debt collection company and the low cost content creator they had initially hired not only created low quality keyword stuffed copy, but it was completely nonsensical. It simply didn’t make a lick of sense. So we started creating offsite copy for them. We built up a bank of good copy and, combined with time (plus some active attempts to remove or replace their bad copy), we turned the tide and took control of their search results.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Analytics, productivity, and content marketing’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

It was a short week of reading because I was travelling for part of it. So here’s what read this week…

  • The snapshot is not the game. Have you ever read a blog post and felt that you were looking at only the part of the iceberg that was above the water? That’s what I feel when I read this blog post. In this post, Christopher S. Penn shows a snapshot of a basketball game and asks the reader to predict the outcome of the game. Then Penn gives a detailed analysis of the game itself to show that one photograph doesn’t sum everything up. His point is that making business decisions on small snapshots of analytics is not helpful. Here’s why I like this post: It’s not just true in business. It’s also true in finance and real estate as well. In finance, you can’t just make a decision based on the balance sheet (the snapshot), you have to also use the income statement and the statement of cash flows. In real estate, you can’t just make a decision based on the price of the property (the snapshot), you have to use comparative analysis and economic trends to help you.
  • Put your work in where it makes sense. In this blog post, Chris Brogan gives us one of those “good reminders” that we all should know but easily forget: In short, he says that entrepreneurs tend to focus on different methods and strategies and channels whether or not the work, just because that’s the way they’ve always done it. This is true and I’m totally guilty of this.
  • Consulting firm nets 388% more leads with 4-step strategy . In this article from MarketingSherpa, they give a case study on a consulting firm that changed its approach from sales-driven to content-marketing-driven. What I love about this case study is that it is so detailed, explaining exactly what the campaign was, what types of content it focused on, where it got its content, and more. I don’t advise that copy this campaign exactly (which I think might be a temptation) but rather learn from the detail and thought behind the campaign.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘List building, content marketing, and objection handling’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here’s what I’m reading this week:

  • 41 tips that put over 10,000 people on my email subscription list. If you’re looking to build a list of email subscribers (and you should be trying to do that!!!) then this is a good, comprehensive blog post of tips that you need. I heartily agree with almost all of them (although I confess that I’m not a huge fan of pop-ups. I know they work but I just don’t like them that much). Check out this post and use it as your own personal checklist to grow your subscriber base.
  • Agile content marketing. This blog post starts by talking about how a comedian develops funny jokes. Basically, they write stuff they think is funny and then they test it out at a comedy club. Based on audience feedback, they go back to the drawing board and scrap or revise the jokes and test again. This method, as the blog post explains, also works for content. You create content, deploy it, test the feedback, and then try again. It’s a simple testing method (no new concept there!) but applied to content marketing.
  • Why nothing great happens with content marketing at less than 10 hours per week. In this blog post, Marcus Sheridan lays out his position that good content marketing needs at least 10 hours per week of focus. He lays out how long he spends on content marketing (good stuff there!) and as an added bonus, he does a great job of explaining why he’ll only work with clients who are willing to go “all-in”. (I love the disclaimer he makes his clients sign!)
  • Skyrocket your sales and destroy your competitors with the risk reversal strategy. In sales, some people will buy from you and some won’t. Those who don’t buy from do so because of stated and unstated objections. This article from SuccessWise does a great job of explaining how to counter some of the objections people will have when they are thinking about buying from you. (And you should also read my blog post Objections are awesome, which is kind of related.)