What's the most effective content marketing tool for creative professionals?
And it turns out, that comment planted a seed in Rebekah's mind that she has been watering ever since.
Don't worry -- I won't make you wait or guess.
It's public speaking.
That’s right. Public speaking is – hands down – the most effective content marketing tool – why?
Because it positions you as an expert and gets clients coming to you – and not just any clients – speaking attracts those who value your expertise and are willing to pay for it (whether or not you feel like an expert, BTW).
I learned this 30 years ago when I gave my very first talk in 1993 at the HOW Design Conference in Chicago. I made some big mistakes at that event but I survived and have gone on to speak nationally and internationally to build credibility, increase my authority in my market (self employed creative pros) and grow my business – I even get paid to speak now!
Imagine -- a marketing tool you get paid to use!
So if there’s a voice (even a tiny one) in the back of your head encouraging you to do public speaking, I highly recommend that you listen to this episode here (or below) in which Rebekah and I talked all about the baby steps she’s taking to use public speaking as a content marketing tool to grow her business – and how it’s working.
Then, follow Rebekah’s baby step.
It’s a simple one – start by listening to the market. That will stimulate ideas about what you could speak on.
Once you have some ideas, you can start creating content – social posts, videos and more – to test them out,
If you keep listening to the market, your topics will reveal very soon themselves to you.
Then, all you have to do it use generosity as a marketing tool to share what you know.
That’s what happened to me and i can see that’s what’s happening to Rebekah.
Will you try it?
But first, listen here and below.
Want more from Rebekah? Read her guest blog posts:
- What I've Learned from 20 Discovery Calls
- Is the Growth of Your Freelance Business Invisible?
- The 4 Floors of Your Business
- How to "Pumpkin Plan" Your Business
- This cheesy Christmas movie totally teaches the SMP's 3 marketing tools
- Listen to her on the Secret to a Winning Proposal, Episode #456
Read the complete transcript of Marketing Mentor Episode #477 here:
Hi there. This is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor, and this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.
Do you know which is the most effective content marketing tool of all? I mentioned it on a mentoring call last year with SEO and content strategist Rebekah Mays. It turns out that one comment planted a seed in her mind that she has been watering ever since. What is it? Public speaking. That's right. Public speaking is hands down the most effective content marketing tool.
Why? Because it positions you as an expert and gets clients coming to you. And not just any clients. Speaking attracts those who value your expertise and are willing to pay for it, whether you feel like that expert or not, by the way.
I learned this lesson 30 years ago when I gave my very first talk in 1993 at the HOW Design Conference in Chicago. I made some big mistakes at that event, but I survived.
I've gone on to speak nationally and internationally to create credibility, to increase my authority in my market, and to grow my business. I even get paid to speak now. So the first step is to listen to my new episode in which Rebekah and I talk all about the baby steps she's taking to use public speaking as a content marketing tool to grow her business and how it's working. So, listen and learn.
Hello, Rebekah. Welcome back to the podcast.
Hello, ilise. Thanks for having me.
Of course. Please introduce yourself.
Yes, so my name is Rebekah Mays. I am from the U.S., but these days I'm living in the Netherlands, and I'm the founder and chief strategist of One Generation. I provide SEO and content marketing services to purpose-driven B2B brands. The goal is to increase their website traffic, increase their leads, and ultimately help them increase their positive impact.
Excellent elevator pitch. Thank you. I know that you have recently been evolving your niche and your name and your elevator pitch. Just talk a little bit about the recent evolution, how you got to what you came to so far.
Well, it really is a stage of constant evolution, like you say. I've been in business for a few years now. The first couple of years were ... I wasn't really marketing or trying to build my business. I was happy kind of working with the client that I had and that was it.
I got to a point about a year and a half ago where I was ready to kind of move on and turn a new leaf in my business, and that started a whole series of just trying to learn about mentoring ...
... Learn how to build a business. So during that period, I basically started focusing on sustainable brands and purpose-driven brands and exploring that whole space.
There's quite a lot of existing communities that I learned about and, in some cases, became a part of. And then a few months ago, after I had started offering services to those kinds of businesses and doing a lot of experimentation, a lot of tweaking of my services and just constantly working to improve things, I realized that the name of my business was starting to be a limiting factor.
So I had called myself Thrive Copywriting and that was just kind of a name I had picked a couple years ago. I had picked it very quickly and it kind of fit what I was doing at the time and that was fine.
But I realized that when I was doing my prospecting and when people would come to me with things, they would always call me “The Copywriter.”
“You do copywriting, right?”
And I realized I wasn't really what I was trying to sell. I was trying to sell more SEO, more strategy, more content strategy kind of services. So that led me down a whole path of trying to choose a new business name and especially thinking about my particular audience that I'm trying to attract, and thinking about what kinds of things would excite them and intrigue them.
So I decided to go with something ... so One Generation is the name of the business now. I renamed it a couple of months ago. I'm excited because I think people are responding well to it, and it feels to me, it feels big enough that I can kind of do with the business whatever I need to. And it's sort of a nod to the climate movement and the belief that we need to reverse the climate crisis within one generation and that we have the tools to do it, but we have to work together.
Are people responding positively to it?
Yes, I would say so. I have some, I would say mostly peers, who were a bit wary of the name and thinking maybe you need to describe really what you're doing in the name of the business. But I have other people who have told me it's cool, they really like it, or they love it in some cases. So for me, that's good enough. And it's letting me feel confident in what I'm doing, which I think at the end of the day, we have to feel happy with what we've named ourselves. As long as it's not confusing anyone, then I'm happy with it.
Yeah. And I think the point I would make to anyone who is trying to name a business, whether it's a new business or an existing business, is that if what you do is not crystal clear in the name, as Thrive Copywriting probably was, then part of your job as a marketer and a brand and part of building the brand is to help people understand through your marketing what it means. That's an ongoing process. It's, to me, a little bit more work. But if you feel very strongly about it, then I would definitely do it that way.
So good. Yeah, no, I'm thrilled that people are responding positively and especially the people in your market.
So let's talk about the Simplest Marketing Plan because you've been using the tools in the Simplest Marketing Plan for a while now. I'm curious, because everyone uses them differently and should use them differently, how are you using them?
Yes. So maybe just to recap for your listeners who hopefully know the three tools by now, but if they don't, it's strategic networking, it's targeted outreach and it's content marketing. Those are the three tools.
I would say, first of all, I might do more of them than the average creative freelancer. I like marketing and I don't mind working on my business and trying to get my name out there and reach out to clients. So I enjoy that. And I do them pretty much all at least weekly, I would say, if not more often than that.
So in terms of the strategic networking, for example, I am involved in a few different communities where my target market is hanging out. And so I try to participate in things like virtual networking events. I try to participate in Slack communities and things like that.
I've been to a few virtual and in-person events in my niche and I'm always kind of looking for the right events to participate in.
I also do a number of one-on-one networking calls that often I'm the one setting them up or kind of reaching out to people and just asking if they want to get to know each other and then just keeping up with those people. So I do that quite regularly as well. That's sometimes freelancers, sometimes potential clients that I would like to meet and just get to know.
Yeah. So that's the networking side.
Then I would say targeted outreach really has been the foundation of a lot of the growth that I've been able to have. Not just growth, but just being able to have a business and keep it open. So the targeted outreach, I would say the most important has been reaching out to people I already know and either asking questions about their needs or directly offering to help with things that I think that they need. So that I might do through email. That has been, I would say, pretty successful.
Another way that I do targeted outreach is through LinkedIn. I've done quite a lot of connection requests and adding a little note and that's personalized to them, direct messaging people on LinkedIn, and I have gotten some clients that way. It sometimes takes time. It takes sometimes a lot of those to really get something from it. But I have been able to get some clients in my niche and really start getting the kinds of clients that I want to work with through that. So that's been good.
I think the point there, that I want to emphasize, is that that's you basically hand picking who you would like to work with and introducing yourself to them.
Exactly. Yes. And I would actually just say, the thing that's been most successful in the targeted outreach on LinkedIn, kind of this cold outreach you might call it, is combining that with these other tools. That's really how they work best—is when you use them together.
So for example, I would see a virtual event, I would attend the virtual event and sometimes you can see who the participants are in the event. And so I would reach out to people who were attending that event and then we kind of had something in common. We had something to talk about, maybe. And I've gotten a few clients that way, even though I was just using LinkedIn messaging.
I've done a little bit of cold emailing or this targeted outreach via email. I haven't done a ton of that, so I can't say how it works compared to LinkedIn. But I do like LinkedIn and how quick it is and how easy it is to find people.
Then in terms of content marketing, I do a few things there as well. So this year especially, I've been focused more on LinkedIn and just posting more consistently there. I also have a monthly email newsletter, and then I have a lead magnet on my website where people can download that and they get added to my email newsletter. So yeah, those are kind of the main things I'm doing, but I'm always looking at what's working and kind of trying to adjust things depending on what is actually where I see the most value.
You have, as you said, an email newsletter and a LinkedIn newsletter, right?
I have not used the LinkedIn newsletter for a while. I do have a lot of people subscribed to that, but it is challenging sometimes to keep up with all the different things. So that one I have kind of let slide.
I'm not sure if I should bring it back, because I do have a lot of people subscribed to that. But then it's like, well, what do I put in that one versus my email? I ultimately do want to get people on my actual email list because then that's something that I own versus something that LinkedIn owns. But yeah, we only have so many hours of the day to do so much content. So sometimes ...
And it sounds like you're doing a lot.
Yeah, yeah. So yeah, that's what I'm working on now, but I might bring back the LinkedIn newsletter at some point.
And one other content marketing tool that you haven't mentioned yet, which we wanted to focus on, is speaking. So talk to me a little bit about how you're approaching it, what are the steps you're taking and how's it going?
Yes. So I would say, in a way, I think ultimately I will use it as a marketing tool. And it is, but I'm also using it as practice, and as an opportunity to get more comfortable kind of being a so-called “authority in my space” and kind of an “expert in my space.”
You actually put the seed in my mind, I don't know, a year ago or whenever that was, that speaking was kind of the ultimate content marketing tool because as soon as you're on the stage, people assume that you are some kind of expert because most people are too intimidated to really do that themselves. So they give a lot of weight to the people on the stage.
So as soon as you said that, and sometimes of course you can get paid for it, I just used to think, "Oh, well, that's something that you do at the end of your career or that's something you do as a career itself, being a speaker." But I didn't really think of it as something that I should be thinking about.
So when I started kind of getting that in my awareness, and I saw also some of the case studies and some of the people that have been really successful who've worked with you are speaking and using that as a way to make connections, make relationships, and get clients, I decided that I wanted to start working towards that.
So at this point, what I'm essentially doing is kind of taking baby steps towards being on the stage and speaking to my ideal clients. I haven't done that yet, but I have participated in a variety of virtual events where either I'm appearing in a webinar, speaking maybe to peers or freelancers, or things like this where I'm just getting practice speaking on a podcast or speaking to a group of people, and trying to share my knowledge and insights and experience.
Then most recently, I did get a chance to be a "guest speaker" for The Green Marketing Academy. That was just a few weeks ago actually. That really came about because I was posting regularly on LinkedIn about my area of knowledge and the organizer of that, who I had gotten to know, she asked me if I would lead a session for her cohort of participants in her academy about sustainable marketing. So I was able to ...
Did you know about that organization before she reached out to you?
Yes, she was one of my strategic networking and my targeted outreach people. I got to know her a little bit, and we actually did a blog exchange. So I wrote something for her website and she wrote something for my website. So we kind of had this existing foundation. We didn't know each other super well. And then once I started posting on LinkedIn more regularly and it became clear that I had a particular focus around a certain topic, she knew that that was something she wanted in her program. So it just kind of made sense for her to reach out to me. So that's kind of how that came about.
Interesting. So there are a couple questions I want to ask you about this. I'm going to say them both so I don't forget them.
One has to do with "feeling" like an expert, and I'm putting the word feeling in quotation marks. The other has to do with what you're calling your “area of expertise” or “your focus.” Because I think that is essential for someone.
You can't just say, "I can be a speaker." You have to put some actual content out there that is timely and perhaps trendy and what people might be looking for.
So you can answer in whatever order you want. But those are the two things I'm wondering about.
So feeling like an expert is so interesting because I would say, for me, it really depends on the day. Do I feel like an expert in the things that I'm talking about or not? Sometimes I feel it can be very intimidating, especially on LinkedIn, when you see all these people posting about all the sales they're making and the incredible SEO results they have. You just see a lot of marketers making very big claims.
And so if you don't feel that you have that background, sometimes you feel like an imposter if you're trying to share information and resources to your audience. So I've definitely battled that and I still ... I would say it's an ongoing process to feel confident in what I'm offering.
But I do think it's helpful to try to find audiences that are maybe in your shoes, like a year ago, where you were a year ago. Or trying to think of: Okay, what did I not know six months ago, or one year ago, or 10 years ago, whatever it is? And think about how did I get to where I am today; what were the gaps that I had to fill and the experiences that I had to get me where I am.
So I think all you have to do is be a little bit ahead of them in terms of that you've thought about this topic or you have had experience with it, and you don't have to feel like you have 30 years of experience in this topic to be able to talk about it. So that's what I've started to think about and ...
So let me just rephrase what you're saying, and how I'm hearing it, which is very interesting, which is this idea, or maybe even a question: What does it mean to be an expert? How long does it take to be an expert? If you imagine it takes 30 years and it's something you do at the end of your career, then I could see how someone would not be comfortable doing it at the beginning and using it as a marketing tool.
But if you think about it in relative terms and that you know a little bit more than the people that you'll be talking to, and especially because you spend your days thinking about this stuff and they don't, they're busy doing their business, if you approach it with that attitude, then you can perhaps see yourself as an expert.
I like to say “an expert” versus “the expert.” You don't even have to use that word if you don't want to. I mean, this is another thing we've talked about in terms of generosity as a marketing tool—just sharing what you know.
Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly it. Not seeing “expert” as some end goal that you will be one day, but little by a little building your expertise and building your understanding and knowledge and then sharing that back with people.
One thing that I think is really helpful to keep in mind when creating content and sharing it or creating a talk and sharing it is you don't only have to speak from your personal experience, of course. You can use examples, and people do this all the time, use examples from other companies that you see who are doing a great job of what you're talking about. And that way, you're bringing in real examples of things that are working for other people and then you're just pointing people's attention to that.
I think that is really, really helpful to give people ideas of how to actually implement what you're talking about. Or it might be statistics and information that they don't have that you're just kind of curating for them.
So you don't have to think of it as you are bringing all these original ideas. Sometimes it's just curating information for them that they don't really have time to kind of sift through and think about. So you're just kind of presenting it to them and interpreting it for them to make their lives easier.
Exactly. And putting a little bit of your spin on it perhaps, or bringing your personality to it and your voice. But I do, and maybe this can link to the next question, because a lot of the things, one of the things, let's say, that gets in the way of people trying to grow a business through some of these Simplest Marketing Plan tools, but especially with content marketing, is this idea that it's got to be original; it's got to be profound; it's got to be something no one else has ever said before. It sounds like you don't believe that.
I think I wouldn't do anything if I thought that it had to be 100% original. I mean, I do try to have it be my own and bring my own unique thoughts to it. But it is sometimes just spinning something that someone else has thought of, or I got an idea from something and I'm just saying it in a different way.
I do think, yeah, using examples from other people ... and then I think often your prospects—unless they are really great marketers and they're just constantly aware of all these things and studying them—they just don't have the time to keep up with maybe all the things that you have time to keep up with, so ...
But I guess what I want to say, and what I was thinking about, was I have this idea of maybe ultimately being on the stage, in person, in front of my target audience, and I'm not there yet. But I'm using ... I'm kind of thinking of speaking in baby steps, and what are the small things I can be doing to get more practice there. Whether it's a webinar with people I'm really comfortable with, and then kind of graduating a little bit to giving a talk to people who are in my niche. Probably the next step might be giving a talk in person to people, which I haven't done yet. So I thought that might be the next step. But that's kind of how I'm thinking about it.
One of the things I noticed you also do is you post, especially on LinkedIn, these little video clips and little lessons that seem like pieces of a presentation.
That's a great point because I didn't even think of those as part of this speaking, but it really is. So I can't remember why exactly I started doing that. I just knew that on LinkedIn sometimes the video ... I mean, we all know video, it's just more engaging sometimes than other kinds of media. So it's a great way to build trust with an audience when they can actually see you and hear you.
So I started just making little video clips here and there where I would talk about some tips and different things. I just started doing that, I think that was a year and a half ago, basically when I started this whole business focus. I have found that those do really well in my email newsletter. I didn't include a video most recently and nobody clicked on my email newsletter.
Oh, okay, maybe next time I should make a little video and include it. Because that was what people wanted to see, I guess.
So yeah, that's another way of practicing and of coming up with ideas and practicing presenting and practicing presenting a clear idea. So, yeah.
When you make a mistake, who cares?
Yes. Although I will say sometimes I rerecord something five times. So it's not necessarily the most efficient way to do it. But yeah, if you do give a talk, and I did give this talk a couple weeks ago to The Green Marketing Academy, I have already taken that recording and I've made one little clip from that talk and then shared that on LinkedIn. I would like to do more of that. It just takes some time to ...
You do all that yourself, the tech technical aspect?
Yeah. It's definitely been a learning curve. I'm sure I could hire someone to make that go a lot more quickly. But yeah, it's also fun to just kind of get your hands dirty sometimes and experiment with things and see how it all works. So yeah.
But once you give a talk, then you can use it in so many other ways. And now, because I've given this talk, I'm using that as kind of an authority-building line within my bio to say, ”Oh, she was a guest speaker at The Green Marketing Academy.” It sounds pretty cool.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Then so in terms of your topic and focus, what are you talking about? What have you found and come to?
Yes. It seems to be that within the purpose-driven space—I've heard this a few times and I've also found this—there are not a lot of people focusing on SEOs specifically. There are a lot of copywriters; there are a lot of brand people. And for whatever reason, there are some SEO people, but not as many as some of those other services.
So I thought, "Okay, I'll just stick with SEO and content marketing as well, but within that space." I've had a few conversations with other freelancers where they say, "Huh, I don't really know anyone else talking about what you're talking about. So it's kind of interesting." So that seems to be my niche for now. So that's kind of what I'm focused on.
SEO kind of gets a bad rap sometimes because we think a lot about the quantity of traffic and just bringing in traffic to a website. But the traffic, in and of itself, just the numbers, is not really significant. It should be meaningful traffic and it should be quality people coming to a website.
So I'm also trying to kind of educate people and take away some of the misconceptions about SEO, that good SEO is part of a strong marketing strategy. It's part of a strong content marketing program. It can be a way of increasing your positive impact as a purpose-driven business. So those are the kinds of things that I'm talking about. Then doing it in an ethical way and just creating great content that serves an audience. Those are some of the things I'm talking about.
Sounds like you're listening to the market, Rebekah.
Well, yeah. There's always more to learn, but when you listen, you get ideas and you hear what people are thinking about and wondering, and it becomes so much easier to then just respond to that.
All right. Last question about the baby step. Do you have a baby step that you can suggest for anyone who wants to move in the direction that we're talking about?
Yes. I think the first step is getting involved in communities and becoming an active participant in communities. So this might be a community ideally where your target prospects are hanging out, whether it's online or in person.
Or both. But sometimes peers, other freelancers, that could be a great place to start if you're very nervous. So just, I think, showing up to those events and participating in conversations and listening. I think that's really the first step because when you start participating and listening, then you know what kinds of things people are talking about; you kind of know what else is out there in terms of other ideas that people are sharing. It's so much easier to then come up with something that's of value to that community that overlaps with what you can share.
Yeah, I like to think about it as the white space, that you're looking for the white space that you can fill.
I like that. I like that a lot.
So, all right, thank you, Rebekah. This has been awesome. I know everyone listening will have learned a lot. So tell people where they can find you online.
Absolutely. So my website is one place: that's onegenerationseo.com. People can sign up for my newsletter, if they like, so that you can, if you're interested in this kind of SEO and content and purpose-driven businesses, then that's what I talk about. So that might be interesting for you.
Then the other place is LinkedIn, so I post there on my personal profile a few times a week. So that would be a good place to follow along with my content.
Awesome. Thank you so much, Rebekah.
Absolutely. My pleasure.
If there's a voice, even a tiny one in the back of your head, encouraging you to do public speaking, I highly recommend that you listen to it and follow Rebekah's baby step. It's a simple one.
Start by listening to the market. That will stimulate ideas about what you could speak on, and then once you have some ideas, you can start creating content like social posts or videos or more, to test them out. If you keep listening to the market, your topics will reveal themselves to you very soon. Then all you have to do is use generosity as a marketing tool to share what you know.
That's what happened to me and I can see that's what's happening to Rebekah. Will you try it? Great.
If you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, the first step is to sign up for my Quick Tips at marketing-mentortips.com. Once you're on the site, you'll find lots more resources, including my Simplest Marketing Plan. Enjoy and I'll see you next time.