As a business owner, I understand how hard it can be today to stand out and build your brand’s profile and authority. To cut through the noise and attract the right kinds of clients and customers, brands big at small need to embrace the power of writing and storytelling more than ever.
In 1997, I wrote an article for a magazine. The magazine paid me a reasonable $500 fee for my work. But, the article’s real value was to signal my authority and expertise. A client read that article and then hired me. They were happy with the results. The article initially established the client’s trust in my abilities. Once I delivered that initial value, they hired me again and again. That one article led to thousands of dollars’ worth of business from that company over the next 10 years.
Since then, I’ve blogged consistently and written 14 books. Writing has helped my business, in quantitative and qualitative ways. I can measure revenue from articles and point to new clients. I can also point to building brand equity and authority from my writing.
Today, I want to share a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about content – lessons any solopreneur, small business, or even larger company can harness to build their brand and drive revenue. Here are four ways you can start tapping into the power of content to raise your profile and attract more clients you’ll want to work with.
Blogging is an accessible and inexpensive way to build an audience, teach and serve your target market, and promote your products and services. The key is to be consistent. If you’ve done little to no blogging and your site doesn’t get much traffic, then you need to build up a cache of content first.
My rule of thumb for new bloggers is to write and publish five blog posts a week on your site for an entire year. They can be as short as 300 to 500 words each. Then you’ll have 250 pieces of content you can share widely to grow traffic, readership, and interest among your target audience. It shouldn’t take a whole year before you start seeing results, but it’s important to commit to the content creation and publication.
If you’re already attracting a good number of people to your site, you can get away with a lighter cadence – say, once a week. But if you’re just starting out, until you build up that cache of blog articles and get into a rhythm, search engines like Google are not going to pay any attention to you. You might need to consider cross-blogging on other people’s platforms, such as Medium and LinkedIn.
But above all, it’s not too late to get started, and your efforts will start paying dividends before long.
It’s a question that seems simplistic but looms large for many organizations trying to get started with content: How do you identify the people who will help you create awesome content? How do you find your writers?
For solopreneurs and smaller businesses, this is easy. If you’re the only one in the business, then the buck stops with you! Even if the company is made up of a smaller cohort, perhaps eight or nine people aligned around one or two “big names,” then I recommend having everyone on the team do some writing. This helps each person build their personal authority, which also enhances the company’s image.
The big names, however, can present a special challenge. These people already have authority and name recognition, so having their name on your content can be especially valuable for the brand. What these folks don’t tend to have is time. Since they’re usually the busiest, others on the team often need to support their leaders in the writing process, whether through idea generation, editing and feedback, and even ghostwriting.
If your organization is on the larger side – let’s say a hundred employees or more, it can be harder to identify the star writers. How do you find the people with the stories in a larger organization? I like to ask people in product and customer-facing roles –product developers, both programmers and testers, tech support – to talk about the problems they see and solve on a daily basis. This gives your readers a glimpse into how things work in your business, which can make your content much more engaging.
Once you’ve found these people, empower them. Many people have great stories to tell but little experience or confidence in their writing. The key is to enable them to let their passion for the topic flow naturally and encourage them not to worry about creating something perfect. Have them start small – one or two pages – so they’re not overwhelmed by the writing. If the topic is something that resonates with them, their voice will emerge, and they’ll give you something great.
Books are powerful. A book conveys a level of competence and seriousness about the subject matter that’s hard to achieve in something like a blog post.
Books have been a big driver of new business for me, especially in terms of spurring interest in the workshops and conferences I offer. I was a founding contributor to Amplifying Your Effectiveness, a leadership and management conference that ran from 2000 to 2012. For the very first conference, the 17 contributors published a book of essays, in which each of us wrote at least one essay. The book raised our profile and drew a lot of interest in the conference – it helped us sell the conference.
Books are also an excellent way to filter potential clients. I only want to work with the people who resonate with what I have to say – I don’t want to fight with my clients. And my books help my clients identify themselves. If someone tells me they think I’m wrong, I know I’m not the consultant for them.
The clearer you can be in telling your story, then the clearer it will be to your potential audience if what you offer is for them or not. Each client you choose to work with will inevitably be a better fit, meaning the happier you and they will be.
A book is a bigger undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If your company is team-based, even if it’s small, consider spreading the writing responsibility across your team by having different people contribute individual chapters to the book. That way you get to distribute the load while also establishing your authority as a cohort.
Most of the content I create – books, blogs or otherwise – is nonfiction, focused on topics related to my business. But I also write short fiction, because I enjoy it and want to get as fast at it as I am at writing nonfiction. It’s a muscle I want to learn to use more efficiently, and that takes practice.
I also share these short stories on my website. Why? Two reasons: First, because I offer writing workshops and want to show people I’m serious about and dedicated to my writing craft. And second, when I share my fiction writing people can see I’m a real, authentic human being. Showing people that I also write fiction is a small thing that makes me more interesting, more human.
So if you create content in your spare time that’s not related to your core business, consider sharing it! It doesn’t even have to be writing; it can be some other skill or interest that shows your personality and breadth. The more you show your own humanity, the more people will want to connect with you – and maybe even work with you.
High-value content, from blog posts to articles to books, has been a cornerstone of my business, and it can be for yours too. I’ll go so far as to say that any business today that doesn’t have a content strategy is going to find itself struggling to find clients.
Writing builds trust and authority with your potential clients. Determine your blogging rhythm, enlist your writers and put them to work capturing their vision, tap into the authority-building potential of books, and consider sharing more of who you are. It’ll open doors you didn’t even know were there.