Content Marketing Strategy with or without an Audience
A while ago, I wrote a blog post containing side hustle ideas for software developers. A lot of those ideas centered around content, rather than, say, writing software. I did that on purpose. Writing software will let you procrastinate. Get out of your comfort zone instead.
In response to that blog post, I got a reader question, which is below. But there’s a natural follow-up to that question.
Your ideas in the blog post for side-hustle-ideas-software-developers really inspired me.
Can you give any tips on how to market the content we create? especially for the ones with no audience.
So let’s look at that today. You’ve got some content that you’re creating. How do you market it?
Introducing the Marketing Funnel
Now, I should point something out. The question doesn’t explain whether the content we’re talking about marketing is the paid content (e.g. the side hustle of writing a book or making a course). It could also mean any content, including stuff you post to your blog.
I’m going to approach it here as if we’re talking about both. And that’s because you should be thinking about both.
What we’re talking about here is the idea of a marketing funnel. If you write an eBook or build a video course, that’s ultimately the content that you want people to see and pay for. But going straight for the metaphorical jugular with your audience rarely works.
How often do you say to yourself, “here’s a person I’ve never heard of — I’ll just give them $99 for a video course.” Probably never.
You need to build trust by offering value. Start a blog and post about similar things that you cover in your book.
1. Start a Blog (Even without an Audience)
Step one then is to offer free content as the top of your funnel. The idea is that a lot of people will land on and consume your free content, and some of those people will go down the rabbit hole toward giving you money.
You don’t need an audience for this to work. A bigger audience certainly helps, but there are ways of driving traffic to your free content, which you then want to use to tee up your paid content.
So start that blog. Of course, it could also be a Youtube channel or some other means of offering value, but a blog is a blue chip option.
2. Find Problems People Google and Offer Solutions to Them
Now, think about your paid content and the free content that will supplement it. Then, ask yourself what folks might be searching for on Google that your content would help them.
For instance, say you’re writing a book about advanced debugging in Visual Studio. You might start writing posts that address common debugging errors and error messages and things like “how to set conditional breakpoints.” The idea is that searchers will find your blog, click on the post, and, because you solve their problem, come to view you as an expert.
This can help you build and audience, but it also causes Google to start ranking you higher in searches. This is known as organic search traffic and it basically amounts to a completely free way to get eyeballs on your site.
3. Promote Your Content with Good Headlines and Social Share
Organic traffic is a nice, passive activity when it comes to bringing in traffic. But you should do active stuff to. Get on as many social networks as possible and connect with as many people as possible. And then promote your content.
In fact, you should promote it more aggressively than you’re used to. A lot of people, for instance, hesitate to post a link to a written post more than once. But the fact is, only a tiny fraction of people in any of your networks see anything you share. So share your articles early and often.
And give them titles that take a bold stance. On social networks, you want people to share your posts without necessarily reading the article. So, if you’re a TDD proponent and want to trigger similar-minded people to share, use a title like “Everyone Should Test Drive Their Code” over “My Thoughts on TDD.” TDD-lovers will share the former without even reading it.
4. Give People a Reason to Come Back
So far, I’ve taken you through the idea that you need more than just a sales/landing page for an offering, and I’ve talked about ways to attract people with free content. That’s a good start, but it’s not your entire funnel.
Most people aren’t going to read a blog post, click the link to your sales page at the bottom, and then by from you. Instead, they’ll go through more of an evaluation period with you (though they won’t view it this way, per se). They’ll check out more and more of your content and, eventually, when they consider you a trusted source, they’ll buy something from you.
So when new readers land on your site, your goal isn’t really to get them to part with money. Your goal is to get them to remember you and come back. Offer simple things, like a popular posts widget or an easy RSS subscription button. Or, maybe you offer a free whitepaper or something (a lead magnet) in exchange for an email address.
Whatever it is, get people interested in becoming a frequent visitor somehow.
5. Consider Paid Search
I’ll offer an alternative to a lot of this. I don’t have a ton of experience with it, myself, but you can always make use of paid search.
This can be a great shortcut to investing the time and energy into building an audience, which is a long play. Paid search gets you in front of people immediately.
But it’s not a simple matter of running an ad that puts them on a landing/sales page. That can work, for a relatively inexpensive purchase like an eBook. But if you’re selling something more expensive, you may want to pay to drive traffic to your lead magnet or to free blog posts to put them into your funnel.
Also keep in mind that, depending on the medium you’re using for sales, you can pay within it. For instance, you can advertise your books on Amazon using Amazon’s platform.
6. Work to Get Your Content Syndicated, Using Something like DZone
There are also sites out there like DZone, that will syndicate your content. People also do this on Medium and LinkedIn.
Again, I’m not an expert in using these techniques. But I do know that getting an account in these media and posting to them can get you in front of a lot of people, and without paying for ads. You can a build an audience pretty quickly this way.
Another, related item is to consider writing guest posts on well-followed blogs, or going on podcasts. In either case, you’re contributing to that platform in exchange for the chance to be heard by its audience.
And, in a shameless plug, you can always write for Hit Subscribe. We are growing and actively taking on new authors.
Marketing Content is a Long Game
I’ll close by suggesting that you manage your expectations and dig in for the long haul. Marketing in this way is generally a pretty long play. Certainly, there are ways that you can speed things up, but expect to be at it for months and years.
In general, when it comes to side hustles, content, and marketing, I’d think of it this way. Find a problem that interests you and that you can solve for other people. Then just start giving away value and searching for ways to serve the audience.
You’ll build a following, influence, and authority. But you’ll also discover ideas for things that people really need along the way. This is your best bet for aligning your marketing with your offering.