Since setting up my own business and needing other people to buy my services, I’ve started to become much more aware of how I buy; I don’t make buying decisions based on being stopped in the street, leafleted, or from receiving a cold-call. Rather, I like to buy from organisations that I trust, either from my own direct experience or by reputation.
Now, I hope this doesn’t come across as arrogant, but I know that I’m good at what I do. When I work with people, teams, and organisations, I make a sustainable positive impact and I get a lot of repeat business from large organisations who want more. From a marketing perspective, my biggest challenge is to help potential clients know me like my existing clients do.
In the light of this, my marketing strategy is very simple; it is focused on doing everything I can to help my clients, to help my clients recommend me to others, and to help potential clients to really understand what it is that I do. And this is where content marketing has been incredibly helpful to me as through my website, LinkedIn, Twitter and an email newsletter, I get the opportunity to help people understand what I do and what I’m about. It is only in the last few months that I’ve started to be more disciplined about my marketing, but it is working for me and I have repeat business prompted by my email newsletter and I am now working with clients who have found me through Twitter, LinkedIn, and through Google.
To take a somewhat different example, I’m a trustee of a charity called Retrak who work with street kids across Africa. There are two main reasons why I’m involved:
(1) I’ve been fortunate to spend some time in Kampala, Uganda and to go into the slums with volunteers and meet street kids; children who for many reasons end up living rough on the streets and who beg and scour the rubbish tips in order to survive. Kids who go to sleep in fear for their lives, not knowing whether they will wake up. And I don’t mind admitting that after meeting them, I cried myself to sleep because I was so moved by the horrors that these kids endure.
(2) I’ve seen the sustainable positive impact that Retrak’s work has; Kids whose lives are totally transformed; Kids who go from no hope to a future filled with hope.
I’m pretty sure that if I could take you all to Africa to see this for yourself, then a lot of you would find ways to support the work of Retrak. We can’t take everybody to Africa, but we can use content marketing to share the experience through the eyes of the kids and the staff so that people understand the plight of the street kids and the sustainable positive impact that Retrak make.
So, I’m a firm believer that social media and content marketing can be valuable for an organisation; It allows people to really get a good feel for what you do and, just as importantly in my opinion, what you’re like and why you do what you do.
Digital footprint and authenticity
And therein lies one of the biggest challenges; every day, you are constantly building an everlasting online presence which will help people to work out what you do and what you’re really all about. You’re doing it through every status update, every rant on Twitter (I know that it isn’t just me who does that!), every blog post that you write, every comment that you make on a blog post, every old bit of web presence you have left around (like the Tumblr I’ve just remembered about and deleted)…
So how can you make sure that everything ‘out there’ truly represents who you are and what you’re all about? Easy. Be 100% truthful and real. Just be yourself, be authentic. That’s the only way you’ll give a true picture. No ‘fake it until you make it’, no ‘best foot forward’, just the real you. That is easy to do if you’re a one-person business but what if you’re a larger organisation? Well, I believe the same applies except the ‘you’ that you’re being represents your organisation’s culture and values.
Culture and values
This 100% living out your culture and values may be both the biggest challenge (and opportunity) for some organisations. One of the great case studies about company culture is Zappos, an American online retailer of shoes and clothing. As an organisation, it is really clear what their culture and values are and they make that very clear. Knowing that absolutely every employee really gets what Zappos is all about means that they can give staff a lot of autonomy in making decisions. I was fortunate to hear the Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh speak in London and he talked about how things were pretty good when 95% of employees really got what Zappos stood for, but things really came alive when they moved to the stage where everybody ‘got it’ and they didn’t have a single employee who didn’t live out the values. For me, that is real authenticity when every employee absolutely 100% live the values that you claim. No exceptions.
Being 95% authentic isn’t enough. I believe that you will get found out on the 5% and that will destroy trust in you.
Content marketing and social media can deliver results by helping people really get to you know you, what you do, and what drives you.
Please, just be yourself. The 100% no artificial additives you. 95% isn’t enough.
Video: TEDxSalfordChange – Diarmuid O Neill – Making the Invisible Visible
Small business content marketing: Customers want to interact with real people
Why blogging works as part of a small business content strategy
Inject some personality into your blog