Thought Leadership Resources

#25 Even with no shopping cart, your content still needs to motivate

One of the reasons you’re reading this, is that you want to build a higher professional profile. And that’s a good thing. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, publishing content can help you achieve business objectives such as moving into a more lucrative market.


But you need to have some pretty firm objectives for your content. A case in point: I’ve been holding in-person workshops in Toronto on topics such as how to get speaking engagements. And while I’m pleased with the numbers of people interested in building a speaking program, I’m just a bit puzzled by their reasons – generally around “I’ve been meaning to do more public speaking, and your workshop looked like a good place to learn.”

It’s a good start. But I think that if you’re going to invest time and effort into creating content (which would include giving speeches) you need to have a more clear reason for doing so.

Further, we see some of that in a book I’m reading based on the recommendation of my business coach, Heather V. Stevens of Vesper Marketing: “No BS Direct Marketing,” by Dan S. Kennedy. Two of the “rules” he offers for content marketing are, “There will always be an offer,” and “Results rule.” Dan’s idea is that all marketing has to serve a purpose. Without that purpose, don’t do it.

I liken this to domestic animals on a farm – the traditional kind of mixed agriculture that was done while I was growing up on a farm, not so much the modern industrial kind. On farms such as that, each animal had a purpose – the dogs were there to herd cattle and protect against human and animal intruders; the cats kept the mouse and rat population at bay; and the hogs were there to eat what everything else didn’t want to eat, to be sold at market later.

Your guest blog posts, speaking engagements, webinars, videos and other content also need to earn their keep. So, what are reasonable objectives for your content? I can think of four types of outcome you could expect your content to provide for you.

Purpose One: actually selling products

Many business professionals have produced physical books and e-books that they sell through their website, You can also provide access to online courses, live webinars, recorded webinars, and live events such as seminars and workshops (more on that in Post #8). So, part of your purpose may be to build sales of those products.

I find that this is so much easier with the many electronic tools for creating, publishing and selling books via third parties such as Amazon (see Post #12), or services such as Eventbrite (which I use for my workshops) to sell tickets to your events. This means you can keep the e-commerce part off your website, so you don’t have to deal with sales taxes, returns or other hassles of running a true e-commerce site.

But even if you don’t have “add to shopping cart” as your preferred outcome, there are plenty of ways to motivate your reader to take an action you want.

Purpose Two: your time

You have to manage your time efficiently. It might involve setting up a free 15-minute (or so) consultation over the phone or via videoconference, so that people will then want to book your services for a full engagement. Or it could be that you want to charge for that time, possibly at a reduced rate.

In either case, your objective should be either for someone to call and book a time to talk, or access your electronic calendar to select a time.

Purpose Three: build subscribers to your regular content

I think that every business professional needs to produce content on a regular basis. From your point of view, it’s a good way to stay current in your own knowledge, more so it forces you to think through your ideas in greater depth.

Far-reaching, showing up regularly demonstrates that you’re reliable in that you deliver on your commitments, and that you’re in it for the long haul. This gives them confidence that you’ll be there to help them when they need what you have to offer. Producing content regularly is also a way to remind them that you exist – maybe they don’t have a need for you right now, but in three months or so, if they continue to hear from you in a way they like, they may have an opportunity for you.

As an example: Just recently, I had a note via LinkedIn from someone I’ve worked with at an engineering firm, who’s gone to a different employer. She wanted to see what I might be able to do with her at her current firm. I’m convinced that she reached out largely because she’s one of my LinkedIn connections, which means she receives my regular blog posts, which we send out by Hootsuite each Friday.

Subscribers, particularly by e-mail, are the people who are more likely to share your content outside your network – and more likely to bring your business, or buy informational products from you. So, consider:

• Your email newsletter or blog
Posts and other content on LinkedIn, as described in Post #21
• Your audio podcast, likely hosted on iTunes or Stitcher
• Your YouTube or Vimeo video channel
• Your SlideShare channel
• Maybe Instagram, Periscope, Vine and other consumer-oriented platforms that can have some business application

Even if you produce content only once a month, it’s your chance to provide value to potential clients and show them how you think, and what you can do for them.

Purpose 4: building credibility and awareness

After the hard numbers involved in the three purposes above – money, booked appointments and numbers of subscribers – it’s a bit of a come-down to consider the value of something as ephemeral as “awareness” in your market.

But I think it’s very real. It comes into play in the situations I described in Post #9, on how a potential client will want to check online to see how much evidence there is, that you’re a real expert in your field.

You can measure your content’s effectiveness partly through the number of people who promote your content to their own networks. It’s a vote of confidence in what you’re saying, and it gets your ideas in front of people who aren’t yet in your network.

But you can measure your effectiveness here too – for each of your LinkedIn Posts, for instance, you can see how many views, likes, shares and comments you’ve received. Even in third-party publications, you can generally find the circulation figures, which gives you an idea of the reach and credibility of the publication.

I understand that hunting enthusiasts sometimes find that one of their dogs is lazy. “That dog won’t hunt,” they say, and the nonconforming animal may well meet an early end. You need to have the same view to the content you produce – be sure it has a purpose and meets that purpose.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

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