What's your story and why does it matter?

When I was little, I was always writing. I kept journals from just about the time I could write and I’d have folders of stories and poetry that I’d carry around and ‘organise’ constantly. At school I used to create these little ‘clubs’ where I’d organise a group of girls together, make up some mission or another that we were on, assign various roles, craft ‘club rules’, membership cards and distribute newsletters.

When I was 10 I made a magazine - it was creatively called ‘Angie’s News’ (I have never been called Angie, but anyway). Computers hadn’t been invented yet - kidding, they had, but we didn’t have one at home in the mid-80’s, so this magazine was all hand-written and drawn. I just loved doing this stuff and although I can’t really remember what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was already doing what i would always do.

Apart from the fact that writing, creating and organising have been glaring constants in my life from a really young age, now, as a woman with kids of my own, I also recognise some of the more subtle drivers that I realise have also always been there.

There’s this fascination with what makes us different and how those differences click together and allow us to connect. To me, it’s a little bit like a dance-off or something where one person shows their awesome and unique moves, then the other shows theirs, and then they dance together in a way that’s different again to each of them on their own.

That magazine was all about these very different stories brought together to create this collective, colourful and creative experience. I guess that’s exactly what a magazine and other collaborative efforts are - work groups, sporting teams, families, creative collaborations. All bringing people together and organising differences in a way that’s interesting, creative and different to any of its contributing parts on their own.

Marketing is like that, at least that’s the way I see it. It’s so much about expressing what makes people unique, and yet similar, and organising that story in interesting and creative ways. Ways that are different and yet familiar. We’re attracted to stories like that because of their difference, recognising that which is unique, but somehow we can also see ourselves in the difference. And that’s when connection happens. And that’s what marketing is really all about because that’s what people are all about.

I don’t think my story is particularly spectacular and it’s probably only interesting to me, but that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be anything, it just is. We all have a story and sometimes it’s so normal, so ordinary, and we’ve been doing it for so long, that we’re not even conscious of it. In fact sometimes we don’t even know what that story is.

When I work with clients on developing their brand, I take them through all this deep questioning and brainstorming to uncover these stories. Some love it and totally immerse themselves, while others come kicking and screaming, questioning the relevance, the difficulty, the discomfort in looking at these things - it can be pretty funny. But the reason story’s important is because it shines a light, a great big megawatt floodlight on where our greatness and genius lies. Greatness and genius meaning our innate talents and gifts that come so naturally to us, we hardly even know they exist. And the reason we find them in our stories over and over again, is because we can’t even help doing them - we just do, in all kinds of ways.

These are the things that only we can do in our own particular style and way. The things that at once, fire us up and get us sparking with energy, yet also give us such a deep sense of surety and deep knowing, we switch almost to autopilot where everything is easy and our intuition is sharp.

Once we recognise them, we realise these are the things that have always been there and the things that can become our superpowers when we cultivate them and use them intentionally. Except that can be harder than it sounds, at least when we’re trying to figure this out for ourselves. For some reason, it’s much easier to do for other people.

That’s where the connection piece comes into it and why when you can cultivate the courage to inject yourself into your brand, things often become a whole lot easier. When you can do that, you’re in alignment with who you really are and at the end of the day, that’s the difference, that’s the uniqueness, the realness, that people are hardwired to find familiarity and recognition in. It’s how we connect.

Only you can do you and in a world that’s overloaded like never before with people, brands, information, options, data, products and services, that’s a very powerful thing to have. If you can just let go of your ‘reasoning’ that YOU have to be this or that, or that your brand does, and find the courage to express yourself through your brand and your business, you’ll begin to grow something that people really can find connection in.

Now I know that even if you’re thinking this all sounds good and true, it’s still hard to make bridge between knowing this and putting it into useful action in your business. But do yourself 2 favours here ok?

  1. Download the ‘What’s your mission anyway?’ workbook that I’ve included here and give it a go. It’s not a miracle weaver that’ll solve all your problems, but it will get you thinking about how what matters to you matters to your business.

  2. Once you’ve done that, just put one little thing into action. This is not about radical re-branding, although you could be up for that, it’s about giving yourself permission to be who you are.

See a designer for a more colourful logo and website, add more of the way you really speak into your emails, write the blog post you’re dying to write, but are too scared to. Post a selfie on your Facebook page, be the haute couture stylist who’s a hippy at heart, the lawyer who has purple hair, the spiritual guidance counselor who has a potty mouth and calls a spade a spade. We make it hard because we make it hard, but it’s time to dip our toes in at least, even if we’re not ready to fully dive in just yet.

Download the workbook and if you still can’t make the bridge to how it matters in your business, book a call and let’s chat - there’s a scheduler in the workbook and also on my ‘Work with me’ page.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

How to create killer flagship content

You and I both know that there are a million resources out there on how to create excellent flagship, or anchor content. Some of them are brilliant, some of them not so much. This is something you’re going to have to figure out by doing it. Pick and choose the bits you like, the bits you want to try, the things that resonate to get this thing done. But here’s the thing - for all that advice and all those resources, you still have to make it YOURS. Your voice, your style, your angle and your take on things - please, please, please start here first.

With more content being produced on a daily basis than we can poke a stick at, tuning into your own voice, values and unique style is fundamental. Sure, you can copy everyone else and you might even get some good traction, but even if you do, how sustainable is it if it’s not quite you? And how real are the relationships you’re forming from it?

Flagship content is killer when it provides real value to real people and in my opinion, that means it has to be real too. Think about how you want people to feel when they find it, inject it with the things that care about, use the words that you really use and bring them into your fold. When you start with that mindset, you’re already well on your way to creating stuff that people will actually genuinely really love.

You’re the art, sweetheart

There’s no shortage of resources to teach you the tactics. You can learn anything, anyone can. The tools, the tactics, the tricks really are, like never before, available to anyone. And none of it’s rocket science, once you get into it, is it?

But the art is the more difficult part, the unique part, the YOU part. Difficult, that is, for everyone but you. To you, it’s just, well, you and that’s the bit, believe it or not, that people crave. People want to connect with people, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a cheat sheet on how to use groups in your email marketing, or how to paint your toes without botching it - there will be almost as many resources on that thing as there are people in the world … but only you can do it your way.

Two similar *things*, two totally different *experiences*. That’s the magic. That’s the you. It’s the art of turning a ‘thing’ into an experience. Be good at what you do - be very good at what you do, then focus on the magic, the way people experience what you do in the way that only you can.

That’s how you stand out, that’s how you become different and that’s how what you do starts to really matter to the people you serve.

Know your audience and solve a real problem


Gah, really? This again? I’m tired of reading that so I’m going to have to come up with a new way of saying it because it does need to be said. It’s what’s at the heart of anything really good in terms of content, isn’t it?

But here’s the thing - it takes time. Knowing your audience, truly understanding their problem, the one you want to be known for solving, and creating that killer solution that they love TAKES TIME. It’s bit like building a reputation with your content - it’s a process that takes time and you can’t just skip to the good bits (you can read a whole article on this here: Relax, content marketing is like building a reputation - it takes time).

Content is about building relationships and relationships take time. There are probably plenty of people in your real life that you know very well. You know what motivates them, what they struggle with, what makes them happy and where they’re trying to go. But you did not learn all that in your first meeting. No. Most of the time, it took years of experiencing things with them to learn about them

And yep, it’s the same with your audience. You have to create experiences with them so you can learn about them and them about you. Now, I’m not saying that you have to wait years before you can understand your audience well enough to make something cool for them - don’t do that! Make something today! But what I am saying is that it’s an ongoing journey and what you understand and create today is not set in stone and is not the end of the road - it’s just a moment in time.

To know your audience, you’ve got to get amongst them


Because your audience is made up of real, actual people and so to know them, you have to get amongst them.
 
Getting to know people doesn’t happen on paper, or in check-boxes, or ‘know your audience’ infographics - it happens with conversations, by being real, by caring and sharing (sorry, but it’s true), and taking the time to listen.
 
It’s not something that you get to the end of either, that you get to be ‘done’ with, because it’s ongoing, as are the evolution of all relationships.
 
Meeting people where they are and building communities around common interests and values is nothing new, and yet we can all fall into the trap of trying to ‘create opportunities’ and make sales before we even really know who they are.
 
We need to get amongst our audiences, get to know them as people. Seek to understand them first and figure out how we fit in with them and how we can help, before we analyse how they fit in with us and what we’re selling.

If you’re not sure what to create for your flagship content, start small and start specific. What’s something one of your customers has been struggling with? What keeps coming up in your networking groups? What’s the tiny little pain in the ass thing that you hated so much you figured out a way to fix it?

Don’t try to solve all of the world’s problems, just start with one little thing and bring to it everything you know about that exact thing.

Learn by doing


You have to learn what works by doing it, by trying things. Producing great content is a choice and that’s because learning to do it well comes from doing it.

You can read all you like. You can study the best. You can emulate those who’ve gone before, and I would definitely suggest all of those, but most of all, you have to learn by *doing* it.

Do your best work, then take notice of how you can do it better. Take notice of what engages your audience. Take notice of what leaves them quiet.

Take notice and take action - neither of which can be achieved through theory alone. This kind of learning comes from getting out there and doing it and it’s best way to both continually improve your content and engage your people.

Watch, listen and DO. Standing out is not about being louder, nor about being everywhere all the time. It’s about getting better, improving every day. It’s about doing and that means you have to start.

Get good at asking the right questions


I was reading a discussion in a content marketing group today about asking the right questions to produce the right content.

Rightly so, the thrust of the thread was all about questions like, ‘What is the purpose of your content?’, ‘What action do you want people to take?’, ‘How does this piece fit in your sales funnel?’ …

However, it struck me that no one asked, ‘How do I want my audience to feel?’

The other questions are important, no doubt, but if you can’t connect through a feeling first, subsequent actions are unlikely, and that’s because humans feel first.

It’s the feeling that an image, or a video, or a blog post conjure up that gets people’s attention. It’s the feeling that make them want to know more, that plants a seed of interest, which grows into familiarity, of brand recognition, aspiration and eventually, trust and loyalty.

If you’re going to convey feeling, then you gotta feel it first. Trust your instinct, express yourself, talk about what you really care about and find images that match the way you feel. If you practice this, you’ll find your authentic voice, your brand will come alive and you’ll be standing out with authenticity, being super-visible to those who really matter.

The more feeling you can convey in your content, the more visibility you’ll be creating for your brand … that’s because people connect through their feelings and emotions. What you might think is the burning issue, the one you want to solve, might turn out to be not as much of an issue as the underlying cause, but you’ll only discover that by trying and by asking.

Give them what they WANT

This can be more tricky than it sounds. All too often we focus on producing content that we know our audience needs or can benefit from, rather than what they actually want. That’s because we’re thinking from our place of having learnt the lessons and earnt the expertise. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that if we can’t say it or present it in a way that meets our people exactly where they are, then we’ll miss the target.

You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.

We actually need to be educated about what we need before we know we need it. And that’s why jumping in with our expert solutions, as brilliant as they may be, can be met with crickets. Nada. Niente.

Listen first. Find and create ways and places to listen and learn. And when you understand where people are at and what they want, then and only then, can you give them what they need … all wrapped up and tied beautifully in what they want.

Make it all about THEM

This is relationships 101, right? How to win friends and influence people? Make it all about THEM.

And if you haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m a firm believer that content is all about relationships.

The reason you’re producing content is so that you can form relationships with people. Therefore, all of the same rules and best practices apply whether you’re doing it online or having an in-real-life conversation with someone.

The problem with online content is that we’re usually waaaay too aware that we’re talking to people en masse … and people ‘en masse’ don’t have names and faces. Kind of a generic blob, really.

But when you’re talking to a generic blob, the actual names and faces that make up that blob can kind of tell, right? You know, content that’s meh. Take it or leave it, remember it not.

Actually what people really want is content that’s all about them. You know those things you read, or view, and could swear to god that person got in your head and made that thing especially for you. It’s an awesome feeling and not something you can usually do by thinking of faceless blobs.

I challenge you to write, or record your next post thinking of one very specific person - talk to them, show them you understand, show them you’ve been listening. See how that goes and comment below. Do you already do this? How much better is your content when you have an actual person in mind?

Make yours better


If there’s stuff out there that people love and want, then by all means, go in and get a piece of that. But! Make yours better. This is not rocket science, is it? If it’s already out there and doing well, especially by several big-hitters, then you need to make yours better.

You know people want it and that it’s popular, so that’s a start, but make it stand out with more, better and YOU.

A good way to figure out how to do that, is to just ask yourself what’s missing from what’s already out there? How could it be better? What’s the thing that would make this awesome? And, more often than not, that’s just a great big slice of you.
Get to the point
This goes for your headline, the URL and the content itself. The clearer, more straightforward and to the point it is, the more easily people can understand it, remember it and share it.

If it’s a guide or an infographic, make it easy to grasp at a glance - not too cluttered or complicated.

The same goes for an article or report - use headings to break it up logically and make sure it flows. You need to make sure it's as easy to read as possible, especially if it’s an epic piece that goes into a lot of detail.

Link to more


Use links throughout your piece, where appropriate, to other work and resources that supports and augments this one. Think about the journey you want to lead your audience on and while flagship pieces should certainly stand alone in their depth and value, they also need give your audience somewhere to go.

Think about the information that precedes this piece, as well as what people what to know after they’ve absorbed this one. Don’t just leave it at that - show them how it fits in, the steps before and the steps after. (You can read more here on how flagship content anchors your strategy).


Flagship content is a work in progress - it evolves


Don’t let the need for perfection stop you from sharing your knowledge and getting something out there. I’m not for one minute suggesting that you should disregard quality altogether - I’m not, this is flagSHIP content after all, not flagSHIT content. However, don’t think of it as something static that has to be perfect once and for all. Think of it as something that you’ll add to and refine over time. Something that will increase in quality, value and usefulness as you learn more and more people engage with it.

The idea is to make it today to the best of your ability, but to add to it, tweak and refine it over time. This way, it stays current with ongoing evergreen appeal and allows you to promote revised editions without creating all-new content. So put the work in today, but with the mindset of creating something that will grow and evolve over time. Taking the first step is the only way you can get to the next step.

It won’t be for everyone … and that’s ok


Great content is subjective - not everyone is going to agree on whether the same piece of content is great or not, and that’s fine. The important thing is that your audience thinks it's great, and they are not everyone.

Content that your audience thinks is great will be stuff that’s useful (or educational), entertaining, or inspiring.

What’s considered useful will depend on who you’re talking to, as will entertaining and inspiring, but in broad terms, these are the that jobs great content does and why certain people really love certain stuff. In other words, why they find a connection with it.

And that’s what you’re after - a connection. Producing content, good content, is all about connection. Connection that forms the basis for relationships, which is why we’re all in business anyway.

In conclusion


Go and give it a go - think about what you can make that your audience will love and which will really help them out with something. Show your passion and your personality because at the end of the day, people connect with people. Don’t let perfection hold you back and know that this thing will evolve over time, as will you and your relationships.

At this point, after reading my own mammoth article, I’d also like to acknowledge and point you towards Chris Garrett’s own mammoth article (book, actually) on how to create killer flagship content. You can find it at http://www.chrisg.com/ and I’m very confident you’ll enjoy it - it’s very good. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris.

You can also download my flagship content framework right here. It's a simple visual PDF that shows how to start with your mission, create flagship pieces, align your other and link it all together to create that journey and experience for your audience. ... and it's kinda pretty so you can stick it up where you can see it when you're creating to keep you on track :)

 

If you’re feeling daunted, or inspired (!) about how to get more visibility for your brand through your content strategy, it’s ok - you know more than you think you do and it’s really not rocket science after all, honestly.

Getting a grip on your content marketing is as easier with a collaborative community to support you, and it just so happens that I know one …

https://www.facebook.com/groups/notrocketscience/

Flagship content anchors your strategy

 

Who’s ever fallen into the trap of running your guts out on the content/social media treadmill? You know, where you’re so hell-bent on showing up consistently and sticking to your schedule that you start to numb out a bit and lose the point. It’s hard to admit, but a case of quantity over quality, or letting cadence reign.

The treadmill happens when showing up takes priority over your value. You know, the ‘ole that’ll do, just get it out there. Obviously there’s a bit of that in every piece of content we produce - you absolutely do have to get to the point where it will be enough, or we’d never publish anything.

But I’m talking about when this ‘just punch it out’ approach is more chronic. Where your value slips as a result. This is not a good thing. It’s not just a waste of time, but it will damage your brand and your reputation over time.

Quality & consistency go hand in hand

Producing quality content consistently, on the other hand, has a cumulative effect. The deeper you go, the more value you offer, the more likely your audience will want to know more, so it makes sense to understand that context and provide them with the next logical step. You can create that context, provide the next logical step for your audience AND make it easier to produce better content consistently by creating and incorporating awesome flagship content pieces.

It’s not a new idea, but nonetheless, here’s my take on how to use flagship content in a framework that’s going to serve both you and your audience.

What does quality mean?

Quality, to me, means that it’s of value to the people you’re making it for and its presentation or delivery is of a standard that adds to their experience of that value.

Value and quality are similar, but I’m not sure that they’re the same.

It’s a bit like someone doing an awesome podcast interview, but the sound quality sucks and you can’t hear it properly. I might think the content is perfect, EXACTLY what I want to hear and therefore of high value. Except that I can’t hear it properly. My experience of the value is diminished because the overall quality isn’t there.

And what we value is an individual thing.

Does quality mean a 4,000 thousand word blog post, beautifully formatted and presented?

Yes, maybe it does.

Does it mean showing up on Facebook Live everyday, without fail, with a killer, super-actionable tip?

Yes, it could. If that’s of value to your people and that’s how they want to experience that value.

But it’s not about the length of the article, or the video production, or the amount of times you show up. It’s about the real value you provide and how your people experience that value.

Experience has depth

We humans love to ‘experience’ things, don’t we? Look at all the stuff we do in the name of ‘experience’! No wonder it’s a popular word.

But what makes a good experience? What makes an experience positive, something we remember, something we talk about and something we want more of?

Our good experiences are the ones with depth. Deep experiences can mean more to us than the actual thing itself because of their context. Even a simple, or seemingly mundane experience may be remembered and cherished because of the meaning we attach to it. It’s the context that gives an experience depth.

Context deepens the content experience too

Just like all the other things we experience in life, content is also experienced in layers - layers that build on each other.

So take that 4,000 word blog post, for example - that could be the most epic, most mind-blowing, dead-set value-packed, on-point thing ever written, but without context, it’s still not all it could be. It needs to fit in. It needs a path to it and it needs a path after it so that those layers of experience become part a journey that has a cumulative effect.

Content and context need an anchor

When you think about a journey, you generally think about getting somewhere, right? Even if that ‘somewhere’ is just enjoying the journey itself, the journey is anchored, it has a reason. And it’s the same for content.

Knowing how to solve the burning problem your people are experiencing is a good basis for giving your content an anchor, but making a specific piece of content that actually embodies that mission is even better. And the reason is simple; because then you can build a content journey around that mission that deepens your audience’s experience at every step of the way.

Start with why

When you start with your why, your mission, it’s easy to come up with flagship content ideas that will really be of value to your audience. They’re the pieces of content, whatever the format, that solve the problems they struggle with. It’s the stuff you do best, the foundation of everything you do, it’s your way, your voice, your style, your thing.

Flagship pieces are loved by your customers because they’re something that actually helps them with the problem you know all about.

Your why is the anchor.

Your flagship pieces express that why and provide the context.

And your internal links provide the journey.

Content that’s linked creates a journey

… the next logical step

If you’re taking the time to focus on your mission and create excellent flagship content, then you want to be thinking about how it fits into the bigger picture of your audience’s journey with you. Show them you understand by making it easy for them to take the next step.

When you create flagship content that’s based on your mission, it’s much easier to produce other content that supports and feeds those flagship pieces and expresses your value to your audience. Your concepts, your philosophies, your approach, the things you want to become known for are now easier to be clear about when they’re anchored and they have context.

Deepen that experience and show your audience you understand their journey by highlighting that context and showing them the next step. Logically and helpfully guide them to more, the next bit, more depth, another touchpoint, another piece of the problem solved.

Do this by linking your content, not only in the logical flow of subject matter between pieces, but by including actual links between each and every piece.

Ask yourself, what would they want to know next?

What questions come up from what I’ve just shared?

What other content does it relate to, or that I can create, to continue this path for them?

Better for you, better for your audience

This makes it easier for you to produce better content because you’re putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and walking the talk. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time - you know your stuff and all the bits that give it context - hang onto that thread and over time and draw out every detail. This is how you make your content more specific and more valuable.

Which is also great for your audience, of course. Now they get to experience even deeper value as you guide them along their journey with you. A journey that’s logical and helpful - who doesn’t like that?

And just as an added bonus, it’s good for SEO too. Search engines love this kind of content architecture because it makes their job easier. Google loves great content just as much as your audience does and like your audience, it’s the links that make it easy to determine the relevance and authority in what you’re producing.

So it’s not exactly rocket science, but with a bit of thought and planning, you can make your content much better and much easier to produce. That’s good for you and good for your audience. After all, content is about human relationships, so when the why’s clear and it’s supported by a simple framework, beautiful things can happen.

Ready for more?

So now if you're all fired up and ready to jump into creating some of that amazing flagship content for yourself, hop over to How to create killer flagship content to learn how.

You can also download a PDF copy of the framework here so you can stick up and keep focused when you're creating for your audience - remember to start with your mission, align all of your content to that mission through flagship pieces and link it all together to create a journey.

 

I’m talking about this framework in the Like A Boss virtual summit that starts on 1 July.

The Like A Boss summit is designed to inspire, switch you up a notch and make all sorts of lights go off in your business head. It features 15+ bosses sharing their best knowledge nuggets in short, easily digestible video trainings.

When you sign up for the summit, you’ll not only see a video of me going into the detail of  everything you’ve just read here, but you’ll also be able to download the framework PDF so you can start applying it to your content today.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for free here.

Relax, content marketing is like building a reputation - it takes time

Content marketing is one of those things that frequently freaks small business owners out. They either freak out because they’re overwhelmed with all the information about what you should and should not be doing, but still haven’t even managed to get a grip on what it actually is and how it fits in with their particular business. Or, it freaks them out because although they know how it fits in and what to do, there is no way in hell they’ve got the time to do it. So, it generally remains undone and somewhat murky. We’ll get to it *one* day kind of thing, but never do.

And I say, relax. Content marketing is just another way of building your reputation, so just like your ‘in real life’ reputation, it takes time. The reason I make this point is because I’m pretty sure that when you think about your own reputation and that of your business or brand, you totally accept that building awareness and reputation really does take time. It’s not difficult to understand and most of us aren’t expecting to be an overnight success.

And yet, when it comes to content, social and pretty well all forms of digital marketing, we seem to fall into this trap, this false expectation that things will happen overnight. That now just because you’ve set up a blog on your business site, sales should boom. That because you’ve been posting on your Facebook page for a month, you should have been ‘discovered’ by now. Plus, to make matters worse, it better happen soon because you really don’t have time for this - you have a business to run!

The fact is, you’re building your reputation and that’s not going to happen overnight, not for most of us anyway. The truth is that you do have time for it and it is worth it, but you probably need to start thinking about your marketing more like building a reputation rather than a set of levers and pulleys that take an awful lot of effort for not much return.

It takes time and you can’t just fast-forward to the good bits

If I said to you that realistically, you needed to be thinking about producing content consistently for about 30 months, would that freak you out, or inspire you?

I know for some that would cause total freak out and I understand why. You can’t find the time, or even figure out what to produce for a week, let alone two and a half years - this sounds bonkers and I am clearly NOT helping, is what you’re thinking. Forget it, maybe content marketing just isn’t for me …

But hang on, we’re talking about building a reputation, remember? You have one of those, right? You’ve been building it since you went into business and you’re fine with the fact that it takes time, aren’t you? Two and a half years to establish and build your reputation and that of your business doesn’t exactly seem crazy, does it? And that goes for your content too. It’s the same thing, just a different format. The world is flatter and more accessible on the web than it is in real life, but it’s still about human behaviour and human relationships. The extent to which you want to get involved and invest in the growth of that reputation will determine the results you get and the time it takes, but you can’t just skip to the good bits.

Whether you want to give it everything and go all-in, or whether you can only commit to a small amount of quality content each week, looking at it as a 30-month commitment from the outset will help you stay realistic. If you wrote one blog post every month, that’s 30 articles in 2.5 years. If you wrote 2 a month, that’s 60. 60 ways of expressing your expertise, sharing your opinion, connecting with people. How long would it take you to attend 60 networking meetings in your local area? … and by the way, 60 blog posts is a whole e-book series, 30 is too for that matter, and just 10 is well and truly enough to create an e-book out of the work you’ve already done - and that’s another blog post for me to write on repurposing and creating flagship content ...

It takes consistency

It’s no good showing up sometimes, but then disappearing for months on end. No one’s going to issue you a fine, the reputation police don’t really exist, but it’s just going to take you longer to build something of value and see the rewards. It’s just human nature. People need to be able to get know you over time so that means you have to show up repeatedly, but you have to show up in a consistent way.

Your content is no different. Keeping your timing consistent not only gives people plenty of regular opportunities to hear from you and connect with you, but it also helps to develop trust when they start to realise they can rely on you. Think of a network meeting - the person who shows up every month is going to develop relationships more quickly than someone who only shows up every 6 months - it’s not rocket science, is it?

And the way you show up matters too. When you show up with consistent value, or entertainment, or connection, people start to expect that from you and your reputation expands. That doesn’t mean that you have to produce a 2,000 word blog post every week. If you can and you want to, great (that’ll be 260,000 words in 2.5 years - a LOT of fuel for reputation growth there!), but what’s more important is that you commit to what you can manage to consistently.

If you hate writing, maybe try video. If you’re a bit of a comedian, don’t try to be too serious. If you’re a consultant, but you love windsurfing with your dogs, why not bring them into the mix? If you’re a mum running a business from home, your videos might be interrupted from time to time - let that be ok. The more comfortable you are with how you show up, the easier it will be to do it consistently and the more people will be able to really connect with you.

It takes some ability to produce something of value

You may have the world’s best solution to do something. Something that you know will help people for sure and in which they’ll find genuine value. That’s good, but you have to get it to them as well and that’s the bit you might not be so great at.

For me, I have a lot of strategy design ideas, for example, that frankly are amazing, but it’s hard to illustrate that kind of thing to clients sometimes. I can talk and eventually get my point across. I can write and add some images and diagrams etc and it goes ok - I get them there in the end. But for some complex concepts and strategies, what I really need is a designer to turn it into an infographic or flow chart - you know, something visual that a client can look at understand much easier than wading through all my guff.

The thing is, I suck at making those things. I know the concept and may be slightly talented with content strategy, but I do words, lots of them and am totally crap at making all that visual. That’s why I stick to my abilities and use someone else’s ability where mine lacks.

What I’m trying to say is that your ability, or gaps in ability, shouldn’t hold you back. Your content doesn’t have to be perfect and if you can’t outsource a whole design job, or video production, don’t just not do it at all. Get help in the capacity and way that you can afford and need. Google and YouTube are amongst my own longest standing and most reliable mentors and teachers.

So in terms of building your reputation through content, the key is that it’s ok to be starting out - everyone started somewhere. You don’t have to have it all figured out and perfect before you’re allowed out onto the internet or a local networking meeting, right? Start where you are with what you’ve got and start growing, learning and building. You may have to fake not freaking out a bit, but don’t fake what you know - it’s ok to be learning and being real about where you’re at is good for your reputation and your content.

It takes some promotion

It does actually. Sorry, but just ‘doing the thing’ isn’t really enough - you’ve got to lead people to it. If you’ve conquered those fears, stepped up, written and amazingly valuable blog post, or made a killer video, or even just sorted out your Facebook business page and got it looking pretty darned nice, don’t just sit back and wait for the hoards to come. They probably wont. Now that you’ve done that great work, you have to show them!

Don’t get me wrong though and go and spam and spray everyone you can, right? I’m pretty sure that there’s not much to worry about there and your real blocks will be around a fear of seeming like that, or just being shy about sharing your own work. Well, I understand that, but you have to do it anyway - you’ll get better at it with time, but you have to start.

When you share your stuff, just do it in a way that and from a place of genuinely wanting to help people. Make it personal wherever possible and keep in mind that you’re building your reputation through each and every way you show up, not just through the content itself. That means that no matter how good your blog post, download or video is, no one’s going to care if you shove it down their throats and you’ll build your reputation as someone people should ignore.

Pretty straightforward really, isn’t it? Exactly like building a reputation in real life - we’ve all met *those* networking types.

It’s not all about you

When you think of the people you know who have great reputations, they’re not the people who are all about themselves, are they? Same with content. When you think about the people you follow online, your favourites, the ones you come back to time and time again, are not just talking about themselves, are they? In fact, they seem to making things and saying stuff that feels like it’s just for you, right? It’s so helpful and useful and inspiring or entertaining, that it makes you feel good. 

The fact is that content marketing is about building relationships, so just like relationships in real life, they don’t happen when it’s a one-sided gig. One-sided, or just boring, right?

That means that even though you might not be talking about yourself and your business, so you’re thinking you’ve got this covered, if what you are talking about is of little interest to the people you’re talking to, then that’s not much use either, is it?

Your content is about your audience, the people you serve, not you. Figuring out how to do that takes time - it’s a journey with dips and turns and course corrections, but in the beginning, you’ve got to be curious about what it is people want and how you can be of value to them. That makes sense in terms of real life reputations, doesn’t it? And it’s no different with content.

That’s why taking a long term approach and relaxing into your content makes a lot of sense. It’s not a quick fix, quick returns type of thing. It’s your reputation and given thought, commitment and steadiness over time will see it grow into something that’s invaluable and something that you’ll draw on time and time again. I really hope that inspires you to not get freaked out and overwhelmed by constant content, but to instead see it as something you can do, in your own way, over time.

If that struck a chord with you and you’re feeling a bit loved-up about content, you might like to  read some of my other content articles like;

http://pepperstreetsocial.com/blog/2016/9/7/keep-showing-up

http://pepperstreetsocial.com/blog/2016/9/1/make-content-for-people-to-love-not-for-consumers-to-consume

http://pepperstreetsocial.com/blog/2016/8/30/stand-out-with-quality-consistency-over-time

Feeling the content love, but sick of reading? No problem - come over to the Not Rocket Science Facebook group instead. We’re all about being visible and building our reputations online in a way that’s sustainable over time and in total alignment with who we really are. We’re not very techy, slightly irreverent and firmly believe that none of this rocket science after all.

Thanks for reading, see you next time,

Andrea

Connection is value

Recently I pulled right back from social media and took a break. I felt fried and like my well of creativity had completely dried up - I had nuthin. I don’t think the creativity actually went anywhere, or ceased to exist, it’s just that I think I got so tired that I couldn’t access it anymore. They say that you need to create space to be creative and I wasn’t really. I felt more like I was punching it out on a production line and it wasn’t feeling good.

This was pretty confronting on one hand because I’m a social media marketing person and well, that’s what I do so … But also on the other because I realised that I have a massive fear of not being of value. It might have been a vicious loop - I may have worked a bit too hard to create content constantly out of the fear of not being of value, but in the process, inhibited my ability to be creative and therefore, of value.

Anyway, it got me thinking all the same about creating value and this fear of not, and what value and creativity is anyway. Yep, it all got a bit deep and weird there that week and so I let it be. I thought the thoughts, and stopped striving, and I just pondered and took my time about things. I never really came to any major conclusion, or path-altering bolt of enlightenment, I think I was actually tired and needed a break, but here are the main thought packages;

Connection is the ultimate value

Humans need to connect with other humans, it’s just the way we are. Now that the internet and social media has been around for a while, our use of it is changing. Yes, it can be a noisy, superficial place, but it can also be the source and opportunity of great connection.

When we hear about ‘being of value’ and ‘value marketing’, we’re really hearing about tools and ways of doing things to achieve connection. But the connection is the real value. The free downloads and webinars and special offers and this and that, none of them mean anything unless there’s a connection and all of these things are trying to achieve that.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all, but the point is that if you can connect with people just by being yourself, saying hello and asking them how they’re going, then isn’t that value too? I say yes. I reckon that’s actually what we want and again, no problem with all the other stuff, but when you think about it, it’s all just stuff we use to get noticed and to help find the right fit.

The power of connection is when it’s real and personal

I’ve never been a big fan of customer avatars or personas. Yes, I understand fully the theory behind them and I can see they can be of immense value, but I’ve personally never felt motivated or connected to any of the ones I created, until I just copied real people. When there really was a connection and the person was real, then it made a difference. This is what I recommend my clients do when they develop personas for their business, but more to the point, connection is the important bit.

So coming back to value, I think that the real value is connection - it’s what we all crave. And that all the other stuff we call ‘value’ are the flags and streamers we use to get attention so we can have that connection. That’s not the say that there’s no value in the flags and streamers, nor that they don’t serve a purpose, they do. It’s just that we need to connect with real people on a basic human level before we need much of anything else and when we do, that’s how learn and understand for sure that our flags and streamers are the right ones to attract more real connections.

Ok, so that might have seemed like a bit of waff, I am feeling a wee bit more philosophical than usual, but I do believe it whether or not I’ve managed to express it very well. What it means for you and me is that I think we can relax a bit with the flags and streamers knowing that our true value is always and will always be in our ability to connect with other.

 

If that idea resonates with you and you’re keen to connect and enjoy a community that’s all about genuine connections and using social media for the forces of good, come over to the More Fabulous with Friends Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/morefabulouswithfriends/

Thanks for reading,

Andrea

Stuck for words?

Blink. Blink. Blink.

You blink at the screen and it’s blinking right back at you. You’ve just made an awesome image for Instagram, or found a really excellent piece you want to share on Facebook, or maybe it’s time to write your blog post for the week, but there’s nothing. Zip. You can’t for the life of you figure out what to say.

I know that at this point you could hardly care less about why it happens and that you really just want a quick and easy way to fix it, right? Well I do have a few quick and easy solutions actually, but that answer is really tied up in understanding why it happens anyway.

Quite simply, it happens because you’re disconnected from who you’re talking to. That means you’ve lost sight of who you’re writing for and that leads to overthinking it and writing stuff that doesn’t really resonate with anyone.

So if you’re wondering what topic to write about, the absolute best go-to tip ever is to think about real conversations you’ve had with people. Clients and customers are the best, but also peers, colleagues, friends and yes, people you interact with on social media. When a customer actually asked you how to do something, or a client told you about the thing they struggle with most, that’s the thing you want to write about ... and here are some reasons for that;

  1. It’s real - that question, that conversation was real, so you know that other people like them will also be wondering or struggling with the same thing. No need to guess or make assumptions.

  2. It’s easier to write, not only because you actually had that conversation, but because the person you’re ‘talking’ to is solid in your mind. Again, you don’t need to make it up.

  3. It’s of more value. Whatever you write, it should be of value to the person reading it. When you actually helped someone and saw it was valuable to them, then again, you don’t have to guess.

Sometimes thinking of topics and conversations and being of value is dead-easy. Those are the times when you’re most likely really connected to your audience, your people, the ones reading. It flows, it’s easy, it’s natural and it’s valuable.

But what about the times when you’re not feeling really connected? It happens, we get busy, we’re doing the work and not every conversation is an inspiration-bomb. What then?

Here are some tips to hack yourself back into being connected with your audience, or at least find something relevant to write about …

  • Think of the last, or most epic conversation you had with a client or customer - there’s gold in that

  • Scroll through the social media feed you’re most active on - look at the comments, what are people saying/asking/commenting

  • Check out the newsfeeds of the groups you’re in, your own and others - again, what are people asking and talking about?

  • Blogs and blog comments - your own and other people’s. What are people talking about, what’s your spin?

  • Look through your own social posts - if it was worth saying once, it’s probably worth saying again. Repurpose it - say it another way, add to it, update it

  • Think about your own story, something you struggled with, something you didn’t know, but have since learnt and share it - people connect with stories

  • And if you have a community, ask them what they want you to write about

I love to write and I’m a dead-set worshipper of developing and expressing brand stories, but I get stuck too … with my own writing, not yours. Yes, it’s a weird thing. I’m really good seeing your story and helping you with what to write and how to tell that story, but we all are. Most of the time we only get stuck because it’s ours.

And that’s why getting help and having a supportive community is gold beyond measure. People to bounce ideas off, to give feedback, to remind you of your value and of your voice. It’s also why Pepper Street Social is about to launch a community exactly such as this. AND it’s, of course, geared toward figuring out what the heck is up with social media. Oh! Get me in there now! I know, I’m making it, so if you want to be in it, fill in the form below and I’ll be sure to invite you when it goes live, which will be within the next couple of days. It’s going to be awesome.

Thanks as always for reading and I really hope to see you in that Facebook group soon,

Andrea

Say what you want to say

When I graduated with my uni degree, it was a pretty big deal. I’d studied externally as a stay at home mum, after having 3 kids in 3 years, and although there were many times when I felt like giving up, I was determined to finish it. And so I did.

The graduation ceremony was unusually extravagant, at least by Australian standards. There was a light show, an art exhibition, white marques with champagne & sushi, the trees were filled with fairy lights and paper lanterns, and there was a fireworks display choreographed to ‘Brave’ by Sarah Bareilles.

The lyrics of that song are about being brave enough to say what you want to say, speaking your truth and letting the words come out. Needless to say it felt very emotional there at that graduation ceremony with those fireworks on that warm February night, and naturally that song became a bit of a personal anthem for me.

You see, I’ve been organising communication my whole life. When I was in primary school I was always creating ‘clubs’ for my friends - writing out lists of rules, mission statements, individual role descriptions and club charters. I always kept journals and had several folders for my collections of plays, stories and poems that I carried around everywhere. They were pretty basic when I was 8, but I loved to write and I loved to organise what I wrote. Then as an adult, it’s no surprise at all that I ended up working in advertising, marketing and PR. I always had things to say and I wanted that degree to legitimise my love of communication.

Just as that song came to represent a lot to me personally, it also says a lot about every one of us and the need to find the words and the ways to tell our stories. For personal, as well as company brands, the story is the thing that makes a person real and brand come alive. It’s the thing that underpins the way you show up - what you say, how you say it and why. It comes through in everything, it’s the uniqueness that makes you stand out and it’s the thing people find connection in.

When it comes to marketing, you really have to know what you want to say and learn to say it in your unique style, intentionally. Whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not, you’re telling a story all the time anyway, in everything you do, so you might as well take some time to figure out what it is you want to say. When you’re clear about what you want to say, you can tell that story with intention and creativity, which makes your brand more interesting, more appealing and more connection-able.

But, like the song says, you kind of have to be a bit brave to do that. We’re all pretty well-trained in modifying what we really want to say into something a wee bit different, a wee bit more ‘acceptable’. And that’s not always a bad thing, right? There could be all kinds of problems if we didn’t learn to be appropriate, at least most of the time.

With branding though, that truth, that authenticity makes a real difference. It’s all about saying what you want to say - your story - and finding the right way to say it - wrapping it up in your mission and your style. When you nail that, everything becomes so, so much easier because it comes out in everything you do - what you say, what you write, what you create, what you offer, how you sell.

I’ve always found storytelling and branding fascinating and powerful, right up my alley really with the writing & communication, but to be honest, very hard to show others how to do. Until now. I guess I’ve worked with it enough and honed my skills enough to not only be able to do it, but I’ve also figured out a way of teaching and empowering others with that knowledge too. So much so, that it’s become part of my brand story. So now I’m saying what I want to say and showing you how to do that too.

 

If you’re interested in working with me so you can say what you want to say in just the right way, fill in the form below with your details and I’ll be in touch. We can work one-on-one for a month to establish your brand story, including your brand Mission Guide, your on-brand content, your images, including your brand Style Guide and bring that all together in the way you sell your stuff. Yep, all in a month. How good would that feel? Fill in the form and I’ll be in touch to make a time to chat - that’s where all the goodness begins.

Thank you as always for reading. Leave a comment, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram - I’d love to hear from you.

Andrea

Because looking good makes your feel good

... and 16 other reasons a strong brand is so important on social media.

Now I’m assuming that you already know how important it is to build a strong brand on social media, right? Even if you couldn’t list all the reasons straight off the top of your head, I’m guessing you know enough to know it’s important. So then why would I write this blog post? Because we forget, and because we think we understand more than we actually do sometimes, and because branding on social media is really, really important and it needs to be said more than once.

A strong brand is a strong identity. A strong, recognisable personality, voice, image and mission. You recognise it when you see it, you know what it’s about and you know whether you like it or not. Furthermore, depending on how you feel about it, you pay attention, engage, interact and follow … or not. And choosing ‘not’ to is better than not being seen at all, which addresses the first reason a strong brand is so important on social;

  1. To stand out - sheer volume of users & a general overload of information mean we’ve all got really good at skimming. Brands that don’t stand out make it easy for us ignore them because we’re looking to block out what’s not relevant.
  2. Consistency - it’s hard to stand out if you’re not consistent, again, because of the sheer volume. You’ve got to be consistent in your look, your message as well as when and where you show up.
  3. Tell a story - part of the function of a strong brand is to tell your story so people know who you are, what you do and who you do it for, without having to spell it out every time. No one has time for that!
  4. Great brands are magnetic - have you noticed? Who in business doesn’t want a great big magnet working for them on social media?
  5. Your mission and purpose are clear - people aren’t generally attracted to fluff and ambiguity, so again, a strong brand makes it easy for people to work out if you’re for them … or not.
  6. Familiarity - people need to be familiar with you to be able to develop trust and loyalty. Simple but true.
  7. Professional appeal - a great brand contributes enormously to you being perceived as professional, credible and trustworthy.
  8. Meaningful connections - a strong brand means the connections you make on social are more likely to engage, support and invest in you, rather than just follow for the sake of it and contribute to your vanity metrics.
  9. Share-ability - great branding makes your content more shareable, for all of the reasons already mentioned and because people who share want to be associated with that goodness.
  10. Room to move - a strong brand gives you the room and the opportunity to grow and expand, but also to experiment and make mistakes.
  11. Form alliances, network and be noticed by thought leaders and professional peers in your field more easily and more meaningfully with a strong brand.
  12. Build your reputation more easily.
  13. Increase your sales.
  14. Boost traffic to your site and increase search results.
  15. Appeal to your competitor’s customers without having to stalk them - let them find and come to you.
  16. Cut your paid ads and marketing costs as your organic reach increases and your paid advertising is more effective.
  17. And because, let’s face it, you want to look good online, for all of these reasons as well as the fact that it’s a pride thing. Who wants to look half-baked, unprofessional, and dare I say it, dodgy? It feels good to look good and have your brand in alignment with who you are.

Enough said.

Social branding is something I dedicate whole months to help clients with in my one-on-one coaching programme and it’s also the main focus in the group coaching programme. It really helps to have someone outside of your business to take a look, help you get clear on your brand messaging and how that translates onto social media and into sales. If you’re interested in working with me either for group or one-on-one coaching, fill in your details here, and I’ll email you.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment below, or ask a question - I’d love to hear from you, or if you’d prefer, email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com

Have a great day,

Andrea

The way you sell is the ultimate expression of your brand story

If I added up all the hours I’ve spent on creating social media content for Pepper Street Social, it’d equate to a fairly significant portion of my life, in all honesty. Is it necessary? Yes. Have I enjoyed it? Absolutely. Has it made a difference? You bet. But I’ve also had to learn some hard truths about social media and using it as an effective business marketing tool.

The truth is that I have spent whole days, strings of days in fact, creating content that’s thoughtful, on-brand and engaging. I’ve researched topics, written long, value-packed blogs, created killer images to match, posted good copy, laboured over graphics to get them just right, and at the end of the day, felt good that I’d done my job.

Now here’s where it might get a little confusing because I am a social media manager, so that IS my job, right? Wrong, actually.

For me, just like for you, social media is a tool I use to market my own business and clients’ businesses. It’s part of what I do, but it’s still not the purpose of my job. My job is to help clients build brand awareness, connect with their target market and make more sales … and social media is the primary tool I use to do that. Your job is selling what you sell - your coaching or consulting services, or the products you make - jewelry, cakes, accessories, coffee etc. Our jobs are to make stuff and sell it, and so, if our efforts on social media don’t contribute to that, then it’s not part of our job, it’s just a social media hobby.

Take these Facebook stats for example:

Pretty good, hey. Impressive? Maybe. But they’re not sales … and unless they contribute to sales, it’s tricky to figure out how relevant they really are.

Now I’m not talking about some formula where you divide your reach by engagement and then multiply it by the square root of your sales … I made that up, so don’t try it at home, ok? I’m just making a point. When you approach your social media with your focus on sales clear in your mind, the stats start to mean something.

These stats for example, are from the Pepper Street Social Facebook page and coincide with my posts this week about the group coaching programme. So now these numbers aren’t just nice because they’re heading up, they’re telling me something about people’s reaction to something I sell, something that’s directly connected to revenue.

There are two main reasons I’m saying this;

One: because most people don’t like to sell and push back on selling on social media. But there’s selling and then there’s selling.

When I say ‘sell’ & focus on ‘selling’, are you feeling all icky, imagining big red BUY NOW buttons, spammy Instagram accounts, and obnoxious web pop-ups? Thought so. But selling is about awareness, value and service and the process is a relationship building journey based on trust. Sound better? You bet.

When you think about it like that, selling is actually a pretty beautiful thing. It’s about allowing people to become aware of you, understand what you do, like what you do and trust you enough to buy from you. What you sell has value so you’re providing a service in letting people know about it and telling them how they can buy it, all the while, understanding that this takes time.

And two: because when you focus on what you sell, which is your job after all (as opposed to your social media hobby), your content is better and your business benefits.

Focused content is easier to produce and it serves a defined purpose for both your business and your customers. That means you can achieve real outcomes and actually sell something, which is your job.

So don’t just faff around on social media - that’s not your job. Selling your stuff is, so be clear about why you’re posting and use social media to sell it. That doesn’t mean shouting ‘BUY NOW’ in every post, but it does mean staying focused enough to let people know what they need to know and feel what they need to feel to like and trust you enough to eventually buy something from you. Find your own way of doing this and tell your own story. Selling is not separate to marketing - it’s an important part of it, so the way you sell, is all part of your brand and your relationship with your customers.

Selling without selling, which is still selling, but just in a way that both you and your customers feel good about, is something that stumps the best of us until we practice it enough to feel comfortable with it. A big part of it is branding though. When you’re clear about your brand story and the mission you’re on to provide value, it becomes a lot easier to sell in a way that feels authentic and nurtures relationships.

 

This is something I dedicate whole months to help clients with in my one-on-one coaching programme and it’s also a big focus in the group coaching programme. It really helps to have someone outside of your business to take a look and help you get clear on your brand messaging and how that translates into sales. If you’re interested in working with me either for group of one-on-one coaching, fill in your details here, and I’ll email you.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment below, or ask a question - I’d love to hear from you, or if you’d prefer, email me at  andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com 

Have a great day,

Andrea

More fabulous with friends

They say it takes a village to raise a child and I think that’s pretty true about raising a business too. Just like parenting, growing a business can be totally overwhelming and confronting. There’s so much to think about and so much to learn (on the spot, as you go!) and sometimes it’s hard to even stay focused enough to get just one thing done, especially if you’re juggling all that with a family. Isn’t that a ‘no-laughing’ matter?!

I, myself, am a learner. As in, learning is actually something I love, and in fact, I think it’s my number 1 or 2 StrengthFinder strengths. I love to do courses, love to learn new things and I love the challenge of getting good at something. I did my marketing degree the hard way, at home with 3-under-3 and decided to start my own business instead of heading back to the corporate world. I’ve done online courses, email courses and training courses, solo, group and mass, self-paced and exam-assessed, but the type I’ve loved the most and got the most out of is group coaching.

I like to think of small group coaching as a bit like a book club … and I know how many of you, like me, adore books, so maybe we could do a book club too … but for now, let’s just stay focused on social media marketing. The difference between a book club and group coaching is that you’re going to learn actual, practical things that’ll make a real difference and give you confidence in your business social media, as opposed to, well, reading books and talking about them. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll also get the brain-power, the inspiration and the camaraderie of 6 to 8 crazy-clever, super smart women who become your support group & cheer squad.

Oh and coffee. And cake. Did I mention that?

Want to know why group coaching is so good? Here’s what I think ...

1. It actually speeds up learning. Apparently adults learn best peer-to-peer, so learning in a small group is a really efficient way of learning what you need to know and waaaaaay quicker than fluffing around on your own (I *may* have *some* first-hand experience with this).

2. Inspiration, support, and accountability. This is your little business village, your own little cheer squad and your own crazy-clever community. There's nothing more inspiring and encouraging than a group who understands where you’re at, who’s got your back and who want you to succeed as much as you do.

3. Achieve your goals & see results more quickly. If you’re learning quicker AND you have inspiration, support and accountability, guess what - you’re going to be taking more action, achieving more and seeing results more quickly too. Momentum baby.

4. Better ideas and more of them. The collective wisdom and experience of your coaching group is like Deep Heat on your creative muscles … or Red Bull in a 5-year-old. No, that’s wrong. But you know what I’m getting at. Creativity blooms when it’s fed collectively. The energy and imagination of 8 of us is better than one of us on their own. And coffee is good for that too. And cake. Did I mention coffee and cake?

5. Different perspectives … at your fingertips. Kind of like having your very own focus group - what could be better than that for validating your ideas, hushing your fears, and keeping things real as you ride the rollercoaster of building your own business? Top value, this one.

6. Slay your sense of isolation. Quick sticks you’ll see that you're not alone in your challenges, growing pains and irrational fears. Sharing your experiences in a group that honours your vulnerability, and shrewdness, equally is incredibly comforting and amazingly liberating.

7. Take your business up a level. And that level depends on you. Not everyone in the group will be aiming for the same outcomes - what you achieve and how you use what you learn is up to you. For some, it’ll be to increase revenue. For others, it’ll be to have more confidence in creating content. For others still, it’ll be about developing a stronger brand. Whatever that level is for you, you’ll be supported in achieving it.

8. Opportunities you hadn’t even thought of. Working together in a group like this is like a petri dish for opportunities. It’s incredible the people you meet, the friendships you form, and the alliances and partnerships that are possible … and which often only come about in this kind of environment where mixing friendship and business isn’t awkward.

9. You get to choose. In group coaching, your voice matters in creating the agenda, topics, depth and direction. When there’s more interest in one topic over another, we can spend more time and go deeper, while on the other hand, giving you ‘enough’ on something else without boring you to tears and wasting time. The topics and outlines are guides and the discussions are real, so no two groups are ever exactly the same. The beauty!

 

Do you think that sounds pretty great? I do. I could be biased, but seriously, mainly because I’ve got so much out of group coaching myself and I’m really pumped about delivering the same for you.

More information, as well as topics covered, cost to join, sign-up details and intake dates will be made available soon, so if you’re keen to stay in the loop about a group coaching spot, be sure to Like Pepper Street Social’s Facebook page and switch on notifications - this is where all the good info & updates will be posted. And to be super-sure you never miss a thing, pop your email address in the form below and I’ll send you the updates right to your inbox.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment here, or email me any time at andrea@pepperstreetsocial, or connect with me on social (buttons below) - I’d love to hear from you.

Andrea

Style says who you are without the words

Why do we love the things we love? Why do we fall in love with people and brands and stuff, and feel like our lives are better for having them in it? It’s all because of the way they make us feel, all about emotion, all about aspirations and identity. How we feel about things is the way dominant way we make decisions - once we’ve used our logic to decipher our choices, it’s the way we feel that makes us pull the trigger.

So what’s that got to do with branding and style? You know I’m going to say it … everything.

A friend of mine is a lawyer who has her own practice. She was working really hard to establish an on and offline presence & reputation, but she got really stuck and felt totally burnt out. The reason? She created a brand that made ‘sense’ and which she thought was really ‘clever’, but it wasn’t truly her.

You see, she’s a sweet, pretty girl, softly spoken, fairly spiritual, loves pink, heels, nails, hair, fashion and flowers … and is SUPER smart. But her brand was all serious, lawyer-like, almost masculine and, well, bloody boring. It was nothing like who she really is. She wanted swirly pink fonts and flowers in her web imagery. She wanted to talk to her clients about how they felt first and what the law said second, and she wanted to help women with the legalities of setting up their businesses for free. But she thought all that would compromise people’s perception of her as a capable and professional legal practitioner.

Not only was she not standing out when she totally should have been, but she was attracting clients and work that she didn’t love, and most of all, none it was sustainable. Through desperation, she gave in. She gave in to the swirly pink fonts, she rocked her floral skirts and pink heels, she said no to the clients she didn’t love and she bloomed. The more she gave in to expressing who she really was, the more stylised her brand became and the more her business boomed. Her clients find her and love her because she stands out and because her brand represents what you get when you work with her, exactly.

Your brand’s the thing, or collection of things, that identify you, what you do, and how you’re different to your competitors. It’s a recognisable representation of a whole heap of things that say that’s you and not someone else.

Your brand style then, is like the personality of your brand - all the ways you express that brand, including your values. It’s in what you say and how you say it, it’s in the colours, fonts and imagery you use, it’s in the way you interact with people, the way you run your business, the causes you support, the stories you tell - the complete package.

It’s a way of saying who you are and what you stand for without having to necessarily speak the words and spell it out. It’s all the things that come to mind when people think about and experience your brand. It’s the bit that shows off your personality, expressing it in everything you do. It’s the thing that helps you stand out. The more stylised your brand is, the more recognisable, loveable and engage-able it is. The more personality you can give your brand and the more consistent you are with it, the more strongly people will be drawn to it … And that’s where feelings come into it.

A strong brand is one that people recognise, are familiar with, that makes sense, whose message is clear and, of course, one that people are emotionally connected to. People love certain brands because they feel an affinity and identify with the brand’s values. I think that’s easier to understand in terms of personal brands where the brand is the person, but it’s exactly true for other brands too.  Personal or not, great brands have managed to mean something far more to the people that love them than just a symbol or design. Those ‘meanings’ are the feelings, the emotions and that’s why they’ve earned trust and loyalty.

If you ask me, the feeling is the most important bit. Yes, there’s science and art and design and theory and tech and bla bla bla involved, but at the end of the day, all of those things are used to convey a feeling, an emotion. And that feeling starts with you. If you want your brand to make people feel a certain way, the answers for achieving that begin with how it makes YOU feel.

When your style resonates and truly reflects who you are and what you stand for, you'll feel good and that'll come through in your brand and in the work you do. When you choose colours and fonts and images for your style guide that genuinely reflect you and which you feel good about, you’ll feel great about using them and being on-brand will suddenly become easy. When you feel like that, it’s easy to repeat it, to flow with it and, hey guess what. Now you’ve got consistency down so people see you enough and in the same way to develop those emotions. BOOM.

I love that lawyer story, and in the end, for all the markety, businessy things you can say about branding and brand style, creating a great brand style is not as much about design as it is about feelings. How you feel about the way you express your brand will have a huge impact on the feelings other people have about it. Start there and nail it, and when you do, your brand will become your greatest business asset.

 

Is your brand and style something that’s bugging you? Why don’t you email me so we can set up a time to chat? Chances are, I can help you find some clarity and offer a new perspective to help you move forward. Perhaps a monthly coaching package of intense brand and styling work would really sort you out, so if you’re interested, pop your email address in the form below and I’ll send you all the good details. If you’re ready to jump on a call, or have a coffee together, email me direct at andrea@pepperstreetsocial, tell me when and how I can call you and I will!

Let’s get your brand style aligned with who you really are.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Andrea

If at first you don't succeed, you might just need a coach.

Marketing your business is one of those things that everyone gets stuck with. You lose direction, you can’t see the big picture and often, you don’t even know where to start in order to solve it. It’s confusing and overwhelming - too much information, too little time and no idea who to trust.

It’s pretty normal to feel that way at least at some point, but it’s also pretty easily solved. Although you may feel like you have no idea which of your options to take, and would dearly love Glinda, the good witch of the north, to come and wave her wand over everything, the truth is you probably know more than you think and just need a guiding hand. A fresh set of eyes, someone to help you find direction, create a plan and help you stay on track to implement it is often all it takes.

I’ve felt like that as a business owner too, and the some of the most valuable investments I’ve made, and which have brought about the biggest results, have been coaching services. Sometimes you just want to pay someone to get a job done and be done with it, but sometimes it makes more sense to be more involved and actually learn to do the thing yourself … with support. That’s what I’ve loved most about the coaching I’ve done for myself - I get to expand my knowledge and skill-set, something I’ll keep and use in my business on a daily basis, but I eliminate the stress of trying to figure it all out on my own.

This realisation is the reason I decided to add coaching to the services offered at Pepper Street Social. Yes, I can consult with you to create an amazing marketing strategy & implementation plan, and I can also manage your accounts on a daily basis to put that plan into beautiful action bringing exceptional results, but sometimes that’s just not quite the right fit.

Coaching however, might just be perfect because it’s somewhere in between. With a coaching package, I combine an intensive strategy and brainstorming session, an action plan, and one-on-one support over a month to get your specific, bespoke and tailored job done. In essence, you get my professional marketing brain consultation to work out your long and short-term goals, devise an action plan for how to get there, and I support and guide you for the month as you implement the steps.

These coaching packages can help you to;

* Gain clarity & direction on how to *grow* your business through social media & an integrated marketing plan that addresses your specific goals for your specific business

* Make more money from your Facebook ads by increasing conversions & ROI … and someone on hand to guide you through the Power Editor

* Learn how to simply & quickly boost engagement and to get more Likes and leads for your business

* Create a brand story and personality that helps you stand out, even if your product or service is ‘boring', or highly niched

* Understand the buyer's journey for your market and what this means for your social media content and overall marketing plan

* Focus on promoting and delivering a specific event or launching a specific product successfully

* Save time with simple scheduling techniques & resources

* Figure out the next steps to put your killer ideas into clever action

Is there something else that’s bugging you that I haven’t mentioned here? Why don’t you email me me so we can set up a time to chat? Chances are, I can help you, (unless it’s about why your cat’s molting so much, or what colour to paint your bedroom - not really my areas), but if it’s anything to do with marketing your business, I’m sure I can help.

 

If you’d like to receive more information about Pepper Street Social’s coaching packages, pop your email address in the form below and I’ll send you all the good details. If you’re ready to jump on a call, or have a coffee together, email me direct at andrea@pepperstreetsocial, tell me when and how I can call you and I will! Let’s get your marketing sorted.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Andrea

What's the plan, Jan?

The thought of a marketing plan can be rather uninspiring, at best, and at worst, downright overwhelming. Unless you’re a marketing nerd, (and even they, if the truth be known, feel the same way, at least from time to time) chances are, those words are not met with unbridled joy and elation with the possibilities.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to sell you on how you should be elated by a marketing plan - I understand you won’t be, so don’t stop reading just yet. I would, however, like to try to simplify the concept of a marketing plan so that you can feel less ambivalent and more empowered to use it to fuel your business growth.

First of all, forget about the concept of a marketing plan as you know it, and just focus on the following core questions;

WHO do you serve?

  • This is about your target market - who are they?

  • Who are the people that you set out to serve the needs of?

  • Who are your customers, or who are you hoping to attract & serve?

HOW do you serve them?

  • This means the products and services that you provide for them

  • Break it down, be specific

  • You’ll notice that you may serve more than one target market with more than one product or service (Pepper Street Social does)

WHY do you do it?

  • In other words, why does your company exist?

  • Your answer to this helps people understand how you’re different to your competition

  • This is about what matters - your values, your vision, the things that motivate you, your dreams

In essence, this is what a marketing plan seeks to clarify. Of course, a fully-fledged strategic marketing plan goes into a lot more detail, dissecting your position in contrast with your competitors, for example, but at the end of the day, to simplify it enough, this is essentially what it’s about.

When you spend some time thinking about the answers to these questions, your mission and your message soon become a lot clearer. By understanding WHO you serve, HOW you serve them and WHY, you almost by default begin to express who YOU are, WHAT you sell and the services you provide, and WHY people should choose you over your competition. That’s the essence of a marketing plan.

Now if you’re still in a fog, just send me an email and we’ll set up a half hour call to nut this out - it’s amazing the clarity that come from a fresh set of eyes and ears. It’s andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). Also, if you’d like to relax knowing you’re in the loop with our latest marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to our list right here ...

Have a great day,

Andrea

Pictures aren't taken, they're made.

We all know how important images are on social media and how image-saturated the internet in general has become, but have you considered that’s exactly why yours could probably do with some pimping?

Human beings love imagery and we love looking at photos of other people, especially faces. This is nothing new, think of all the famous portraits that have been painted and then photographed throughout history - social media is just another medium for the same fascination. A fascination reflected by the countless apps, software & courses available to teach you how to manipulate and enhance your own creations - anyone can.

It’s probably, in some part, due to this that the general standard of images on the web seems to be getting higher. We see so many great images, that we expect great images, and it means that the ones that aren’t so great get ignored. Now I’m not talking about your personal profiles here, I’m talking about your business profiles and, therefore, that having them ignored is most certainly not on your business-growth agenda.

So when you’re thinking about the images you create and post for business, here are some things that might help you stand out just that little bit more;

1. Brighten up your photos - dark, grainy photos just won't do and are totally unnecessary. If you’re taking a photo that doesn’t have great lighting, adjust the exposure on your camera before you take it (on iPhone, tap the screen & move the sun icon up or down). Already taken the photo? Brighten it using the exposure & brightness options in your after-edits

2. Selfies & faces - people like to know who's behind a business and people like looking at faces anyway, so make it your mission to get over your own resistance by making your face shots as lovely as possible. Now, authenticity is important too, so I’m not talking about plastic surgery & fake makeup - you want people to recognise you, but brightening & enhancing a little can make a big difference.

Look at these two photos of me - this one's the original. It’s an ok photo, but I’m looking a little bit burnt in the sun there.

Look at these two photos of me - this one's the original. It’s an ok photo, but I’m looking a little bit burnt in the sun there.

This one's been enhanced with a portrait filter - no more sunburn & the composition of the photo is highlighted too.

This one's been enhanced with a portrait filter - no more sunburn & the composition of the photo is highlighted too.

 

3. Develop a consistent ‘look’ - play around with filters & apps to see what you like and what works, and once you do, use the same filters each time you post on that network. This means that your photos will have a consistency, be more recognisable, unique and representative of your brand. On Instagram, you can save the filters you use by clicking on the cog icon to the right.

4. Keep it simple - the idea is to ‘enhance’ your photos, not make them gaudy and visually obnoxious, right? This is easy to understand with your selfies and the cosmetic edits available for faces, but the same is true for other photos. Strong filters are fine, just as long as they fit your brand and your objectives - less is usually more.

And last, but not least, here are some of my favourite photo editing apps & tools;

For creating graphics, overlaying text & adding special effects;

PicMonkey (phone app & PC)

Canva (phone app & PC)

WordSwag (phone app)

 

For adding filters & enhancing the overall look of photos;

PicMonkey

Canva

PS Express (phone app & PC)

Litely (phone app)

VSCO (phone app)

 

For enhancing selfies & portraits;

PhotoWonder - best & easiest (phone app)

Be Funky (phone app)

Darkroom (phone app)

Wow, that should keep you busy for a while! I hope you have fun with those, and I should have said in fact, that fun is the whole point - it’s not about perfection and it’s not about mucking around with photos so much that you never actually post anything. Keep it simple, but try a few new things to make your photos just that little bit better :)

In the meantime, if you want to pick my brains on any of this photo stuff, or would like extra help working one-on-one, send me an email - andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). Also, if you’d like to relax knowing you’re in the loop with our latest marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to our list right here ...

Have a great day,

Andrea

Think bigger, bolder, braver ... and turn it into a system.

Much of marketing is about creating systems - systems of communication that are designed to achieve certain outcomes and drive business objectives. At the end of the day, a business itself is just a system that drives revenue and creates profit. I know we all get very passionate and emotional about the difference our businesses make and the people we serve ***you KNOW I’m ALL about THAT***, but essentially it’s a system that makes money. Marketing, therefore is a system within that system that nurtures relationships and drives behaviour that allows the system to produce revenue.

Anyway, with all that out of the way, the point I wanted to make is that for all of the potential ‘touchy-feeliness’ of marketing, creating systems around your messaging, your customer relationships and your promotions is really a very good idea.

Now if you’re starting to feel a bit ‘icky’ about words like ‘system’, ‘messaging’ & ‘customer relationships’, please hang in there. I never, ever endorse or encourage icky, spammy, salesy marketing - it’s just not necessary and it’s certainly not when I’m getting at here. But what I am getting at is that all that good marketing stuff of building community, helping others, being of service, providing value and having an authentic voice can all have it’s beauty and results magnified with a solid system.

Creating solid systems around solid marketing principles means you can;

  1. Scale - systems create efficiencies that allow you to serve many rather than a few

  2. Achieve greater consistency & reliability - key to brand awareness & visibility

  3. Apply a strategy that specifically meets your business goals & objectives

Creating systems is a lot about doing a bit more work up-front so that you can focus more time on tweaking and improving the ways you serve your customers. And that means paying attention to what you want each part of that system to achieve, what you want people to do next, and how you nurture the connection your have with your customers.

So with social media, for example, we try to find ways to stand out, to capture attention, and then, to keep that attention, we have to figure out how to nurture connection. Nurturing connection is about knowing and having the system in place to encourage the next step. That next step might be a visit to your website, or to sign up for a free download, subscribe to your newsletter, register interest in your upcoming workshops or events, or just leave a comment. Whatever it is, we know that whatever we’re asking for, or offering, will help turn that attention into a happy customer.

Think bigger, bolder and braver - getting attention isn’t worth much if you don’t know what to do with it. Figure out what you want to achieve with your marketing & social media activities and how you can serve the people whose attention you’ve earned. Ask yourself what the next step would need to be for that person to trust me enough to become a loyal customer - how can I serve them now, to achieve that later?

 

In the meantime, if you want to pick my brains on any of this, send me an email - andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). And, it has to be said, that if you’d like to get to know me better, plus also relax knowing you’re in the loop with our marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to the Pepper Street Social SNAP right here :)

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Andrea