The phone rang. I sighed. The timing was awful. It was 2001, and I was concocting yet another fusion cooking classic. If I recall correctly it was an Italian/Indian combination – essentially a chicken curry with pasta. I thought about letting it ring but with no caller ID available I thought I’d better answer. I regretted the decision immediately.
“Hi Mr. Anderson. It’s Colin from ABC Home Improvements – don’t worry, I’m not selling anything.”
My heart sank. Now I don’t know about you, but experience has taught me that when someone proclaims that ‘they’re not selling’ you can be fairly confident that they are. I stretched the cord of the phone just enough to see into the kitchen to check that my masterpiece was still OK. It was.
“Now Mr. Anderson you’ve qualified for an exclusive discount.” Said Colin.
“Listen Colin – I’m in the middle of creating a genuine culinary masterpiece…..”
I could hear keys being pressed as Colin frantically tried to find the right place in his pre-prepared sales script.
“All we need to do Mr. Anderson is to get one of our design specialists out to provide a free, no obligation quote for your conservatory”
A minor crisis was developing – the pasta was boiling over, so I confess that I wasn’t paying the fullest of attention. Then it struck me. Did he say conservatory?
Colin must have been a mind reader.
“Did you know that a conservatory can add more value than it actually costs?”
“So how does it work?” I asked, gifting him a clear buying signal.
I could almost feel the mini-fist-pump over the phone. He had me where he wanted me.
“One of our designers will come out and ….”
“No Colin – how does it physically work. I’m fascinated.”
I could hear mouse buttons being pressed, sheets of paper being thumbed through as Colin desperately tried to find the answer to my question.
“Ermm sorry Mr. Anderson what do you mean.”
“Are stilts used?”
“What?” Asked Colin
“Colin – I stay in a second floor flat.”
There was silence. Utter silence. No mouse clicks. No paper being thumbed through. Then to Colin’s enormous credit he fired back with this-
“How do you feel about replacement doors or windows?”
I ended the call, politely, with a new found respect for Colin and returned to creating food based art.
That was the last cold call I enjoyed and in a history of hundreds of such calls, this is THE ONLY ONE that I remember. Of course though, I do so for all the wrong reasons.
Cold calling and most traditional outbound marketing doesn’t work as it once did. Our tolerance for unwelcome interruptions is at an all time low. If I want a conservatory – I’ll search for one online. I’ll ask Facebook friends for recommendations. I’ll do my own homework and make my own decision in my own time.
As a business owner, a big pat of your job today is to be found AND make sure that when you are discovered, that you deliver valuable content. Content that helps. Content that educates. Content that entertains. Content that connects. Content that matters.
Too many businesses are following the wrong recipe. Wasting two ingredients they don’t have enough of – time & money. The blend of their marketing is all wrong.
I’ve made the decision to grow my business through content marketing, and I encourage others to do the same. It’s not a quick fix, marketing ready-meal, it’s a long term commitment. But there’s enough evidence out there to show that it works.
In my 21 years of working in marketing communications I’ve experienced first hand the battle between old World and new World marketing. The reality is this – the old ways aren’t coming back, you need to embrace content marketing. Is Content Marketing the only answer? Absolutely not. But it is, without a doubt, a big part of the answer.
Not sure where to start on your content marketing journey?
Here are two great Content Marketing sites that can help. One from Scotland, the other from the US.
Marcus Sheridan packed a lifetime of knowledge into a little under an hour. My brain melted. One of the key messages that really struck me was starting with why. I’ve read the Simon Sinek book that shares that title, but I haven’t really articulated my own why clearly enough.
And I’ve shared part of the story in other blogs but my understanding of my own why has changed recently.
I’ve made the move move from being a ‘marketing consultant’ to being ‘a writer’ in the last two weeks. I’m officially a ‘freelance copywriter & business writer’.
I love to write. I always have. I’ve written throughout my professional career and for fun, have written short stories and true life accounts of amusing events that have happened throughout my life. When I left my last job I made the decision to do what I loved.
Bold words, but I bottled it. Instead I called myself a marketing consultant. But after 6 months in business I took stock, it turned out 99% of my revenue came from writing. I took this as a sign and ‘came out’ as a writer.
That was just 2 weeks ago.
Writing helps me make sense of the world & gives me a new challenge everyday. Writing gives me an incredible high, a buzz like no other. My perfect day would involve writing & spending quality time with my family. More than anything I know I need to write because it’s not something I need to escape from. When I’ve finished writing a draft for a client, after a short break I’m ready to get on with the next task.
Being selfish isn’t why I’m really doing this though.
I believe that content in all its forms can completely change the fortunes of any business. I also know that not every business owner has the time or the inclination to write all of their own content.
I get a massive buzz from helping a client tell their story or educate their audience. I work with the owner of the business to fully understand what makes them tick. The greatest satisfaction I get is when a client tells me that ‘I really get them’.
I had a saying that I used to judge whether I was making a difference. I wanted to add value AND be valued. It’s only now, at the age of 40 that I can finally say that I’m achieving both.
That’s why I write & why I’ll never stop.
It’s a walk of some 0.2 miles. It should take approximately 4 minutes, but with a five-year-old, laden with a brand new school bag, it took considerably longer.
Mum’s & dad’s asked if I’d taken a few days off on holiday to be there for Jamie’s big day. That seemed logical, so I went along with it. When I was still escorting Jamie the following week, the same people asked “Still on holiday?” I said yes again.
When I was there three weeks later, someone suggested that I was “working from home” – again that seemed plausible – so I replied in the affirmative.
It took a while before one day; I finally admitted that I was off my work with a ‘stress-related illness.’
That was in August 2014.
The intention was always to get me well and find a new job that would be less stressful and more enjoyable. But the simple act of walking Jamie to and from school gave me the time to think. The more I walked, the more I thought, and the more I realised that working for anyone was the wrong thing for me to do.
The dropping off & picking up of Jamie was the only thing I needed to do. There was nothing else on my agenda – other than the small matter of deciding what to do with the rest of my life.
With each round trip to Inchture Primary, my resolve grew stronger, as did the bond with Jamie. We talked nonsense, we laughed, discussed school diners, his new classmates and connected on a different level. I realised just how much I’d missed out on with his older brothers. I’d missed so much – far too much. I’ll never let that happen again.
Freedom, finding true happiness, having a life again – all made possible by the simple act of walking Jamie to and from school.
I’ve shared this story before, but it wasn’t until the closing moments of Marcus Sheridan’s keynote speech at The Content Marketing Conference in Edinburgh that I realised the full significance of the morning school run.
Marcus will be joined on his international travels by his daughter Danielle, who will chronicle their adventure on her ’Traveling With Dad’ blog. I had my much smaller scale journey, but ‘Traveling with Jamie’ started the process of getting me well again – my short walk to freedom.
This post is dedicated to Marcus & Danielle Sheridan and of course Jamie.
I’ve been deliberately frugal since launching the business. I’m working from home predominately, but also find I’m able to write quite easily in coffee houses, the local library, hotels and at my clients own offices. I don’t need silence to operate. In fact I think some ambient background noise is a good thing. Now, I’m writing on the train. I wasted money on an office when I had my first business. In fact, I wasted an awful lot of money on pointless things that didn’t add value. Now I’m operating the business by being ‘ducks arse’ tight.
But today I let go of the purse strings. I’m attending my first conference since launching the business. It’s the Content Marketing Academy 2015 event in Edinburgh.
There is a variety of speakers from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common – much of their success has been driven by content marketing. As a freelance copywriter & content writer, it is the perfect event for me to lose Square Tree Marketing’s event virginity.
I’m on the train home after The Content Marketing Academy 2015 conference. Years of attending corporate events, sales kick offs, and other industry shindigs have taught me to keep my expectations low. I suppose you could say I still have an inbuilt cynicism, that is difficult to shake. I went into today’s conference hoping to take away one or two pieces of advice, maybe some ideas or a new concept that I could apply to my own business. I left with considerably more than that.
As I walked the few hundred yards from the COSLA building to Haymarket Station, my mind was racing. I’d taken copious notes, snapped a few pictures and absorbed the stories from the speakers. I know that I’ll never be able to remember every story, every anecdote or wise word, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that each gave me at the very least one gift. And those gifts, when combined add up to one thing – a far more inspired version of myself. I’m at risk of having my very own ‘Tom Cruise on Oprah’ moment, but I’m writing this ‘filters off’.
Today will go down as the day my business changed forever.
The Content Marketing Academy community is already established, and I have, until now been a silent admirer from afar. I was nervous about going along today as there are several big personalities within the group, and I feared I’d be in the all-too-familiar position as feeling like an outsider. Someone who doesn’t belong. People that know me, and I mean REALLY know me, will find this surprising. I come across as a very confident person, but like so many people, I still have those huge moments of self-doubt.
Also because I didn’t attend yesterday, I felt like I missed out, not just on Marcus Sheridan’s amazing workshop, but on the opportunity to meet & establish relationships. All the cool kids will have formed their groups, and I’d be that awkward kid on the outside looking in.
But that wasn’t the case. I saw a few familiar faces and found it much easier than usual to strike up conversations with strangers. I think this is for two reasons. First – everyone was there for the same purpose, to learn more about content marketing and second – I’m comfortable to proclaim what I am – which is a copywriter and content writer. (You can read about me ‘coming out’ as a writer here.)
I’ve devoured a huge amount of content marketing content from books to blogs – videos to webinars. I’m a believer; a convert from the World of traditional media that knows content marketing is the single most powerful way to grow any business. Today, I entered the church for the first time. The rest of the congregation came from all walks of life, from different sectors and with varying levels of experience. I felt a sense of belonging. These people – are my people.
Ironically, as someone that loves to write – I’m not creating enough of my own content. I’ve been writing plenty of content for my clients, and I’ve used that as an excuse for not writing for my site. That changes NOW.
I only bought my ticket last week as the list of attendees didn’t blow me away, which is ironic, as that’s exactly what they did. Let me explain. I only saw one marketing agency (Velocity Digital) on the list of speaker. I expected to see more. Who was Karen Strunk, who was this fella Richard Tubb and what who exactly was this ‘Sales Lion’? In my defence – this was programmed from going to large Internet Marketing events from my time at D.C. Thomson. But I got that all wrong. Very wrong.
The nature of Content Marketing is that it’s inclusive. It’s FOR everyone & it’s FROM everyone. A hardened B2B chap such as I can learn so much from an American that made his living selling swimming pools in Virginia. From an IT consultant turned blogger and yes, from a dominatrix turned personal branding, coach.
I need to become the Wikipedia of content writing. I love to write content for clients, and it’s how I make my living, but I’m well aware that not everyone wants, or can afford to outsource their writing. But I can serve the large audience that wants to create their own content by providing useful, free content that adds genuine value.
I’ve not been thinking big enough. I can become a teacher, a coach or a mentor to the large and growing band of true content marketing believers that need support with their content writing efforts.
I need to focus on helping other people first and as Richard Tubb said so powerfully – ‘Be the connector’. Not as a tactic, but because it is the right thing to do. Thanks Richard.
I need to embrace my personality. I could relate to Karen Strunks message about being authentic, genuine and true to yourself. She lives and breathes her message. Ten months ago I was off work with stress, on medication and felt utterly doomed. Now I own my own business and am doing what I love. From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in a year. Thanks so much for sharing Karen.
On a related ‘personality’ note. I’ve always been told I should have been a comedian. I take that as a huge compliment. That came about from me sharing my mostly embarrassing tales inspired on my personal blog. They were inspired by the writing of David Sedaris. I love making people laugh – there is nothing like that. Gavin Oattes so skillfully and hilariously showed me that you can use humour to deliver a powerful, lasting message without in any way diluting its strength. I need to use my natural personality more in the content I create. Thanks Gavin – you delivered the perfect opening to the event and helped create the positive energy that framed the event.
Stefan’s inclusion was freakishly well timed. I’ve avoided many of the traditional networking events, on the pretext that they don’t work. Ironically I know that they do. But it was my lack of self-confidence that was holding me back. I’m going to do three things. Buy his book (Business Networking for Dummies), take his advice and seek out more opportunities to establish deeper relationships. Thanks Stefan.
Mike at Velocity Digital taught me that it’s OK not to love LinkedIn! I love that a social media marketer doesn’t have to love every platform. The ‘James Bond esque’ targeting of competitors Facebook Likers wasn’t something I’d considered, but again is something I’ll certainly be trying. I scribbled so many notes and picked up so many tips from this session. Thanks Mike.
Marcus Sheridan. OK, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect and the tagline – ‘The Sales Lion’, did make me wonder why he was a keynote speaker at a Content Marketing event. I was wrong (notice a theme folks!!). He was the most engaging, energetic and authentic presenter I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. If COSLA was the Content Marketing Church, then Marcus was THE Content Marketing Evangelist.
Marcus Sheridan’s words will change my business and my life. I will have a dedicated post about Marcus, but for now – thank you Marcus. You are an amazing man. I wish you and Danielle many happy adventures and encourage anyone reading this to visit www.travellingwithdad.com. Your emotional closing address touched me. I wrote a blog post called ‘Travelling With Jamie – The Short Walk to Freedom’. You inspired me to write it, and as such I dedicate it to you, Danielle and, of course, my own little trooper Jamie.
Chris Marr has created a unique community and delivered the best business event I’ve ever attended. The perfect blend of knowledge and inspirational motivation – it will live long in the memory. It’s given me the direction, and the drive to do more, and to be more.
For that, I am eternally grateful.