How to Market Yourself if You’re Not a Marketer
Are you struggling to market that project and get people excited about it?
Well, lately a lot of my friends in other professions have been asking me for tips on marketing their own businesses and personal ventures. They’ve seen that I’ve managed to get a decent amount of press on my side-project called Chez Lisgar, a trade-based dinner party I host in my own apartment, and I’ve even helped increase blog traffic for Venngage (my day job) by over 400% in less than a year.
Many of them congratulate me on the spontaneous attention and success I’ve seen. They think that I was “discovered” simply because of the idea of Chez Lisgar. But the truth is that I didn’t just get press for my underground supper club. I had to do a lot of initial outreach and pitch the idea to various websites and newspapers. I had to sell them a story.
Unfortunately, most people who do not have any experience working in tech or in the online space will have some difficulty figuring out how to market themselves. It’s not necessarily an intuitive process but it’s also not a very complicated procedure once you get the hang of it. I’ve decided to put together this basic resource to help non-marketers, market their own brands.
To give you an idea of the type of projects I’ve been approached to help out with, here is a list:
- Musicians looking to launch their first EP
- Theatre majors and actors looking to promote a web-series
- Food and beverage startups looking to get press
- A modeling agency trying to boost their web traffic
- A designer trying to master social media conversions
Now I’m going to walk you through step-by-step exactly how to get your personal project off the ground and into a business that people know and love.
Step 1: Make a Website to Market Yourself
You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now because this seems like the most obvious thing anyone could say. But the sad truth is, many of you guys reading this right now probably don’t have a site at all, let alone a decent one. If you are one of the few who does have their own site, give yourself a pat on the back.
For anyone trying to make a name for themselves, it’s absolutely crucial that you have a website. In 2016, the vast majority of individuals look to Google when trying to find a resource. In fact, 67% of individuals use Google for all their search queries.
That’s a huge percentage of the market!
Looking for some new music to listen to? You Google it. Looking for a new place to eat? You Google it. Wanna find a new TV show to watch that has good ratings? You Google it.
By creating a website you open up thousands of doors for yourself. If you’re worried that you know nothing about hosting and setting up a site, don’t worry. There are hundreds of choices that are also very affordable. I recommend finding a hosting platform that supports WordPress since it will make your life 100 times easier and you won’t need to worry about learning and mastering too much code.
Here are a few that I suggest looking into:
This is a good choice, especially for beginners. It costs less than $4.00 a month and you get a free domain name included in the fee. This will host your site for you for up to 10,000 visitors a month. If you’re new and not established, I can guarantee you will not need more than that. If you do need more bandwidth as a new company, give me a call. I want to learn what you’re doing that I’m not.
BlueHost is another great hosting site starting at $3.50 a month. It basically includes all the same features as SiteGround and has 1-click WordPress installation.
I use GreenGeeks and haven’t had an issue. The setup process can be a little complicated, but they have great support to help you if you need it. It may take some messing around with to figure out exactly how it works, but they also support 1-click WordPress installation.
When you finish setting up your website and installing WordPress, it’s easy to pick out a free theme for your site.
The next step is optimizing your site for SEO and installing a few Google Webmaster tools. This will basically tell Google that your site exists so they can keep crawling it for new content. You’ll also want to set up Google Analytics so you can track how many visits you get, and where traffic is coming from. This might not seem as glamorous as you hoped, but gosh darnit it’s important!
First things first, get Google to know that your site exists. How do you do that? It’s very easy. Just follow this link and submit your site’s URL. It looks like this.
You’re done. Easy, right?
Next, you need to create a Google Analytics account.
Once you’ve made an account, go to your Admin Panel. It looks like this:
Under the drop-down that says “Account”, create a new account and add all of your website information.
Then when that account is created, select it and then create a new “Property”.
What this will do is provide you with a very important tracking number. You will need that tracking number to add to your site.
When you get that tracking number, download the WP Google Analytics Plugin onto your site. Go to the “Settings” section of your dashboard and simply add the tracking code. This will install analytics to your site. That way when you log into your Google Analytics dashboard in the future, you can see how many people are visiting your site, and where they are finding it. This could be through a referral from another website, or from organic traffic. But we will get to that in more detail later on.
Now that your site is all set up, it’s time to start creating killer content!
Step 2: Create Killer Content for Your Site
What exactly defines killer content? Well, it’s content that follows the rules of P.E.A.C., which stands for Practical, Entertaining, Awe-inspiring and Credible.
Whether you choose to blog, start a podcast, or produce a web-series, if you want it to stand out from the rest of the content out there, it has to be P.E.A.C. content.
Here’s what you can do.
Start by creating a list of possible content ideas. These should be topics that you personally would benefit from learning about. What are you struggling with or what is your audience struggling with? Find the answers to those questions.
Why did I choose to write this guide? Because I knew that my friends, some of which make up my audience, are struggling with the basics of marketing. By acknowledging and answering these questions, you are providing practical value to your readers, listeners and/or viewers.
The next step is ensuring that your content has an entertaining tone to it. There are about 3 million blog posts written a day! That’s a hell of a lot of content. If you are just following the same boring recipe that everyone else is using, you’re quickly going to get drowned out.
You need to engage your audience. One way to do that is write at a 6th grade level. A study that was conducted which analyzed What Makes an Article Popular on Medium found that easy to read sentences resulted in 43% more recommendations. So forget everything you learned about writing essays in school. Most people don’t actually enjoy reading highly academic papers. The truth is, most people like reading magazines, or Buzzfeed. Why? Because it’s easier and more natural to read!
And you know what else?
When an article is easy to read, it usually flows better. You don’t need to stop and go over the same sentence twice. And when something typically flows better, it holds onto your attention longer!
It’s usually more entertaining to read. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to inject your personality in the content you produce.
Jonah Berger is an author who wrote a book called Contagious. In this book he analyzes what makes something go viral. One of the elements of virality according to his findings, was to make the content awe-inspiring. Essentially, does the article or video make you want to say “Wow”? Is there an “Aha” moment?
I’m going to use Harry Potter as an example because it is one of the most viral forms of content this world has ever seen. One of the reasons for this is because the world that J.K. Rowling created was so awe-inspiring, but also very relatable. She took a normal boy- someone each and every one of us could identify with on some level, and placed him in an unlikely situation. This is one of the fundamental aspects of storytelling that so many great authors implement. How does your content, or your story evoke this same sense of awe? Are you addressing a problem that many people identify with, and are you offering an unlikely or unique solution to that problem?
Lastly, is your content credible? Is what you are saying valid, or backed up by reliable data in any way? Or are you making it all up? Part of the reason that bloggers link to content in their articles, is to reinforce those points as credible. Unless you are, as an individual, a credible source for the information you impart on the world, you need to reinforce what you are saying with concrete data.
If you can manage to create something that follows the rules of P.E.A.C., you are one step closer to getting your stories heard.
A great guide I recommend for scheduling your content and boosting your site’s traffic is this one by Nat Eliason, a former SumoMe Content Marketer.
Step 3: Optimize Your Site’s Content for SEO
Once you’ve decided on what content to produce, and you have it scheduled, it’s time to create it. While you are producing your content, it’s extremely important to ensure that you optimize it for SEO.
What does this mean?
The whole point of creating content is to get people to see it, right?
Well if you’re not optimizing your content for search, it’s going to be very hard for it to rank on Google. And if it doesn’t rank on Google, you’re going to have a hard time getting it seen organically.
I can talk about SEO all day, but instead of going into too much detail right now, I’m just going to cover the basics.
1. Deciding on keywords
The first thing you need to do is decide on a keyword you want to rank for. I’ll use an example from an article I’ve written.
My article is about “Increasing blog traffic”. I wanted to target the keyword increase blog traffic. All this means is that when people are Googling the term, “increase blog traffic”, the goal is for mine to appear.
You can use Google Keyword Planner to figure out which keywords have a high search volume and which one’s are a relatively low competition.
2. Headers and URL
Once you’ve figured out which keyword you want to rank for, you need to make sure that you include that term in the title of your blog post (preferably early on in the title). With my article it looks something like this:
You also want to make sure that the keyword appears in your subheaders:
What this does is help Google figure out what your article is really about. If it sees the keyword filtered throughout your blog post relatively often, it will know what your article is about, and make it easier for you to rank higher on that term.
You should also make sure your keyword appears in the URL of your article:
This will probably not boost you right to the top of Google for that term, but it will give you an initial boost, and make ranking a little bit easier.
3. Use a plugin
The easiest way to make sure your content is fully optimized for search is by using a plugin. I recommend downloading the Yoast SEO plugin. It will automatically scan your article and provide you with a list of tips for better optimization. On top of that, the UX is very easy to follow. If the red light comes on, your content needs more work, if it’s green, you’ve done a pretty decent job getting your article ready for SEO.
Step 4: Pitch Your Content to People
Once your killer content is produced and published, you can just wait for the traffic to roll in, right?
If you don’t tell anyone about the content you just created, it’s going to be very hard for anyone to see it. This holds true especially if you are a new site with very little street cred.
You have to pitch your stuff to people who care.
So how do you find these people? And how to you frame your pitch so they care?
I’m going to tell you exactly how I managed to get Chez Lisgar featured on sites like CBC News, Global News, The Huffington Post, Blog TO, Toronto Star and a ton of other sites!
1. Find the right writer
You can’t just reach out to info at huffingtonpost dot com and hope for the best. No, you need to find the right writer. That means doing your research.
For Chez Lisgar, I wasn’t just pitching any old restaurant. My restaurant had a few unique characteristics that others don’t:
- It started out on Bunz Trading Zone
- I traded people for dinner instead of charging money
- I only hosted dinner once a week
- My dinners took place in my apartment
- I only invited two guests at a time
The next step was finding authors who have written about similar concepts, or who might be interested in writing about similar concepts. First I made a list of potential sources I hoped to be featured on.
Next, I simply Googled “Bunz Trading Zone”. I figured if people had written about Bunz already, maybe they would be interested in writing about something that started on Bunz. I copied these links and put them into a spreadsheet. I then looked at who wrote these specific articles and reached out them specifically.
For some other sources that hadn’t covered Bunz before, I tried to find writers who had written about the “sharing economy” or food related startups.
Once I had compiled a list of writers who could be interested in my concept, I started emailing them.
2. Sell your story
The news covers stories that sell. Meaning, your pitch needs to be compelling. You have to position your business or product at an interesting angle.
The subject line of my email pitches was: A Restaurant That is Only Open Once a Week And Doesn’t Accept Cash.
Naturally the initial reaction to this subject line was, HUH?! Remember what I talked about above in terms of creating content that is awe-inspiring. Your pitch needs to make people go wow.
You also need to show the person you are pitching to that there is a lot of interest surrounding your business model. For me, it was the fact that we had been booked solid for the next 4 months, and the fact that all of our open slots were filled in less than 2 hours. What this does validate your idea, and presents it as a necessity. If so many people want in on what you are offering, clearly it’s newsworthy.
Ask yourself how you can present your idea in a way that begs attention.
3. Keep it short
Lastly, when pitching a writer, keep in mind they get pitched left, right and centre. They don’t want to read a novel. All they care about is your idea. Try to keep your pitch to a few sentences.
Just make sure you:
- Say hi.
- Comment the writer.
- Compliment a previous article they have written.
- Present your project.
- Show them why it’s a great story.
If you don’t hear back from the writer in 3-5 days time, I recommend sending a follow-up email to ensure that you are still on their radar. Like I said, they are busy and get tons of emails so it’s important to remind them that you are serious about being heard.
Marketing Yourself Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Remember that just because you don’t have any formal education in digital marketing, business or computer science, doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for it! If you’re just in the beginning stages of getting your project up on its feet, chances are you can’t really afford to hire external help. You’ve got to hustle and figure out how to market yourself. This guide is in no way a masterclass, but it does provide you with the basics. If you are interested in a one on one consultation or sitting in on a webinar just enter your email here and I will be in touch!