Every month, I get about ten messages through my website. About 5 of those ten messages are people who have seen my work and want to work with me. Three out of those five messages are people who want me to write content for them for free. But, statistically, the remaining two people are qualified, warm leads. This may not seem like a lot, but as a one-woman operation, I can only handle a certain number of clients at a time. So getting two new leads per month without having to put in any direct effort to find them is a win for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting in a direct effort to find these leads. But them finding me is a direct result of a lot of strategic and upfront work I did and the systems I put into place to market long term.
Create content about the services you’re trying to sell while adding as much free value as you can. This can take the form of posts on your blog, LinkedIn, YouTube videos, or here on Medium.
My approach is to content marketing is less about marketing and more about just talking about what you know. I’ve never been a fan of marketing myself or overtly selling my services to anyone who would listen. Instead, I take a more passive approach by adding value wherever I can and letting that content attract the right people. Some people disagree and think that content marketing should have a very intentional goal of lead generation. You can take that route by adding explicit calls to action that you’re looking for new clients.
I’ve guest posted on over 30 publications, and I’m still getting leads from articles I posted over three years ago. The websites I post on always relate to my industry. I put as much effort into these posts as I do with paid clients, despite doing the work for free. These publications typically have way more traffic than I do on my website, and you never know who could be reading your article. I regularly research popular sites in my niche and reach out to ask them if they are accepting guest posts. Many of these publications include editorial calendars on their websites that tell you what they plan on publishing during which months. You can use this information to pitch them stories that align with their needs and increase your chances of getting featured. Whenever I guest post on a site, I always ask them to include a link to my website either in my author’s bio or byline.
The thing to remember about guest posting is that these websites probably get dozens of guest post requests every day. Between SEO people asking for backlinks and business owners wanting to build their authority, guest posting is extremely popular. Always do your research ahead of time and provide them with a topic that is valuable to their audience and isn’t self-promotional. Editors can spot a scammy marketer from a mile away. Don’t be that person.
A combination creating content on your blog and guest posting on other websites can give you site some much-needed SEO juice. Securing and maintaining high search engine rankings takes some deliberate effort on your part. You need to make sure that all of your blog posts contain SEO-friendly headings and keywords. It also helps to have links to your website on other sites, which is why guest posting comes in handy. When you guest post, you can usually include a link to your site within the article or in your author’s bio if the site allows it. You can use a free tool like Yoast to get some help optimizing your blog posts. There are also tools like Ubersuggest, which are great for keyword research and help you to come up with content ideas within your niche. When doing keyword research to build SEO-friendly articles, try and find the keywords with the highest search volume, but the lowest competition. It’s not always easy unless you work in a super-specific niche, but it is the best way to get to the top of the rankings.
How does SEO relate to inbound leads? When people ask Google and question, and your website is the first in their list of responses, this gives you authority in the industry. Just make sure you include a call to action on your posts or a way for visitors to quickly reach out to convert these visitors into inbound leads.
I’ve only appeared on a handful of podcasts, but every time I have I’ve gotten a handful of people to reach out to me. Most of the time, they are just reaching out to say hello or ask me questions about things that I said. But in some cases, they are interested in the work that I do, which leads to a paid opportunity. Research podcasts in your niche and inquire if they are looking for new guests. As always, do your research ahead of time and come prepared with ways that you can add value to their audience and listeners. Some podcasts who have large audiences will charge guests for the opportunity to appear on their pod. If you want to pay for a chance to be on a podcast is up to you. Depending on the services you sell, the amount you pay to be a guest may lead to enough exposure that the fee pays off in the end. Just make sure you’re choosing the right opportunities and authentically representing yourself.
Join the conversation
If you serve a specific niche or industry, join online groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or private forums. Then, keep an ear out for opportunities to chime in with information, advice, or ideas. If you don’t find those opportunities, create them yourself. Write a post that starts a conversation and doesn’t sell anything. Answer people’s questions. Use sites like Quora or Reddit to see who has problems that you can solve. I used to think Reddit personified was a teenage troll living in their mom’s basement telling people in a “men’s rights” t-shirt, but if you look in the right places, people are using Reddit to solve their business problems.
It all comes down to adding value
When I said I hate marketing myself, I mean it. I’ve made the mistake of selling my services to a cold audience, and it backfired. It was also embarrassing. People called me scammy, said they hated internet marketers like me, and I felt the shame. If you’re good at what you do, people will want to work with you. But people need to know who you are first and that you know what you’re talking about. You need to give potential clients a taste of what you can do for them, and the best way to do that is to do it for free, on platforms that they can access.