Best Practices for Email Marketing Involve Activating These 4 Mental Triggers

  1. Authority & Trust
  2. Reciprocity & Likeability
  3. Event Anticipation & Scarcity
  4. Community & Social Proof

As I’ve written about before, there’s a thin line between manipulation and empathy. You want to utilize best practices in your email marketing … but are you going to do it dirty, or do it right?

Jeff Walker’s book Launch is my inspiration for this post. In it, he outlines nine mental triggers that encourage people to buy from you (which I have condensed). It’s great stuff.

He did not address the dark side of these triggers, however. If you do them wrong, they can backfire. And you’ll just feel super icky.

  1. Authority & Trust

Establishing you know what you’re talking about is important in email marketing. But it’s pretty naïve to think only good people use this tactic.

Just take a quick look at your spam folder and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s one of my spam emails from yesterday:

Best regards!

This mail may be a surprise to you because you did not give me the permission to do so and neither do you know me but before I tell you about myself I want you to please forgive me for sending this mail without your permission.

(GREAT start, dude. You are dripping with authority!)

My name is Mr.Prince (SIC) Waziri, The Branch Manager of a Financial Institution. I got your contact through a reliable source called database through Ghana chamber of commerce …

I think you can guess where this is going. “Mr. Prince” wants my assistance transferring $7.5M to his account. As an officer of the bank, he can’t be directly connected to the money, of course.

Most of us understand right away that this is a scam. But whoever is behind this Waziri persona is counting on a sliver of recipients falling for this in part because he says he works for a bank.

This is the dark side of the authority/trust trigger. You may not be using this tactic to outright lie and steal, but it is tempting to claim you are more authoritative than you are to manipulate people into trusting you.

Empathy is recognizing that what your email subscriber needs is not a self-proclaimed expert: what they need is someone who can follow through on promises. Take care your claims are based in fact.

TIP: As much as it might dazzle your audience to promise to double their income or cut their expenses in half, it’s far better to say you’ve been helping clients increase their income for 10 years.

  1. Reciprocity & Likeability

If you give, you’re more likely to receive. Email marketing today requires you to give lots of value before you see a return on your investment. No one will like you if all you do is ask them to buy things right off the bat.

But even giving can be twisted into a dirty trick.

We’ve all seen the list-building call to action, something like:


Most of us understand that by offering up our email address, we’re going to get some emails. But what we don’t expect is to be trapped in a subscriber list.

Have you ever “unsubscribed” only to continue receiving emails? Or looked for an unsubscribe option and found only a link to “change your preferences” and there discover you have to enter a password you don’t remember and can’t even attempt entering anymore after a few failed tries?

The dark side of reciprocity is using it as leverage to hold your subscribers hostage.

Empathy requires understanding that your subscriber does not want a binding contract with you. They want a relationship they are free to leave if and when they want to.

  • TIP: Tell your subscribers exactly what to expect from you once they subscribe. They should know exactly what they’re going to get and how often. And tell them up front they can always unsubscribe.
  1. Event Anticipation & Scarcity

Building up excitement for the release of a product is a key email marketing practice. By limiting its availability, you add the element of scarcity and activate your subscriber’s FOMO (fear of missing out).

What’s wrong with that? Nothing … as long as you’re not playing fast and loose with the truth.

If you’re not literally running out of a product, don’t say you’re running out. Is time limited because of your business needs and revenue targets? Of course. But never tell your subscribers you only have five gizmos left in stock when there are five hundred in the warehouse.

It’s not worth it if anybody catches on that you offloaded all that extra stock at bargain rates. Artificially inflating the value is a viable – albeit ethically grey – strategy, but only for the short term.

Best practices for email marketing yield long-term results. As Jeff Walker puts it, he doesn’t have a college saving plan for his kids. He has a list of loyal subscribers instead.

What he means is that whenever he offers his customers a new product, they buy because they know the anticipation he builds is based on genuine value.

The dark side of anticipation and scarcity is being disingenuous at best, a liar at worst.

Empathy is imagining how you would feel finding out you were duped. If you paid top dollar for an item, then see it available online at a fraction of what you paid mere weeks later, you’re never doing business with that vendor again.

  • TIP: Be straight with subscribers. Just say the price goes up after Mother’s Day because that’s when the offer ends, and you don’t plan to make another offer like this for several months. You’ll still activate FOMO without risking a loss of credibility.
  1. Community & Social Proof

The opportunity to build and celebrate culture is my favorite aspect of email marketing. When community is public, that’s where social proof – people responding because others are – comes in.

Let’s say you’re in lawn care. Your email list is full of homeowners who share values around outdoor living, family, gardening, etc.

Now let’s say you put together a gardening book. You activate that community by telling them you’ll be offering it soon (building anticipation). You tell them about the product page, ask them to post comments. Now you’ve got your social proof that this is something like-minded folks ought to see.

There couldn’t be anything wrong with that, right?


Lemme tell ya something. Community is a powerful concept. There is perhaps no greater opportunity to manipulate people.

It’s one thing to feel like you’re a part of something. It’s another to feel like your membership is at risk if you don’t participate.

The positive concept here is belonging. The negative side is shame.

A better example of this is fitness. You can either use email marketing to make people who want to set goals and improve their health feel they belong (and so far, I’d say does a good job of this), or you can use it to make people feel like they’re failures if they don’t attend, read, buy, etc.

Again, this tactic – making people feel bad about anything, from the way their property looks to the way the shape of their body – may work in the short term. Eventually, you will lose subscribers. And you will get bad press. And you will have to deal with your own shame, because you’re being a jerk.

The dark side of community/social proof trigger is shame.

Empathy is wanting others to feel the same sense of belonging that you want to feel.

  • TIP: Keep your messages positive. Activating mental triggers like community and social proof should be about encouraging people to belong, not shaming people for being on the outside.

Look. It’s really about being a decent human being.

The best practices for email marketing are the same as those for sales, which are the same as those for persuasion in general. Manipulation gets short-term results with soul-sucking consequences. Empathy gets long-term results and makes everyone feel like a winner.

Now, let me try:

Hi, I’m Matt Bloom. I’ve been providing small businesses with content marketing services for about five years (authority).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this free advice (reciprocity)!

In addition to content like this that I publish to my blog, my subscribers get exclusive content (scarcity).

My goal is to make this an ever-improving learning space that helps all us small business people reach more customers (community).

So, please subscribe!

Just hit the button below to be whisked away to my lovely subscribe page …


I’m a Content Writer Who’s Only Interested in SEO for One Reason: Y-O-U

Let’s drop the BS for a second.

Nobody shops for an SEO content writer because they’re super excited about keywords.

Analytics don’t get you out of bed in the morning. And discussions about website traffic that last longer than thirty seconds put you swiftly back to sleep.

What we’re really after, once we get past all the numbers – what I’m interested in – is pretty simple.

What We Do Care About: Connection

At its core, all of this digital marketing/content marketing stuff is about connecting with prospective employers, customers, colleagues in your field.

We painstakingly analyze keywords typed into search engines (or hire others to do it), but not because there is anything magical about them. It’s because they aid connection.

Keywords Are Questions

Likewise, we don’t produce content because having something new, witty and/or clever on a website will force people to take notice.

We do it to provide useful information that addresses questions. We’re trying to help people solve problems.

Content Is Answers

Creating keyword-informed content is about listening before speaking.

At its best, content marketing means sharing ideas from experience or telling stories that answer the exact questions people are asking Google right now.

The best content provides real-world context to help the reader better understand how the world works.

Disclaimer: What you’re reading now is not the best content. (Sorry.)

The best content I’ve written is based on the experiences of others. I firmly believe you, my reader, benefit most when I share the ideas and stories beyond my own experience with you.

Here’s what I mean.

“Design Firms”

About 1,600 people per month type this into Google.* We can reasonably assume they’re asking a question like, “What design firms are out there? What are they like?”

When I blogged about my interview with Arin and Jake Anderson of Anderson Creative, I provided one detailed answer to this question. I helped facilitate Anderson Creative’s connection with those who need their services.

“Adoption Agencies”

14,800 people per month are asking Google where they can go to get help growing their family through adoption, or for resources to help them through a crisis pregnancy.

It’s not only the pages of an agency’s website that provide answers. The emotional truth behind what amazing people like adoption attorney Rebecca Bruce do for clients come from stories like the ones I have written, stories told by the families rather than the professionals.

“Landscaping Jobs”

About 6,600 people per month are asking where they can get a landscaping job. I could have provided an answer: Clean Cut Lawn & Landscape. But why work there?

One of the best reasons to work for a company is the people you’re going to work with, and nobody has more answers than the employees. That’s why I interviewed Mark Burchett. As a Clean Cut employee, he could help job seekers way better than I could alone.

Now, What Are YOUR Questions?

Keyword research is great for figuring out what people want you to write about. The other way is, of course, to simply ask. Like I’m doing now.

Here’s what I want to know (especially from you, my email subscribers!):

  1. What do you do?
  2. What is your favorite professional topic to read about?
  3. Briefly, what experience have you had with this topic?

That’s it.

Send me an email or drop a comment on my Facebook page. I will work your topic into a future post and credit you with the inspiration.


Because I want this to be a more robust learning space, and I can’t do that without you. My best content comes out of connection with others. With you. Your knowledge, your experience, your ideas are more than welcome here. They’re essential.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your ideas.

Thank you for allowing me to connect with you.

Hey … wondering how all this content marketing stuff fits together? You’re blogging, but you’re not sure about email marketing. Or you have a website that’s doing nothing for you. I’d like to help … for FREE. Hit the button to learn more.

*All data is U.S. only.

6 Signs It’s Time to Hire a Content Writer for SEO

You don’t have to be a web guru to understand when your website isn’t doing you much good. You’re getting few visitors. Or you’re getting lots, but it’s not generating any business. These might be signs it’s time to consult a content writer for SEO.

“Okay, Matt,” you say. “What do you mean by ‘content?’ What’s writing got to do with traffic? And what the heck does SEO stand for?”

Let’s back up a step. I do believe we’ve stumbled on the first sign you could use some help.


SEO stands for search engine optimization. This means giving search engines like Google and Bing the information they need to connect what people are searching for to what you are offering.

Imagine your target audience (customers, clients, donors, etc.) aren’t online. Instead, they’re driving down the road. Your website is like a billboard. What it says needs to connect with what they want.

Here’s the kicker: Search engines are filters that decide what “drivers” see outside the window.

That means you can’t just put up a pretty billboard and expect everyone to see it. You have to be precise enough in your language that search engines understand they should show it to specific people who they think want to see it.

Without SEO, your “billboard” – your website – is practically invisible to your target audience.


“Why wouldn’t Google understand what I offer?” you ask. “Don’t I say so plainly enough on my site?”

Sure. Google understands that you sell … candles, let’s say. It sees you, candlemaker.

But if 50 other businesses sell candles, and:

  • They’ve had their websites longer than you, or
  • They post new content more often than you, or
  • They have a content writer for SEO that has connected with specific niches,

You’ll be the first candle business listed … on page 6. Few will see you behind all your competitors.

People aren’t just searching for “candles.” They are searching for “Yankee candles” and “wickwood candles” (it’s WoodWick, but they often get it wrong) and “ear candles” and “diamond candles,” and so on.

Maybe your site shows up on the first search engine results page (SERP) for “yankee candles” in your area. But maybe you sell WoodWick candles, too, and you’re on the sixth page for that because you don’t have enough content about that brand on your site.

These are niches. Search engines will first show sites optimized for the niches people are researching.

If you’re not thinking in terms of keywords, your billboard might as well be miles away from the road.


Your website can and should contain far more words (thousands, millions even) than a billboard (about seven). But you’re certainly not squeezing them all into an immovable rectangle.

Your website is more like a book full of useful information … but if you are thinking of a website as linear, to be consumed like a book, that doesn’t fit with how people interact with web content.

Your website both kinda is and is not a lot of things:

  • Your website is not an advertisement, but it should have home page content that gets people’s attention.
  • Your website is not a brochure, but it should have secondary pages with detailed information for people who are considering doing business with you.
  • Your website is not a manual, but it should have blog posts for people who want to learn how to do things, or it may have a mini-“manual” – an ebook – available for download.
  • Your website is not a sales letter, but it should have at least one persuasive landing page that encourages people to take an additional step.

Writing for the web means incorporating all these types of content and connecting them to each other.

It’s like a … a web, you might say. (Ha ha.) Not much linear about it.

Once you have successfully reached people with your keywords, your website is no longer much like a “billboard.” It’s not just about getting their attention. You have to hold their interest.

In everything you write for the web:

  1. Be brief. Get straight to the point.
  2. Make it attractive. Include images, video, etc., and avoid long blocks of text.
  3. Give them something to do next. Always include a call to action, or link to more content.

For example, this blog post is divided into brief sections and short paragraphs. It has a nice feature image to help communicate the topic.

And am I going to invite you to take a simple action at the end of it?

You bet I am.


Those keywords above didn’t just come out of my head.

  • I know that, as of the time of writing, 368,000 people per month are searching for Yankees candles, on average.
  • I know ear candling is super popular, to the tune of 60,500 searches per month.
  • I know as many people type in “wickwood” by mistake as “wood wick.”

I also know competition is fierce for the core keyword “candle,” but “diamond candles” not so much. If you’re a Diamond Candles distributor, we might want to focus on that niche instead of trying to compete with Yankee Candle, Wikipedia, Amazon, Etsy, etc. for “candle.”

I know this because I use an SEO tool called Serpstat*. Do you need to use it, too? Not necessarily.

A lot of the data Serpstat gathers up is from Google AdWords, whose keyword tool is free to use. I won’t go into the details of what’s different between a paid service and AdWords here. That’s not my main point.

The point is to have a method. Make sure your keywords match what people are searching for, but not so many people that little ol’ you can’t possibly attract them.

*(They’re about to change the pricing structure, so I might be changing!)


When you don’t shape your content around what people actually search for online, you’re just engaging in wishful thinking.

Look again at that list of keywords above. Your candlemaker persona might be thinking, “Ear candling? I don’t sell those, and I don’t want to write about a procedure to remove ear wax!”

But think about this logically, point by point.

  1. People who do this believe it will help with earaches, sinus infections and stress and tension, to name a few possible applications.
  2. Okay, so they’re interested in health and wellness.
  3. Wait a sec … you sell scented candles. That’s aroma therapy, i.e. health and wellness.
  4. Might there be a crossover in audiences?

This article about ear candling is on the first SERP for that keyword. It does not recommend doing this procedure. It goes over all the risks.

Then it recommends alternative treatments.

Gosh, what if it wasn’t Healthline writing this article, but you – a candle retailer? What might YOUR recommendations be, eh? Aroma therapies using YOUR candles, of course!

This is why folks like you hire a content writer for SEO. We think about what you don’t want to. What you don’t have time to.

You don’t want to think about what people are searching for, or why. (“Ear candling? Huh?”) You just want people to buy your candles!


If you don’t know how your website works or what it’s supposed to do, you need to hire a content writer for SEO.

They will help you do two things.

#1: Write your website content so it makes sense to search engines.

If you don’t make it clear to Google, Bing and other search engines what it is you do, sell, or know, they won’t show your website to people.

You can still show it to people “manually,” of course. You can post links to social media. You can email links to people. You can put it on your business cards.

But without SEO, you’re missing an awful lot of traffic who can’t see your “billboard” from the road.

#2: Write your website content so it is compelling to people.

It’s not enough to get search engines to show your website to people. Once they find you, they need to quickly recognize why they should stick around.

Any good content writer will understand that SEO is only the beginning.

To keep human beings around, you have to provide easy navigation, a clean look, appealing images and artwork … and at the base of it all, the right words that encourage your visitors to do what you want them to: BUY, DONATE, SUBSCRIBE, etc.

Are you showing the signs of needing to hire a content writer for SEO?

If so, click or tap here to contact me. Let’s light up that billboard of yours.

Hey … wondering how all this content marketing stuff fits together? You’re blogging, but you’re not sure about email marketing. Or you have a website that’s doing nothing for you. I’d like to help … for FREE. Hit the button to learn more.

To Increase Revenue with Content Marketing, First Buy Coffee

Are you here because you want to increase revenue for your organization through content marketing? You’re in the right place!

But fair warning: I’m about to tell you why you shouldn’t want that. Not at first.

First, you should buy coffee.

Allow me to explain with a little story about when I began to learn about sales and empathy.


It was in a talk therapy session. I was meeting with Dr. G (I won’t drag his name into this) because I had been in outside sales for a few months and was completely freaking out.

I felt panicked because I had left a retail sales job with AT&T with good pay but bad hours to work a radio sales gig that was 8 to 5 but had terrible pay.

It was sink or swim, and I felt like I was drowning.

My second child was on the way. I couldn’t sell a 13-week schedule of spots if my life depended on it (and it sorta did). My manager was busy selling most of the time, but even when she was around I didn’t know what to ask her.

That’s how Dr. G became my unofficial sales manager.

I told him how much I hated walking into businesses offering nothing but air. Literally. AT&T had trained me to ask questions, listen, offer solutions and ask for the sale. I knew how to do that.

I did not yet know how to convince someone to buy something intangible, on their turf, without feeling like an intruder.

Dr. G’s suggestion was brilliant.

He said I should try bringing my prospects a cup of coffee.

I must have scoffed, which prompted him to say the words that would change my professional life.

“They don’t want to talk about advertising,” he said. “They want a cup of coffee.”


At first, this was incredibly discouraging. It would be great news if I were a coffee salesman. Alas, I was not.

It took me a while to realize how incredibly empowering those words were.

Now I look back at that as the moment I began to understand what it means to bring a cup of coffee to someone when you’re not selling coffee.

A few months later, I went to work for the NPR station at Ball State University. Even though it was another radio sales role, I thought it would be different. It was public radio. My clients would feel good about supporting it.

I quickly learned that while that was the case for some advertisers (we say “underwriters” in pubmedia, but whatever), most of the time the dynamic was the same. I may be offering air with purpose, but it’s still air nonetheless.

They didn’t want what I was selling, not primarily. They wanted “coffee.”

What I mean is, the people I was approaching always, without exception, had other wants and needs that took priority for them over what I was offering.

Somewhere along the way, an epiphany took shape.

What if I tried meeting those needs first?

What if … (and this was a biggie) … doing anything less was just an effort to manipulate people?


I exceeded my sales goal every year after that for one simple reason: I started approaching everybody with the intent to solve whatever problems I could, regardless of whether my product was part of the solution.

I served on boards for causes I cared about with no idea whether there would be a professional benefit.

I connected people with other marketing resources, knowing they might not throw any dollars my way.

I even bought literal coffee for people. (Yeah, two or even THREE whole dollars. I’m a frickin’ saint.)

Here’s the key: I let go of trying to do it with a transaction in mind. The transactional mindset is why I wasn’t able to execute Dr. G’s advice at first.

On some level, I knew offering to fulfill needs while having a transactional mindset was really just manipulating people into thinking I was good guy so they would do business with me.

Over time, people would have seen through that and dismissed me as a fraud.

And they would have been right.

Instead, I became a problem solver by developing an empathetic mindset. I began to care more about the real value I could offer rather than the dollar value of my actions.

To put it another way:

Practicing empathy builds character. People want do business with people of character.

I thought I needed to increase revenue for my organization. What I really needed was to practice empathy.

I just needed to bring people coffee.


Since then, I have been incorporating the exact same mindset into content I write for clients. What do your customers actually want and need?

They don’t want or need to know how awesome you are. They want their problems solved.

How can you help them do that, regardless of the immediate dollar value for you? If we approach content that way, it has meaning beyond just getting attention and making money in the short term.

It becomes a means of genuine connection.

In your sales and marketing activities, in your blogs, in your emails and all other marketing content, you will have more success in the long run if you stop trying to manipulate people into purchasing your product or service and start trying to solve their problems instead.

See? Increasing revenue is not really what we’re talking about here. Your primary concern has to be getting your audience what they really need. It’s all about the coffee.

Of course, making money will come as a lovely side effect. You can count on that.

Hey … wondering how all this content marketing stuff fits together? You’re blogging, but you’re not sure about email marketing. Or you have a website that’s doing nothing for you. I’d like to help … for FREE. Hit the button to learn more.

From Manipulation to Empathy: Effective Content Marketing

Here’s a simple content marketing metaphor for you: your target audience is made up entirely of people running a race.

As the sales or marketing copywriter, you’re like a track coach. Your job is to personalize your message to motivate each “runner.”

Your track team is represented by three personas: Amanda, Betsy and Carman. With the knowledge you have, connect and motivate.


Here is all the data you have access to. The external evidence of how well each is running the race (income level). The faster they are, the more accomplished, and likely a harder sell.

So, who’s the most accomplished?

It appears Amanda is doing just fine; Betsy may have some needs; and Carman is really struggling. You might conclude Amanda doesn’t need you and Carman can’t afford you. You might decide to focus your marketing content – your “coaching” – on Betsy.

You might write her a line like: Struggling to run that last mile? We can help, with ____.

This is based on your observation of each runner’s performance. You can do better if you know more.

You can get downright devious.


What if you knew more about how hard they work to be where they are?

Now we’re getting a glimpse into information that only the runners themselves have. This is not how the world sees them, but how they see themselves.

If you knew this, you might see more opportunities to motivate all three runners.

  • Amanda appears to be doing great, but she wants more out of life.
  • Carman is struggling, but she knows she could be doing more.
  • Betsy is doing her best and may be content with her performance.

Betsy might actually be the hardest sell.

There’s a problem with thinking this way, however. Motivation can easily turn into manipulation.

The darkest corners of sales and marketing world are those that seek to exploit the secret shame of customers to get them to buy.

Maybe Amanda feels ashamed of stopping short of her full potential. You pitch her a mocking line like: What do you get for the girl who has it all? Try ____.

Maybe Carman is ashamed of being a loser. You write something like: No excuses … just results, with our scientifically proven weight loss program ____.

Manipulation is evil.

It’s what everybody means when they say they hate advertising. You can do better. You can be empathetic.


To write with empathy, there is one last metric to consider.

We know how far they’ve come in life. We gain insight when we imagine how hard they work. We develop empathy when we realize, in real life, each runner starts from a different starting line.

  • Amanda started out healthy, happy and strong, stamina at the max. That’s awesome, and worth celebrating.
  • Betsy’s stamina was low, but her capacity for effort to overcome it shows it’s temporary. Maybe she’s just had some recent health problems, or a career setback.
  • Carman’s poor performance is due to more than poor effort. She may have had a traumatic childhood. Maybe she’s been fat-shamed all her life (and it has nothing to do with her actual weight).

All three showed up for the race. All three are in your audience. How will you connect with each of them?

Now you’re starting to get into an empathetic mindset.

When you think this way, you can create content that doesn’t make assumptions based on appearances (often ineffective), and doesn’t appeal to fear and shame (often distasteful, a turnoff).

Instead, you can give Amanda, Betsy and Carman content that they may actually want and need. Each of these runners is a persona, but each stands for a real, representative person in your audience.

  • Amanda wants and needs a new challenge. Give her plenty of blog posts about excellence, selflessness and being a gift to the world.
  • Betsy wants and needs a leg up. Send her emails about life hacks, how-to articles and other practical advice.
  • Carman wants and needs hope. Provide for her free, downloadable resources that combine stories of hope and beauty with help and healing.

Now, you might be asking, “How can I possibly know all this?”

You’re thinking about research, surveys, focus groups. About time and money you don’t have.

Take a deep breath and ponder this: While empathy can be based on data, it doesn’t always have to.

An empathetic imagination produces content you believe real people actually want and need, not what you would like them to want or need, or what you coerce them to want or need.

Do it because you want a relationship with your customers that goes beyond a transaction. You want more than their money today, you want their advocacy tomorrow.

That only happens when you show your audience more grace than people tend to give themselves.

It happens when you meet them at their starting line.

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3 Quick Content Marketing Tips to Help You Get Through Compliance

I have spent the last year interviewing marketing people who, like you, often fight a common foe as they try to communicate with audiences through digital content: compliance.

The stories I’ve published have been from the community of independent artists, marketers, fundraisers, publishers and educators who may have to adapt their strategies to their clients’ compliance rules, but are not in the hot seat to the degree in-house employees are.

I talk to these folks, too. They often ask: How are we supposed to do creative, useful, engaging content marketing when we feel like the compliance department is stifling us at every turn?

Below I share some of their stories. Unlike other stories I’ve published this year, I won’t name these individuals or their organizations.

Why? Compliance! But that’s okay.

Here are three lessons I learned from our (anonymous) compliance-challenged friends.


“I’m sorry, he said no. Why would we reveal the secret sauce?”

I wanted to interview a friend of mine about his journey with content marketing, from the perspective of someone who had kinda been thrown into it.

He did not consider himself a marketing person when he was asked to take on social media and relationship building. His was a great story about doing research, asking good questions, connecting with smart people and ultimately creating a successful strategy.

We both thought the story would make him and his organization look good, but more importantly, would help those reading it get ideas for how to overcome similar obstacles.

Then he showed the story to his boss. In retrospect, we should not have been surprised by the response.

It was chock full of information about the strategies the company employed to get an edge on the market. Sharing them with the world posed a common sense risk. The thinking was, Why on earth would we hand our competitors our secret recipe?

What I Learned

All it takes to prevent this particular roadblock is to look over your idea or outline twice before moving forward. In the first look, ask yourself, “If I am my audience, does this benefit me?” In the second, ask, “If I am my competitor, does this benefit me too much?”

Don’t overthink it. If you worry about it too much you’ll be paralyzed. But if you want to get through compliance, you need to consider the benefit to the folks down the street who are trying to take your customers from you if you publish. If that benefit seems too high, move on to another idea.


“You can’t do that. Or that. Or that. Please use the approved template.”

When I offered to help a friend put together a content marketing strategy, she warned me that I wouldn’t get far. She said her company pays for programs through which she must submit content for her compliance department to even consider publishing it.

She showed me how little wiggle room there was in the available templates for email and social media posts. A lot of what I saw wasn’t even templates. It was pre-packaged content she had the option to post as if it were her own.

I contacted the appropriate representatives on my friend’s behalf. I asked a bunch of questions like, “Can I use this program to create longform content? Can I add a CTA button? Can I create a landing page?”

If you’re guessing the answers I got took a lot of the wind out of my sails, you’d be correct.

What I Learned

While many of the answers I got essentially amounted to “Nope!” I did learn about some changes on the horizon. Not everything I hoped for was coming, but some new pending functionality (such as downloadable content) would allow me to put more pieces of a robust content marketing plan together.

If compliance isn’t providing the tools you need, push them on it. Create demand! But don’t spend too much time on this. I went back to my friend and proposed a significantly stripped-down plan that fits within the current rules. You gotta start somewhere, but you can keep pushing for more.


“It’s only a few days, but that makes it easier to let it slip when you’re busy doing your main job.”

In the not-for-profit world, it’s pretty common for content marketing (or social media management, or really all external mass communication) to fall to people who can’t focus on it. They are just too busy fulfilling the mission.

I spoke with someone in just that same position. She is client-facing, has reports to file, meetings to attend, but has a desire to help build her organization’s audience. To get volunteers, you need awareness. To create awareness, you need to tell stories.

The last thing you need is a compliance department rejecting the stories you’ve used your precious time to put together. This is why it’s so hard for not-for-profits, which arguably have the best stories to tell, to get them out into the world.

It’s also hard to feel a sense of urgency about content when your volunteer numbers look pretty good this quarter anyway. My friend gets that it’s not about this quarter. It’s about the next, and the next. It’s just extremely difficult for her to think ahead when she’s in the trenches.

What I Learned

In her experience, the best content to share is commentary on national news stories that are relevant to what they do. If you work with families, for example, it makes sense to comment on the effects of family separation at the border, or about PTSD after wartime, or other issues you’re already reading about.

Your compliance department is actually very useful as a sounding board for commentary. Their job is to make sure your comments are not a knee-jerk reaction, but match your organization’s mission. In this case, you might as well appreciate how the process helps focus your content and make it more effective.


  • If you look over your content concept from the perspective of a competitor, you can red flag content before you even begin. You’ll have a much better chance of getting through compliance.
  • If you push for better content development tools, you may get them. In the meantime, make the most out of what you have.
  • If you don’t have time to tell stories, comment on ones you’re already reading and discussing. Then, enjoy the benefits of compliance as they focus your commentary on the mission.

Don’t let compliance bog you down, friends. That’s my secret recipe.

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3 Steps to Going the Distance with Content Marketing: Addison Avenue Marketing’s Melanie Howe

All photos provided.

Want a better idea of how content marketing can help you reach more people, help more people, sell to more people? Consider the case of Melanie Howe.

When Melanie left the marketing department at Ontario Systems, all she thought she wanted to do was help people with their social media.

My, how things change.

Addison Avenue Marketing, named after her little girl, had some pivoting in its future. The original model just wasn’t going to work.

“Clients had a hard time telling me about what was going on in their businesses. I had to extract the information from them,” Melanie said. “It was stressful and time consuming.”

The total number of clients who paid what she felt was worth her time and energy in the beginning came to a grand total of one. Others who had said they would hire her in a heartbeat before she had taken the leap into entrepreneurship discovered they couldn’t actually afford it.

So, Melanie pivoted.


Refocusing on what she really loves doing, Melanie began to market herself not so much as a social media marketer, but as a small business consultant, someone who could help people help themselves.

Still, there was a profitability problem.

She got really excited about working with a construction company at one point, starting to come up with thousands of dollars’ worth of killer strategy. The prospective client asked if she could do it for $500.

She had to say no.

“The epiphany came. I was like, oh my God, I’m not going to make any money doing this!”

She had to get lean to match the budgets she was working with. Real lean. She started coming up with what she called “down and dirty” hacks to improve her clients’ market presence without expending much time or money.

It wasn’t perfection, but it was something. Perfection was impossible, and striving for it was just too expensive. Something simple – even something down and dirty – was better than nothing.

Then she had a thought.


“If I could take all those people and put them in the same room with others who have the exact same challenges, and the exact same needs, with similar budgets and teach them all together, it’s like they’re sharing their cost of my time … I could do workshops!” Melanie said.

So, Melanie pivoted yet again. Two months later, she hosted her first DIY Marketing workshop and entered her next business iteration as a professional small business marketing instructor.

Her DIY Marketing Workshop is in three parts. Melanie teaches small business owners and entrepreneurs how to 1) build a marketing roadmap, 2) develop a basic marketing plan and content strategy, and 3) create content.

So far, she has done this workshop four times, each time to rave reviews. Naturally, that caused Melanie to ask, what’s next?

Reach even more people, of course.


Melanie rolled out her free ebook 30 Down and Dirty Social Media Tips in the summer of 2018 for two excellent reasons, and in this order:

#1: To help more people succeed than could fit into a classroom.

By putting some of her favorite social media tips into an ebook, Melanie can touch and help more people. Those who download it can immediately benefit from tips for reaching more people through social media.

#2: To invite more people to go further with her into more in-depth lessons.

People “purchase” her ebook by supplying their email address. Through email, Melanie is able to keep them engaged and offer more: an online course she plans to roll out in January 2019.

The ebook “gives away” a lot … but not everything. With her paid online course, Melanie will be able to offer more of herself efficiently, more profitably and will help those who want to go more in-depth.

Welcome to your down and dirty model for content marketing success.

Step One: What Are Your Gifts for Serving People One-on-one?

If you were paying attention to her story above, you may have noticed that she began, as many of us do, with a passion to serve people face-to-face, one at a time.

Her passion was small business consulting. Yours might be mowing lawns or helping people with their finances or programming apps that solve complex business problems. You have something to offer.

Step Two: How Can You Reach More People?

Melanie translated her love for individual consulting into group consulting. She went beyond individuals to figure out what problems were common to her audience as a whole that she could help fix.

You do the same thing when you go to market. Whether you run a business or social service organization, you tell stories customers, clients and donors as a group – as an audience – can relate to.

Step Three: How Can You Reach Even MORE People?

Melanie is now reaching the limits of her time and energy in reaching the masses through in-person workshops and the marketing work she does for clients. Her solution is to translate know-how into content.

This is the next step for you.

To some degree, we’re all in a consulting business. You have valuable knowledge to share and stories to tell about the benefits of your product, service, cause.

You just need a way to package and deliver that knowledge to an ever-increasing, well-defined, hand-picked audience in a way that encourages them to like and trust you.

That is exactly what strategic content marketing does for you.


I pointed out to Melanie that the ways she’s helping people goes way beyond marketing; she’s also an organization guru, an efficiency expert and business coach all rolled into one.

That begged the question, what’s next for Addison Avenue Marketing?

“As I’m creating content for clients, Addison Avenue Marketing is always going to be my agency. But Melanie Howe, marketing instructor, is my personal brand. When you invest in an instructor, you are buying the instructor. People buy from people,” she said.


Melanie’s a person. I’m a person. Even if you work for a huge conglomerate, at the end of the day, it’s your personality, your character, your personal story that’s going to convince your audience to act.

Share your gifts with one person, then with many, then with countless more through published content. Those are your three steps to content marketing success.

Down and dirty style.

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Intersection Advertising Agency’s Ally Robbins on Real Content: The Power of Story to Drive Action

If you ever need a measuring stick to determine whether your workspace is as cool as you think it is, take a quick step into Intersection in downtown Muncie, Indiana.

As Ally brewed us some coffee in the kitchen area to keep us alert during our 8 a.m. interview, I marveled at the open concept space, colorful décor and eclectic arrangement of comfy chairs and couches. Through full length windows I watched downtown workers walk by outside, their own cups of joe in hand.

This delectable office is Ally’s reward for over two decades of hard work managing teams of salespeople, producers and creators, most of those years spent in agency settings. She made the leap from Joseph David Advertising to Intersection in 2013.

Here, she has been able to utilize all that experience. The full-service agency handles branding, video production, graphic design, storytelling, event planning, and everything in between.

“We do everything from the start of the thought process to the very end, consider every touchpoint of how the brand interacts with consumers,” Ally said. “That’s where the name comes from, meeting at the intersection of brands and people.”


Intersection is serious about getting to the core of any campaign or project. They have a Simon Sinek-esque obsession with “starting with why” that extends to every client, no matter how small. They spend time getting to know why their clients do what they do in an in-depth immersion process.

“It can take a full day sometimes. That’s especially hard for small business people who have no time, but we highly encourage them to do it. When this immersion process is skipped, we can miss a lot.”

The process of looking inward to determine why you got into business in the first place, who you are as a business and what you really want to accomplish is not easy. But to Ally, it creates an essential blueprint for everything that follows.

That’s because of Intersection’s “why”.

“If you think about what we do in advertising, we affect people’s lives, their livelihoods. Their workers are affected by what we do, the public is affected. There’s a lot of responsibility to do it well. That’s why I love this business.”


Ally Robbins is a straight shooter. So when you ask her how she defines “content marketing”, she’ll tell you exactly what she thinks.

“Content marketing is an industry term. It’s not a public-facing term. People don’t read content, they read stories.”

It’s a good point. Too often, the word “content” carries the connotation of text and multimedia that exist for their own sake. Window dressing. Not part of the function of the website, just filler.

A story, on the other hand, always involves communication. It demands a response at some level.

The idea is also much easier to explain to clients.

“We’re telling their story in a variety of ways based on how we’re going to deliver it. It’s pretty simple,” Ally said. “But we also ask, what is the goal? How are you going to measure the results?”

Nonprofit organizations, Ally said, are ideal clients to promote through content. They simply have the best stories to tell. It also doesn’t hurt that blogging, social media and email marketing can all be done relatively affordably.

In searching her mind for a good example, Delaware County CASA came right to the top. The Court-Appointed Special Advocate program assigns volunteers to children who have been removed from their homes. CASAs serve as a consistent presence for kids as the system drags them in and out of foster homes, attorney offices and courtrooms.

There is a severe shortage of CASAs throughout Indiana, and Delaware County is no exception.

”So many parents are being removed from the home because of the opioid crisis. 400 kids were on the waiting list for a special advocate,” Ally said.

The goal was to beat previous records for training class attendance. Intersection wrote and produced high quality social media content, updated the website and produced a television commercial.

They focused on what they could monitor in real time: social media engagement. When people shared video content, they just produced more like it.

Ally reports:

  • Video ads were delivered 45,833 times within premium online content.
  • Target audiences spent over 371.21 hours viewing and interacting with the videos.
  • 96.73% of video ad impressions were viewed in full.

The result? Delaware County CASA’s director, Ashley Soldaat, reported an 89% increase in volunteer applicants.

“It was a successful campaign,” Ally said. “They got more people to that training than they ever had.”

Content means nothing if it does nothing. Stories that move people to action are at the heart of Intersection’s work. It all begins with a thorough understanding of why a client like CASA exists.

But once you establish the why, what’s next?


As a purveyor of marketing resources and LinkedIn Pulse junkie (come on, admit it!), you’ve probably heard the question: “Should copy influence design, or design inspire copy?”

Ally has a definitive answer. Copy first. Always.

“Make sure you get that right. Copy drives design,” she said, leaning forward to peer down at my pen, ensuring it was in use. “You can go create something great, but you need it to match the words. There may be something in that story you can create graphically that ties it all together.”

With CASA, as with all clients, a writer was in the room in that initial discovery session. He or she was listening for a story, for descriptions of the target audience, for the key words around which everything was to be framed, upon which everything was to be built. (It wasn’t me, and I’m frankly pretty jealous.)

“The writer should be involved from the very beginning,” Ally said, emphatically. “Everybody hears things differently. The writer is going to hear differently than the web designer, the developer. The wordsmith is going to hear the client say something that will become the golden nugget for the whole campaign.”

I asked Ally about how working with freelancers was different than in-house writers. She shrugged.

“I look at freelancers as an extension of our team. It should be no different,” she said.


There are certainly aspects of the work Ally admits are difficult.

Intersection does a fair amount of survey research, for example, that can involve the arduous task of parsing thousands of email or phone responses. Applying that data to determine the most ideal channels of communication among hundreds is a constant struggle.

“Conversion is the biggest mystery ever,” she said. “They say advertising isn’t rocket science; it’s harder. At least rocket science has formulas.”

Looking at the CASA example, however, it all seemed relatively straightforward.

“The recipe was good. People cared about the message, read it and shared it. It’s not much more difficult than that. Sometimes I think we (in the ad business) make it too hard,” she admitted.

They say that if you can’t explain something briefly, you don’t understand it well enough yourself.

Ally Robbins doesn’t have that problem.

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6 Content Marketing Secrets to Success, Taught by One Nerdy iPhone Game

I have a confession to make. It’s a little embarrassing.

About a month ago, I started playing a super nerdy, Dungeons & Dragons-esque (let D&D fan protestations begin) iPhone game called King of Avalon.

I am 35 years old.

Here’s a surprise: It turns out KoA weirdly correlates to six secrets to successful content marketing. Who’d’ve thunk?


I know. Follow me on this.

KoA is one of these real-time strategy games. You have a bird’s eye view of your walled-in Medieval city, your stronghold and farms and stuff. Outside the city you see a map of the area dotted with cities of other players, monsters to fight and so on. You fight and grow to gain points, get stronger, do more.

If you’re feeling totally out of your element right now, you now share the sentiments of most of the conversations I have with small business clients about content marketing.

Content marketing is just another game I’ve been playing for a few years. I’m inviting you to play.

Allow me to put myself into your shoes and share what I’ve learned as a newbie to my new game.

  1. You just gotta start.

When it comes to content, I’m often just like the throngs of nerds who gush over these MMO (massive multiplayer online) games, who you overhear talking about FINALLY donating enough magic dust to open the interdimensional portal so they can fight the monster and collect rewards …

And you’re like, I’m glad you’re so excited. Enjoy. I have work to do.

I did not think a game like this would be worth my time. You might not think creating an “inbound strategy” or “business blogging” or “email marketing” will be worth yours. At some point, you just gotta want that excitement the nerds have. It can be yours. Just try it.

  1. Identify goals or you will never win.

Starting to play this game was pretty overwhelming. It guides you – build a farm! now a sawmill! now a university! now barracks! – but I wondered, why? Wait, and you can actually spend real money on this? Why would anybody in their right mind do such a thing?

I realized this was not the kind of game with a single pre-defined goal. Nobody plays King of Avalon to, like, be King of Avalon. You’re competing against thousands (millions?) of players. I needed attainable goals along the journey to enjoy. Upgrading buildings, slaying barbarians and whatnot.

You don’t get into content marketing expecting to rule the world. You start with a modest goal, and work from there. Like generating 10 ideas for what to write about. Maybe you don’t even have a blog yet. You’ll get there.

  1. You will spend time on the wrong things.

Just like in real life (or “IRL” as the kids say – geez, I’m old) time is a highly valuable resource in this game. You have windows of opportunity to gain points in exchange for gold by gathering resources; to slay monsters; or sometimes to attack other players.

I learned pretty fast that I shouldn’t bother taking the time to train troops just before the “kill phase”. That’s when seasoned players come by and obliterate you with a few thumbs taps from the comfort of their international toilet seats.

That sucked, but I learned. You will learn to stop writing on topics your customers don’t care about; to spend less time writing emails and more on a list-building strategy; to just take a darn photo yourself instead of searching for hours through stock images. Learning and growing is fun. Enjoy the ride.

  1. Real people are your most vital resource.

I was invited to join an alliance almost immediately. I hesitated to respond. Actually interacting with other players? Geeking out over magic crystals and leveling up my dragon? I’ll pass.

I’m glad I accepted the invite. I learned so much by connecting with other players. And it turned out that interaction with real people, engaging with a team to defend against enemy alliances and gather resources to benefit the entire alliance, is really the most rewarding part of the game.

Yes, content marketing is about attaining “points” – increased traffic, ebook downloads, email opens, conversions of readers to customers – but it’s the connection with real people that will help you the most. You help them with valuable content, they help you with feedback and inform your strategy.

  1. You will lose “soft” progress, but nobody can take away your “hard” gains.

Once you get into this game, you start to get really attached to your resources. It’s no surprise that when an enemy alliance starts burning and pillaging, players get legit pissed. Long lines of asterisks in the chat box where the game has automatically blocked out cuss words abound.

Looky here. Losing ground is part of the game. Enemies stall your “soft” progress by killing and stealing. But once you level up anything – dragon, buildings, city – you can bounce back faster, train new troops and produce resources faster. That “hard” progress is fixed.

When busy-ness, competitors or writer’s block stalls your content and traffic disappears, it will suck. It’s a soft progress setback, but nothing can take away your hard, foundational progress. Because of what you have learned, you will bounce back with fresh new content that will blow your audience away.

  1. Progress is gradual. Your own accomplishments will sometimes surprise you.

King of Avalon is not about getting to the end. It’s just about getting to the next milestone, enjoying the journey, building camaraderie with other players, teaching, learning and getting stronger as you go.

One day, you wake up and realize just how strong you’ve gotten, how much of your corner of the map you and your alliance have conquered, how much momentum you’ve gained.

Yes, you should track conversions, but you can’t always track what leads to the sale: affinity, quality of life, gratitude, relationship. These immeasurable gains you get when you engage people with content that helps them solve problems will lead to bigger sales, longer term customers and referrals.


Do what I did and just get started. Dive in. Instead of putting little buildings into your city without any idea why, you’ll do this:

  1. Write down 10 questions your customers need answers to. Pick one, write 500 words or so to answer that question. Write it like a thoughtful letter to your best customer.
  2. Publish your article with a nice picture. If you have a blog, put it there. If not, get a free WordPress account, or maybe publish it on LinkedIn. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, email.
  3. Now go back and pick another one of your 10 questions. Do the above again. Give yourself a deadline. Can you only handle once a month? Great, get it done in 30 days. Repeat.
  4. Just enjoy connecting with real people through content. Enjoy the comments, shares, offline compliments. Keep the end goal in mind, but don’t be overly concerned with it yet.
  5. Don’t get discouraged when you fall behind. You’ve learned more than you realize. Keep at it. Expect organic conversions of readers to followers, to customers, to advocates.
  6. Develop your strategy as you go. Eventually you will house your blog on your own website; use a giveaway to entice people to subscribe to your email list; utilize email for sales. Eventually those subscribers will become your most loyal customers and an army of referrers.

Eventually, my stronghold will be up to Level 35. That’s going to take a while.

Oh well, I’ll get there. So will you.

Dedicated to the Freeforall alliance of Kingdom 504, Lunar Group, KoA. Most of which, I assume, are young enough to be my own children. Can anybody send me some wood?


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How Content Marketing Drives Referrals and Brightens Your Day, Spotted Monkey Style

Above: Lauren Williams (left), Ashli Smith (center), the Spotted Monkey International Harvester truck cab (right)

You’re quitting your job.

You have a new one lined up in two weeks. In the meantime, you might be researching the company you’re going to work for, reaching out to future coworkers for coffee. Maybe you just relax and enjoy the break.

Not Ashli Smith. It turned out that two weeks was far too long a delay to get her on board, because it gave her all the time she needed to start a new business instead.

How did it happen?

“I like to work, and I like to think,” Ashli said with a shrug and a bright smile, when we spoke in late March 2018.

Still in her twenties at the time, her plan was to leave the Nissan dealership where she had been the office manager for years, and her hometown of Muncie, Indiana, for greener pastures in Indianapolis.

“I always wanted to get out of Muncie and see the world. I love to travel. I always used to cry when I had to come back home from a trip because I knew there was always so much more to see and experience,” Ashli said.

Indianapolis wasn’t exactly “the world”, but it felt like a step in the right direction. At first. Then she abruptly changed her plans when a paying gig came her way.

Okay, maybe that’s not the whole story … the opportunity didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.


See, Ashli had not been your average office manager at Nissan. She was the kind of dream employee every general manager would give their right leg for, the kind who doesn’t need to be told what needs to be done. The kind who’s already doing it.

“We were slow. My salespeople were starving,” Ashli said. “I needed to do something to show them I got their back.”

Ashli’s degree from Ball State University is in travel and tourism marketing, the business of making a destination look sexy. She figured she could use these marketing skills to lick two problems.

One was the external problem of people not coming in. What was her dealership but the destination she needed to entice people to visit?

The other was the internal problem of horrible morale, because, well, people weren’t coming in.

“At one point, we had a zero dollar advertising budget,” Ashli said. “Facebook at that time was pretty new. I started experimenting with it.”

Ashli would not only write posts about cars for sale, but she had fun with social media, too.

“We had a salesperson we called Lucky who would dress up like a leprechaun for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I would post pics of him. Just anything to keep up morale,” she said.

(It was at about this point in our interview I asked Ashli if she was ever a cheerleader. She laughed, “Yes. Until my sophomore year.” Are you surprised?)

Although Ashli didn’t have analytics to track whether it was working (Facebook didn’t even have business pages back then, let alone tracking tools), she could feel the change, the way the salespeople appreciated the effort.

Fred Stevens took notice. He was running an independent insurance agency at the time and happened to be a friend of Ashli’s father, Rick Smith. Fred didn’t get social media, but he knew Ashli did. That’s why it took about two seconds for him to reach out to Ashli when he heard she was leaving Nissan.

Just like that, Ashli Smith had her first social media marketing client.


The next step was to write a business plan. She showed it to Rick. He was sure to give her lots of notes as an experienced businessman himself, a former co-owner of another dealership.

“He told me it’s a perfect business plan, because it had no employees and no product!” Ashli said.

Of course, that would change in time.

She founded Creative Web Connection in 2010. The company offered website design and social media management at a time when there weren’t many local options for small businesses needing help with digital marketing.

Ashli had found her place filling a need right here in her home town. That was a cool enough prospect to be worth sticking around.

The next step was to let everybody know she was open for business. Through membership in BNI (Business Network International), and by attending chamber of commerce ribbon cuttings and meetings of the new ECI Social Media Group, Ashli began to pick up contacts and clients.

In 2013 she opened up her office at N. Wheeling and Riggin Road.

“That’s when it really felt real,” Ashli said.

She realized at that point it was time to tackle her name problem. People would often misremember the business name as Creative Web “Connections” (there was no “s”). Sometimes they couldn’t remember the name at all. Worse, they couldn’t remember what the company actually did.

So, Creative Web Connection rebranded to Spotted Monkey Marketing, a name that not only gets across that it’s a marketing company, it also instantly makes you smile.

“I wanted to change the name to something memorable. My dad and I originally came up with Blue Monkey, but we found quite a few bars and restaurants have that name. So we did Spotted Monkey instead, and Greg Zirkle made us a blue logo,” Ashli said.

Since then, service offerings have snowballed as Spotted Monkey continues to respond to client needs. Ashli is now one of a staff of three full-time employees and a few part-time interns from Ball State, all needed to handle everything from social media to printing, logo design … and now, content marketing.


“We’re seeing original content works,” Ashli said. “Original content is what people want to read. Those are the number one articles being read on a website.”

Ashli and I spend a lot of time educating small business clients on what content marketing is and what it can do for them.

There are currently a select handful of clients that are benefitting from articles written in their voice, targeted to their desired clientele, and delivered in a variety of ways. The goal is to move readers down the marketing/sales pipeline from attention to interest, to desire, and finally to action.

Usually the action we want the reader to take is making a purchase, but for some clients, the desired action may be more nuanced.

For example, one client is a financial advisor based in California. For his firm, Spotted Monkey:

  • Delivers original articles to end clients in a monthly e-newsletter,
  • Posts the article in the client’s blog, on his website,
  • Posts links to the article via a handful of social media platforms several times a month, and sometimes
  • Utilizes the data referenced in the article to create and post infographics.

That’s a whole lot of impact from one service, and it is paying dividends (see what I did there?). Over time, the client has seen not just website traffic, but referrals ($!) grow.

“He has seen more referrals over the last eight months than he has since we started doing this over two years ago,” Ashli said. “With content marketing, it’s not going to happen overnight. You are building trust, and it definitely pays off over time.”


Ashli and I are working to make content marketing simple, accessible and efficient for more SMBs (small- to medium-size businesses) in east central Indiana.

Whether it takes the form of business blogs, print or email newsletters, websites or landing pages, good content paves the way from getting your audience’s attention all the way to bringing the sale home.

“Content marketing” is not scary. It’s not even anything new. It’s just educating, entertaining and storytelling with a purpose.

If you have something more to communicate than your list of products and services, if you have a story to tell, tell it. Invite readers in to hear more, to build relationship with you, and they are far more likely to buy from you in the future.

The idea is simple. The execution can be tough. If you need someone to help you get your story out, that’s when you call your local, sunny content shop, Spotted Monkey Marketing.

Go ahead. Let Ashli make your day.

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