On this episode of the Working Without Pants Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Michael Gass. Michael runs the Fuel Lines Business Development blog, which is one of the top 100 marketing blogs according to Ad Age.
In this episode, Michael goes in depth on a lot of the tactics he uses when helping companies with their inbound marketing strategies.
A ton of companies have a hard time seeing the results of inbound, or the results take forever. Michael shows us some ways that inbound can be creating impact in about 30 days.
The challenge with inbound
When Michael started working with agencies on their inbound marketing, he realized that there were several challenges.
One, companies seemed to always be in a state of rebranding. They were updating the look of their website or changing their messaging. This didn’t allow them to create an inbound strategy that was targeted and niched down.
They also had a big fear of narrowing down their messaging to a specific audience. A lot of agencies had the mindset that they had to be communicating with everyone. They didn’t want to turn any potential business away because their content was too pointed.
Another challenge was that companies didn’t think inbound worked quick enough. It can take a lot of time to create content, build audiences, and see those people convert into sales.
Michael takes a very simple and smart approach to addressing these problems.
The low risk approach
Michael got the idea to begin helping companies create niche blogs. However, instead of sitting on the company site, they were built around the owner of the company and were housed on a separate site.
This idea was embraced, because it meant there was no risk for the company. They didn’t have to exclude anyone in their main company website. But, they still got to talk to a very specific audience in a different way.
And, one of the great things about building it around the company owner is that it got to really capture the culture of the company, because the culture usually comes from the one at the helm.
One example of how successful this has been for the companies Michael has worked with is from a company named Sheehy.
Michael took them through a workshop and figured out that they had a ton of experience in opening new stores for retailers. From there, they created The Store Starters, a blog setting them up as leaders in this specific market.
As a direct result of their blog, Burlington Coat Factory approached them with a request to help with 22 new store openings they had coming up.
This is a huge opportunity that wouldn’t have come about had Sheehy not decided to niche down in this way.
Generating content and traffic
After Michael works with companies to determine what their positioning should be, the work of creating content begins. And, Michael has some great suggestions for getting a niche blog up and running.
Work on creating 30 blog posts right away. That’s right, a lot of companies decide to post once a week, and they immediately fizzle out. Creating this solid base allows you to stay invested in the process, and it also makes your blog look more established.
Don’t put dates on your post. The idea is not to show people that this is something new that you are doing, so you don’t have to put, “This is our first blog post.” or add publish dates.
Find people to direct to your site. Michael suggests buying lists and using newsletters to drive your initial traffic.
There are a lot of places out there to find lists that are relevant to your niche. Associations can be a great resource in finding those in a specific industry. Looking through the Twitter feeds of your competitors is another one.
The main thing is to make sure that you don’t just create a site with a ton of content and then fail to point anyone toward it.
In the interview, I asked Michael how he goes about sending his first outreach to that list. Do you say, “Hey, we just started this blog.” Do you tell them, “We thought you may be interested in this.” Michael’s suggestion was to just simply send them a standard newsletter.
Don’t make it seem like it is the first email they’ve ever gotten from you. People are subscribed to so many newsletters that they may not even notice this is new. If it is relevant to them, they will click it, if it isn’t, they will just look past it.
Social media is a must
Michael is big on the importance of social media for inbound marketing. In addition to the SEO benefits, he says it can really narrow down those you work with in a good way.
Social media allows people to see what you are about and what you believe in. If they like who you are, they will probably be a good fit for how you do things. If they have decided they don’t like your personality through social media, they won’t approach you.
A relationship that is built this way is much different than one that is built from a cold call or cold email. In a relationship with no prior information, the client has a lot of control over how things are done. In a relationship where the client approached you, you have more control, and there is less of a chance of personality conflict.
A lot of people see social media as a hassle or as too much work, but it can really be a driving factor for building a clientele that works well with you.
I hope you got a ton of value out of this episode. I had a great time talking with Michael. He has so much experience in successful inbound marketing, and I love hearing his success stories.
Be sure to check out his blog, and I hope you keep working without pants.