We’ve been so fortunate to have great authors come on the podcast – Shashank Nigam who wrote SOAR, the famous book about airline branding, and Kim Walsh Phillips, our go-to expert on Social Media Marketing.   And in this episode, we got to speak with Laura Hanly, the woman who wrote the book on Content that Converts!

We talk about when you should (and shouldn’t!) write content, and our favorite places to travel, and lots of other topics.

 

 

Transcript – Content that Converts by Laura Hanly – With Laura Hanly!

Book Club - Content that ConvertsPaula Williams: Welcome to today’s book club conversation. Today we are discussing Content that Converts! And this actually was one of my favorites this year.

Paula Williams: So, I’m Paula Williams.

John Williams: And I’m the guy, I don’t know if you could see us from out, but I’m John Williams.

Paula Williams: And we are ABCI, and ABCI’s mission is?

John Williams: To help everybody in the aviation world sell more products and services.

Paula Williams: Absolutely, and today we are actually really thrilled to have the author of this book, Laura Hanly, with us. It’s not very often we get to talk to the lady that wrote the book about content, right?

John Williams: Exactly.

Laura Hanly: Thank you very much for having me.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Yes, it’s great to have you. I’m really happy that you were able to join us this morning from Lisbon.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, it’s evening now. We’re just watching the sun go down over the river. So it’s a pretty nice way to put in a couple of hours.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Fantastic, so you were born in Australia and then moved to Lisbon? And what are some of your favorite places to travel to? Just to get an idea of you.

Laura Hanly: Well, I mean, Australians love to travel. It’s so far away from everywhere that if you go, you’ve got to go for a long time.

So I spent quite a lot of time in Thailand and Bali. Brunei was probably one of my most unusual trips. It’s this tiny, tiny little island. It’s a right by Indonesia, and it’s an incredible place to visit. Croatia is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Berlin is an amazing spot as well and I have spent quite a bit of time there.

But very happy to be living in Portugal now. It’s Beautiful, whether it’s sunshine 300 days of the year, so that’s pretty nice. And yeah, it’s a beautiful healthy, lifestyle here, and the people are lovely. But the language is a little challenging, but we’re getting there, so. [LAUGH] It’s nice to have a base now.

Paula Williams: Fantastic, it’s really fun to hear your accent. Your writing actually, I was kinda thinking it was British at the time I was reading the book. I was thinking that maybe you were a Brit, but that turned out to be incorrect.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH] It’s funny, actually I was going back over the book this afternoon to prepare for the call and I could hear my own Australian-ness in it.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] So funny, how interesting.

John Williams: So I’ve got a question for you about the book.

Laura Hanly: Okay.

John Williams: Just a general thing, why did you not put page numbers in it?

Laura Hanly: You know, I didn’t think about it and self-publishing is not a very well documented process.

And I’m actually having a book reformatted as we speak to put in page numbers and make the margins a little larger so that the body is a little more accessible. Yeah, page numbers will [LAUGH] definitely be in the second edition.

John Williams: Well, I was just curious, I thought maybe you had [LAUGH] a reason for it.

Laura Hanly: There’s no sneaky marketing strategy for leaving off the page numbers. [LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: But it did, I think, make us work a little bit harder. Because one of the things that we do in our book club is we make bookmarks for each of the books. And usually with some of the key points that we think are particularly interesting to people in the aviation industry.

So we had a really hard time putting the bookmarks [LAUGH] in the right places.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH] I’m sorry to make you work harder.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] That’s all right, it was actually, we got to know the book pretty well I think as a result of that. So we were wondering if that strategic.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: All right, I would say probably the thing that stood out the most for me is we’ve read a lot of marketing books and a lot of content books. But the thing that was really cool about this one is it was focused on business to business, which of course is where most of our clients are.

And I think that was a really nice focus. Is that something that came from your business, Laura, or from your consultancy or?

Laura Hanly: Yeah, primarily I work with business-to-business company, so people who have service businesses, particularly. So I have a lot of marketing consultants, life insurance agencies, people who sell physical products to businesses.

Web development agencies, that kind of thing. So people who are not necessarily selling directly to consumers. And while there is a lot of overlap in how content particularly works with those different audiences, you do need to tailor it a little bit. And I think there was something really lacking in the material available.

Everything is very customer and consumer focused. And so I thought it was a good opportunity to sort of share what I’ve learned working with B2B companies directly. And what I found works and doesn’t work in that slightly different space.

Paula Williams: Excellent, so, John, what stood out to you most as far as first impressions or general overview of the book?

John Williams: Looks like something we could’ve written.

Paula Williams: Very similar to you?

John Williams: You pretty much espouse what we do with respect to content. But you break it down a whole lot nicer, and we are probably going to write some things and attribute it to you, of course. Cuz there is stuff in here that would be good quotes.

Paula Williams: It would be.

Laura Hanly: Well, be my guest. [LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Very inspirational for us, and also I think very, very relevant for our audience. A lot of times we have to take books, and part of the reason for our book club is because a lot of the marketing literature can do almost more harm than good when people take a Coca-Cola strategy or something like that.

And they apply it to something that’s really niche-y, really general retail product. And then they apply it to something that’s really niche-y, they could spend a lot of money accidentally. Without getting a really great return. So, I think your book was really focused on that.

And that was nice for us. We didn’t have to put any disclaimers in there about be careful about this part, because this doesn’t apply to us. So, that was nice.

Laura Hanly: Well, that’s great. Thank you.

Paula Williams: Yeah, all right, so carrying on. The first bookmark that we put in the book was on the section that talks about customer avatars.

I thought the description that used there was really helpful. And the exercises in that section of the book were really helpful as far as developing your customer avatar and why that’s important.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, I think a customer avatars are something that gets talked about a lot. But a lot of people kind of skim over the top of it.

It’s one thing to say, okay, I work with B2B businesses. But there are any number of different types of B2B business, and the people that make up those businesses are equally complex. And I think it’s very shortsighted to skim over this part. It can be a bit of a grind and it means you actually have to go out and talk to your customers and get to know them and do quite a lot of research.

It’s quite an in-depth process to really develop a good avatar. But it’s something that will pay off in droves in the long run. And as I was looking through the book earlier on sort of thinking about, most businesses have more than one avatar. There’s the primary avatar who is the person that focus all your marketing towards.

And there are often a secondary or tertiary set of avatars that are going to want to buy your product or service. But who can do that without being directly marketed to. And I think the key with all marketing is to have clear message, a very focussed message in to be delivering into a specific avatar.

And to be try to be all things to all people just is going to make every campaign fall flat. So while there will be other people, people who fought outside of your defined avatar that was to buy from you, that’s fine, let them buy from you. But don’t market directly to them.

Just focus on that primary avatar with all of your marketing.

Paula Williams: Love that. I think Kirk Vonnegut said, every great writer writes to an audience of one.

Laura Hanly: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: And of course, he sells [LAUGH] millions and millions of books that each person is reading is an audience of one.

And feels like you’re in a one on one relationship with the person that did the writing. And business to business especially, there’s so much terrible writing, and it’s because people are trying to write to many, you all.

Laura Hanly: Yes.

Paula Williams: In Texas, they call that y’all. [LAUGH] It just doesn’t work.

You really have to establish a one on one relationship, even in business to business marketing, right?

Laura Hanly: Yeah, and it’s a great way to differentiate yourself as well. Because as you say, there’s so much sort of generalized language used, and such indiscriminate content put out, that to be able to speak really specifically to somebody’s interests or needs.

And make it seem like you are speaking specifically to them, that you’ve really putting the work to get to know them. Even though it’s quote, unquote just business, I think that’s really profound way to connect with somebody. And it sort of shortcuts a lot of the trust-building and rapport building that you might otherwise have to do.

Because they instantly feel at ease with you and feel like You’ve got their best interests in mind.

Paula Williams: Exactly. John, did you have anything to add to that?

John Williams: Nope, you guys are doing good.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] I think you edit a lot of bad writing, [LAUGH] because a lot of this stuff that you edit out, a lot of times, is that generalized language.

John Williams: You’re being nice, calling it language.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: There we go. All right, we’ll move along then. Okay, our next bookmark was, a few sections later, it was about developing the right offer for your audience. And this, I think, is another place that we see in our consultancy, a lot of work that can be done.

And as far as sharpening your offer, making that more specific and more tailored to your avatar.

Laura Hanly: Definitely, I mean, ultimately, the businesses that are most successful are the ones that are developed to scratch somebody’s own itch, a lot of the time. And so, you can think, well, I have this problem, therefore everybody else must have this problem.

And while that might be the case in some industries, in B2B, that is less frequently the case. So I think it’s really important once you got a clear grasp on who your primary avatar is, to really get deep into their problems before you start throwing out solutions. Because, again, it’s easy to think well, I’m familiar with this industry, I have served this type of person before.

But industries change very quickly, the demographics within an industry change very quickly. And I think it’s a lost opportunity not to involve your customers in your product development. Making the right offers is very much about identifying what they made, and what they want, and being able to blend those two things effectively.

And so there’s no way you can do that without knowing your customer. So this is something that I come back to over and over again, so that it all comes back to understanding the position of your customer, the mindset of your customer. And there’s always gonna be a degree of, you have to sell something, so obviously, you need to start with what you have.

But being willing to take feedback and iterate over time to develop the products and services that your customers most need and want is ultimately going to put you far, far ahead of where you would be if you just decide okay, this is my product, this is the only thing I’m selling, that’s it.

Paula Williams: Mm-hm, exactly. In fact, I think just about every offer that we’ve made has come from a request from a customer. And I think the procedure that you kinda outlined in the book is a really good one for making that happen.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, I think that, again, it’s an in-depth process.

You’ve gotta do a lot of research and spend a lot of time talking to people. I think especially businesses, as they go more online, people are becoming resistant to talking to other people. And that makes it really difficult to get a clear grasp on what people really want and need.

Because you can’t get the facts just from staring at a computer screen. You have to be able to hear the language people use to talk about the problem and see their facial expressions and hear their tone of voice. And all of these things can kinda give you a really clear picture of what’s truly driving them and what the core of the problem is.

And especially in business to business, if you’re dealing with the people who are in the company or founded the company, oftentimes, their problems are really tied up with their sense of themselves. And they have this deep sense of responsibility to their company and to their teams. And so, to avoid that resource is really to shoot yourself in the foot.

So, while it can be hard work going back to something that you think is finished or realizing that maybe you need to change what you’re offering, I think it’s always worth the effort.

Paula Williams: Absolutely, right, we all know that data can lead you astray. We’ve all seen-

Laura Hanly: Yes.

[LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Some really obvious cases of that recently. So there is no excuse for not getting out and talking to your customers one on one on the phone at least, if not in person. Seeing all that emotion and getting behind the reasons and things is important.

Laura Hanly: And I think customers feel really valued when you go out of your way to do that as well.

If you seek somebody out and ask for their opinion, it’s a really great way to establish, again, some rapport with them and to show them that you really are thinking about them and their problem. And it makes people wanna trust you, and I’m always gonna buy from the person who has asked me what I think, compared to the person who has just told me what they think I should think.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Absolutely.

John Williams: Well I learned the difference, also, is between being there or being seen is that people will say anything in a text or an email that they wouldn’t say if they were face-to-face.

Laura Hanly: Mm, very true.

Paula Williams: Yeah, absolutely.

Laura Hanly: Very true.

Paula Williams: It’s a different kind of communication, different depth, I guess, of communication.

Love the section on recurring content, and a lot of our folks are working on either article series or podcasts or YouTube video series, those kinds of things. And I think this section was really helpful to those folks.

John Williams: Well the thing that I, excuse me.

Laura Hanly: Sorry, go ahead.

[LAUGH]

John Williams: There’s a line that you have in bold face that says let me lay this out here. If you use content creation productive, or you avoid selling, you will go broke.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH]

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: We’ve done that actually [LAUGH].

John Williams: We have no group, but we stopped.

Paula Williams: Exactly, I would so much rather create content than sell. But it is so easy to get caught up in this. So you really have to have a system that makes it easy for you, right?

Laura Hanly: You do, and it’s a difficult balance to strike. Especially if you’re a creative person and you like producing content, and you’ve got lots of ideas about great material that you can put out for your audience.

It’s very easy to sort of just focus exclusively on that when, unfortunately, most of the time, a blog post is not going to directly make you money. It might get somebody into your email funnel, at which point you can make them an offer, and that’s what makes the money.

It’s the book versus the front end piece of content that gets them into the ecosystem, so that you can make them that offer. But if you’re not making those offers, then you can spend a whole lot of time and never get paid, and that’s a problem. And I see a lot of people, who are uncomfortable with sales, hide in content creation.

And they can sort of justify it because well, I’m creating value, and I’m building up goodwill, and over time, I’ll find a way to monetize this. And I think that phrase, monetizing something, it’s very deceptive, because it sort of strips away the fact that you have to sell something.

It’s easy to think, well, maybe I’ll just put an ad on the side. Or someone will wanna do guest posts on my blog because I have lots of traffic or whatever. And it’s avoiding the hard thing, and I think selling, it’s the only thing in business. If you’re in business, you have to be selling, and if you’re not making sales, you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.

And so to avoid sales by just focusing on content is really shortsighted. That said, you do need to be producing content consistently and making sure that your business is visible, and trusted, and You’r providing great value to your audience, but it does have to be a balance.

Paula Williams: Absolutely, it’s always a means to an end, no random acts of content.

Laura Hanly: Exactly, [LAUGH] that’s a great way of putting it.

Paula Williams: Exactly, love that, okay. Great, so and then of course, besides the recurring content, and you also have a nice description here of Content Assets and why you need some of those larger pieces of content. And John being the finance guy, an asset is a thing in your business, a fixed item that, just like a printer or a desk, that you use to make money over, and over, and over again, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, the way I think about it is blog content and podcast and video are all great. They’re all really valuable forms of content. And particularly, podcasts and video are even beginning to outstrip blog posts for performance these days. Because there’s so much blog content out there, whereas the other two platforms are not as saturated yet.

But all of that content tends to be reasonably short. You’ll get some podcasts that are an hour or more, and that’s fine. People will just listen on double-speed or whatever to sort of save the time if they’re that way, inclined. But there’s not a lot of really long-form content being published, except by a handful of very well established experts.

And those people are producing exceptional pieces of work, and it’s long. And for a long time online people were like, no one’s gonna read a multi-thousand web blog post. People just don’t have that kind of attention. Everything on the Internet is a click away. But I think now that there is so much short-form content available, people are a little bit sick of these very short pieces of content.

And I think especially in the B2B space. If you can provide a long-form piece of content to somebody that completely solves the problem, it’s so valuable. If they don’t have to click back to Google and search for three more blog posts to find the complete picture of what they’re telling to solve.

If they can just go to your one really long piece of content, then, one, that’s gonna be great for your SEO. Two, it’s gonna be great for your customer trust. Three, it’s gonna give you multiple opt-in opportunities. It’s just a much more effective way to do your content.

And so, while not all of us are going to be writing 5,000 word blog posts every week, and most of us won’t. Even if you do that sporadically, along with some shorter content, then that’s gonna be really valuable. But of course, then the other end of the spectrum, the long-form content, is books.

And so I’ve seen a lot of B2B companies write books that define how to do things well in their business or in the industry. So for example, I recently worked on a book with a life insurance agent who basically his business is helping other life insurance agents, which is quote unquote a legacy industry.

It’s been around a very long time, and it’s mostly all happened offline. But he’s helping life insurance agents convert to digital. Helping them get online, get their websites set up, learn how to manage lead generation tools, and all of those kinda things. And so, he wrote this whole book, giving away the entire process that he’s used to do that.

And now he’s able to send that to other life insurance agents, and invite them to use the services. So, it’s a really great way to demonstrate your authority and your expertise in your particular industry. To put your spin on what’s happening in your business and the industry you’re working with.

And to really define how your customer thinks about their problems. It’s a really, really valuable piece of content because it increases over time. You might see a stream of revenue from sales. It’s not gonna be particularly high revenue, I would say in most cases. Particularly if you’re in a very niche industry.

But over time, you’ll start to see speaking events sent your way. You’ll start to see more clients come in. And I think that’s kind of a big one, particularly if you’re working in a service business. If you can send somebody a copy of your book and say, chapter seven is gonna be really great for the problem that I know you’re trying to solve right now.

Let’s talk about this next week. It really interrupts people’s kind of monotony. It gets inside their loop a little bit and can show them that you’re serious about helping them and that you know what they’re talking about. And so it becomes an asset because you can pull bigger and bigger clients because you have this authority.

Because it still takes a lot of resources to write a book. You’ve really gotta be committed to it, and if you get it done, there’s still a lot of cache in being an author. There’s still sort of an air of that authors are a little bit different to the rest of us.

And I used to work in publishing and I would see this all the time. People are a little bit awed by authors. And so if you can get it together and put a book out, it can be a really revolutionary thing for your business. So I think while it’s a big undertaking for a lot of people, it can be the thing that sets you apart in your market.

Paula Williams: Right, maybe using the example of your business, before and after the book, is there a difference that you’ve definitely noticed before you had this book completed and for sale on Amazon? Versus Laura Hanly, author of the book on Content that Converts?

Laura Hanly: Yeah, there has been a really marked difference actually.

One of my motivations writing a book was to add a stream of leads that was not reliant on referrals. So up until the point that I had written a book, probably 80% of my business was coming through referrals, and that’s fine. But it’s not a predictable source. And I wanted something that was a little bit more predictable and that was going to happen a bit faster than if I just stuck with blogging and gradually building up that content base over time.

So since the book, it’s more than paid for itself in terms of the time I spent writing it. I have been able to bring on several much bigger clients than I would’ve been able to had I sort of continued unproven. Having, has also opened up a whole lot of interview opportunities.

So, obviously this is one of those interviews. But I’ve been able to get in touch with some pretty big podcasts in the marketing space. And those things are starting to happen more and more frequently. So this is what I mean, that it’s increasing in value over time. The more interviews I do, the more interviews I get offered.

The more clients I take on, the more clients wanna work with me. So it’s been probably the most significant turning point in my business to date.

Paula Williams: Right, yeah, we have a book that we published a couple of years ago. And certainly, we’ve started doing that annually, doing an annual guide to social media for aviation professionals.

Laura Hanly: Great.

Paula Williams: Which is a nichey book. [LAUGH] It’s never gonna be a New York Times best-seller, that’s not our intention. And we honestly, if anything, probably lose money or invest money, I should say, on the production of the book. Because we do send it to clients and so on and don’t make a whole lot.

Writing a book is not a great way to get rich but it certainly is a great way to establish the authority credibility and expertise that you talk Talked about this one. [CROSSTALK]

Laura Hanly: Absolutely, and you will not get rich off the book but you might get rich off the stuff that happens off the back of the book.

Paula Williams: Absolutely.

John Williams: The trick here is for us with our clients is to convince them of what you say.

Paula Williams: Mm-hm.

Laura Hanly: Mm-hm. [LAUGH] That’s a whole other thing, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Paula Williams: Right, absolutely. So I also loved the, I do have to say that the first time I read the book I kinda skimmed it really quickly, but then I went back.

And did all of the exercises because I thought, well, we’re in the marketing business. I don’t need to do all this stuff. But then after getting through the book I went back and did all the exercises because I realized this systematic approach was actually pretty valuable. And yeah, I also really love the round up at the end.

Number one, give away the farm. This is something we get a lot of resistance to because our customers are very concerned about their competition.

Laura Hanly: Mm-hm. Yeah, I think that’s a really common thing across a lot of industries, but. It’s unusual, if you go to the effort of documenting all of your processes and putting down how you approach things, your competitors are so far behind you.

Or they’re so entrenched in a different way of doing things that to steer the ship in a completely new direction is often more effort than is possible. And it, change is expensive, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of buy in from everybody on the team.

Everybody really has to be on the same page if you’re gonna change how you do things. And so I think while they might get a few valuable bits and pieces out of what you’re talking about, let them it’s, most of the time, it’s not going to be enough to make a material difference.

And in some industries, that’s probably not true. If you’re Elon Musk and you’re building, all of your rockets to go to Mars and there is another space company coming up along side you, then yeah, you don’t wanna be giving away your secrets. But most of the time it’s so much work for a business to change how they do things that they will read what you are doing and think.

Aw man, I shouldn’t have done that way.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH]

Laura Hanly: But not here so we are going this way.

Paula Williams: So we should hire Laura to do it for us [LAUGH].

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH] [CROSSTALK] I know.

Paula Williams: Acknowledge you for that is, Emeril Lagasse or Jamie Oliver some of the thing that shafts.

They give away the farm. They write cookbooks. They tell people how to do. They even do videos and show people exactly how to do what they do, but people still flock to their restaurants.

Laura Hanly: Hmm. Yeah, people don’t want to do it themselves.

Paula Williams: Absolutely! Okay. Then the second point, forget tactics, you need strategy and systems.

A lot of people are looking for tips and tricks and easy buttons. And I think this really gets into the depth of content that you talked about when you talk about those content assets. And also in your recurring content you need to go deeper than most people do.

Would you agree?

Laura Hanly: Yeah, definitely, and I think it’s very easy to get distracted by little tactics and the latest hacks and shortcuts and all this stuff. But there’s no replacement for doing the work, and I think thinking really carefully about what you want your content to do for your business overall.

And then, working backwards from that. Working out exactly what function it’s going to serve and how you’re going to leverage it before you ever publish a piece of content, that’s where the real value is. And if you’ve already been producing content and you haven’t been strategic about it, now is the perfect time to step back from it and think okay, what do I need to do to make this really serve my business?

Serve my customers and provide me with a vehicle to make sales off this.

Paula Williams: Right. Yeah I think I just listen to a podcast by Pat Flynn he’s talking about content audits. And this really goes back to, a lot of us maybe started producing content back when it was effective to just sorta do things.

But now we do have to be a lot more strategic about it. So you can go back through all of the stuff that you’ve built, not throw anything away, but think is this still relevant? If so, can I update it, or combine it with something else, or do something else to make it valuable again?

And they could fit the strategy. And having a system to audit your content on a regular basis, that’s one example of that that comes to mind.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic approach.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: Yeah, I sit here. I listen to you two, you know. It’s too bad you’re not working together on something.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Well it’s really neat to find somebody that thinks a lot like us. So, that’s really refreshing. Content is your ambassador. So you send your book out to a prospective costumer, and they get a pretty good idea of how you work, and what you do, and how you.

Just like John said, it sounds like it would be really great to work together. It also probably weeds out the ones that you don’t wanna work with because they’re a different style from you, right?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Laura Hanly: Very much so, yeah. It’s a really powerful way to get somebody’s attention and to as I said earlier to differentiate yourself from other providers in your market.

But it’s also a good way when people come back and they say no I didn’t like this give away farm ideas or I’m not interested in, trying to build a very complex sales strategy. I can say okay, that’s fine. No hard feelings at all. We probably not gonna be the right fit to work together and you know, it saves a whole lot of miscommunications and misunderstanding later on.

If people have been consuming your content and it’s the same with book content or broadcast content. People get to know you through your content and. They get a sense of whether they like you, whether they would wanna work with you, whether they like your style of doing things.

And so it’s a really great way to sort of for your customer to get to know Before the getting to know you.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Right, exactly. And saves probably a lot of frustration on everyone’s part in that.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, it does. [LAUGH]

John Williams: But it’s only an initial step in the sales process.

Laura Hanly: Very much so. You’ve still gotta get them into conversations and really engaging with you. It’s not enough to just send them a mass of content and have them wade through it.

Paula Williams: Right.

Laura Hanly: I think people are really keen to automate as much of their business as possible.

But the longer I am in business and seeing how different businesses function through my clients, the businesses that are doing really well are the ones who are engaging personally with their customers and haven’t left their sales to automation.

Paula Williams: Agreed, right. And the content is not a refuge from sales that point four is a really good segue into that.

I have to literally kick myself out of this on Mondays and make those sales calls. So that I’m away from the computer, and I can’t get involved in content creation, or other people’s content. And content of clients and everything else, you have to get away from it for some balance and make sure that you’re actually spending the time on the phone or in person, right?

Laura Hanly: Absolutely, and I think one thing that’s easy to forget as well is, if you don’t make sales, you will go out of business. And if you go out of business, you will have no content to be making. [LAUGH] The things you enjoy doing so much will go away because you have no audience to give it to.

So it’s really critical from both sides, from both viewpoints, that if you wanna keep making content, you have to make sales to fund your content habit.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

Laura Hanly: And if you wanna stay in business, selling is the only way to do i. And I see so many business people who are so afraid of selling, and there are so many things that can cause that fear.

They don’t wanna come across as really pushy or mercenary, and they don’t want people to be upset with them that they’ve made an offer. Or they feel like they’re gonna be judged or they feel like they’re not worthy, or they have some self-esteem issues that are tied up in this stuff.

And it can be so complex, there are so many different things that go into this. But getting comfortable with selling is the most important thing you can do for your business. And I think use your content as a way to practice getting comfortable with selling. If you can sell in the written word, then you can sell in the spoken word.

And it’s a steep learning curve for a lot of people but you’ve gotta do it.

Paula Williams: You’ve gotta make the leap, absolutely, right. And then the last one, recognize when you’re not the best person to create the content. We have a lot of folks who are, I’m gonna say kind of the engineering types.

Laura Hanly: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: They’ve invented a piece of software, or an aircraft component, or something of the sort. And they’re brilliant, brilliant people. I just am in awe of a lot of our clients, because they are so smart. But they are not necessarily the best person to explain the thing that they created to mere mortals.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: And I think bridging that gap between the two is a leap of trust to say I have to explain my product to customers. Because it has to be accurate and it has to be helpful. And you can’t over simplify too much but you absolutely do have to simplify to the point where people will get it within the first couple of seconds.

Or no one’s gonna spend 20 minutes to understand a component or a piece of software or anything else. They have too many things to do, or too many options.

Laura Hanly: Absolutely, and this is a really common problem. It’s a difficult one to solve. Because there are so many people out there who market themselves as writers.

But who, speak the language and are capable of physically writing, but that doesn’t make you a writer. And so a lot of people have a lot of trouble finding someone who can extract the information that they need from the inventor or the person who is leading the business.

And then put it back out into words with a structure that the customer base is going to engage well with. And so I know several people who have gone through three, or four, or five, or even more iterations trying to find a writer who can get it. And they just end up thinking no one can do it.

I have to be the one to do it. But if that’s a position that you have found yourself in, I really encourage you to keep looking. Talk to me, send me a tweet, I will send you some people. [LAUGH] There are really great writers out there. And more often than not, the person who has been the technical brain behind the product or the service is not the person who should be explaining it to the buyer.

It’s so complex and they have so much background information, that they can never simply explain it. And so the role of the writer in that situation is to be the advocate for the audience. To extract all of that information, to get it from the technical mind, and then digest it.

And then synthesize it into something that a layperson can understand and engage with. So there definitely does have to be a strong sense of trust between the technician and the writer. There has to be rapport and there has to be trust and there’s gotta be a deep understanding on the part of the writer around the technology or the solution that is being provided.

It’s a real advantage to understand where the technician is coming from. Because that way you can kind of straddle both sides of the content. You can see it from the technical point but you can also see it from the layperson’s point. So it can be a mission to find that person.

And I totally respect the people who grind through trying to do it themselves because they haven’t found the right writer. But in the long run, it will hurt you not to have a writer onboard, so-

Paula Williams: Right.

Laura Hanly: Particularly, as well if you’re thinking about writing something long form.

Like if you’re thinking about writing a book, for most people running a business that is just so far out of what’s possible because they’ve got a whole business to run. It takes months to write a book. And so to do that themselves, even though that might be something that would be really valuable for them in the long run, they just can’t make the time.

And so in that situation I think as well, get somebody onboard, have someone come and help you out. And get it done without having it take over your life.

Paula Williams: Absolutely, John, I think you were a skeptic at one point, of writers.

John Williams: Well, that’s because I had to redo everything.

I came up in an era when there were technical writers, right? And I would give them a few points, they’d go write a document, and I ended up having to rewrite all those documents. So I said, to heck with it. So I refused technical writers, I wrote it myself.

And it was better than they could have done. And the problem I see today is an awful lot of folks don’t recognize that they need a writer. They don’t recognize the need for content when they’re trying to do marketing. Because the attitude is, well, anybody can tell this is a good product.

Laura Hanly: Yes. [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Especially the inventor. This is so obvious that somebody that doesn’t understand it just doesn’t have a brain. But it’s just that everyone is so busy. That they need to have it explained in a way that they can understand quickly or you can’t get their attention.

John Williams: Yeah, what really brought that [INAUDIBLE] my mind was, I went with my daughter to look for a new car. And we were visiting the dealers that she was interested in, and the Audi dealer, who shall remain nameless.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH]

John Williams: We walked in and I got a sales guy and we sat at his desk and she started asking him questions.

He said, well, these cars just sell themselves. And I didn’t say it but I almost said, if that’s true, where’s the kiosk with keys, we don’t need to talk to you.

Paula Williams: We just needed a vending machine.

Laura Hanly: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: To put the money in and get the car keys out, then drive away.

Laura Hanly: Yeah. [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: There’s someone to explain this, it is complicated.

Laura Hanly: Yeah, and I think a lot of the time, audiences don’t realize that they have a problem. Earlier in the book I was talking about stages of sophistication in the market. And understanding how sophisticated your customer base is in terms of how they think about the problem is really critical.

So if there are any And they are [INAUDIBLE]
back of their brain [INAUDIBLE] something is bothering them and they can’t quite put their finger on it, and you know what that problem is and you have that solution to it. And you just sort of hand it to them and say, here you go, this is what you need.

There’s a huge divide between their perspective, and what they perceive to be their problem, and what you perceive to be their problem and the solution that they need. So content is going to bridge that gap, and so that’s why it’s so important to get somebody who can understand where both parties are at, and sort of translate between the two.

Paula Williams: Exactly, that is the bridge, for sure. All right, so next steps. Like I said, I went through the book, thinking I didn’t need to do the exercises [LAUGH]. But then I went back and did them. Because we have a fairly sophisticated business. We understand content but, I think it was very well worth it to use your systematic approach and I can tell those exercises were really well thought out in order, in a really good use of time.

Laura Hanly: Great-

John Williams: I read a lot of books myself, and I have to tell you that I was not looking forward to this one but it was right, it was well written and it was one that kept me interested and going.

Laura Hanly: That’s great, I think [LAUGH] people who don’t wanna read it are the ones that I value the compliments from the most.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: The book club, incase anyone is new listening to this is kind of my darling. Not necessarily John’s, as far as a means of getting our folks to discuss books and things. And also to share ideas and so on. So, I understand books aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I think they are so valuable.

Anybody who’s in business should, even if they’re not crazy about books, read one book a month in your line of work, and do what you can to understand it and apply what you learn.

Laura Hanly: Absolutely.

John Williams: Interesting thing that I came across [COUGH] .
I heard about it first before business school.

And then at the business school, they reiterated the fact. And that is, the higher up the organization you are, the more time you need to take, thinking and reading.

Laura Hanly: Yes, I absolutely agree.

Paula Williams: Right, yeah, do the exercises. Take notes, also review the book on Amazon. You can find it on Amazon.

And I think the easiest way to find it is just look up Content that Converts Laura Hanly, and it’ll pop right up. And then also visit LauraHanly.com. You’ve got a great blog and a lot of social media connections there that you can connect with, whatever your favorite channel is, and anything else Laura that we should know?

Laura Hanly: No, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you guys, it’s been great. And if anybody has questions or wants to get in touch and ask about anything that they read in the book, please hit me up on Twitter, I’m @LauraHanly. And more than happy to chat with everybody. Or send me an email, my email is there on the website, so I’m pretty easy to find.

But yeah, I hope that it’s been helpful for everybody reading, and I promise next edition we’ll have page numbers.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] That’s fantastic. And next month’s book of course is Tribes by Seth Godin, and that’s one that I have read before. And Laura what’s your favorite book before we leave you?

Laura Hanly: Favorite book that’s a tough one [LAUGH].

Paula Williams: I know like, pick your favorite child!

Laura Hanly:  I’ve recently been on a tear with reading. One of my goals for this year was to read a whole lot more. So let me just quickly pull open my list and see which one is gonna jump out at me the most..

Laura Hanly: You know what, I’ve read Robert Cialdini’s most recent book, Pre-Suasion. Cialdini wrote the book called Influence, which is one of the most well-known marketing books ever written. And Pre-Suasion I think is just as good and just as valuable. I’ve written a blog post about it recently.

If you’re making a lot of proposals, putting out a lot of deals and contracts and that kind of thing. I think it’s really, really valuable to read. Because it talks a lot about priming and anchoring. And there are two mental processes that you can take advantage of with when you’re dealing with negotiations and that kind of thing, to help people come around your way of seeing things.

I think it’s super valuable, so I gonna say Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini.

Paula Williams: Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini, we’ll link to that also from the show notes on this. Yeah, we do a survey once a year to narrow down to the 12 books we’re gonna read next year so I think that’s gonna go on the list.

Laura Hanly: Great!

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] That will be a nominee, so that’s fantastic, I appreciate that.

John Williams: Thanks for staying up late Laura.

Laura Hanly: Not a problem at all.

Paula Williams: Go sell more stuff, America needs the business, and so does Portugal.

Laura Hanly: Portugal definitely does [LAUGH]. We’ll see you guys here next summer!

Book Club Discussion - Content that Converts     

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