Content Marketing: How to Sell Your Story: Webinar

Content Marketing: How to Sell Your Story

Tips and Tricks to Propel Your Traffic Growth

April 20th 2016

What makes an online startup successful? How to create content that captivates and market your product to make sales? Must have knowledge for startupers.

Content Marketing Strategies That Result in Sales

And How You Can Implement Them

With Quinn Whissen, head of marketing at Vertical Measures

Quinn is an experienced marketer helping clients drive profitable growth to their projects through content marketing. She teaches content marketing workshops around the country and speaks regularly on marketing, design, and social engagement.

You’ll Learn

  • What on earth is content marketing for a small-biz owner
  • How to set goals and measure content marketing results
  • Non-obvious ways to increase conversion through content marketing
  • Is it possible to use content marketing in a boring niche

Listen to this webinar in form of a podcast here

Full transcript of the webinar

Jeff Bell: Hi, I’m Jeff Bell from Startup Hub, free educational project by TemplateMonster. Welcome to our free webinar on content marketing: Hot to Sell Your Story. Our guest today is brilliant Quinn Whissen from Vertical Measures. Quinn helps her clients drive profitable growth to their projects through content marketing. So, hi, Quinn!
Quinn Whissen: Hello! Thanks for having me today.
Jeff Bell: Thanks for being with us. Let’s get right to it. What is content marketing in easy terms for beginners?
Quinn Whissen: Oh my gosh, I actually have a three-part definition. I’ll read it cause it’s really important to kind of grasp the whole philosophy of content marketing. It’s not a strategy or even a tactic, it’s a paradigm and a philosophy.

  • Content marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers without selling or interrupting them. A lot of us come from a traditional media background. We understand billboards, newspapers and prints. But that’s interrupting someone in their day versus content marketing which is being on the end of someone’s search or someone’s need and providing content or information that they’re looking for. That’s #1
  • Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your customers more informed before they buy. So it’s about self-education. Like how many of you have searched online before they bought something. Everyone would raise their hand if we were all in a room together. So you’re looking for answers, for information and are there businesses out there that provide this information. That you then become loyal to because they did so. So that’s #2.
  • If you deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to your customers, they ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty. So it’s about creating relationship and not just trying to sell to someone or advertise. It’s creating relationship based on education, based on information. Based on being plain useful and helpful. So that’s kind of a larger picture, I hope that helps.
Jeff Bell: That sounds like a lot of work actually. Not like you’re just trying to sell something, you have to be truthful, you have to put in a lot of effort. Do you think it’s something a startuper working long hours can simultaneously do for his or her project?
Quinn Whissen: Yes, it’s definitely a challenge, by no means is it something where you put in effort right now and within 30 days you see results, it’s like I said a philosophy, you have to shift your mindset with your business and say “how can I help my customers? What questions are they asking me all the time? Who do I want to work with and how can I answer these questions on a regular basis?”

To answer your question, like is it possible for a small business owner or a solopreneur – yes but I understand the challenges. It comes down to priorities at this point. Is my priority just to sell or is it to help people and create relationships that down the road will end up paying me off in a good way. So I’d say start small. Start with once or twice a month creating content. But you always have to remember that you need to do the foundation first. Do you have a website, is it mobile friendly, do you have the right marketing messages in place, what about your branding, your email system, social media. All of those building blocks have to be set down before you even start content marketing or you’re not going to get the result out of it.

Jeff Bell: You mentioned time, how long does it take for a good content marketing strategy to pay off? How fast can one expect the return of investment?
Quinn Whissen: This is very different from, say, PPC, paid advertising, where if I spent a $100 today I might even see revenue coming in today. So content marketing is really about playing the long game. And it’s not 30 days ROI, like I said.

But to see results for people we work with in Vertical Measures, I worked with, if you have the foundation set and you have a strategy where you create consistent content on a week-by-week basis you can probably see some results within 6 months. Sometimes it takes less than this if you have more resources, sometimes it may take even a year. And what we always see is just consistency is key.

Creating a piece of content, pushing it out on your promotional channels, your social media and then following with any leads that come in. It’s going to take a while to take the process down, but once you do, I would say 6 to 12 months is really the sweet spot where basically all the graphs end up going up. You get more traffic, more leads and hopefully more business.

Jeff Bell: The thing we all want to see – the graphs going up. The first thing in the morning every small business owner does is he goes and checks Google Analytics.
Quinn Whissen: Yeah, but you have to remember, if you’re doing it everyday and you’re doing things right and you’re working on making 1% improvements every day, those 1% improvements mass over time and they equal change. Don’t be too caught up in like “oh, I’m down 10 something today.” Next week you might be up, don’t get caught up on analytics in the short term, focus on long term goals – three months, six months or even a year and say how do you want to be different in the end of this year.
Jeff Bell: What would be the keys to small business marketing strategy for a small business owner in 2016?
Quinn Whissen: That’s a great question because you do want to start with a strategy. You don’t need to spent 1000 hours, you don’t need paid agency and millions of dollars, like we’re an agency and we do strategies, but for small businesses you want to start small and start taking off a little bit of what you can do without getting overwhelmed.

A few things you want to focus on in strategy is goals. Like I mentioned before, how do you want to be different a year from now, three months from now, whatever your period is. And then figure out what are you trying to do: are you trying to get more sales, are you an ecommerce business that wants to increase sales by 10% by the end of the year.

Actually put together a little sentence saying “by November 2016 I want to increase sales month over month by 10%”. And then you need to say how are you going to get there, what are you going to do to get there, to reach that goal. Then comes the implementation, what you’re going to do? Create content twice a month? Do you have resources for that? Who do you need to hire? Do you have someone in house? Or maybe you need to talk with a freelancer?

Think about goals, resources – how you can get things done and also you want to focus on how do you get the ideas? Cause content marketing is all about creating content, creating topics that people will find useful, people will find helpful. I always tell people to stop thinking about what you can write today and start thinking about what questions you get asked all the time. I’m sure there’s lots of people on the call, emailing asking what does this cost, what’s the comparison of this vs that.

There’s questions being asked all the time. And that’s where you want to start to come up with topic ideas that will create really-really kind of intentional content, not just “what should I write about today?”. No-no-no. Make sure it’s a need and a want your prospective customers would like answered and start there.

Jeff Bell: But you know, everything’s on Google now, how do you make sure your piece of content is the best. What are the checks you need to make sure that your content will be on the top, that your content will get discovered and produce sales.
Quinn Whissen: I teach content marketing workshops at Vertical Measures all over the country and this is the section that people love is creation and brainstorming of topics. So I’d start with asking myself what question do I get asked all the time? Put it in a spreadsheet, go into Google and literally type it out.

I actually had a small business contact me yesterday. He’s a chef, a really good chef in Phoenix and he sells truffle oil. So he has a website for that. And he’s like, how do i get more people coming to my site. And I told him he needed content research and he mentioned that people want to know recipes for truffle oil. So I typed in “how do I make black truffle oil”. You can do it right now, try typing it. And I saw a content gap, because on first 5-10 results there was no one answering this specific question. So I told him there’s an opportunity right there.

Maybe it’ll take you an hour, since he’s a great chef, to come up with a 600 words blog post or article on how to make black truffle oil, include a recipe and you can even include a video of him actually making it. And then you have few different formats of content that can honestly rank pretty quickly because there was no competition. So that’s a thing to do – do the research, start brainstorming about questions you get asked but then take it to the actual search engines to see if it’s even worth the time to create this piece of content. Cause often times it will be saturated like you said.

Like the opposite of that was “how to make truffle oil” and there were tons of results for that. But no one had described how to make black truffle oil which was something he sells. So it’s really weighing in what’s the competition, what’s the traffic volume and is it answering the need that my customers have.

Jeff Bell: What do you think is the perfect content in 2016? Is it text, is it videos, banners on Pinterest? What generates most traction, most sales in your experience? What’s the trend in 2016?
Quinn Whissen: I don’t have the best answer for you cause there’s really no perfect content unfortunately cause every kind of content and every format can really lend itself to reach certain goals. So for instance in our business we like to focus on well-written, linsky articles that are informational and educational and those for us seem to cover leads the best. And same goes for free guides.

Something that’s gated behind the gated form, something you give out information to download. Those work really well for us, but I see businesses that one minute videos do very well for them or data-graphics for Pinterest distributed from their website.

So you need to think what’s the best format for us to reach our goals and also not to pinhole yourself to just one format. Like I’m not a video person, I hate them. I don’t want to watch videos, it’s not my thing, I’m more of a scanner comprehending really quickly if it’s like good text but I know some other people in our office who love videos.

There’s so many different types of learning that people are attracted to. Some are video people, some are written people and they all are going to help you reach certain goals with content marketing. So make sure you think about that in your strategy. Don’t create a video just to create a video. Create a video because you know it’s going to help you reach that goal.

Jeff Bell: What are the content marketing opportunities, if you have a boring niche? And is boring niche even a thing?
Quinn Whissen: I don’t think there’s such thing as boring niche. Some people are like what? I’m trying to think of an example…non-surgical face-lifts may be boring to read about? But from business perspective if that’s my business and I’m an institution that does that.

You know what’s not boring- and I’m going to steal it from Marcus Sheridan who’s a great content marketer – what’s not boring is making money. So if you can create content that is informational, educational and it converts people to become your customers, I’m sorry, but that’s not boring, that’s pretty cool. It’s more of a perception issue.

You think your topic is boring, but there are certain people that are searching for it that will resonate with it. And they will feel more inclined to give you business because you provided the answer that they were looking for. I’d get rid of the idea of boring. Yes, there’s stuff that’s a little more scientific but what you can do there is really focus on your tone, your voice to make sure it comes across not boring and makes sense to people in a good way. I hope it helps.

Jeff Bell: Of course it does! But say there’s an ecommerce site, an online shop without a blog page and fascinating content. Can it still use content marketing and how?
Quinn Whissen: So there’s two parts to that I think. Yes, they can use content marketing and I’ll get to it in a second but more importantly they can use content within their product pages. So content marketing is more about creating the content that is useful to people, maybe peripheral to the actual product.

But product pages are actually source of gold for content creators. Zappos does this really well or even Amazon. I like using Zappos as an example. I bought my backpack from them. And why I did was because they had a great content page. They showed my backpack and had multiple views on photos so that had image content but then they had video content of a real person that worked at Zappos modeling the backpack, turning around so I got the idea of what the size was on that product and than they had user-generated content so you can upload an Instagram with that product if you had it, they had reviews, they had product specs and it was a robust content kind of resource page for that product.

A lot of ecommerce sites often times get a description from the manufacturer and they just put it on their pages. But that’s duplicated from any other ecommerce site. That has that same product. So look at your product pages as a place to create unique content and to really sell the product. Not the product itself but experience of owning that product. So that’s the first part.

So in terms of second, content marketing part. It comes to mind there’s this green, clean companies, kind of safe, sustainable sprays for your kitchen tables or whatever and they sell these online. You have to think about who’s coming there to buy? Who’s that demographic, who’s this person?

Often times it would be me cause I don’t like the chemical cleaners, so what content I or you or whoever would be interested in coming to that site? Like 10 steps to creating a clean, green, sustainable home. There are a lot of ways to draw people in not through your products but through a product that they might find interesting in the periphery.

Jeff Bell: How to see who you’re creating content for? What are the ways to imagine who you’re writing for in order to create most applicable content?
Quinn Whissen: You want to start with creating a content persona. A mini profile of someone that talks about their demographics. How old are they, their gender, maybe there’s geographic location to them like they’re in the Midwest or something. And then think what’s their digital comfort level. Are they comfortable online? Do they use lots of research tools to find what they’re looking for or maybe they’re an older person who only gets their news through print newspaper.

Sketch out the idea of this person, who they are and how would they end up on your website. So focus on content persona and you can have multiple. I was in a meeting with a client this week and they said they mainly had this one type of audience, and I said well, what about these X, Y and Z that are completely separate. You want to make one for each of them.

So that when you are creating content you understood who are you talking to. How to adjust my messaging and tell the story that they will resonate with. And that will guide your strategy and all your content creation from there.

Jeff Bell: In 2016 do you think it is enough for small business owner to use social networks to represent their business online or is website a must? Or should you go with an app, cause there’s this website-app rivalry now.
Quinn Whissen: I think we should throw away the rivalry. And it’s not enough to be on social media. Cause social media is not something you own. Like when you build up your Facebook and build up your Instagram you’re not building up a platform that you own. They can change their algorithm which happens weekly almost with Facebook and Instagram and that can change your whole business.

I would try to frame social media as a promotional or distribution tool. It shouldn’t be your home base, you should always have your own domain, your own website, your own content but then use Facebook, use Instagram, use LinkedIn, Snapchat or whatever as a way to promote your business, promote your content – whatever it is you’re promoting and also distribute your content as well.

Everyone loves social media but in the end of the day it’s really a tool. Like Facebook or Instagram they are public companies now, they have to report to their investors that they’re making a profit. That means they are changing things all the time. To get angry that they are changing things and you’re not going to show up as high as you used to on their newsfeed is kind of a moot point cause it was never your platform to begin with. So yes, definitely always have your own property online.

Jeff Bell: Okay, but for example can a great Facebook post be considered content? Or should you only blog on your site and post links?
Quinn Whissen: I would say both. I wouldn’t say you need to do either or completely, but for example Linkedin has a great publishing platform, often times we’ll publish something on our blog and have it live there. But other time we say okay, we’ll have this one live on Linkedin.

So we do both and you don’t necessarily need to only do one. You definitely need to be focusing on your own platform but even Facebook is releasing this thing called instant articles which will pull your RSS feed and have the article kind of live in the Facebook design and everything. So don’t put all the effort in just one.

But more often than not if you have content on your own website and you link it on Facebook it becomes a social promotion tool whereas if it’s living there, hopefully you always include a link back to your website as well.

Jeff Bell: How do you measure the results of each content marketing effort? For beginners, how to measure how many people came from your Facebook post, what are the tools besides Google Analytics.
Quinn Whissen: There’s so many tools but for beginners, I would start off with the native reporting tools within social media platforms like Facebook Insights. And that really gives you a good idea of what is resonating with people, what are they engaging with, what do they like, what spurs conversation vs just spurs clicks.

So start just looking within the native tools. And if you have an email program, and if you don’t you should set it up – I like MailChimp quite a bit, it integrates nicely with WordPress – you can start seeing more engagement there as well. And of course Google Analytics is great.

If you further advanced, we use HubSpot which is a marketing automation tool so we can track all of our visitors and see what pages they view, what forms they filled out. But if you just started out use Google Analytics, use the native reporting within social media and if you have some social media moderation tools like Hootsuite or Buffer may give you some good insights as well.

Jeff Bell: If you’re not a part of content marketing community, is it possible to promote and distribute your content for free and what are the ways? What are the ways of paid promotion with tiny budget that bring results in your experience?
Quinn Whissen: That was a loaded question, let me see. So can you if you’re not in a content marketing industry at all use some of the principles to accelerate your business. Absolutely, I see it every day all day. I’ve seen yoga teachers that just have a small studio use content about different healthy foods, stretches that they can use.

And really to answer the question more simply you need to be helpful. How can you be helpful, how can you create a system of providing useful information that then draws people in so you create an audience and a network.

The second part I think was about free tools. Social media obviously is a great place to start. If you start connecting and networking with people on Twitter and find people within your niche. If we’re using this yoga example if you’re going to find local yoga teachers or studios or even within your country – start creating connections with those people. You’ll have a network of influencers quickly.

For example i have an organization that I probably put $5-10 behind my Facebook post and instead of it reaching 400 people, it’ll boost until like 4000 and then if it gets some momentum organically or even through paid promotion it can be shared a lot and more eyes can see it.

You don’t have to have thousands of dollars to promote your content but i do recommend if you have a few bucks here and there and some really good content, put some money behind it. Because it’ll help you gain the momentum that you need. Did I get it all?

Jeff Bell: Yeah! I also wanted to ask another one to make it more specific. How do you go viral? If you have like 50 Twitter followers, how do you make your awesome content you created visible. Are there free ways?
Quinn Whissen: We at Vertical Measures are totally against the idea of creating content to go viral because from studies we’ve done and studies we’ve seen it’s not something you can do intentionally make happen most of the time. And people that have made it happen usually have quite a bit of money behind them to get the advertising going for them.

So instead of trying to go viral, if I’m using a baseball methodology, I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt. Great movie. He was the owner of Oakland A’s in early 2000’s and he decided to change the whole philosophy. He said like I don’t care if you get runs, just get bases. Because statistics says that one of four times that you’re at bat you get on base, that’s 25% of the time you get on base.

I think it’s 1/36 is a home run so the odds are lower and I think one in 1700 bats is a grand slam which is when you get all of them in and that’s what we consider a viral hit. It’s very rare, it doesn’t happen for small business owners for entrepreneurs, who a just starting out, just focus on getting on base. And that really is coming up with content ideas, hundreds of them in a spreadsheet based on questions that you’re getting asked and starting to create that content on a regular basis.

Jeff Bell: What’s the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing? Should small biz/startup do both?
Quinn Whissen: That’s a tough one cause inbound is kind of the greater philosophy and the reason it’s there is because of outbound, sales philosophy which was prevalent for a long time when you pick up the phone you make cold calls and you try to make sales with people you don’t have any relationship with. Inbound is when instead of doing outbound calling and all of that is you attract people and draw people in.

It’s kind of a pull approach vs outbound push approach. It’s the idea of bringing people in through attracting them. Content marketing can be interchanged with inbound marketing. Content marketing is more of a specific strategy within inbound.because it’s creating content that people are looking for, pulling them in, giving them useful information and create a relationship based on that. I think it’s fine to use them interchangeably but inbound is kind of larger philosophy and content kind of fits within that.

Jeff Bell: How do you see content marketing development and where is it going in 2016?
Quinn Whissen: It is changing, the fact that we’re having this webinar right now for small business owners for entrepreneurs. I think a lot of larger businesses adopted it first and now people are seeing the benefits of being an educational resource online and creating a network and a community online. It’s going to be adopted more and more in 2016 and beyond.

But I also feel like moving forward with content marketing we have to start from the beginning. Which is the foundation elements. I can’t tell you how many times a worked with large corporations to small ones where they might not even have an email system set up, might not have presence on social media, might not even be able to optimize their content for SEO best practices.

I think a lot of moving forward is going back to basics. Making sure that you have all of those building blocks set up. Because not optimizing your site properly means that your content can’t be found in the search engines. So all the work that you did, well you won’t be found anyway. So going back to basics, seeing more widely adopted uses of content marketing in the future is what we’re going to see in 2016.

Jeff Bell: You mentioned SEO. How to integrate it easily? How to make it look natural, and not like your text is a swamp of keywords. And what are the resources that a small business owner can learn it from?
Quinn Whissen: There are some really easy things that you want to do with every post. To back up first, I need to explain that Google and Bing, and Yahoo they’re so smart that they’re predicting what people are looking for. So when you type something in it automatically predicts what you’re thinking, what you’re looking for based on what other people have already searched.

So you have to remember that Google is getting better and better in indexing content. And they have raised the bar on content. If you’re stuffing keywords, if you’re trying to manipulate the search engine results it’s just not going to work.

So the best way to focus on optimization is to do your research on the topic and then write naturally, create content naturally, use different forms of the word if you’re going to talk about content marketing, we’re not going to use content marketing 20000 times within a blog post. We’re going to talk about content strategy, inbound marketing, naturally use the language. So that’s the greater philosophy.

But if you’re creating a blogpost and you want to get it out, what are some things you could do. Simple make sure that you’re using heading tags. So literally putting 1 H1 on every page, multiple H2 and H3 depending on priority.

You can do that in WordPress. It’s easy, you highlight it, pull down the dropdown. And that tells Google what the priority of that content is. But then it also creates kind of visual differentiation within the blog post. So when I come to see your blog post it doesn’t just look like a wall of text it actually has visual breakups.

Always optimize your images, change your file names if it’s from the camera, use your alt text. So if it’s a picture of a WordPress template your alt says “WordPress template”. Make sure it’s not a huge file – page load speed is important.

There’s a bunch of different things, but it comes down to links, headings, meta description which is what Google sees and also image optimization. And other format content optimization.If you spend two hours on a piece of content SEO should probably take you 15 minutes.

And once you start creating content this way when you’re writing it or when you’re doing whatever you’re always optimizing it as you’re writing. And when you take it to your CMS it’s ready to go. So it comes down to best practices, understanding what you need to do every time and it shouldn’t take that much time, but it’s so important.

Jeff Bell: Can you share one story of a great success, where content marketing worked 100% as it should have?
Quinn Whissen: I guess I can use Vertical Measures as an example. We live by content marketing here, that’s how we grown our own business – we do content marketing for our clients. There was this one campaign. E launched it at the end of last year.

One of our content creators created a great checklist of how to put together a content strategy, what I said before – personas, goals, all of that type of stuff. So she had this great blog post and I said it was going to be a great download. We designed it, put it into a ten page very simple pdf, created a landing page where people had to exchange their personal information to get the download. We generated, I think over a thousand leads now just from the strategy template and some of them have also converted to customers.

Once they download they get on a leaner choir system, email system where we give them some more resources, we stay in touch, we see if they need help and a few of them have converted. So that’s one example. I could do a lot of them but that’s a simple example of a very useful resource that we knew people needed, because of us talking to our customers, we knew they needed the template, they needed the checklist.

We created content, we generated leads, we promoted the hell out of it on Facebook and Linkedin etc, we did a press release and then we ended up converting some of them into customers. So that’s one of examples of how the process can work.

Jeff Bell: What in your opinion is a perfect email campaign, with long and interesting story or with short and sweet info?
Quinn Whissen: Short and sweet is always good for emails. Email attention span is pretty short, but I think emails are one of the most powerful parts of content marketing or digital marketing in general. It’s very powerful to have something come into someone’s inbox, especially as it’s well-targeted.

My rule of thumb with any email that I create is short and sweet. I usually use a few bullets to call out main points, imagery and usually it’s just a path to get to something else. Kind of like we’re doing webinar tomorrow, we sent out two promotional emails.

Short and sweet: here’s what you’re going to learn, it’s going to be this, this and this, here’s an image – register. It’s all about conversion, it’s all about providing good information in essence. Like we do a monthly newsletter which is an update on what’s going on, anything we think our audience might find useful.

But then we also have a blog, we have a subscription and that goes out to everyone. It would be kind of an excerpt of the blog and they can click to come to our website. So emails should be short and sweet and look for different formats that you can do that you have time and resources for. But newsletters are the best place to start for a small businesses.

Jeff Bell: So, to be honest you do everything for people to buy your stuff, to turn efforts into conversion, into sales, to turn them into customers. How long should you build relationship with your tribe to pitch something and make it feel natural. Yes, you’ve created a great piece of content but how can your proposal be natural.
Quinn Whissen: It depends on how long your sales cycle is. If it’s just a product purchase maybe 30 days cycle. You give them some good content, you follow up quickly within a couple days, you follow up more, you keep consistent communication open. Whereas with a B2B organization it might be longer, it might be something where you nurture the relationship over time. Especially with larger items that cost more.

You just have to adjust depending on the sales cycle and the scale of what you’re selling. First and foremost be useful and figure out what that connection is between marketing and sales. You don’t want to start selling them before they feel they have any relationship with you. So think of all of those dynamics before asking for the sale.

Jeff Bell: What are the UX hacks crease conversion on landing pages? Where to put the button, how to make people click on it, how to make them give you their email.
Quinn Whissen: I’d say test everything. I made so many guesses. And most of the time they are not what ends up being the most successful. So test every aspect of it, you know, the background color, the title, how many things you ask. If you’re only giving away a one page spreadsheet and you’re asking for their address and all the stuff is that really worth it. So match the value of what you asking with the value of what you’re giving.

And test everything, see what works and what doesn’t. And always have a great description that highlights what they are getting if you are trying to get personal information. And lastly like you mention having some kind of trust symbol. Like a testimonial to whatever they’re downloading or giving information for or subscribing to. Other things like that that would tell them that this is someone I’m comfortable giving my information to.

Jeff Bell: I’ve read you traveled through Europe, do you think marketing for Europe and US is different?
Quinn Whissen: I haven’t worked in marketing in Europe but I feel like the principles we’re discussing today are really human principles. So more and more marketing is going to go forward to being useful and helpful more than anything else. And that would apply across languages and borders.
Jeff Bell: What are the most common marketing mistakes startupers make?
Quinn Whissen: I think it’s not setting the priority before they start. Cause it takes a lot of work, a lot of resources, but you can put a priority to set two hours a week for it or whatever you can do. And make sure it’s not something you can become overwhelmed with and give up. It’s not a 30 days ROI,you need to commit for a long time. One that we see a lot it taking way too much time to create content. There is no such thing as perfect content.

The best content that is done is the one that’s published. Don’t spend three weeks trying to make this content perfect because it’s not going to be printed, it’s digital format that can be changed any time. So stop trying to be perfect and just focus on making progress. And lastly the optimization things I mentioned before. If you spend two hours writing, spend ten minutes optimizing it otherwise you’re not going to be found. So priorities, perfection and optimization.

Jeff Bell: In one of your interviews you said that there is no lack of time, but rather lack of priorities. What would you say are top priorities for a startup in the first year-year and a half?
Quinn Whissen: Yeah, that’s kind of the snarky answer I said, why people are so challenged. You will make time if something is your priority. It doesn’t have to be content marketing. Maybe you start small, building up your email list, but how are you doing that, how are you getting emails? You have to be providing something in return. So for a startup, go with a big picture.

What problem are we trying to solve? How do we help whoever we’re trying to get hiring us, buying our product. What can we help them with? That will guide all of your actions. Maybe it’ll start off with one blog a month, something really easy. Something helpful, informational and that’s how you get your email list. So thinking of the steps. Don’t just think of the end goal but think of the intention that’s motivating it and actual steps that you need to take in the meantime.

Jeff Bell: What’s the easiest way to put yourself online with a website? Which platform to use?
Quinn Whissen: The easiest would be sitebuilders like WIX or Squarespace, absolutely, where templates are built for you, you don’t have to do tons of customization. All you need to do is to have branding and some content. So that’s where you start.

Get something up, get your domain name, get your hosting, setup your email and get your website started. If you’re ready to take it further, I would get a custom website cause you have a little bit more control over your customization.

Jeff Bell: Well, yes in terms of independence you were talking about site builders are not so good, cause your website can be erased any moment. But if you go with a self-hosted website, should oyu hire team of developers, use a template.
Quinn Whissen: I actually do some freelance work and I always tell my people to go with the template. Cause templates now, and you know it in TemplateMonster, are so robust and so comprehensive in what they’ve done with how templates are built. There’s only very specific situations where you need a custom website.

And usually it’s a larger brand, they are a content published, but for us, small business owners, entrepreneurs..get a template and get someone to customize it to the point where it feels like your own. I do that a lot with my design projects. I work with a very robust template and make sure the branding, colors, the content is all very customized.

But it’s all within existing template structure. I don’t think you need to hire a team of developers. You can actually find one person who can customize the template and help get your content strategy figured out.

Jeff Bell: How long would it take say a hobby-blogger mom to learn to install and run a website on their own?
Quinn Whissen: It might take longer but there’s so many resources now where you can have people help you with certain aspects. Even hosting companies can install WordPress for you for like an extra $20. As far as learning it goes, for me the best way to learn WordPress was to play around in it. Once you get it installed, watch some video tutorials.

There’s plenty of resources online. Figure out the tool first and foremost. Because once you know the tool you know how to get creative with it. I don’t think it would take this a couple months of tinkering and playing around and that would give you the basics. As you’re setting up your site you’re learning WordPress which is pretty cool.

Jeff Bell: Can you share your web design way? And was it much easier to create a nicely designer website now than it was 10 years ago?
Quinn Whissen: It’s a lot easier now because of how robust templates have become. Before there were very limited options with the templates you could pick. A lot of the websites kind of looked the same and it was just really hard to customize. Even two years ago. I have clients coming to me and I say that we should use this other template.

You can do anything you want to do now. I think as the WordPress community evolved and template community evolved it really changed web design. It’s more accessible to people and they can be more a part of the design process. Whereas before you’d hire this agency and they’d go off and would do it.

And now it’s flexible, you can change it. You can say, oh, I want this here and it’s not going to take you a thousand dollars and ten weeks to get it done. I think it’s changed and of course the customization of templates is I start with a mockup in photoshop. Like here’s how I want to layout my content. It’s the biggest thing – what do you want someone to do when they come to your homepage. You have two different navigation tads, do they go here or here? And you have connection built with imagery and everything. And I build a site skeleton which would just be the layout with no content or anything and then I start to flash it up with the actual content and everything. And I want to differentiate, content for your website is different from the content marketing. Content is how you move people through your site whereas content marketing is how you bring people to your site.

Jeff Bell: What are the skills that you need to have in order to run your webstite thouhg? And where to learn them?
Quinn Whissen: There’s lot’s of resources. Like WP beginners, tutorial websites. Skills: content writing. Talking about your business in a written form. Is actually a really big skill. Understanding the tool and the basics of SEO. WordPress makes it really easy to work with like H2 and H3 which are headings and we all know what they look like cause they are different fonts.

So all you need to do is highlight it and pull it down. And understand why you’re doing that. I would look up like SEO basics, 101. We actually have series on our website, it’s SEO 101 and 202. So content writing, SEO and just using the WordPress tool. If you’re using WordPress.

Jeff Bell: Is WordPress the go to choice always? Or for some businesses Joomla or Drupal maybe better?
Quinn Whissen: Exactly. All the business I worked with are on WordPress, but in some cases when you have a large database and stuff like that you can use Joomla or Drupal. Or you can use something completely simple like a Squarespace, WIX. It really depends on the type of your website.
Jeff Bell: That’s all the questions I have, but we have the question from the audience.
Jay Ann Marie: I’m struggling to build a blog and find my desired niche. Is there a magic formula to get me started.
Quinn Whissen: No, there isn’t a magic formula, but I want to be helpful. I think the best way to get more momentum with your blog is to have an idea bank of topics. So when you sit down every week or whatever to write you don’t have to stare at the white screen.

You know that this week you’re writing on this topic. By Wednesday it’s going to be in my CMS. And by Thursday it’s going to be published. That’s often the biggest struggle for content creators: what should I write on? And again. Think about what questions are you getting asked? Put them in a spreadsheet, put them in a calendar so you know and you’re holding yourself accountable to following these certain topics on these days.

Regarding the niche too. I think that’s something she’d have to come up with and figure out. What does she feel comfortable with, what is her messaging, what business is she trying to build it it’s a business and go from there. Hope that helps.

Jeff Bell: Can you wish something to our and your viewers as a farewell?
Quinn Whissen: Thank you to everyone who came. I really appreciate it. I hope you can get started with content marketing and put together the whole process. First you need to think how can you help your audience and your perspective customers solve a need, solve a problem and everything else will come after that but first answer this question: how can you help solve a problem with your content?
Jeff Bell: It was Quinn Whissen! Head of marketing at Vertical Measures Thanks for being with us so much! It was great!
Quinn Whissen: Thanks you so much, Jeff, I appreciate you asking me to be here.
Jeff Bell: My Pleasure! It was Startup Hub, free educational project by TemplateMonster. We look forward to seeing you in our future events. See you!
Quinn Whissen: Have a good one!

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