AgoraPulse Live Show: A Recap of My Guest Talk for #SocialPulseWeekly on How to Survive in Today’s Pandemic & More

Just a few months after celebrating the 9th anniversary of Express Writers, two weeks ago I had a wonderful opportunity to be a special guest on AgoraPulse Social Pulse Weekly, hosted by the lovely Jennifer Watson.

It was such a great talk! 🔥 And very relevant to our times, with a keep-it-real chat about business during the pandemic.

Jennifer did her homework ahead of time, and came with an incredible list of questions, including:

  • Tell us about your nine years running Express Writers and how you got to be where you are today!
  • How has your business pivoted during Covid-19, and what have customers come to you most for?
  • What are your top takeaways regarding building a brand that lasts despite the pandemic?
  • Share your P.A.S.T.O.R. formula with us and how you write high-converting content!
  • What’s the difference between effective content marketing vs. content strategy and your recipe for success?
  • What are your top productivity tools?
  • Tell us about your new book, Skip the Degree, Save the Tuition: Your A-Z Pathway to Teach Yourself a Money-Making Online Skillset!

We had plenty of time to share some personal stories and valuable insights about creating brilliant content.

Here’s a recap of the event. Enjoy!

AgoraPulse recap

AgoraPulse Live Show: A Recap of My Guest Talk for #SocialPulseWeekly (Video)

Skip to the 10 minute mark to see & hear me appear live! 

First: Replacing College + Potential Career I Didn’t Like with a Self-Built Career I Love

Of course, we had to start with how it all began.

I started out in college trying to earn a degree I didn’t like. But one morning, I asked myself:

What do I love doing? How can I make a career out of it?

So I decided to pursue what I loved doing! That’s how my entrepreneurship road started.

That’s what I did with Express Writers, and I’m proud of it.

But it hasn’t been a cakewalk keeping our heads up during the Covid-19 crisis. We’ve had a dip of more than 30% in our income during the lockdown, but thankfully, we’ve still managed to stay on top of our game.

We’re also taking in new clients at the moment. Find out how to get the best content marketing copy from my expert writers.

But, there are other positive things, too. The traffic on my website increased because people are seeking my guidance and want to learn what I know. Digital skillsets are hotter than ever — and those who teach them, seriously in demand! 🔥 My Academy went up 3x in activity and course seats sold over the lockdown.

Remote work is hotter than ever. For example, the “work from home” keyword spiked from around 300k searches per month to almost 2 million searches!

searches for work from home increased during the pandemic

Incredible, isn’t it?

People’s working styles and preferences are changing, and that isn’t the only massive change with the Covid-19 crisis.

Over the pandemic, the keyword work from home spiked from around 300k searches per month to almost 2 million searches/month. More about business during pandemic times: @JuliaEMcCoy via @agorapulse #SocialPulseWeekly show Click To Tweet

How to Build a Brand That Can Survive Anything (Including a Pandemic)

Although this topic had been on my mind for a long time, I finally published it during the lockdown.

It’s about how you can build a brand organically and survive all the ups and downs you may encounter. The main message is thinking long-term is always worth it in the end. Sure, sometimes you need to focus on things you’re doing today or tomorrow. But it’s crucial to plan ahead and think long-term as much as possible.

On the AgoraPulse show, I recapped the five key points from this blog:

1. Get Down to Work.

Yes, this may sound silly because it’s so simple – but it’s the first thing you have to do.

Sit down and do the hard work.

Because this is the part of the success that other people often don’t see. They only see who you are now. But you know how much hard work was necessary to get here.

And keep working even if you don’t see results right away. Some business ideas or endeavors, like writing a book, may take a few years before they bring you money. Think long-term.

2. Be Consistent.

No matter what your industry is, make sure you show up.

Be there for your audience and your customers. Work on brand new, high-value content every day and keep putting it out.

Post on your social media accounts. Create videos and podcasts. Write blogs. Hold live interviews.

Your audience will appreciate the commitment!

Show up. Be there for your audience and your customers. Work on brand new, high-value content every day and keep putting it out. @JuliaEMcCoy via @agorapulse #SocialPulseWeekly Click To Tweet

3. Put Your Customers First.

Did you know that 73% of potential buyers will walk away if they’re not happy with the first interaction they have with you?

It’s true! So no matter what you do, you need to have your customers and clients in mind.

So, greet your customers. Chat with them. They’re humans! They want to know there’s a human behind your brand as well.

4. Make Integrity Your Core Value.

I love the word integrity. For me, it means you’re honest and transparent with your customers.

When something goes wrong, remember that honesty always wins.

People will appreciate you telling the truth. They’ll know they can trust you and your brand.

5. Keep Your Promises.

It’s critical to do what you say you’ll do.

Keeping your promises is what helps you keep your reputation. And we all know reputation means a lot for brands.

So if you’ve promised something, make sure you deliver.

SocialPulseWeekly interview

Breaking Down the P.A.S.T.O.R. Formula

I learned this formula from Ray Edwards, the author of How to Write Copy that Sells.

And it’s one of those that always work, especially if you’re writing a landing page.

So, here’s what it stands for:

P – Person, problem, or pain

A – Amplify

S – Story or solution

T – Transformation and testimony

O – Offer

R – Response

So, when you start writing, you address your target audience and the problem or pain bothering them.

Then, it’s time to amplify the pain point – make your readers relate!

Next, tell a great story that will lead them to a solution. Make sure you tell your real story – show your audience who you really are.

Then, talk about the results your readers will achieve if they buy your product or service. Describe the transformation they’ll see and add a testimony that’ll prove it.

After proving your point, you’re selling the product or service – you’re offering it to the reader. And don’t be afraid to do it! Tell them how they can achieve the same result from your story.

In the end, ask them if they’re ready to do it. It’s good to end with a question because it’ll drive action from the reader.

What’s in a Good Content Strategy?

Valuable content is vital for a successful marketing strategy.

When you’re putting together a campaign, everything revolves around your content. What are you going to put out for your audience?

And the strategy is all the planning related to that content – how and when you’re going to present it.

That’s why SEO is so essential.

You can’t just create remarkable content – you need to optimize it for your readers to find it!

What you need to do is:

1. Find the right keyword

2. Create content around that keyword

3. Optimize that keyword and

4. Offer value, so you outperform the competition.

You can download my free actionable cheat sheet to learn more about SEO keyword usage.

Get the Profitable Content Marketer Skills Cheat Sheet

My Favorite Tools That Make You More Productive

When you work from home, you have the freedom to optimize your home office, which is awesome!

In this interview, I talked about a couple of things that can help you set up an ergonomic home office and increase your productivity.

After a tricep strain I had last year, I decided to make some changes. The flat keyboard was causing me wrist pain, so I did extensive research on what could work better. After all, mega-typers like me need more hand and arm support!

Finally, I invested in an ergonomic keyboard and a vertical mouse. It may sound weird until you try it – it actually works and the pain is now gone!

ergonomic keyboard

The keyboard I use is made for Apple computers. The mouse is connected via Bluetooth, which makes it super convenient and easy to set up.

ergonomic mouse

New Book Coming 2021: Skip the Degree, Save the Tuition

During the interview, I also had a chance to recap my new book, called Skip the Degree, Save the Tuition.

Do you think it’s possible to build a career based on your skills, escaping the college debt?

Well, I’ve got good news! It is.

And not only is it possible, but it also might be the simplest way to earn an income online.

Investing in a profitable skill may lead to success faster than traditional higher education. This way, you can enter the market without wasting your money and time.

You can start by identifying a problem troubling your target market. Is it a problem you’d enjoy solving? That may be your chance to make money in the digital era.

Skip the Degree, Save the Tuition book cover

I don’t want to encourage my daughter to learn methods that may not be relevant in the world where she’s growing up. I want her to know her options and be able to mobilize her skillset when needed.

Do you also want to be a life-long learner and acquire relevant skills that can help you make money online?

Then this book will definitely be an enjoyable read for you.

Be Afraid… But Do It Anyway!

As you can see, there are a lot of useful tips about content creation I shared in this interview!

But one of the main messages I wanted to get across is that if you’re going to do what you love, you should start today.

Are you afraid? Well, that’s completely normal! And it shouldn’t stop you from doing it anyway.

Now is the time to get to work. You won’t accomplish anything if you don’t try.

I was afraid once, but I took that leap of faith.

As one of my watchers said – if you’re not going to cheer for yourself, why would others do it?

Get custom content

nine year anniversary express writers

Thank You for 9 Years in Business! Celebrating 19,900 Projects Completed

It’s hard to believe that this May marks nine years in business for my team at Express Writers.

We’re very fortunate, if you consider the scary statistics surrounding business tenure. 20% of new businesses fail in their first two years, 45% fail in the first five years, and a whopping 65% don’t make it in the first ten years (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Here’s the thing, though. Our ‘fortune’ didn’t just accidentally happen.

Back in May of 2011, when we began, it was with every chance of failure. Literally — 100% chance of failing. I was a college dropout with a dream to write for a living and build my own business. I had $75 cash to my name in the bank, and I was searching for a route to create a business out of my passion. (Pssst… I’m writing a book due out 2021 on this topic! Get on the waitlist here.)

All my life, I loved to write. It was an obsession — an addiction.

At 19 years old, while I was still in college, I decided to look up “how to write for a living” one morning. That same day, I discovered a booming if not premature market of “freelance writing,” and I signed up immediately for a freelance profile on oDesk (now Upwork). I worked hard every day following to learn this trade and take on paying freelance writing gigs, inspired to get up at 4 a.m. and work my butt off simply because of the sheer fact that I was following my passion.

It was a literal, simple inspiration-struck-and-I-took-action sequence. Three months later, I had more work than I could handle or keep up with, and I created a business within five minutes — Express Writers. Truth be told, I did not think it would last the year.

Here we are, nine years later, celebrating our #19,900th project (a number that grows daily). We published our first-ever income report last year, which highlights how we serve 50-60 clients each month with custom content writing services.

We have a team of almost ninety rock stars — a full-time Content Manager, an editorial staff, writers in expert niches, writers trained to write for almost every format. We serve clients around the globe.

It’s incredible that we made it to nine years. And I have many of you to thank, reading this post. We wouldn’t be here without your support. So, thank you. 🙏🏻

To celebrate, I sat down and wrote some reflections for you. Here you go — my nine lessons from nine years in business, and nearing the 20,000 projects completed mark.

If you've been a part of @expwriters at all -- reader, subscriber, client, student, team member... I can't thank you enough. Without you we wouldn't be celebrating 9 years today. ❤️ Read my 9 lessons in 9 years: Click To Tweet

celebrating nine lessons nine year anniversary express writers 2020

9 Lessons From 9 Years of Business and 19,900+ Projects

That headline is all made up of nines—how crazy is that?! That was a complete accident, but not a bad way for the data to line up on our celebratory post.

Let’s get into my nine reflections.

nine lessons nine year anniversary express writers

1. One core marketing commitment, centered around your clients/audience (not you), is all you need to earn clients.

If I could tell my younger self one phrase, it would be this. Keep going, you have everything you need to earn clients consistently simply because of your core commitment.

I had no idea just how much the simple marketing commitment I made at the beginning would be worth it to our success throughout the years.

Back in 2011, I committed to one goal — growing our business through what we sold. Essentially, existing as the proof of our own pudding. And that’s why we’ve maintained a marketing presence explicitly based on content. Our Write Blog has brought in the majority of our clients. For nine years, I’ve written a blog every week. For nine years, I’ve sent at least two emails every week. With help from my own team at Express Writers, consistency in weekly onsite content has been a practice we’ve never dropped.

And today, our site earns over 100,000 visitors each month; we have over 1,300 published blogs; and our site ranks on Alexa as the #25,700th most popular website in the world. Not to mention, we rank for over 19,000 keywords indexed in Google, the cost of which would be over $200,000 in an ad campaign!

Express Writers 2020 traffic

Decide on one core marketing medium and stick to it. Become the best at what you do. Create the most in-depth content on that topic. This is how you succeed at serving your audience so well, they want to become your clients.

 

 

2. Every chance of failure is a great opportunity for success.

As I look back today on the beginning, I know that the simple realization I had back then — I have every chance of failure here — was a great launchpad for everything I’ve been able to do since.

Just being aware that you will, might, or can fail, and then getting ready to shrug it off and pick yourself back up, is a surefire way to succeed in business.

As I look back today on the beginning, I know that the simple realization I had back then -'I have every chance of failure here' - was a great launchpad for everything I’ve been able to do since. 💪 via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

3. Never give up.

As stereotypical and over-quoted as this sounds, it’s the truth. Time and time again we’ve hit what feels like “the end of the world” — unexpected roadblocks, hiring and firing, growing pains. But we’ve never given up. As simple as that sounds, it’s the way to success.

4. It’s okay to feel like everything’s broken sometimes.

Each time you hit a slump or a roadblock, it will truly feel like the end of the world. You can’t simply ignore that feeling, if you’re as invested in running a great business as I am with Express Writers. When you build your trust on your name, your business name, that means you will be extremely subjective about your business. When someone hurts you, you will feel hurt. When someone undercuts you, or fails on your expectations, you will be upset. And that’s okay. I’ve had others chide me for this, but I believe that if you care, you will feel. You cannot turn those feelings off. Which leads me to my next point.

5. Have at least two mentors you can count on for foundational advice.

Anytime I felt like something was going severely wrong in my business, it was important to me to pick up the phone and call someone who was, simply put, wise. You don’t need a business mentor who’s raised seven figures three times. You don’t need a guru that’s been through five exits each worth a million plus dollars. You simply need someone who will speak wisdom into your particular circumstance.

For example, one of my favorite mentors owns a cleaning company. He knows and speaks business finances with sense, tells it plainly, and gives what I would describe as grounding advice. Another mentor is a spiritual counselor from my church who is in his late 60s. He looks at challenges with such wisdom, and his advice reminds me of predictions, they are so true.

Find that person that will speak truth into your circumstances when they go downhill. (And maybe add them on speed dial.)

6. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

There are far too many marketers, gurus, and founders out there that make incredibly high-reaching promises to their audience and clientele.

“I promise you the world for $xx.”

I sometimes expect too much of you - GIF

We’ve always been real about what we can and can’t do. Sometimes we’ll even tell a client “no” if they want amazing content delivered in 24 hours (it just isn’t possible). Keeping our word and sticking to a clear process and protocol has always been paramount to us, and it’s served us — and our clients — well.

7. Never stop learning and growing.

On a daily basis, my Content Manager tells me in Slack what we can improve at. It’s ridiculous how much we evolve. But if we stayed in one place for more than a week, I think we would have died out a long time ago as a business.

Our services are so custom, so unique and creative — content writing — that they must evolve to serve our clients well. We’re continually growing, adding new services, increasing our fees so we can pay writers better rates, and we’re even hard at work on a new platform for our team and clients behind-the-scenes that will launch this summer. 🎉

8. Build a team that is ready to embrace the real-life world of working together to win.

It’s not about degrees, accolades, or “expert experience” when you’re putting together a team that will serve your clients with honesty, care, integrity, and intelligence.

Not at all. Instead, it’s about looking for hungry people who have the same passion for the core of what you do (for us, that’s writing), and assembling a team who has the same goal in heart – succeeding together. We’ve stopped hiring commissioned sales reps or even salespeople, period, for this reason. We look for content and freelance-minded humans who have that natural zest and passion for good content and achieving goals, who we can shape and train to learn the various client-centric roles we have.

One of my favorite guest stars on Shark Tank is Alex Rodriguez, Major League Baseball star and successful entrepreneur. He says: “I have a PhD in failing, and a Masters in getting back up.” This is the kind of experience you need — people in your team that are ready for the real-world challenges that come with operating a successful business.

It’s not about degrees, accolades, or 'expert experience' when you’re putting together a team that will serve your clients with honesty, care, integrity, and intelligence. - @JuliaEMcCoy on lessons learned from 9 years in business 🔥 Click To Tweet

9. You never know — you might just succeed.

It’s important to start with every chance of failure and check your ego at the door. But it’s also important to celebrate when you win. Don’t stop at winning—keep progressing, growing, and improving—but take a moment to celebrate when you do succeed. And guess what? If you stick at it enough, it will happen. Kudos to you. You made it this far, and you deserve a moment to shout, “HECK YEAH.”

Celebrating Nine Years at Express Writers

I’ve learned that the minute you think, “I’m here! No further work needs to be done,” you’ll head for the Failure door. It’s imperative to wake up daily with the thought, “How can I better serve my clients?” And if you’re the boss, add to that, “How can I better serve my team? What further resources can I add to make their lives easier?”

So, that’s what we plan on doing for the next nine years and beyond.

Also, I have to end this post with a shout out.

Thanks to all of my amazing team and their hard work. None of what we do at Express Writers would be possible without you!

Here’s to amazing content. And to YOU… and your success! 🥂

– Julia

Need great content? Visit our Content Shop and get your custom order started today.

build a brand that lasts

There’s Nothing Magic About Brand-Building: How to Build a Brand That Lasts Organically Despite the Ups and Downs

Ever wonder why some brands vanish into obscurity while others enjoy viral popularity?

Or why certain brands pop into your head when you see certain colors?

Why some businesses withstand pandemics, a decade of ups and downs and make it… while others die by the wayside?

Building a brand that lasts is a process of commitment. Integrity. Hard work. (Did we mention commitment?)

Brand building is also a process that involves coalescing the mission and message of your business into a cohesive, comprehensive identity that customers recognize, trust, and get excited about.

Every time they see you appear in their inbox or flash across their news feed. 

In 2020, it’s the authentic expression of your company’s core values and mission, done in a way that connects with your customers.

When you nail it, you not only create a memorable, enduring brand but one that drives your company’s growth.

(71% of customers say it’s important to them to purchase from brands they recognize.)

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past nine years building the Express Writers brand from the ground up through a content-first approach – no magic, no gimmicks, no shortcuts.

5 Ways to Build a Brand That Lasts and Grows Organically

1. Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work!

2. Commit to Consistency

3. Put Your Customers First In Everything You Do

4. Make Integrity a Core Value

5. Keep Every Promise You Make

Trying to discern how to build a brand that lasts? It seems mystifying, yet the answer is quite simple. It’s all about brand development strategy 📋 – not luck or happenstance. 🍀 Learn more in this post by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

The 5 Keys to Building Strong Brands That Enjoy Organic Growth

There is nothing mysterious involved when it comes to marketing or building strong brands. If you’re wondering how to build a brand that lasts, you could sum it up in five quick parts: work hard, be consistent, emphasize customer service, practice integrity, and keep your promises.

It’s that simple. And that hard. Let’s dive in.

1. Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work!

If you want the harvest, you have to spend time in the dirt.

It’s a super simple concept, but you’ll be surprised at how few people understand this. Consider this:

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, only 60 percent of Americans believe that hard work is the key to getting ahead. A full 39 percent think hard work doesn’t necessarily lead to anything.

In other words, over a third of Americans are unlikely to work hard because they’re not convinced it will do any good. They can’t all be resigned to never succeeding at anything. So, might there be successful entrepreneurs in that second group?

Maybe, but the data isn’t optimistic:

Data mined from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 29 percent of business owners worked more than 50 hours per week. Some 86 percent worked on the weekends. Just 60 percent took just one vacation per year (and then three-quarters of them STILL worked).

So, roll up those sleeves and get those hands dirty. Successful freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners know that there’s no way around the hard work. Our willingness to engage in it constitutes a defining feature – we wear our 90-hour workweeks like a badge of honor.

Still, hard work is the key to success but it’s the key we frequently don’t see. A lot of people out there also don’t want you to see it.

They’d rather you buy their book, course, membership, etc., that promises to divulge some secret that makes you rich overnight – ignoring the reality that it takes between two and three years on average before a business becomes profitable.

Next time you’re marveling at some on-point branding or the truly-well targeted marketing of one of your competitors, remember that you’re looking at the harvest, not the dirt.

2. Commit to Consistency.

Hard work and consistency are linked. If you’re showing up every day to water your crops, they’re going to grow.

However, that’s not all consistency involves. A lot of research shows that consistency directly impacts your business’s organic growth whether we’re talking about branding efforts or content publishing.

According to Demand Metric, brands that present a uniform presence across all of their platforms are 3.5 times more recognizable than brands that don’t. A consistent brand increases revenue by up to 23 percent.

According to HubSpot, companies that published at least four blogs every week saw the highest levels of organic traffic.

In short: If you build it, they will come – but you have to keep building even when they’re not coming.

As you start to build your brand, commit to consistency from the ground up to give yourself a solid foundation to build. That includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Aligning your core mission, business goals, and content: You should be articulating the same message across your entire enterprise.
  • Carefully curating your voice and vibe: From your brand identity to your user interface, your customer experience should have a uniform feeling.
  • Cultivating your topic clusters: HubSpot’s 2020 Content Marketing Strategy Report identified topic clusters as the single most powerful strategy for building brand authority.
  • Crafting authoritative, valuable content: Many people believe long-form content is dead thanks to our goldfish-like attention spans, but this isn’t true at all! Long-form content (above 1,000 words) thrives if it’s useful.
  • Publishing strategic content on a schedule: Your readers and customers should know when to expect new content from you – and you must deliver.
  • Updating and revitalizing your brand presence and content to reflect your growth: Content isn’t meant to be published and forgotten about. Spend time auditing your web presence, customer experience, and content to ensure it remains consistent over time.

Do these things look familiar? They should. They’re the core of a strong content strategy, your single most potent tool for building a brand that grows over time.

Tip: Want to learn more? I dive deep into all of these content strategy cores in my comprehensive course.

3. Put Your Customers First in Everything You Do.

At the end of the day, your customers are the reason for your success. Without them, you aren’t earning!

Build into your brand strategy a commitment to treat them each like they’re the Number One Customer – because they are. Every one of them.

Customer centricity, also called a client-centric or client-focused strategy, is the idea that a company’s entire existence should revolve around delivering the best possible experience to its customers. And by everything, I mean:

  • Implementing business infrastructure (phones, software, etc.) that enhances customer service.
  • Developing a functional online presence that elevates the customer experience.
  • Publishing comprehensive content that solves customer problems or addresses common pain points.
  • Creating processes that sustain relationships with customers to deliver value even after the final sale.

Emphasizing the customer experience is a powerful branding strategy because these efforts send a clear message that you’re here to help. You’re here to deliver value, and you value your customers.

It works. According to PwC, 80 percent of Americans want fast, friendly, helpful, and convenient interactions with brands. Some 73 percent will walk away if they don’t get that – a quarter of them after the very first time.

In contrast, 42 percent of people will remain loyal to a brand that delivers the expected experience even if it costs more.

Putting the customer first consistently is hard work but it pays in dividends with loyalty and growth. Hey, seeing a pattern yet?

4. Make Integrity a Core Value

We often hear about brand authenticity – the perceived sincerity of a brand to its identity, mission, and customers – but what about integrity?

Brand integrity refers to how your customers perceive your image, products or services, and reputation. It’s whether you’re known for engaging in certain behaviors, or whether you’re known for sticking by the principles you express.

I’ll be you a pretty penny you can name a few examples off the top of your head (both positive and negative). Brand integrity is that powerful.

Companies with brand integrity send consistent messages about who they are and what they stand for. That’s critical for building trust with your customers.

However, integrity goes beyond simply how your brand conducts itself in public. It also includes what happens behind closed doors when no one is looking (or so you think).

It matters because, at some point down the road, you’re going to have some seriously. Bad. Days.

I’ve certainly had a few. From finishing off content writing at 1 am because the writer didn’t come through to dealing with embezzling managers, I’ve learned the hard way that how you respond in those moments will make or break your brand.

If you’ve cultivated a brand that emphasizes integrity, you’ll already have a leg up. In the moments when it matters most, integrity:

  • Gives you a guidepost. You’ll be better prepared to do the right thing for your employees, customers, or business.
  • Helps you articulate and maintain your standards. You’ll not only set expectations but be able to identify when you (or your team) aren’t living up to them – and you’ll know what to do about that.
  • Attracts potential team members who resonate with your brand message. At some point, you’ll need to build a team if you want to grow further. You can attract the talent you’re looking for if you make your brand’s principles and integrity a proposition. (American Express found that 68 percent of millennials are looking at them already when they decide if they want to apply to a job.)
  • Improves your transparency. If you’re doing the right thing, and you know it, it’s much easier to remain transparent and honest about what’s happening. (And Label Insight suggests that 94 percent of customers will show loyalty to you if you show transparency to them.)
  • Deepens customer trust. Customers don’t want perfection. They want honesty and the recognition of the human element behind the brand.

Doing the right thing is hard work. It might require you to make difficult decisions. Yet, if you’re known for doing the right thing consistently, then your customers will trust you and stand behind you – you’ll maintain that sterling reputation and your brand will enjoy high value as a result.

5. Keep Every Promise You Make

Your word – like your reputation – is your most valuable asset. Cultivate the habit of keeping every promise you make.

To your customers, that means things like delivering what you say you’ll deliver – meeting that deadline even if you work into the wee hours of the morning because the team member you delegated the work to didn’t keep up their part.

To your employees, that means things like paying them on time – even if your clients haven’t paid you.

Keeping your word is part of how you express integrity, but it goes much further than that. When you make following through on your promises a priority, it:

  • Keeps you from making promises you can’t keep. We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a brand failing to provide after making a promise. Distinguish yourself by never eliciting that feeling in your customers or employees.
  • Shows respect to your customers. Your customers are the reason for your success, so show them respect not only in your superior customer service but also by delivering upon your promises.
  • Emphasizes brand consistency. The trick to build a brand that lasts is to walk your talk every day – even when you don’t feel like it.

Keeping promises means you’re dedicated to not only doing the hard work it takes to build a rock-solid brand, but you’re also prepared to do so in a principled way. Even when it’s not easy or convenient.

5 keys to building a brand that grows strong like an oak tree 🌳: 1) Work hard, 2) Commit to consistency, 3) Put customers first, 4) Champion integrity, 5) Keep EVERY promise. @JuliaEMcCoy breaks it down 👏: Click To Tweet

How to Build a Brand That Lasts Through Anything

There you have it, from seed to harvest – how to build a brand that lasts through any scenario the world might throw at us, from pandemics to our cycle of recessions. There’s nothing magical or mysterious about it. You just need to be willing to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and show up every. Single. Day.

Forget overnight success. Toss out that “when I feel like it” attitude. The recipe for success is dead simple, but very, very hard.

With consistency, a healthy dose of principles, a desire to create true value for your customers and the gumption to stick with it no matter how long it takes, your brand will thrive.

At the core of your brand strategy is great content. Check out our Content Shop to discover how we help you create comprehensive, valuable content for your customers.

How to develop heartfelt content

Recap of Julia’s Live Talk: How to Step Past Your Inner Critic and Develop Heartfelt Content

This is a blog by staff writer at Express Writers, Amy Kang. You can request Amy to write your content in our custom industry expert copywriting service.

As of April 2020, there were about 4.57 billion active internet users worldwide, making up 59 percent of the global population. Now more than ever, there’s tremendous opportunity for businesses to increase their presence online and see sales and profits grow like never before.

With many businesses leaping at the chance to grow by harnessing the marketing potential of the internet, there’s a general acceptance among marketers that content will always be king. While building a strong online presence can propel businesses to greater heights, it’s not a low-hanging fruit.

The following blog post explains how to step past your inner critic and create great content that engages online visitors and keeps them yearning for more.

Step past your inner critic and develop heartfelt content

4.57 billion active internet users worldwide equals tremendous opportunity for businesses to grow their online presence, sales, and profits. The key? Heartfelt content. 🗝♥ Learn more in this recap of a live talk from @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Live Talk Recap: Creating Content That Converts: How to Step Past Your Inner Critic

Looking for ways to create content that delivers real results for your business? Check out these insightful tips from Julia McCoy’s live talk on Facebook this April 2020, called How to Step Past Your Inner Critic & Develop Heartfelt Content. This is a presentation she’s written and given for other audiences. Watch the replay here!

Get the slides to Julia’s talk here.

Creating Content That Does Matter

In this information era, content is increasing in volume as the general attention span continues to diminish. When people search the internet, they expect to get quick answers to their questions.

When writing content for a brand, you’ll need to ask them to provide you with a description of the kind of content that they’re looking for. Equipped with this information, you’ll need to come up with the appropriate topics and keywords for the content you intend to produce.

How do we get our content read?

How do you get content read? Know your audience, tap into your most authentic self (your inner creativity 🎨), and know your topics/keywords. More tips for engaging, heartfelt content: Click To Tweet

A great way to generate topics and keywords that’ll rank well on local SERPs is to type in and search potential topics and keywords that online visitors might be searching.

You don’t have to use the exact topics and keywords that top-ranking sites use, but can find inspiration to craft catchy titles and choose relevant keywords for your content. The ultimate goal must be to provide content that online users will find with minimal hassle.

Writing content that matters to online users forms a foundation for consistent ROI.

Creating Content That Engages

Informing readers is one thing, getting them engaged is a totally different thing.

Online readers don’t just want to get informed – they also want to be engaged from the very beginning. Therefore, you should endeavor to create content that captivates your readers while solving the problems they may have.

This may involve conducting a lot of research to understand the problems your target readers may have and providing workable solutions to those problems in a way that readers understand easily. Choosing the appropriate narrative perspective for your target audience is also vital to keep readers engaged. Additionally, use a professional yet friendly voice that makes your audience connect with you.

Reader engagement, or the lack of it, can make all the difference when it comes to determining how long readers remain hooked to your content.

Creating Content That Adds Value to Your Existing Content

Before creating content, ask yourself if the message you intend to convey is useful. In SEO, useful content refers to any content that brings something new to the existing body of knowledge. Your content doesn’t have to be a novel to be considered useful. You can research topics that have already been covered and introduce a new angle to them.

To create content that is TEN TIMES better than the top-ranking piece found in Google ranking for that topic, you have to follow a series of steps.

What is 10x content?

To create content that is 10x better than the top-ranking piece found in Google 💯: 1) Gain deep insight into your topic and get to the core of what people care about. 2) Present content in a unique and powerful way. 🦄 Learn more: Click To Tweet

First off, you’ll need to gain deep insight into the topic you’re going to write about. This is the only way to get to the core of what people care about. You’ll also have to be exceptional in your approach to writing the piece. If you have a witty side, for example, use it to keep your readers glued to their screens.

Another way to create valuable content is to develop powerful methods that provide online users with the answers they’re looking for. For example, you can use data and statistics to corroborate your claims and provide correct links to such sources. Make sure you use credible sources to gain the trust of your audience.

Finally, present content in a unique and powerful way that’ll grab the attention of online users. This may come down to knowing your content differentiation factor. For example, using visual aids such as quality photos and videos can help to emphasize the message you want to communicate to your audience.

Consistently Publishing Content

Posting high-quality SEO content isn’t a magic bullet that’ll get your website ranking well overnight. You have to produce a consistent stream of quality content before your efforts bear fruit. You must observe discipline and practice patience to succeed in the highly competitive world of online marketing.

Consistently publish 10x content

Posting high-quality SEO content isn’t a magic bullet that’ll get your website ranking well overnight. You have to produce a consistent stream of quality content before your efforts bear fruit. 🍒 Click To Tweet

The good news is, you can always convert existing content into multiple formats to improve its ranking. For instance, you can turn your most popular blog posts into a downloadable e-book.

Learning from Industry Leaders

Like other professions, writing SEO content requires a lot of hard work and persistence – it takes time to perfect. In this digital era, you must be willing to learn new skills to keep up with the demands of your clients.

There are lots of experienced SEO writers out there willing to help other niche players develop their skills. You can stay ahead of the curve by relying on industry gurus for tips and guidance on how to master your trade.

Learn from the best influencers in your industry

@JuliaEMcCoy recommends staying ahead of the content curve by relying on industry gurus for tips and guidance on how to master your trade 👩‍🏫. Some of her fave experts: @CMIcontent @annhandley @AmyPorterfield @marieforleo @smartbloggerhq Click To Tweet

Everyone needs help from the best to become the best at what they do.

Tap Into Your Own Creativity to Find Success

The internet is flooded with content – and online users are overwhelmed by it. For your content to rank well in Google or other search engines, it must capture the attention of online visitors and make them want to read the entire piece.

As the appetite for quality online content increases and the general attention span plummets, you must find inspiration from your inner muse. Connecting with the inner self is the only way to create content that appeals to the hearts of readers. It’s an incredible power that holds the roadmap for achieving success in today’s competitive digital landscape.

Remember, epic content converts!

Get the slides for Julia’s talk here.

Get the slides from Julia's live talk

how to work from home

How to Work from Home and Not Lose Your Sanity: 10 Tips from a Fully Remote Business (for 9 Years Running)

These are trying times for everyone.

COVID-19 is the biggest crisis we’ve faced since World War 2.

As of writing this, the number of infections has passed the one million mark.

Lockdown measures are enforced on a third of humanity.

School closures impact the education of 87% of the world’s student population.

In the business sector, there has been a sudden increase in the number of employees who work from home.

Yes, these facts are heavy-hitting. Chances are, you’ve been affected by the coronavirus crisis and are struggling to make sense of what’s going on.

Maybe your boss has ordered you to work from home.

What’s more, your kids’ school is closed and the young ones are around 24/7. They’re feeling grumpy, bored, and even act out more just from being stuck at home around the clock.

Ever felt this one? Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of the kitchen with a pile of dirty dishes to wash. The toddler is crying, and your teen is sulking in his room. It’s mid-afternoon, but you haven’t finished even a third of the work your boss assigned you.

What do you do?

Can you survive this lifestyle until lockdown ends?

What if things don’t get better soon, but worse?

If this sounds like you, take a deep breath. That’s it. In and out.

Then, start moving forward. In this blog, I’ll show you how to juggle working from home and taking care of the kids.

I’ll share the secrets I use to run five brands on a completely remote basis (for now, I’ve put two brands completely on hold to find margin and juggle it all with homeschooling now added to my to-do list).

You’ll find out:

  • How to be more productive than you ever were at the office
  • How to create the perfect workspace
  • What to do with the kids when you need to work
  • And more!

I’ve also gathered input from my team of expert writers, content strategists, and QA personnel who work entirely from home. Their suggestions and tips are gold because like all freelancers (except the superhuman ones who work passionately from dawn till dusk) they too once struggled with productivity.

So, are you ready to start turning things around?

Let’s begin!

What’s in this post:

The Top 10 Tips You Need to Work From Home without Going Insane

1. Remind Yourself it’s not the Weekend

2. Throw Your PJs in the Laundry Basket

3. Feel Free to Stretch and Look out the Window

4. Find Your Biological Prime Time

5. Send the Kids Away

6. Set Boundaries

7. Surround Yourself with Comfort and Beauty

8. Invest in Quality Tools

9. Keep Your Social Life Alive

10. Take Care of Yourself

Three Tips on How Businesses Can Help Their Teams Work from Home

1. Set Your Team Up with the Right Tools

2. Keep Communicating

3. Provide Training

Working from Home: Is it Possible to Do it without Going Insane?

These are trying times for everyone. Lockdown measures now affect 1/3 of humanity. If you're forced to work from home... now what? These 10 tips are here for you via the #WFH veterans at Express Writers ♥ Click To Tweet

how to work from home without losing your sanity

The Top 10 Tips You Need to Work Productively at Home without Going Insane

Unless you were homeschooled (I was! My life in a cult growing up meant I was homeschooled every day until 12th grade), you started following a structured lifestyle from the age of three.

Playgroup. Kindergarten. Elementary school. High school. College. Work.

Get up in the morning. Have breakfast. Go to school/work. Get home. Dinner. Homework/assignments from the boss. Watch TV. Sleep.

Yes, you groaned and complained about it (good-humoredly, of course). But the fact is human beings crave routine. It makes us feel secure. It helps us avoid the “unknown.” It satisfies us because it forces us to get things done.

So, what happens when our routine is suddenly removed? When we have to let go of our structured lives and face day after day of fluid time we don’t know what to do with?

Chaos.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to find out 10 secrets expert WFH’ers use to put their own structure on life.

How to successfully work from home

1. Remind Yourself it’s Not the Weekend

Feeling tempted not to set your alarm for Monday morning? After all, you don’t have to arrive at the office at 9am sharp.

Just do it. Just set that alarm.

“Working from home – luxurious or tedious? The answer – BOTH,” says Cassie, our team QA and content writer at Express Writers. “For someone who has never worked from home before, it can seem like a great time. However, it takes a lot of time, commitment and perseverance to get into a routine that works. Routine is the key word, because, without it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything on your list of things to-do. Start by building a schedule that fits your work and family’s needs. Then STICK TO IT! No matter what.”

work from home tips from Cassie

Working from home - luxurious or tedious? The answer - BOTH. 😅 - Cassie, QA and content writer for EW. Read more tips and lessons from our 100% remote staff 👩‍💻, now on the Write Blog. Click To Tweet

The key is to get structured.

  • Wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Make breakfast a special time for your family.
  • Set a specific schedule.
  • Don’t limit yourself to writing a To-Do list. Set a time for each item on the list.
  • Plan activities for the kids in advance. I love Khan Academy Kids and Education.com as resources for great activities that also educate.
  • Go to bed on time.

“Plan your day ahead, because you won’t have as much time available as you think,” says Lorien, our team’s client success agent based in South Africa. “Try to set a schedule for yourself during your ‘working hours’ so that you remain productive. If you spend a lot of time behind your computer, take regular breaks and get fresh air! And get up early still, because that will help you stay in a routine of sorts, and you’ll get more done if you get going as early as possible.”

Of course, leave Saturday and Sunday free to lounge as much as possible with a bag of Annie’s drool-worthy organic cheddar cheesy corn puffs (JK, I meant carrot sticks 😀).

2. Throw Your PJs in the Laundry Basket

What could be more luxurious than working in bed wearing your favorite silk PJs? Not a ton of things.

But if you want to be productive, you must dress the part.

For the last 20, 30, or 40 years, your body associated getting dressed with going to work or school. So, when you throw those PJs into the laundry and step into attractive work clothes, you’ll feel energetic and ready for the day.

Based on my personal experience, I’m not nearly as productive when I’m not dressed to go out. In fact, I even spend time doing my hair! Photo proof:

working from home selfies

Taking selfies with my books during quarantine.

“Get dressed and act as though you are going to work,” says Korilynn VanDyke, our content manager based in Utah. “While it is tempting to stay in your PJs or put on comfy sweats, getting dressed helps jolt your brain back into ‘work mode.’ That doesn’t mean you need to sit there in skinny jeans or a full out suit. I get dressed into my yoga clothes, but by at least getting out of the clothes from overnight and getting ready for the day, it wakes my brain up so I’m ready to get to work.”

work from home tips from Korilynn

#WFH tip from EW's content manager based in Utah, Korilynn ✅: Get dressed and act as though you're going to work. 💼 It's tempting to stay in PJs or comfy sweats, but getting dressed jolts your brain into work mode. Click To Tweet

3. Stop Often, Stretch, and Look out the Window (Use a Timer for Work Sprints)

Breaks are critical for keeping your sanity.

And even if you don’t go insane, you’ll end up less productive the longer you sit staring at your computer.

So, don’t forget to get up and stretch. Go eat an apple. Check up on the kids. Play with your fur baby.

I like to work in sprints. One thing that works excellently to guide those sprints are setting a productivity timer. Set your timer to 30 minutes. Once you press “start” throw 100% of your energy into your work.

When the timer reaches 30, stop what you’re doing even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Go stretch for 5-10 minutes before sitting down and setting your timer for another 30 minutes.

This will keep your brain fresh, active, and creative.

I use this timer from Amazon:

Use a timer for work from home productivity

4. Find Your Biological Prime Time

Your biological prime time is the time of the day when your energy levels are highest and you’re super productive.

Of course, everyone has a different biological prime time. There are early risers, night owls, and those who work best in the afternoons.

“I cannot get any creative work done after 3 pm,” says Nikki, team expert writer based in the Philippines. “For me, the best time to work is between 9 am and 2 pm. But it’s different for everyone. The key is to find your personal prime time. Cut down on coffee and sweets, then take note of the hours you’re most energetic and productive. In a week, you’ll notice a pattern emerge. I actually know someone whose creative juices peak at 3 am!”

Once you’ve found your biological prime time, build a routine around it. Then stick to it no matter what!

5. Send the Kids Away (Kidding, Fluctuate Your Schedule to Be With Them)

Just kidding! 😉

But seriously, if you have kids, working at home becomes 10x harder.

I know this because I have my own quirky 5-year-old daughter around the house. She’s curious, spontaneous, and sweet – the biggest distractions are those we love!

If you’re struggling to get work done with the kids around, here are three handy tips to get you started:

  • Plan activities for the kids. I’ll often have Jaina doing something fun or watching a movie while I’m working.
  • Make a deal with your spouse. Create a schedule that works great for both of you. At home, I have dedicated “working hours” in which my husband plays with Jaina while I focus on my to-do list.
  • Make use of technology. Like a ton of parents, you’ve definitely had that argument with your kids about screen time. But at a time like this, technology is your friend. So, if the kids are feeling lousy and grumpy, why not plop them down in front of the TV with a tray of healthy snacks and their favorite Netflix cartoons—and don’t feel an ounce of shame about it. Goal: survive during lockdown. ✅
Don't feel shame about plopping the kids down in front of the TV during the day while you #workfromhome. The goal is to *survive* during lockdown. 🍸 You're doing your best ♥ Click To Tweet

6. Set Boundaries

Working from home is tough on your relationships.

For example, your relationship with your spouse can become strained if you’re with each other 24/7. I’ve been there!

Sad fact: home quarantine due to COVID-19 has caused a spike in divorce cases in China.

But things get easier once you set boundaries. Remind your family you must work (10x a day, if necessary!). Set an “off limits” rule once you enter your work zone. Then, do the same for them.

Once you set a schedule with boundaries for everyone, your home life will flow as smoothly as a well-oiled machine.

7. Surround Yourself with Comfort and Beauty

“You now have the freedom to pick your work desk location – yay!” says Danielle, our team content specialist based in France. “Decide on the best work spot for you that gives you comfort and privacy, if possible. Try moving your desk next to a window so you can easily look away from the screen when you need to think or when your eyes need some rest. If you’re going to do a lot of video conferences, pick a good spot where you can easily set the background with some books, plants, and art pieces. Also, remember to keep your area clutter-free. Have the necessary or handy items like office files, sticky notes, and your planner within arm’s reach.”

Create a workspace you’re excited to enter.

Also, create a workspace that’s comfortable. For me, comfort boils down to these amazing products.

Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links. If you buy from them, I’ll get a percentage of the price with no extra charge to you. Don’t worry, though. I never recommend anything I don’t love.

A. Ergonomic Office Chair

Working from home? choose an ergonomic office chair

Source: amazon.com

With this amazing chair, I can spend eons sitting at my desk and not suffer shoulder pain, back pain, and joint stress.

B. Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair

How to work from home and stay fit

Source: contenthacker.com

Don’t want to get a flabby core with sitting down all day? Tone up with Gaiam’s yoga balance ball chair! I alternate between using this one and my ergonomics office chair.

C.  Luxor 40″ Single Column Crank Stand Up Desk

how to work from home and save your posture

I love this desk because the manual adjustment feature allows me to work either standing up or sitting down.

My stand-up desk is currently all the way up in this picture. Setting: A very rainy Texas day.

Remember, the secret to achieving flow is to switch things up. You don’t always have to work in your office (I certainly don’t).

In fact, we have four workspaces in our house. There’s one in the corner of the kitchen, one in the corner of our king suite bedroom, my dedicated office, and our (converted) guest bedroom that is now a media room.

You don’t need a huge house to accomplish this. Simply set up little nooks as “workspaces” throughout the house and switch things up when your energy levels and creativity drop.

@JuliaEMcCoy has a few essential #workfromhome tools: her ergonomic desk chair, @Gaiam balance ball chair (she switches between the two), ergonomic keyboard ⌨, and stand-up desk 📝. Grab the links + more #WFH tips 👍 Click To Tweet

8. Invest in Quality Tools

“You need tools that make working exciting,” says Dara, QA and content specialist at Express Writers. “Trust me, you do need incentives, especially if you’re a freelancer. For me, tools and measures I took were getting a fancy keyboard, multi-monitor setup, an ergonomic chair, a playlist of electronic music in the background, and a standing table to stretch my back when tired of sitting.”

Tips for working from home from Dara

Here’s a list of my personal favorite tools.

A. Kinesis Freestyle2 Ergonomic Keyboard w/ VIP3 Lifters for Mac (9″ Separation)

ergonomic keyboard for working from home

Source: contenthacker.com

I use this one for my 7-hour typing sprints, and I come away without a trace of hand pain!

 B.  Logitech MX Vertical Wireless Mouse – Advanced Ergonomic Design Reduces Muscle Strain

how to work from home and avoid finger strain

Source: contenthacker.com

This mouse is super attractive plus easy on the fingers.

9. Keep Your Social Life Alive

Humans are social creatures, and too much time in isolation leads to irritability and depression.

So, make it a point to get on a Zoom call with your colleagues. If you don’t have to check in with people you work with, spend time on social media or chat apps with friends.

“Working from home is wonderful, but it can also be quite challenging – especially if you’ve recently just transitioned from a social environment,” says Kira, our content strategist based in Wisconsin. “Remember to take time for yourself when needed and keep contact with your social circles. It can really help! Also, use all the available channels for chatting with any coworkers you might have as that helps create a sense of teamwork even when remote.”

10. Take Care of Yourself

This tip is #10, but it’s actually the best place to start. I’ve saved it for last because I want it to be the #1 thing you get out of this.

A. Eat Right

I can’t stress this enough.

Don’t eat junk food. When you feed your body with sugar, GMOs, processed foods, and a ton of grease, you’ll end up feeling sluggish and exhausted.

Of course, you can’t transition into a full-time vegan overnight. But cutting out sweets and unhealthy snacks and adding in fruits and greens to your diet will greatly transform your energy levels.

B. Drink, Drink, and Drink!

I mean water, of course. 🥤💦

If you want to keep track of the amount of water you drink per day, try the motivational water bottle I use.

Remember to hydrate while you work from home

Source: contenthacker.com

3 Tips on How Businesses Can Help Their Teams Work from Home

If you’re the business owner and your team is feeling jumpy and confused about working from home, follow these three steps.

1. Set Your Team Up with the Right Tools

You’ll need to capitalize on daily communication with your team. So, aside from your usual cloud-based tools, set your employees up with quality task management, employee feedback, and communication tools. We love Slack as a day-to-day messaging tool.

2. Allow Your Team to Be Autonomous

Jason Friedman of Basecamp said it best: Have your people be a “manager of one.”

Guess who they’re managing?

…That’s right. Themselves.

It’s an excellent idea to give employees the trust and allowance to set their own schedules. Base performance on their productivity, not on how many hours they spent on their computers.

However, schedule regular team meetings. This will keep everyone on the same page and give motivation to those who are feeling the effects of isolation.

Work from home tips from Julia

3. Check-In With Your Team

This doesn’t have to be in real time. We have an #offtopic thread in Slack where I check in every few days for updates on our worldwide remote team. “How is COVID-19 affecting you right now?” We keep the conversation going, and we check in consistently with each other. It builds that sense of rapport, and, let’s face it—we’re all human.

3 tips on how businesses with teams can #workfromhome - 1) Get your team the right tools like @slack or @mondaydotcom 🔧 2) Let your team be autonomous 🦅 3) Check in with them often (off-topic chats in Slack encouraged) 💬 Click To Tweet

Working from Home: Is it Possible to Do it without Going Insane?

Even before COVID-19, a ton of people started moving towards working from home. And after the crisis ends (because it will, since this too shall pass), it’s predicted that there will be a major and permanent shift towards home-based work.

So, why not start today and learn how to be productive and successful while working from home?

If you’re a business owner and you want to know how to keep your business thriving amidst COVID-19, don’t forget to read How Today’s Pandemic Is Impacting Business & Marketing + 5 Ways to Keep Thriving.

Need great content? We’re here and serving you. Check out the Content Shop.

Order your content from home

unique content differentiation factor

Have You Discovered Your Unique Content Differentiation Factor? Why It’s Harder than Ever for Brands to Be “Unique”

Being seen and heard on the web is getting harder every day.

There are nearly 2 billion websites in existence…

But a mere fraction of them receive any traffic (only about 400 million – 15-20% – are even active).

Thousands of new websites are created daily. About 4 million new blog posts are published every 24 hours.

The problem?

Barely anyone will read them. The lion’s share of the traffic, clicks, and visits (and thus, the attention) will go to top contenders.

These are the people, brands, businesses, and organizations that are making their voices rise above the heap.

In the vast wasteland of the internet, these people have nailed their content differentiation factor and lean into it.

They know how to make people sit up and listen (and/or click their links, read their content, and buy into whatever they may be selling).

In a landscape of utter content saturation, where every topic under the sun, moon, and stars has been exhausted 20 times over…

This is a big deal.

Being unique enough to stand out online is everything.

At the same time, it’s ridiculously hard.

Let’s explore why standing out from the crowd is one of the most difficult parts of content marketing. Then, we’ll look at a few amazing brands killing it with their uniqueness and content differentiation factor.

Finally, we’ll dive into some tips on how to discover your own uniqueness online.

Go time. 🚦➡

Have You Discovered Your Unique Content Differentiation Factor? Why It’s Harder than Ever for Brands to Be “Unique”

2 More Reasons Why It’s Hard to Stand Out Online (And Why You Need a CDF)

1. Content Shock Is Real

2. Consumers Are Inundated with Information

3 Brands Killing It with Their Content Differentiation Factor

1. Backlinko (Brian Dean)

2. Spotify

3. Tasty

My Best Tips to Dig Deep and Find Your Content Differentiation Factor

1. Step Away from Work and Go Internal

2. Step Away from Work and Have More Conversations

Your Content Differentiation Factor Is Key

unique content differentiation factor

With 4 million new blog posts published every day, can you imagine how tough it is for all creators and marketers to stand out? 🌟 Luckily, there's a way to shine -- and it starts by finding your unique content differentiation factor. 💯 Click To Tweet

2 More Reasons Why It’s Hard to Stand Out Online (And Why You Need a Content Differentiation Factor)

Back in 2018, I came up with a concept called the Content Differentiation Factor, which I teach in my Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

Basically, this concept comes down to asking yourself (or your client, your boss — whoever you’re managing the brand for) this question:

“What separates my content house from the rest of the content houses out there? What makes my brand different from all the others out there like me?”

You have to have something truly different to stand out from the crowd (more on this and examples below). And you must spend time on this to figure it out before going full-force into content creation. (It’s worth it).

In 2018, I came up with the concept of a Content Differentiation Factor to teach my content strategy students how to build real authority online. You need to ask yourself, what separates YOU from all the others like you out there?… Click To Tweet

CDF content differentiation factor

A content differentiation factor is a key to standing out.

But, first, you should know what you’re working against.

1. Content Shock Is Real

Mark Schaefer’s classic, groundbreaking article on content shock explains why and how content marketing will reach a breaking point.

As he explains, we have free content coming out of our ears on the internet. You can read blogs and articles on every topic that’s ever been studied, thought about, or questioned.

The problem lies in supply/demand. There is more content in existence than any person can legitimately read in a lifetime – let alone their free time. So, to break away from the information overload and stand out, content marketers are paying to get their content seen.

Of course, that’s not sustainable at all.

Only those who separate themselves uniquely from the information mountain – who provide unique value to their audience – will continue to see ROI from content. (It will not be whoever pays the most money for Google Ads.)

2. Consumers Are Inundated with Information

As we mentioned, content is exploding. Anybody can make a free blog and publish whatever they want. Businesses are blogging because they know the ROI could be amazing – but unfortunately, that leaves us with MILLIONS of blogs that are mediocre at best.

Think about the sheer number of new blog articles that appear on your feeds daily, and how many you have to skip over vs. read. Think of all the news articles, videos, tweets, social media posts, emails, ads, and search results that flow in front of you without stopping.

You have to make micro-decisions all day, every day, as long as you have the internet or a smartphone. You have to sift through the mountain and decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t.

2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily. Yes, daily. And, according to Domo’s Data Never Sleeps 7.0 infographic, by 2020, 40x more data bytes will exist than there are stars in the observable universe.

With so much information and content flying thick and fast on the web, we only have the bandwidth to pay attention to a limited amount.

Who and what gets our attention? The brands, people, and content that manage to rise above the rest because they differentiated their content and message successfully.

Do you actually need a content differentiation factor (CDF)? Absolutely, yes! Why? Two reasons: 1) content shock is real 🤯, and 2) consumers are overwhelmed with too much info 😫. Click To Tweet

digital marketing consultant content strategy course

3 Brands Killing It with Their Content Differentiation Factor

These three names have found their content differentiation factor and lean into it – with amazing results.

1. Backlinko (Brian Dean)

Want to see a perfect example of simplicity as a differentiator? Look to Backlinko, Brian Dean’s brand and blog.

When he says his advice is zero-fluff and practical, he’s not kidding.

His introductions to his blog posts are a great example. He doesn’t try to convince you how clever he is or wind you up with a story. He doesn’t hook you with examples other than ones from his own experience and tested results.

He tells you what to expect and what you’ll get out of reading the post. That’s it.

Simple. Straightforward. To-the-point. No fluff. Understandable. That’s Brian Dean’s style in a nutshell, and it has differentiated him from other SEO experts in a big way.

He explains SEO concepts so neatly and clearly, you don’t even feel like you’re learning. But you are.

Also, note Brian’s use of the one-sentence paragraph. Almost every paragraph in all of his blogs follows this format. Screenshots and images are sprinkled in copiously.

Not to mention, his sentences are short and simple. No run-ons or confusing constructions, here. It’s all geared toward helping the reader learn and understand in the easiest way possible.

No one else has this type of identifiable style. It’s a content differentiation factor, and just one of the reasons Backlinko consistently stands out among all the other SEO blogs out there.

2. Spotify

Spotify could be just another streaming music service – but it’s not.

In recent years, their content differentiation factor comes from how they provide personalized content to their users. Enter Spotify Wrapped (also known as your “Year in Music” circa 2016).

This end-of-year event brings you a custom playlist based on your listening habits from the past 11 months. The songs you played the most are all featured in one handy list.

Spotify has taken it even further, providing you with a personalized “story” showing your music stats, including how many minutes you streamed music this year and a rundown of your most-listened-to artists. You can view the whole thing on both desktop and mobile, too, and share any of it with social media.

Plus, in 2019 Spotify users were treated to their “decade wrapped,” which showed you your top artists and songs from the last 10 years (if you were a member that long).

Spotify could present these listening stats to users in some way within the app, year-round – I’m reminded of the “top 25” playlist that was continually updated in iTunes (R.I.P.) – but would it feel as special and fun that way? I would argue not.

Instead, the streaming service has taken something that might have been just another feature and turned it into personalized content people actually look forward to at year’s end. In fact, Spotify Wrapped was so popular this year, it went viral. Seemingly everybody across social media was sharing their music stats. (Meanwhile, users of other streaming services got jealous.)

3. Tasty

There are thousands upon thousands of cooking and baking blogs on the internet. However, one that really stands out is Tasty.

Tasty, as you might know, is a brand that popularized the overhead-camera-step-by-step-process video with no talking or narration. You just watch a pair of hands make the recipe, and text tips show up on screen to help clarify things. 🖐

ALL of the videos are mobile-optimized and short. They’re the perfect type of snackable content you can watch for a few minutes of downtime during your day.


The content is mainly visual, and the style is fun and unique. There are hundreds of videos with hundreds of recipes in their repertoire, and all of them are of equal quality. They range in content from easy hacks to more in-depth tutorials (like how to make a snow globe cupcake).

It’s no wonder Tasty has over 97 million likes and over 100 million followers on Facebook.

Their success has been so huge, they branched out into cookbooks, cookware, toys, merch, and even activity kits, like this Royal Icing 101 kit. Their videos have expanded under the moniker “Tasty Presents,” where they have new shows like Eating Your Feed; I Draw, You Cook; and Making It Big.

What sets Tasty apart is its video-forward approach, fun style, and interesting recipes. They have a unique angle on “food blog” that no one else has cornered.

Once you discover your unique content differentiation factor (CDF), you can stand out like @Backlinko, @Spotify, and @tasty. @JuliaEMcCoy tells more about how these brands successfully differentiated themselves from the rest. 🎩 Click To Tweet

My Best Tips to Dig Deep and Find Your Content Differentiation Factor

So, you know the importance of uniqueness online and how others have gone after it. But what about you? How do you find YOUR unique content differentiation factor?

My two best tips start with stepping away from work.

1. Step Away from Work and Go Internal

If you’re constantly in work mode, your brain won’t get a chance to recharge and light up with new ideas. Shake away the cobwebs by stepping away from your desk and start doing some meditation, journaling, deep thinking, prayer – whatever works for you.

Even just sitting still in a chair and allowing yourself to daydream and – *gasp* – do nothing are great ways to create some brain sparks.

Going internal has the power to produce epic thoughts that are mega lightbulb moments. For example, look at personal development trainer Brendon Buchard. Right after he wakes up in the morning, he meditates, journals, and then writes.

What comes from that process? Highly shared, impactful content.

Finding your unique content differentiation factor requires some deep thinking. How do you do this? Start by doing nothing (seriously!) 🧘 -- get away from work mode and allow yourself to recharge and get those new ideas coming. 🧠💡 Click To Tweet

2. Step Away from Work and Have More Conversations

Recharging is everything to the creative process. No one can keep going, going, going 24/7 on a single trajectory. We all need time to stop, relax, and expose ourselves to different experiences and viewpoints.

When most of your work is digital, stepping away from the computer to have real-life conversations and interactions is invigorating. This might include:

  • Going to lunch or coffee with a colleague or coworker
  • Attending conferences and meeting people in your industry
  • Speaking at conferences and having Q&A sessions
  • Going to a local meet-up or industry event

And, if you can’t step away from the computer right now, engage with different people on social media. You never know where a friendly comment or chat may take you.

Someone leading by example in this respect is Michael Brenner, the CEO of Marketing Insider Group and the author of The Content Formula and Mean People Suck. He’s been a keynote speaker for four years, including at CMWorld, where I met him. He’s likable, but he also takes the time to talk to people and start conversations!

Bottom line: Be open to the possibility of conversations and what they might hold. A creative spark can come from the flint and tinder of someone else’s perspective, ideas, or stories.

Finding your CDF requires more than data analysis. Sometimes, you just need to get away from the screen, think, and engage in real-life convos. ☕ How about taking a few minutes off to talk to a friend or go to a local industry event? 👋 Click To Tweet

Your Content Differentiation Factor Is Key

Without a content differentiation factor, you will blend in and fade away. This is a sad, sorry fate for anyone, brand or person, that longs to leave their footprint on society.

Before you make your mark, you first have to know what makes you YOU. It may take some dedicated internal time and a lot of searching conversations, but little by little, you’ll discover why you’re not like the rest of the internet.

Once you find your uniqueness, hold onto it, lean into it, and celebrate it. The world has enough same-y brands and personalities to contend with. Be the breath of fresh air everyone is looking for. 🌬

publishing industry changes

Will Barnes & Noble Survive? How The Publishing Industry is Changing in an Internet-Based Era

The publishing industry, as we know it, is radically different from what it was 10 or even 5 years ago.

More tumultuousness arrived back in June of 2019 when Barnes & Noble, the U.S.’s largest bookstore chain, was sold to a hedge fund (Elliott Management).

The sale comes after a slew of top-level management troubles, fierce competition from online booksellers like Amazon, and the closure of more than 150 stores in the last 10 years.

In the New York Times article describing the transfer of B&N from one pair of hands to another, it’s very clear, before the sale, many people feared the bookstore chain was in danger of dying.

Why should we care?

  • Because, as content creators, we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of the publishing industry.
  • We’re ALL technically publishers, ourselves.
  • Books are a type of content, whether they appear in print or digitally.
  • The print industry and digital content are linked. They’re two sides of the same coin.

Finally, Barnes & Noble is one of the biggest players in the publishing industry. What happens to them will have a ripple effect.

So, what is the future of Barnes & Noble? What does that mean for print publishing? As content creators, should we bother with traditional publishing at all? 🤔

Let’s discuss.

publishing industry barnes and noble books

First Things First: What Does the Future of Barnes & Noble Look Like?

Joanna Penn addressed this topic recently on The Creative Penn Podcast during an interview with Mike Shatzkin. He’s an author and thought leader on what the digital future means for book publishing. He’s also the CEO of The Idea Logical Company.

Here’s what Shatzkin had to say on B&N’s future:

“I think Barnes & Noble, very much like Waterstones, is really not configured for the future. The very large store with a very big selection was mooted by Amazon. It’s 25 years later but even now I believe that they are past their sell-by date.

Then the question becomes, if all your leases are large retail establishments and it doesn’t make sense to build them with a hundred and twenty-five thousand titles, what else are you going to fill them with?”

😮

In other words, Barnes & Noble is running on an outdated retail model. Nobody buys books the way they sell them anymore. Hundreds of thousands of books in one store are far too many options for the average book shopper, who can find whatever they want online.

Right now, although it’s not going under, the future of Barnes & Noble is shaky.

To persist and thrive in this tough atmosphere for print publishing, they need to make some changes.

Honestly? For B&N to survive, they’ll need to change the way they operate drastically.

What's going on in the publishing industry these days? Author @JuliaEMcCoy has some thoughts. Read all about it 📚 📖 Click To Tweet

In the interview, Shatzkin suggests B&N shift to smaller stores or even mini stores-within-stores, such as taking over the book department within another retailer’s real estate.

Interesting Tidbit: Audiobooks Are on the Rise

Meanwhile, Joanna Penn emphasized the growing popularity of audiobooks, which can’t be ignored.

“…what we’re actually seeing right now in some markets is audio first. We’re seeing Storytel, for example, growing markets as well as obviously Audible… I think I’ve seen my own behavior change to an audio-first listening preference, especially with nonfiction which traditionally I would buy in print.”

This preference for audiobooks is actually a growing trend. According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook revenue grew by 24.5% from 2017-2018. In 2018, total revenue was $940 million.

Usage looks promising, too. In 2019, 50% of Americans, 12 and older, listened to at least one audiobook (up 6% from 2018).

After 150 stores closed and being sold to a hedge fund, the future seems unclear for Barnes & Noble -- and print publishing. @JuliaEMcCoy answers why content creators should care and how self-publishing wins over traditional. 📚 Click To Tweet

The Rise of Self-Publishing

Alongside the preference for digital formats and shopping for books online, self-publishing has grown in both popularity and legitimacy, too.

In fact, the digital publishing industry has made self-publishing viable and profitable in the first place.

Here’s how Mike Shatzkin puts it in the aforementioned podcast interview with Joanna Penn:

“…book publishing is the business of content and markets. And if you’re a publisher, what you need to understand is the content that you are publishing and the markets to which you can appeal. Now a lot of small players have the capability to develop content and some idea of the markets.

But if it were the year 2000, you might have all that knowledge but you would have to go through the intermediary distribution system to get your books to the public. There would have been no other way.”

20 years ago, there was no way to self-publish without bearing a huge burden in terms of cost and marketing. Today, that has radically changed.

Thanks to the internet and services like Ingram and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, people can self-publish a book and immediately have a method for distribution online. Thanks to social media and blogs, you can market your book and reach an audience.

For example, when placed side-by-side, today both self-published authors and traditionally published authors are on the same playing field in terms of earnings:

What’s really surprising:

  • About 77% of self-published authors make at least $1,000 from their writing.
  • Only 9% of traditionally published authors make as much.
More content creators are choosing self-publishing over the traditional, thanks to the internet. In fact, 77% of self-published authors make at least $1,000 from their writing. @JuliaEMcCoy shares the pros and cons of self-publishing. 📖 Click To Tweet

Should You Self-Publish, or Publish Traditionally?

That brings us to the question of the day:

If you’re a content creator, writer, or author, should you self-publish? Or should you go the traditional route?

Both of my books are self-published.

These are the pros and cons:

  • Pro: Taking my books to market was incredibly easy.
  • Con: The editing, design, formatting, and writing was all on me.
  • Con: Authors can publish anything, so the self-published market is saturated with crap work.
  • Pro: This can be an opportunity, because if/when you publish a great book, it stands out!
  • Pro: You make 70% of the royalties when self-publishing, as opposed to a couple of dollars per book at a very slim margin when it’s traditionally published.

Since publishing my first book in April 2016, I’ve earned $14,000 in royalties. In addition, I’ve earned over 7,000 in a variety of other currencies. Not bad!

A few other reasons to self-publish:

1. Self-Published Authors Can Publish Quickly

One of the ways self-publishing really shines is in the timeline. As fast as you want your book out, it can happen. It’s totally up to you.

A self-published book can go to market MUCH faster than a traditionally published book because there are fewer hoops to jump through (see point #3). You don’t need to wait around for book agents or publishers to give the okay – YOU give the okay.

2. Self-Publishing Profit Margins Are Higher

If you self-publish, you’ll keep a larger cut of the profits from every book sold.

On average, self-published authors keep 70% of their royalties.

In contrast, traditionally published authors earn an advance – a flat amount the publisher pays once. After that, the author doesn’t earn any money until the book makes at least as much as the advance amount.

For example, say an author is paid an $8,000 advance for their book. That’s all they get until the book starts earning $$ back for the publisher. After that, the author only makes $1-2 per book sold. Youch. 😳

3. Print Books Are Making a Comeback, But Not in Bookstores

As we’ve seen from the example of Barnes & Noble, counting on traditionally published books to do well in physical stores is a huge gamble.

Yes, going this route at least gives your book a shot at being sold in bookstores, but it’s not guaranteed. Stores have thousands of books to choose from to populate their shelves, and only the most commercially promising ones will make the cut.

And, if you make it to bookstore shelves, you’re at the mercy of failing bookstore models like B&N. Will you ever move a copy in that vast maze of books?

There is a far better chance that someone will buy a physical copy of your book on the internet.

In 2018, print book sales rose by 2.5%. Then, in the first quarter of 2019, hardcover books saw a 7.8% sales increase.

4. The Traditional Publishing Route is Tedious

If you go the traditional way, publishing your book will take a long, long time.

  • First, you’ll need to query agents about your book (essentially sending them a book pitch). Your agent is the one who will shop your book to publishers. Finding an agent can take a long time – months or even years.
  • Once you find an interested agent, you might need to work with them to edit and revise the book. Tack an extra few months onto your publishing timeline.
  • THEN, your agent will find a publisher. You sign a contract with them, essentially handing over the print rights to your work (read: you can’t go print it elsewhere unless you want a lawsuit).
  • You’ll go through another round of copyedits and revisions with the publisher. This takes additional months of work. They’ll also design your cover and have the final say on the title.
  • The publisher is in charge of publishing and distributing your book. Most publishers do little, if any, marketing.

Source: Jennie Nash

As you can see, it’s very hard to get published traditionally. The wait between a “yes” from a book agent to holding your published book in your hands can take as long as a year – maybe even longer.

From this angle, self-publishing looks pretty darn good in comparison.

Some of the pros of self-publishing for @JuliaEMcCoy: faster publication times, higher profit margins, and getting to avoid that tedious process in traditional publishing! Know more in this post. ✍️ Click To Tweet

Barnes & Noble is Skating By, and Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Looks More Promising Than Ever

While Barnes & Noble hangs on by its teeth, digital publishing and self-publishing online are taking off.

The internet has given us content creators the power to share our wisdom, stories, and knowledge with the world in book format.

We don’t have to wait around for a publisher to approve of our work, and we don’t have to rely on bookstores to stock it on shelves.

If you’re thinking about publishing a book (a great way to position yourself as a subject authority), think long and hard before you go the traditional way. Self-publishing is both legitimate and profitable – and equally as rewarding.

awesome CTA publishing industry

content ecosystem

Your Content Bullets Aren’t Working: Why the Answer to Content ROI Lies in a Content Ecosystem

I was listening to a live talk from Jay Baer not too long ago, and this quote hit me hard:

“Stop doing random acts of content. Stop firing content bullets into the air hoping that a customer bird will fly by and that it’ll WORK.”

As this quote permeated my brain, subconsciously stewing while I carried on a typical month interacting with marketers, going through meeting after meeting, leading my team, writing and brainstorming content for all my publications… this thought hit me:

The reason why random content acts don’t work, and why so many believe these low-ROI tactics are still worth trying.

here’s a concept I teach in my Content Strategy & Marketing Course called the “content net.” It’s the antithesis to random acts of content. But, it’s not the norm.

I’m bringing it up today, because, well: content bullets. They need to STOP.

Why? Because one-off content tactics result in dismal content marketing. In an industry that’s already ridiculously tough to break into, relying on content bullets makes NO sense.

Consider this: According to a Backlinko study, 94% of blog posts earn zero external links. 😱

If only 6% of blog posts published get any backlinks, that means it’s a mighty feat to build your link profile and brand authority – especially if your site is brand new.

Even worse, when you ARE able to rank in Google, settling for position #2-10 isn’t enough. You need to be #1 to get the best shot at traffic and leads. That’s because click-through rates (CTR) drastically drop as soon as you fall to position 2, according to an Advanced Web Ranking study. In fact, at position 2, CTR is cut in half.

Unfortunately, ranking #1 for a keyword requires much more than random acts of content. You need more than one bullet to hit the bullseye – especially when that bullseye is a moving target.

So, what exactly does it take?

Let’s get into today’s original concept by yours truly, called the “content ecosystem”, developed to help you understand how and why a long-term, consistent approach to content over time works.

content ecosystem graphic

Your Content Bullets Aren’t Working (Why You’re Still Trying Them)

Learn about @JuliaEMcCoy's original concept called the 'content ecosystem,' developed to help you understand how and why a long-term, consistent approach to content over time works. 🌏 Click To Tweet

Marketers and brands are still relying on content to be their magic shot – the golden bullet that will miraculously hit whatever targets or goals they’re aiming for.

They regard random content as their “golden egg” that will bring in ALL the traffic, leads, and sales $$$ they’ve ever wanted, much like the mythical golden egg from Jack and the Beanstalk (which ensures Jack and his mother live in comfort the rest of their days).

magic content bullets

But content doesn’t operate that way.

For it to work, content needs work. It needs a basic foundation of strategic fundamentals in place to succeed. Most marketers don’t do this, or they don’t fully understand how to do it.

According to a ClearVoice survey of 1,000 marketers, the biggest content challenges are centered around production: time, content quality, creating content, scaling content, and generating ideas.

But, instead of getting strategic and putting in more legwork, they expect a one-off content bullet to make the magic happen and the sales fly in.

How did this happen? How did so many marketers come to think of content as a miraculous solution?

No matter the situation, pretty much nothing in life works like this.

One random act rarely to never equals a level 10 success.

Does a workout, for instance, lead to an instant buff physique? NO. If you pick up the violin, will you be able to play Bach in a week? AS IF.

Look at any major “people” success story. Oprah and her empire. Elon Musk and Tesla. Steve Jobs and Mac. NONE of these mega-brand legacies came about from overnight success or a shot in the dark. These people all worked their butts off to succeed.

Does any good thing in life work this way? Typically not.

So, why are we trying to apply this line of thinking to marketing, to business?

If you could get one-on-one advice from Oprah or Steve Jobs’ ghost or Elon Musk (dreams, am I right?), what do you think they would say?

Here’s my guess:

Quit wimping out and trying to take shortcuts. Quit copying and pasting what “experts” do or say and hoping instant success will come. Stop trying one little tweak and expecting the world to fall in your lap.

Success is about hard work. Not luck, not a shot in the dark, and certainly not a magic bullet. And that absolutely holds true for content.

Success is about hard work. Not luck, not a shot in the dark, and not a magic bullet. And that absolutely holds true for content. 💯 Click To Tweet

Hire a team of proven, capable content experts to boost your online ROI through great content. Visit the content shop here.

Why Today’s Audience Won’t Stand for the Content Bullet

Let’s take this one step further. Content bullets won’t work for you, but also, they won’t EVER work for your audience.

Look at the state of marketing online – people can smell an inauthentic, fake, or “doing it for the likes, follows, traffic, $$” approach from a mile away.

  • The CTR of Facebook ads is dismal – 0.5 – 1.6% – because people are seeing through the bullsh*t marketers and the Lamborghini lies.
  • Every marketing channel you’ve ever relied on is decaying. Andrew Chen calls this “the law of shitty clickthroughs.” It just means that, even when you find a marketing strategy that works, it will inevitably stop working due to increased competition, fading novelty, and more scale. “First to market” means nothing in an online world where saturation happens FAST.
  • As recently as 2018, Instagram has doubled-down on eradicating fake bot accounts, fake likes, and fake followers. People who used to pay to fake a super-popular, engaged account are up a creek without a paddle. (It’s no wonder users prize authenticity online since so much of what we see is staged or fake.)
  • Finally, let’s not forget that people don’t trust ads. In particular, 79% of Gen Z participants said in a recent study that they “avoid ads whenever [they] can.”

Simply put, content bullets pushed out with a “get ROI NOW” mentality are entirely dependent on luck – not a proven formula. Most of all, they can’t possibly contain the heart or soul they need to succeed with audiences hungry for authentic experiences.

Think Beyond Content Bullets – Enter: The Content Ecosystem

That brings us back around to something I mentioned earlier, a concept I teach in my Content Strategy & Marketing Course: the content net.

It’s the opposite of a magic content bullet.

Another synonymous name for it is a content ecosystem.

Your content ecosystem is a whole host of content pieces tied together and supported by consistency and underlying brand quality.

It. Does. Not. Compromise.

Instead of taking a shot at content in the dark, using a content marketing ecosystem is like sitting down to an elaborate content blueprint under a floodlight.

content ecosystem

7 Pathways in the Content Ecosystem

The content marketing ecosystem encompasses your entire content marketing operation. It’s made up of separate parts that affect each other. Without the dedication and a commitment to providing value to your audience above all, you can’t hope to make your content ecosystem a smoothly flowing stream of amazingness.

Here’s how it breaks down. Scroll below the infographic for more details in the blog text.

1. Brand Quality (Affects content consistency, scaling content, and brand authority)

At the deepest levels of your content ecosystem lies our first pathway: brand quality. This needs to exist at the foundation because it does two MAJOR jobs:

  • It gives your readers an amazing experience at your brand touch points, especially your website and content.
  • It gears up your pages to earn Google rankings and pull in organic traffic.

Brand quality begins and ends with a great website, one that’s smooth, fast, and all-around awesome. That’s not all, though. Along with speed and responsiveness, your website should also include:

  • Great content
  • Beautiful visuals/photography
  • A clear brand style with:
    • A distinctive, audience-aimed voice and tone
    • A recognizable, professional logo and brand color palette

For more about why a fantastic website serves as the foundation of brand quality, check out my SEMrush webinar recap: How to Write & Publish Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019.

Express Writers' home page with highlights on its user-friendly design

Content ecosystem pathway #1: Brand quality. Qualities: great content, beautiful visuals, audience-aimed voice and tone, a recognizable logo and brand color palette, and an awesome website. 🎯 Click To Tweet

2. Brand Consistency (Affects brand quality, distribution, scaling content, and brand authority)

Hand-in-hand with brand quality, brand consistency is our next important pathway in the content ecosystem.

Specifically, consistency means upholding your quality standards repeatedly over time. If readers can count on your brand to publish and distribute amazing content and experiences, the better off you’ll be. To achieve consistency, you need:

  • Dependable content quality
  • Regular content scheduling and maintenance

For example, look at our own high-volume content plan at Express Writers. Our commitment for 8 years has been one long-form, comprehensive piece of content weekly, and we update content on a monthly basis, too.

Thanks to this consistency, we rank for over 18,000 keywords in Google and regularly bring in six-figure income for months.

Express Writers' page stats on SEMrush. It's ranking for over 18,000 keywords.

Another fantastic case study that shows off how brand consistency wins comes from the Cleveland Clinic. If you’ve ever searched a medical health question on Google, you’ve probably seen one of their blogs in the results.

That’s because their consistency is incredible. As their Manager of Digital Engagement, Amanda Todorovich, revealed in an interview with Kuno Creative, they post 3-5 times per day with a team of 40 medical expert bloggers contributing.

Since launching the blog in April 2012, they regularly see over 5 million visitors in a single month. Now that’s the power of quality and consistency!

Cleveland Clinic's Health Essentials blog

Content ecosystem pathway #2: Brand consistency. How to achieve it: Dependable content quality and regular content scheduling and maintenance. 📅 Click To Tweet

3. Content Creation (Offshoot of brand consistency – affects scaling content and brand authority)

On the path through our content ecosystem, the next step takes us to an offshoot of brand consistency – content creation.

Pouring your best into content creation won’t matter if you can’t uphold that consistently. You need to keep your standards high 24/7 if you expect to grow your brand authority.

Consistency of content creation standards also affects scale. If you can’t replicate your blog quality from one post to the next, you’re probably doing too much and need to scale back for better results.

Content creation standards should always include the following pieces:

  • Researched
  • Audience-focused and relevant
  • Organized and logical
  • Informative, entertaining, or useful
Content ecosystem pathway #3: Content creation. Content qualities include: researched, audience-focused, organized and logical, and informative and useful. 🧐 Click To Tweet

4. Content Distribution (Affects brand authority and reach)

Next up, brand consistency and content creation directly affect content distribution. This is how and when you serve your content to your audience.

Of course, part and parcel of distribution is promotion. Sharing your content on social networks is a natural way to ensure more and more people lay their eyeballs on it.

You can’t just distribute content anywhere, though. A major component is posting on the social channels where your audience lives, at the times they’re most likely to engage. If your audience is mainly B2B, that might mean LinkedIn and/or Twitter in the mornings and late evenings. For B2C or ecommerce, it might mean brand presences on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. during hours of the day when engagement is highest.

Sprout Social's study results on the best time to post in Instagram. Highest engagement appears during weekday noons.

Finally, content distribution is a direct pathway to brand authority and reach. The more relevant, interesting, and engaging you can be to your audience, the more they will see your posts, interact with your content, and keep you top-of-mind.

Content ecosystem pathway #4: Content distribution. Major component: Posting on social channels where your audience lives and engage. 📝 Click To Tweet

5. Scaling Content (Affects brand authority and reach)

As your content gains success, the next pathway in the content ecosystem is scaling. This means producing more or branching out into different types of content, without sacrificing your original commitment to quality.

Scaling is all about optimizing your content workflows to keep production consistent, yet reach more people.

Amanda Todorovich and the Cleveland Clinic blog are great examples of scaling as well as consistency. Although the blog and brand have reached new heights of success, Amanda and her team remain committed to what they can do to produce the highest-quality content possible with the most relevant information for their audience niches.

Cleveland Clinic Health Essential blog's article titled, "Does Sun Protection Clothing Actually Work?"

According to Amanda, their content marketing ethos is “not more, but better.”

From a feature on Content Marketing Institute, here are a few insights into how the Cleveland Clinic content marketing team accomplishes this:

  • They constantly reuse and revise old content. To keep up their daily social media posting quotas, they will share posts from the archives or old posts updated with new research.
  • They tap the expertise of 40 medical professionals to write, review, and vet posts before they go live. (They need this many people to keep up with their rigorous publishing schedule.)
  • They have developed formulas for creating great headlines and choosing photos for posts.
  • They keep tabs on specific measurements for success.
  • The content team meets daily to discuss how their content efforts are doing.

As you can see, scaling content requires a few keys in place to work:

  • Efficient and effective workflows in place
  • Well-defined team roles
    • Strategists
    • Writers
    • Editors
    • Designers

If you scale the right way, that will naturally lead to higher brand authority and better reach.

Content ecosystem pathway #5: Scaling content. What you need: Efficient and effective workflows and well-defined team roles (strategists, writers, editors, and designers). 📈 Click To Tweet

6. Brand Authority (Affects reach)

Results time. (Or, as they say, all roads lead here.)

Most of the pathways in the content ecosystem point here. Once you have the other pieces working harmoniously in a continuous rhythm, your brand authority will grow and evolve.

At this point, the value of one incredibly unique, distinguishing idea grows, too. In other words, it’s time to start publishing your MASTER content pieces, the ones that may put you on the map. This is how you level-up from simply having a brand-aware audience to being “known” in your niche.

Remember: This level is impossible to hit without both brand consistency and quality leading you here, first.

Content ecosystem pathway #6: Brand authority. What you need: Brand consistency and quality pathways + starting to publish master content pieces to be known in your niche. 💎 Click To Tweet

Download the profitable content strategist skills cheat sheet here

7. Reach (Affects scaling content)

If you scale your content correctly, if you leverage your newfound brand authority, then your overall reach will begin to climb, too.

Reach is about reaching new audience members, growing your impact and influence, and adding more people to your loyal tribe.

The major points you need to understand about reach:

  • Reach shoots up when all other parts of the content ecosystem hit their highest levels
  • The greater your brand authority/visibility, the greater your reach
  • Reach propels your content marketing forward to new levels
  • Scaling content to maintain quality and consistency is key

When your content ecosystem is a smoothly running system, when all pathways naturally flow together, only then can your reach truly explode.

content ecosystem

Content ecosystem pathway #7: Reach. What you need: Greater brand authority/visibility, scaling content to maintain quality and consistency. 🤝 Click To Tweet

Forget Content Bullets or Shots in the Dark: Make Your Content Marketing a Flowing Ecosystem

As you can see, a content ecosystem is a holistic way of thinking about your entire content marketing scheme. It should all flow together.

You can’t let it drop. You can’t compromise for the sake of time or money. And you can’t put all your faith in one or two content bullets.

To truly see sustainable success, marketers MUST uphold a content ecosystem over time and understand how the parts connect, intertwine, and mingle. It’s a series of pathways that require dedication at every stage.

Ideally, as it evolves, it will get better and better until you reach your goals. After that, you can forge ahead to set new goals bigger than you ever dreamed.

CTA content ecosystem.

content hacker

Content Hacking: The Future of Content Marketing

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve probably heard terms like “hack” and “hacking.”

In the blog-o-sphere, these terms have been used to mean “clever solutions to tricky problems” or “tricks to make your life easier.” If you Google “hacks,” you can see this clearly – the results are all about clever, interesting, or creative solutions to life’s dilemmas. 💡

Hacking is typically a good thing.

Now, what about hacking for marketing? Scary and bad – or good and effective?

The term ‘hacking’ was used in the marketing industry in 2010, when Sean Ellis, co-author of Hacking Growth and CEO of GrowthHackers, coined the term growth hacking in his blog, Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup. Ellis says: “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”

With content hacking, the definition is just this – hands-on creativity and can-do, growth-focused attitude – but applied to content creation.

True content hacking is about getting tough, heavy content marketing tasks done in a smart way.

Making life easier.

Getting to the rewards faster, without sacrificing quality or principles along the way.

When applied to content, content hacking is about making your content marketing better, using BETTER, smarter methods.

Growth-focused methods.

Join me on an adventure where we dive into the traits, skillsets and brain of a modern-day content hacker. You might relate to a large percentage of these traits yourself. (Let me know in the comments if you do.) Ready?

content hacking

The Content Hacker: Origins of Content Hacking

Full disclosure: I didn’t come up with the term “content hacker” itself.

The hat-tip for that goes to Garrett Moon of CoSchedule.

He coined the phrase by smashing together the concepts of growth hacking and content marketing.

  • As we already mentioned above, growth hacking is a term Sean Ellis, the CEO of GrowthHackers, originated. It’s the process of driving breakout business growth using “a high-velocity testing/learning process.”
  • It’s about being quick, agile, and nimble on your feet. If a process doesn’t work, you need to be able to pivot, adapt, and try something else.
  • At the end of the day, sustainable growth is the bottom line, not quick fixes. You have to learn what works and what doesn’t — fast.

As for content marketing, we all know and love it.

  • Content marketing is the process of creating useful content that builds trust and turns traffic into leads and customers.

Thus, growth hacking + content marketing = content hacker (noun): a growth-focused content marketer.

(No, that doesn’t mean cheap or overnight fast-track tricks.)

Content hackers climb over roadblocks to reach our goals on the content marketing horizon. They don’t add to the noise. They create beauty online. A real brand reputation that relies on content that works.

If you’re on-board for all of the above, then congratulations: You’re a content hacker, too. 👋

Growth hacking + content marketing = content hacker (noun): a growth-focused content marketer. Learn more about a #contenthacker Click To Tweet The term content hacker takes inspiration from the original creator of 'growth hacking', @SeanEllis. #contenthacking 💡 Click To Tweet 'A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.' - @SeanEllis #contenthacking Click To Tweet Content hackers climb over roadblocks to reach our goals on the content marketing horizon. This is white-hat hacking or growth hacking for content. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet True 'content hacking' is about getting tough, heavy content marketing tasks done in a smart way. @JuliaEMcCoy 🧠💡 #contenthacking Click To Tweet

What a Content Hacker is NOT

Let’s be clear: Content hacking is NOT about “overnight success” or “scary-quick results.”

It’s NOT about fast fixes or putting band-aids on content marketing problems.

Instead, a content hacker is laser-focused on growth – any kind of growth, whether that means converting three new leads to customers, getting 100 more people to visit your blog, or earning 1,000 new email subscribers.

No matter how small, growth is something you can build on. Growth is something you can leverage.

As long as it’s consistent and sustainable…

As long as the process to get there is repeatable…

As long as the content serves the user’s wants/needs/pain points, that’s the kind of growth a content hacker is all about.

Content hacking is NOT about fast fixes or putting band-aids on content marketing problems. More about a growth-driven #contentmarketer Click To Tweet

Why Does Content Hacking Matter Now and in The Future of Content Marketing?

In 2019, content by itself won’t do much. I hate to break it to you.

There’s too much noise out there on the web. You won’t stand out unless you approach content in a radically different way.

Nearly 4 million blog posts are written every day. That means, in a single year, over 1.46 billion individual posts are published.

The internet is bursting at the seams with content. Even worse, much of it is useless.

Worse than that?

Most of the content that IS useful is same-old, same-old. (How many times have you seen this headline: ‘# Ways to Start a Blog’?)

So, we’re left looking at a big, stinking pile of crap content. Let’s call it “Crap Content Mountain.”

If this scenario makes you feel bleak, here’s a ray of light.

Crappy, same-old, ugly content is exactly what a content hacker rails against.

Content hackers don’t create useless content. They don’t create content because it’s the “thing to do.”

Instead, they are always locked-in on their audience and hell-bent on producing content that those people will gobble up.

They’re constantly researching their audience, researching topics and keywords, testing new ideas, updating their knowledge, and trying new content marketing tactics.

Content hackers are the future of content marketing because, in the end, they are the ones working to make the internet better. Content hackers STOP producing more crap to add to the content trash pile.

We’re on a mission to create content that matters to users, and builds trust and connections between audiences and brands.

💥Content hackers are the ones AGAINST adding more crap to add to the content trash pile. They're on a mission to create content that matters to users and builds trust and connection. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

In fact, this has been my goal with content from the very beginning, back in 2011 when I started Express Writers. Needless to say, it works. Our numbers prove that: 90,000 visitors/month in organic traffic, and 14-16% of those visitors convert through our content.

Analysis of a Modern-Day Content Hacker

To be called a true content hacker, you need a certain set of skills. You don’t necessarily have to be the James Bond of content marketing, but a little creativity, agility, and ingenuity in your wheelhouse won’t hurt.

If we must whittle down the ideal content hacker to a few traits, we think these are the most important ones. If you want to hack your way to mega-growth with content, take note – here we see the average specimen as they might look in the wild.

content hacker

See an analysis and the leading traits of of today's smart, growth-focused content marketer in @JuliaEMcCoy's #contenthacker guide 👨🏼‍🎤👩‍🎤 Click To Tweet

Mind: Tactical, Growth-Minded Thinker

A content hacker intrinsically understands content marketing’s worth. By 2021, the industry is expected to reach $412.88 billion. The content hacker is at the forefront of this valuable industry, the one brainstorming ways to tap into that growth for their own niche, and searching for new tactics to make it happen.

Ears: Constantly Listening/Learning

A good content hacker always has their ears open. They’re constantly listening, measuring results, learning what works and what doesn’t, and pivoting as needed to stay on the path of content marketing growth.

Mouth: Clever Communicator

Communication is key for the content hacker. They use every form of it – words, videos, social media, email, and more – on the right platforms, from Instagram Stories to Facebook Live and beyond, to speak to the heart of the matter. They customize communication to the brand they’re creating content for, and exist where their audience lives.

Feet: Agile and Flexible

Watch out – a content hacker is fast. They learn quickly, rebound from mistakes, and are ready to try another strategy, tactic, or idea within the next minute. If one road or method isn’t working, they’ll cut through the brush to find another path that will help their brand grow.

Heart: Audience-Focused

Above all, the users matter most to a content hacker. Understanding the user’s needs, wants, desires, and problems (not the brand or client’s) is pivotal to producing useful content that converts.

Cardiovascular: Patience & Strong Work Ethic

Patience is a must for the content hacker. Most content marketing ROI doesn’t come in until 12-24 months after as a matter of fact. Without a strong work ethic and the patience to see their content tactics and growth hacks through to the finish line, a content hacker would never get anywhere.

Veins: Storytelling and Writing Chops

Most content hackers find their way to the field through their love of storytelling. The ideal content hacker understands the value of stories and knows how to write. They spend much of their time telling them through amazing content creation. Plenty of marketers are catching on, too. Content creation spend has seen the highest increase over the last 12 months over any other content marketing area, according to CMI’s Budgets, Benchmarks, and Trends report.

Blood: Caffeinated

Let’s face it: The content hacker needs a daily dose of joe (or tea) to fuel those early mornings and late nights of content hacking – or to power through the dreaded 3 p.m. slump.

Tools: Skilled Researcher

Researching is an essential skill for the content hacker. They’re always researching and looking for useful data, whether that means finding out everything they can about their audience or discovering profitable keywords that tie to user search intent. Tools today’s content hacker uses include Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Mangools’ KWFinder, and BuzzSumo.

To sum up the skillsets and traits of a successful content hacker…

  • They’re agile, independent thinkers whose major focus is brand growth through the creation of user-satisfying content.
  • They’re ready to hack through the internet jungle at moment’s notice to reach the growth and results they crave.
  • If one way is blocked, they’re experts at finding a clear path to ROI.

These smart, strategic content marketers have a wide playing field open to them.

Question: Why put all the trouble into making sure you learn the skill sets involved in content hacking?

Well, according to a study by Fractl and Moz, content marketing job growth increased by nearly 350% between 2011 – 2015.

content strategy job growth

This is a trend that has continued into 2019. That’s pretty epic.

And I think we can continue to see this increasing in the future, as the industry of content marketing rises as a whole.

ContentHacker.com – Launching Soon!

As you can tell, my heart is invested in this topic 1000%.

That’s why I’m moving forward and launching a brand this June that is wholly dedicated to growth-focused content marketers. You guessed it — it’s called Content Hacker.

content hacker

This will be my personal brand, but it will also serve as a resource center, education platform, and publication for every single person who believes in the content hacker way of life.

Because anything short of growth and results (both for us AND our real, living, human audience) would be cruddy, am I right?

I’m super excited to share this new venture with you.

And, chances are, if you’ve read this far, you’re interested in joining me as this new launch happens. To stay up-to-date on all things content hacking, sign up for the list.

See you soon, fellow content hackers!

content shop

how to stand out online

How to Stand Out Online: 5 Questions to Ask to Know What Makes You Different From the Rest of the Pack

“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Thank you, Oscar Wilde, for the inspiration.

But this doesn’t just apply to individuals.

It applies to businesses and brands, too.

As the creator of Express Writers, I have learned that we are successful because we have embraced our individuality and refuse to focus on what our competitors are doing.

Along with dancing to the beat of our own drum, from the beginning, we focus on building the best services for our clients and original thoughts that build elite and unique levels of service.

From my own life experience, I know how hard it is to find out what makes you different in an industry everyone seems to be in.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and building a content marketing and writing agency was a natural next step for me. But it hasn’t come easy. Through the ups and downs, I discovered my greatest successes on the heels of failures.

(It’s a longer story than this, and you can read it all here.) In short, my failures helped me ask a ton of questions and ultimately embrace my flaws and stand out from the rest of the content-marketing industry.

So,  how do you find out what makes you different from your industry?

Here is a number of questions to help you and your business know just how well you’re standing out — and making a real difference online.

Answer these 5 questions to know if you're standing out and making a real difference online, vs. adding to the noise. @JuliaEMcCoy #ContentDifferentiationFactor Click To Tweet

how to stand out online

How to Stand Out Online: 5 Questions to Ask to Know What Makes You Different from the Rest of the Pack

Let’s dive into the five questions every entrepreneur and business owner should be asking.

1. What is Your Content Differentiation Factor in Your Industry?

how to stand out online

I teach this concept in my Content Strategy & Marketing course and have written extensively on it in my book. To summarize, your content differentiation factor (CDF) is what separates you from the billions of other content on the web.

Ask this question:

“Does my business communicate topics with people that the rest of the web doesn’t?”

Maybe it’s exclusive content you provide that no one else does, a positive digital experience clients can’t get anywhere else, etc.

Your CDF is how you present your brand/business, and how you communicate industry topics to your audience.

So, understand what separates you from the rest of your industry and go from there.

oscar wilde

2. What Makes Your Selling Technique Different from Everyone Else?

Everyone in your industry is selling something similar, right?

For example, if you’re in the marketing industry, you’re probably doing some content marketing.

Why? Because content marketing provides one of the highest ROIs.

From our last post, 6 Major Content Marketing Trends from CMI’s 2019 B2C Content Marketing Research Report

If you understand that, a number of other people in your industry know that too — so, how do your content marketing services stand out from everyone else? Or any of your other services for that matter?

Remember, your unique selling proposition (USP) is different than your CDF.

  • Your USP is the factor that makes your services and products different than competitors. (Different in terms of by choosing your services and products, they are receiving a higher value.)
  • Your CDF is how your business/brand is presented. (When you acknowledge industry topics you don’t just give a generic response. You provide an individual and valuable experience that will educate and benefit your customers.)

Make sure you’re asking this strategic question:

“How do I present my services/products differently?”

Remember though, don’t focus only on your competitors.

By focusing on what your competitors are doing, you’re losing focus on your own ideas.

Understand what your competitors are doing and how you’re different from them, but don’t focus too much on them.

Look inside you, your team, and your own environment for your best ideas. Make sure you have a valid reason to give when your customers ask why they should invest in you and your services/products.

3. What Does Your Business Do for Your Customers?

This is part of your USP: understanding what your business/brand provides your customers.

If you’re having a hard time pinpointing what your USP is — don’t worry. You can start narrowing it down by asking yourself what your business does for your customers.

For example, Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, said that he sold hope, not makeup.

how to stand out online

Revson’s promise to his customer was that he was going to provide a product that gave women hope to receive the look they wanted.

So, when you’re thinking about what your businesses do for your customers, don’t just think about the products/services you sell. Think of the feelings and solutions it provides.

4. Are You Comparing Yourself to Your Competitors Too Much?

I mentioned earlier when I talked about asking yourself what your USP is how you should understand what your competitors are doing.

But, don’t focus on them too much.

Once you start focusing on your competitors more than you start focusing on your own ideas, you lose your own sense of creativity.

Trust me.

I used to use templates for my emails, and veered too close to copying and pasting while going off “best practices.”

Then, one day, I sat down without distractions, only armed with inner inspiration.

I had the idea for a great email around my Content Strategy & Marketing Course, and wrote it out.

It turned into one of my most high-converting emails to date:

how to stand out online

If you think you’re losing the original “you”, simply ask yourself, “Do I compare myself to my competitors too much?”

If the answer is yes, then I have a few tips to get you to stop analyzing your competitors and start going more internal for bigger and better results:

  • 1. Unglue Yourself from Social Media
  • 2. Get Some Fresh Air and Exercise
  • 3. Indulge Your Creativity

Read more here: Why Focusing On Your Competitor Could Be Killing Your Business

If your answer is no, that’s great! 👏🏻

Remember, it’s important to study what your competitors are doing, without fixating on them. After all, there are millions of people in the world and a lot of them are studying what you’re studying. They’ve made mistakes and have crossed roadblocks you haven’t gotten to yet.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to recreate it.

1. What is your content differentiation factor? 2. What makes your selling technique different from everyone else? Ask yourself these five questions to see if you're standing out in your industry. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

5. What Brands Do You Love?

What are a few examples of well-known brands that resonate with you and your business? Make a list of your favorite businesses and look into their business models.

They don’t have to be in your industry.

In fact, if they’re not in your industry, then it’s not as easy to compare yourself to your competitors — which, remember, you don’t want to do.

Well-known businesses haven’t always been well known — they had a starting point, just like you.

Well-known businesses haven’t always been well known — they had a starting point, just like you. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Here are three examples of well-known businesses that are prime examples of not fitting in.

1. Netflix

It doesn’t matter what your industry is: Netflix is absolutely killing the whole “doing something the rest of the industry isn’t” thing.

They can be used as an example for just about any business.

Not only were they one of the first ones in the streaming video industry, they started using all kinds of data to give the people what they want.

[email protected] @dove @airbnb are examples of brands busting through next levels by NOT fitting with typical competitors. Click To Tweet

how to stand out online

Netflix understands their audience better than any other video-streaming business — and some could argue businesses outside of the video streaming industry.

People want more options of movies/TV shows to binge watch, Netflix started making their own original videos and people are definitely not complaining.

Your business might not be a video-streaming business, but you can use Netflix as a leader — study your audience and go after them.

2. Dove

In the early days of fashion, the only models that were good enough were super tall and super skinny.

Until recently.

how to stand out online

Dove introduced a “Real Beauty Pledge” that uses real, everyday women as their models and help women build self-esteem confidence.

how to stand out online

Not only was this campaign revolutionary for marketing in general, it increased their entire business by 2 BILLION dollars.

Yeah, billions — that’s a huge increase.

Dove shows us that businesses can become the voice of the unrepresented — even if it hasn’t been done before.

Can you just imagine the conversation in the boardroom about this?

“Hey Bill – I want to do a campaign with eleven every-day women that look just like the moms I hang out with at my school PTA meetings.”

“Uh, Sarah, I had supermodels on the Cayman Islands at the top of my list.”

“But every woman will relate to mine and we’ll grow by at least $1 or even 2 billion.”

…SILENCE…

“Hmm…yeah, you’ve got a point about our audience there. Okay, Sarah, you win this one.”

👏🏻 The campaign idea may have sounded crazy at first, but with a campaign most women can relate with, it was a huge success.

3. Airbnb

If you enjoy traveling, you’ve heard of Airbnb, and even if you don’t like traveling, you’ve probably heard of Airbnb.

Airbnb is a travel company that is revolutionizing the hotel industry by giving people a home anywhere around the world while also giving them a local and unique experience without breaking their bank.

how to stand out online

Airbnb’s business model is targeted to get people to list their real-life home for a few days, weeks, or months, so more people have reasonably priced places to stay while also experiencing local culture. They advertise a great message: customers can become business owners just by renting out their homes, or, if they don’t want to rent out their personal home, they can be renters where they can experience a unique place that is theirs for the time that they’re visiting.

After seeing the most popular locations and types of homes users wanted to rent, they introduced AirBnb Plus. Airbnb Plus is their way of presenting specific areas and homes that are “extra special.” The Airbnb team even studied real data to showcase the best cities and homes around the world for amazing customer experiences.

how to stand out online how to stand out online

Although Airbnb studies their data thoroughly, ultimately, they treat their customers as business partners.

If you as an Airbnb customer book an apartment for a week, you deal with the person that owns that apartment/house — not Airbnb. Airbnb only steps in if the home does not meet the listing standards or you (as the customer) do not feel like you belong. Plus, Airbnb promises to reimburse customers for homes that do not live up to listing standards, or on the flip side, they’ll help the homeowner if customers damage the home. That’s a pretty amazing guarantee level.

A good goal that Airbnb has uniquely captured, that you could also work towards: treat both your first-time and returning customers so well, they want to start referring your service freely to others. But the way you do this must be unique, like Airbnb’s above-and-beyond guarantee.

Start Asking These 5 Questions and Stop Same-Old Syndrome

It’s hard to stand out, especially in a world where everyone is doing what seems the same thing.

I mean, just look around the Facebook ad-o-sphere. Or the marketing universe in general.

Everyone’s quoting “best practices” and then looking over the shoulder of their competitor just to end up doing same old, same old.

What if we authentically focused on creating a truthful message, connecting with our audience and solving problems instead of just selling things?

Need some help creating content that reaches your audience in a powerful, impactful way? We’re just an email away.