Lauren Van Mullem is a conversion copywriter who knows the rules and when to throw them out. She believes authenticity is the only way to market a business sustainably, because it feels good (and character wins in the end).
“So there I was, in a tent in the back-end of Rajasthan, armed with a bucket, chasing a six-inch bug (that looked more like a baby dragon) around the toilet.
“I finally cornered it against a canvas flap and it started vibrating at me. Do dragon-bugs explode? Was this a ticking time-bug? But I believe in humane relocation of even terrifying insects, so I went at it with the bucket, trying to trap it, and accidentally lopped off one of its legs.
“And then it flew off and disappeared. I went to bed knowing there was a giant, now very angry insect somewhere in my tent. I didn’t sleep the whole night.”
Lauren Van Mullem will tell you that she went to India before it was cool – before that whole ‘Eat, Pray, Love and leave your spouse thing.’ But she went for a similar reason, at least in terms of mental and emotional healing.
“I’d just left the first real job I’d had since graduating from college, and the boss was so abusive, and the environment was so toxic, I knew I couldn’t go straight into another job. I needed to clear my head. Stop having nightmares about emails with the subject line ‘See me.’”
She’d saved enough money for one straight shot around the world, touching down in England, India and Tokyo. England and Tokyo because she had friends there. India because, for lack of a perfectly logical reason, she felt called.
When you tell people you’re going to India, you’ll run into a few people who’ve been. They will tell you the same thing: it’s a life-altering experience. I didn’t buy the hype. I should have.
“It’s so completely different. Any sense of control you thought you had over your life, you have to let that go, or the very nature of India will beat it out of you. It’s elemental in that way. And it’s intense. I saw the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life jammed up next to the most horrible things I’ve ever seen in my life. Temples with courtyards of blooming trees, green fields where dozens of women are working wearing bright pink, gold and blue saris. Then young men my age with no legs begging in the train station. Skeletal dogs walking the streets with gaping holes in their rib cages. It’s all there.”
Lauren is the first one to laugh at herself, saying “Yes, two weeks in India is enough to contract giardia and change your life.” But it’s also true. When she came back, she did have clarity.
She never wanted to work in an office again.
But more than that – she never wanted to play by anyone else’s rules again. The only path she wanted to follow was one she forged herself.
“It’s how freelancers are made,” she quips.
In this interview, Lauren talks about how to do marketing in a way that doesn’t play by established rules, how she applies her philosophy to her own website, and why “authentic marketing” is both dangerous jargon and the only way forward.
Serena Faber Nelson moved from TV producer to follow her passion for puppies as a full-time dog-blogger. Here she shares how she differentiated her blog early on, forms genuine relationships with brands organically, and her secrets of a successful media kit.
Pretty Fluffy is an apt name for Serena Faber Nelson’s blog about the joys of having a dog in your life. It’s deliberately light and joyful – both in subject matter and in color scheme – and it was exactly what Serena needed at an emotionally fraught time in her career as a television producer.
“Pretty Fluffy was born out of a need for escape. I’m a trained journalist, and for the last decade and a half I was working as a TV producer for lifestyle shows, like cooking shows, some pet shows (my favorite), and in 2010, a medical documentary series.
“We followed people through their journeys from really rough things, like being diagnosed with cancer and going for treatment, or people who’d been in motor vehicle accidents and were going through multiple surgeries. We were shadowing doctors and got to see what they were doing in these life or death situations.
“For me, that was really confronting. I decided I needed something outside of work that was fun and light and joyful.”
Serena had just gotten married, discovering StyleMePretty along the way, which she said gave her the idea to start her own blog in 2010.
“Pretty Fluffy came about and grew from there. Now it’s my actual job.”
Kaleigh Moore is a freelance copywriter who works with clients like AT&T and SumoMe and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur and CopyHackers. Since beginning her freelancing career in 2013, she has doubled her income every year. In this interview, Kaleigh lets us in on her personal philosophy of building a business based on being kind and sharing what you know.
“I think people hire people. That’s what it comes down to. They want to come to your website and get a feel for who you are as a person – a person who they might potentially hire. If you have stale photos and a formal website, it’s hard to get that feeling from it. You can’t read between the lines. There’s nothing there. You have to provide that sense of who you are for the reader through words and visuals so they can understand who you are before speaking with you.”
The moment you land on Kaleigh Moore’s site, you begin to have a good feeling about who she is – as a writer, a potential team member, and as a person. In that order. It’s deliberate and strategic, but also manages to be incredibly personal.
And it’s simple.
In fact, the way she does business – a business that has doubled every year since she started – is nearly as simple, clean, and uncluttered as her website. Kaleigh is one of those entrepreneurs that seems to have mastered la vita bella – the beautiful life. It’s about being true to who you are, being good to other people, and reaping those rewards.
With just a little strategy and a handful of metrics.
In this interview, we talk about how she uses her website, blog and newsletter to support her business, along with some of her best tips for aspiring freelance copywriters.
How Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré helped Autopilot attract relevant influencers, improve engagement metrics, and improve conversions with her content promotion and distribution package.
“In 2017, I hired Nichole to help promote Autopilot’s content. Not only did she get our content in front of the right people, but she also saved us time and money along the way.” – Jes Kirkwood, SaaS marketer & growth strategist
SaaS marketer and growth strategist Jes Kirkwood was tasked with helping Autopilot improve their content following, but not just by boosting page views and engagement metrics. Autopilot, a marketing automation software company, needed to reach their target audience of SaaS marketers – specifically.
Kirkwood signed up for Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré’s content promotion and distribution package in July, 2017.
The package is designed for this precise purpose: To help companies gain brand recognition among their ideal audiences by sharing their high quality, original content on Nichole’s personal social media accounts, as well as Growth Hackers, Zest.is, SaaS.Community and additional distribution to specialized outlets.
Over the course of two months, Nichole promoted 36 pieces of content. The results?
“In just 2 months, her influence drove 359 new users to our blog, attracted the attention of relevant influencers, and landed our content in an industry newsletter with over 135K subscribers. Better yet, she sparked meaningful conversations with our target audience. If you want to reach and engage SaaS marketers, I highly recommend partnering with Nichole.” – Jes Kirkwood, SaaS marketer & growth strategist
- 857 website sessions (average time on site: 0:43 seconds + average 1.33 pages per visit)
- 359 new users (website visitors)
Top three channels:
- Twitter (most sessions)
- Quuu (most new users, i.e., website visitors)
- LinkedIn (highest quality traffic)
- Time savings (approx. 5 hours) syndicating each article to GrowthHackers.com and Inbound
- Started a meaningful conversation in the Inbound community (attracting influencer attention): (23 upvotes, 29 comments)
- Landed Autopilot in the Growth Hackers newsletter for Flight School lesson (135K+ subscribers, 3.9K views, 20 upvotes)
In the client’s words:
“Nikki’s content promotion efforts helped drive brand awareness for Autopilot to a highly qualified audience across relevant social media channels and active online communities. Not only did she attract traffic that spent 38% more time on our site compared to our average visitor, she went the extra mile to start meaningful conversations with our target audience.” – Anne Fleshman, Director of Marketing at Autopilot
Want your website to summit the search engine results page? You need a blog. Want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? A blog can make your name. Need to provide content that nurtures leads and gives current customers what they need to be successful with your product? All of that can be done with a blog.
This isn’t news.
You know you need a blog. And, by now, you’ve probably figured out that just having a blog isn’t enough to get any of the above results. It has to be good.
“Good, unique content. Problem is, almost everyone can get here. They really can. It’s not a high bar, a high barrier to entry to say you need good, unique content. . . . If you can’t consistently say, ‘We’re the best result that a searcher could find in the search results,’ well then, guess what? You’re not going to have an opportunity to rank.” — Rand Fishkin, Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die — Whiteboard Friday
It has to be great.
But even Level-Great content is becoming saturated because the secret is out. Content is the key to:
- Build brand recognition — 71% of all respondents who maintain blogs for a business report that they have increased their visibility within their industries through their blogs.
- Establish leadership in your space — In 2016, 36% of Fortune 500 companies have a public blog.
- Boost acquisition — 77% lift in median monthly leads occurs to businesses with over 51 blog articles.
- Improve retention — “A business’ best protection against churn is a Customer Success team armed with a content marketing strategy.”
Unbounce figured this out almost immediately. In an interview, Unbounce Co-Founder Rick Perreault said, “We started marketing the day we started coding.” What did that marketing look like? One marketing employee who focused on creating high-ranking blog content that produced significant and consistent value to the reader.
You know all this. You’re sitting there thinking “Yeah, I know, content is king, quality is king, we’ve got a pair of kings and our content STILL isn’t getting us to Page 1.”
The problem is: You’re creating all of this quality content without a cohesive SEO strategy in place. A strategy that leverages your great, big body of content to achieve the most effect.
We’re not talking about a list of keywords here.
But to understand the kind of strategy we’re suggesting, you’re going to need a brief history lesson.
Conversion copywriter and podcast host Kira Hug talks about her journey to build her brand and why strategically-crafted visuals are so important for connecting with the right people.
“This might sound strange coming from a copywriter – who should, presumably, eat, sleep and poop words – but I love me some visuals.”
Kira Hug isn’t just any copywriter. She’s a conversion copywriter – which means her specialty is writing words that spur and inspire readers to take action. If you’re selling a product or service and want to talk your ideal customers into buying them, Kira is the person behind the scenes making that happen with landing pages, sales pages, and email campaigns.
This work requires her to get inside people’s minds, take on different brand voices, and play upon just the right mix of pains, fears and desires that cause people to act.
It also requires a strong grasp of how to use an entire brand experience to attract and connect with ideal customers – and much of that experience is created through visuals. Visuals are never to be underestimated.
But that’s an idea that runs contrary to the philosophy of many writers – we’re biased. Our art is the written word. However, Kira didn’t grow up as the ‘writer’ in the family. Her identity was ‘the artist.’
“My sister was the smarty pants. I embraced my artistic side and wore the ‘artist’ label very happily. That followed me into college. But I realized, I can’t be a fine artist and live the life I want, so I pursued graphic design.”
As Kira worked toward her B.F.A. in Fine Arts in Visual Communication, she found herself attracted to advertising classes, which led to an advertising design internship.
That’s where things really started to click for me. You get to be creative, and there’s strategy, words, and visuals and psychology behind it. I remember thinking that this is the best thing ever.
Of course, the challenge all new graduates face is finding a job in the ‘real world’ doing what you love. Which rarely, if ever, happens fresh off of campus. With no job prospects in sight, Kira took a leap of faith and moved to New York City, a lifelong goal.
“I didn’t plan well in terms of having a job before I moved there. I just did it. So I took the first job I could find at Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s management training program. I cringed at taking it. It was so different from the cool, art-design job I’d envisioned, and I was embarrassed by it.”
For nine months, Kira sold car insurance and rental cars, spending down time washing cars “in a parking garage that smelled like urine, in a pencil skirt.”
But at the same time she was learning how to tap into the selling power of words.
Over the next several years, Kira took many different jobs – glamorous jobs at places like Estee Lauder’s store design department, hard jobs in marketing for non-profits, even jobs in event planning. If she didn’t feel like she was growing, learning, and feeling challenged, she’d move onto the next thing.
After Kira had her first child, she needed a little more control over her work schedule. She began working for a fast-growing startup as CMO, which allowed her to build her reputation in the company as well as her own business on the side at the same time.
All with a newborn baby. Is Kira Hug secretly Wonder Woman?
Possibly. She does have more alter-egos than the average copywriter. But that’s all part of her brand strategy.
In this interview, Kira Hug tells us how she built her solo copywriting business and how her artistic background informs everything she does, from her own blog, to her copy, to her delightfully quirky business strategy.
A customer journey map is a diagram of all the places customers come into contact with your brand, online or off. Each of these touchpoints influences the customer, and by analyzing customer behavior, feelings and motivations around each touchpoint, you can begin to identify opportunities to establish more positive relationships by giving customers what they need at any given stage of their journey.
The goal of journey mapping is to gain a deeper understanding of your customer, how they interact with your brand, and how each interaction affects your relationship. It’s also a way to ensure that the brand experience remains consistent for each customer across touchpoints.
“With the number of touchpoints a customer has with a brand increasing with the proliferation of technologies and channels, the need to create a consistent experience is critically important.” – McKinsey & Company
But the big picture goal is why there is so much buzz around customer journey maps now:
Customer journey maps can move you towards more conversions, greater customer loyalty, and improved customer experience from end to end (or from end to forever, if your subscription-based and there’s no bottom to your sales funnel).
But customer journey maps can be complicated to create, and their results can be difficult to track and interpret from end to end. Many businesses are tempted to ignore it altogether in favor of lower-hanging fruit to increase conversions.
However, that hesitancy to use journey maps is quickly disappearing as more companies are seeing the results from properly mapping their customer journeys.
And, if your company is struggling with the question: “Why aren’t customers completing (or repeating) purchases?” – there is no better time to create the map that will lead you to that answer.
Brands like Pier 1 and Target regularly find Jessica Lighter, of The Celebration Stylist, through her Instagram posts. In fact, despite her accomplishments as a party planner and blogger, she says the community she’s made on Instagram is what she’s proudest of. Here she talks about how she built a following of thirty-thousand highly engaged followers.
“I always had all these fun business ideas but I never had an audience for them. I knew if only people saw the things I could create, they would appreciate them and support them, but finding an audience was the hardest part. And what’s a business without buyers right?”
Jessica Lighter has always been a woman of many talents. Creativity isn’t something she does, it’s who she is. Trying to find a job that encompassed her many talents wasn’t easy; as she says “They don’t offer ‘party throwing’ as a college major.” But in high school she worked at a mall store that specialized in children’s birthday parties, and while she didn’t expect that to become her career path, it sort of did.
She went on to open her own party store, but when she and her husband decided to have children, her focus changed. She closed the store and planned occasional parties for families around the neighborhood, working events around the schedule of a stay-at-home mother. Then she began posting pictures of these parties on Instagram.
“I had a personal (but not private) Instagram account, like most people do, and one day I got a couple of random strangers following me. It dawned on me almost instantly that somehow I needed to grow my Instagram account and THAT would be my audience.”
Growing her Instagram following became her focus. She knew she could find an audience there and maybe even people to buy her products. Not only that, but “People that were interested and invested in my journey and what I would create.”
She says it was the exact solution she needed.
“No matter what I decided to do, I needed people to know about it if I was going to make it work on my own.”
Instagram fascinated Jessica. She saw businesses and brands using it as practically their only medium for growth. Jessica has devoted a lot of time to studying how to build a business through Instagram, and along the way, she discovered that she also enjoyed writing, which made blogging about her parties a natural evolution.
“There have definitely been points where I felt I was failing at life, but it all sort of funneled into this. And this lets me stay home with my daughter, write, create – all of which I like to do. A lot of people think they can’t make a career out of what they love to do, but I’m here to tell you, you can. You might just not know how yet.”
Jessica says she had no idea before she started that there were companies, big ones, that would pay other people to create images for them.
Today, Jessica as The Celebration Stylist works with brands like Target, Shutterfly and Pier 1 to create styled party shoots for her blog and Instagram, in addition to planning parties for local clients. It’s a system that’s working so well for her that she says she isn’t accepting new clients at this point – she’s earning enough and is able to give her two-year-old all the attention she needs (which, being a two-year-old, is a lot!).
Unlike so many entrepreneurs, Jessica Lighter isn’t all about the hustle. Her priorities are her daughter, work-life balance, and spending what time she has (while her daughter is napping) doing what she loves. Not a bad way to do business, if you ask me.
In this interview, Jessica Lighter shares how she built an Instagram following of more than 30,000 highly engaged followers, works with big-name brands, and is starting a community of party-loving creatives all on social media.
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).
Announcing a new package for startups!
Competition is fierce, and loud, and… everywhere. To get noticed by early adopters, evangelical customers, tech enthusiasts, investors, thought leaders and Silicon Valley insiders, you need a way to reach them that isn’t over-saturated. Something that pushes you into their radar so you can finally reach the great heights your product deserves.
In my Rocket Fuel Package, I offer a way you can get:
- Brand recognition – among your ideal audience
- In front of an engaged audience of thousands of startup enthusiasts
- Your content shared on cutting-edge tech communities like Growth Hackers, Product Hunt, Inbound.org, SaaS.Community and more
- Not just more traffic, but qualified traffic who are more likely to convert to leads
- A quickly growing reputation as a thought leader in your industry
Think of me as an extension of your content marketing team.