Here’s what we’ll cover
She built an audience from zero to 10,000 in just 8 months. They were engaged, primed to buy and that’s exactly what they did – they bought. That was about 18 months ago so today the numbers and her business are even bigger.
She started from zero. We all start from zero. So, what is the key to building an audience of your own from ground zero? Well, that’s what we are talking with Stevie Dillon about today.
We’re going deep into the marketing strategy she used to build her business from the ground up. We break that marketing strategy down and consider how it works specifically to grow your service based business.
We’re talking about content marketing and we’re answering these questions. What is it? What does it look like? How can you apply it to your business without having it take up too much time? Is it time for you to consider content marketing in your business?
The key take-away? Content marketing is not just for new businesses. It can work for those of you that have been around for a while. If you’ve had enough of trading time for money, you need to consider this.
Why? You’ll be paving your own way, opening up the potential to something bigger in your business – even if you don’t know what that ‘something bigger’ is yet.
Stevie’s mission is to help more women leverage the Internet and the opportunities presented by online entrepreneurship to build profitable, sustainable online businesses.
Her special sauce? Providing the tools and resources to build stand out personal brands using social media and podcasting, and to monetise with a signature online course.
Stevie is also the host of the Stevie Says Social Podcast, which debuted at no. 2 on Apple Podcasts. It is a regular in the top 10 Business Charts and has been downloaded 300,000 times.
Stevie has been featured in the likes of Social Media Examiner, Business Chicks, League of Extraordinary Women, SmartCompany and on Channel 7, where she has written and spoken extensively on all things social media. She was recently named one of the top 150 most influential female founders in Australia by Scrunch.
Here’s the shownotes
I came across Stevie a couple of years ago when she was first starting out in her business ‘Stevie Says Social’.
There were a couple of things that Stevie opened my eyes to and I knew that I needed to hear more of what this woman had to say.
So here I was, a professional, an ex tax accountant, a service-based business owner and at that point in time I was wanting to start this business, Simply Smarter Numbers.
I knew I needed to stand out, I knew I wanted an online business and I knew I wanted to use social media but honestly, I just could not work out for the life of me how it is that a business like mine could work online, let alone be marketed online.
In comes this business woman Stevie, who was talking about social media for service based businesses, now Stevie’s business has grown beyond belief using the exact same marketing strategies that she teaches.
We are in for a real treat today as Stevie is going to go deep on the key marketing strategy she used when she started her business and started to grow it online. But, enough from me, welcome Stevie.
Hi. It’s so good to be here, thanks Jen.
I’m so happy to have you here.
How about you tell us a little bit about yourself and where your business came from and where you’re headed today.
I am Stevie, funnily enough, my business name is ‘Stevie Says Social’ and I teach people how to build stand out personal brands using social media, specifically instagram and podcasting, and to monetize it with a signature online course, which is a mouthful but it really sums up what I do.
That’s evolved overtime. I started out probably when you were coming across me Jen, specifically in social media and really establishing myself as the go-to person in that space, that was really my goal when I was first starting out in business. I did that for a couple of years and it’s just now starting to evolve.
So that’s me in a nutshell.
So you’ve sort of taken that starting point being the social media and then taken what it is you can do with social media as a service based business owner and how it is that you can then monetize that, how it is that we can start making some money out of all of the effort that we put into, not just with social media but everything that comes from that.
You now work with creating digital courses. Is that right Stevie?
It’s kind of the whole ecosystem now.
When I was starting out it was teaching people the nuts and bolts of social media and then what I realised is that people are coming to me for Instagram and engagement but they didn’t have the foundations sorted.
They didn’t have a sales funnel and if you don’t have a sales funnel leading people to whatever you core offer is, then you’re kind of just doing social media for social media’s sake.
So I started to dive more deeply into that and then it has mapped my own business journey I guess, I really saw the potential for things like content marketing and social media to act as the fuel to build a personal brand, and then the potential that gives you to do what a lot of service providers, free-lancers, people that are booked out with client work, ultimately want to do, which is ‘passive income’. There is nothing passive about it but it is kind of digital products in a sense that you do a whole lot of hard work up front and then you get to reap the benefits of that later.
That’s where I’m at at the moment.
I think it’s such an interesting world for us professional business owners who have worked in our businesses, doing our things, generally working face to face with people one on one for such a long period of time. We get to a point where we go, is this it? Have I hit my ceiling? Is this as far as I can really take this business?
Because the longer you’re in business you want to start creating a lifestyle for yourself.
When the time you’re putting into your business is in direct correlation with the amount of money you’re able to take out of your business, the two just don’t go hand in hand do they?
This just gives us professional business owners an alternative doesn’t it?
Yeah, 100%, and it’s something I’ve been really mindful of particularly in the earlier days, was if I booked myself to capacity I wouldn’t have any time to do the things that would ultimately set me free, which is creating courses and doing all of that good stuff.
So something I’ve been mindful of from the very early days and I’ve never really put myself in a position where I have been completely to capacity and haven’t had the opportunity to do that. But I know there’s a lot of service based business owners at the moment that are just frazzled, booked out and either they can raise their prices or they can hire a team or they can go down the digital product route.
I guess the thing is you’ve been able to do it in your business.
So from day one you started out not actually having any experience in digital products, is that right?
Yeah that’s right
Exactly, so you have built it and worked it all out and done all the hard yards so you’re at a point where you can say okay this actually does work, this is how we do it, and this is all you need to do it as a service based business to add this element of ‘passive income’ to your business.
It’s a really exciting prospect for business owners such as myself, and other professional service based business owners out there but I guess we all have to start somewhere.
What I would love to talk to you about today is where it is exactly that you started.
So you started, I believe, back in the early days working with a marketing strategy around content marketing.
Is that where you really kicked off your business and started getting yourself out there Stevie?
So I actually was working for a real estate agency, this was before I even started my business. They had said to me, we want some creative ideas for getting our agency out there, we don’t want to do billboards and all the traditional marketing types of things, what do you have for us?
So that was the catalyst for me doing this deep dive into a way that you can market a business without advertising and being really interruptive in the way that you’re doing things.
Through that process and research I came across Gary V and started listening to his podcast and he is obviously such an abrasive person but he just said over and over again, you’ve got to add value.
So I thought right, how can I take that and apply it to this agency that I’m working for.
We put together a pretty deep content marketing plan and started rolling it out and I loved it and I started to see the impact of it.
With real estate, people have the perception that real estate agents rightly or wrongly, some real estate agents definitely give the industry a bad name, and have been really salesy and pushy in the way that they do things, we kind of flipped it and started some of this content marketing strategies which was interviewing people in the local area and showcasing businesses and the stories behind the local characters in the area and it got bigger and bigger to the point where it was really positively affecting the agency.
I thought this is so cool because it was content marketing in action. So I started a social media blog documenting what I was learning about that process, and that led me down the rabbit hole, without intentionally doing it, of starting a content marketing strategy for what would then become my own business, ‘Stevie Says Social’.
It’s so exciting to hear it when you have actually experienced it in somebody else’s business and seen it come to life.
It’s exciting because we know that traditional marketing has had its day, and even more so in the year 2020, we’re all starting to look a bit more outside our own box aren’t we and I know a lot of people are embracing it and have been for a period of time but like we say, when you’re booked up and you’re working solidly and you don’t have the hours to put towards this kind of thing, it does mean perhaps there are some businesses out there that haven’t had the opportunity to do the things that you or I have done, and put that into practice.
I’d like to talk about how it is that we can start putting that sort of thing into practice in our own businesses.
So when we say content marketing, I had no idea what that was a couple of years ago. I guess the thing with us professional people is we’re very good at our craft, we’re an expert in whatever it is we work in, but I am the first one to put my hand up and say when it comes to social media and marketing and all those sorts of things, it is not something that comes naturally to me or something I wanted to embrace, but we get to a point when we say ‘okay now is the time’.
If we were to talk about content marketing at its basic level, how would you explain it for those that have never really heard it?
It’s basically a special service provider showcasing your expertise and adding value around the topics and types of information that people want.
It’s leading with value as a way of promoting your business without ever being salesy, rather than an ad in the newspaper or on tv which is an interruption to peoples days. It does the job in terms of it getting you in front of your audience but it doesn’t necessarily create the right impression.
Content marketing is flipping that on its head and saying how can I add massive value to these people who are my prospective customers and clients by giving them information that is super valuable, which at the same time establishes you as an expert and the go-to person in your field if you do it over and over.
It’s so powerful and I’m so passionate about it.
Yeah, and it can look like a blog, it can look like a podcast.
There’s basically three ways you can do it, blog, written, audio or visual, so its blog, podcast, video.
There’s different channels you can do that. So that’s your core content channel, so blog, podcast, video is where you can create longer form types of content that can sit for a long period of time.
If it’s on youtube and it’s a video, it has that search engine optimisation benefit, if it’s a blog and you’re optimising it it has that same thing, same as a podcast.
From there, content marketing can be split out into different types of channels such as Instagram, Facebook and social media and you can take little pieces of that. That’s also a different form of content marketing too.
I think that’s the beauty of content marketing is if you put all the time and effort into putting together a blog, podcast or video, which is adding value and providing helpful advice to your ideal audience, what you can then do is take little pieces of that and use it in your instagram posts or facebook posts so you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel, that’s one of the advantages of content marketing isn’t it?
Yeah and that’s actually called content repurposing basically and it’s not something that I have embraced heavily in my business until recently.
I always knew you could take a piece of core content and split it out but I’ve now got solid processes around, I create one podcast episode a week and from there I create ten pieces of content from that.
It turns into a blog post, it turns into a carousel post or an Instagram graphic, it turns into a whole heap of different things and it’s all literally from that one piece of core content.
I then make it specific to whatever channel I’m posting it on. For example Instagram, at the moment, sharable saveable graphics are working so well, I’m getting next level engagement from summarising the podcast episode and putting one of those graphics up.
It really means instead of spending all your time trying to create bespoke content on different platforms, you can, especially if you have a team, you can be the person that gets on the microphone if you have a podcast and you record a half an hour podcast episode, you can then put that into a folder and then from there if you have processors set up to do this, your team can create whole different pieces of content from that and that’s your content marketing strategy done.
It makes it sound so doable, because one of the things that turns me off social media is constantly having to sit and come up with interesting and exciting things.
Maybe it isn’t easier, maybe it’s because I’m on the other side of the fence, but I feel like it’s easier for people that have retail businesses where they can take a picture and post it on Instagram and market their businesses that way, but for us service based business owners we have to really think differently and I’ve embraced what you do because I have done your podcast course ‘launch your wildly successful podcast’ and it was fantastic and here I am I have my own podcast.
Taking like you say half an hour out of your day to do your podcast then knowing that all of your other social media can be drawn from that it’s a really time saving and efficient way to market your business. I am really embracing it, I love it.
Yeah, 100%, and I couldn’t agree more.
I am obviously a massive advocate of it because I’ve seen it not only in my own business, but I’ve seen it with so many service providers.
It’s interesting that you say that you think service providers have it tougher than product based businesses and I couldn’t disagree more because I feel like at the moment, social media is really favouring those businesses that have a story or personality, so especially if you’re a personal brand or somebody that has their own expertise, a doctor or a lawyer, a physiotherapist or anything along those lines, if you can tell people stories about what it is that you do, why you love working with your clients and then pair that with showcasing your expertise by providing massive value and giving your very best advice away for free without being scared that people won’t come to you, they still will, it will establish you as the expert.
Not only does it please the social media algorithms and you’ll get great engagement and all that good stuff, but it actually is such a beautiful way of doing business because you’re advertising without ever being salesy.
I guess it’s really up to us professional business owners to embrace it and start doing this stuff. We do have
stories, we do have case studies, we do have a lot of interaction with our own clients, conversations we have of course are confidential but there is always things that we can take from what it is that we are doing in our day to day work, in our professional lives, and take little pieces of that and help others in a mass way through social media.
And I think the easiest way of thinking about it, because often people say ‘I don’t know, I sit down to create content and I don’t know what to create content around’, just literally sit down and list out the 50 questions that you have been asked about different aspects of how you do things or your business you know come up and that can your first 50 blog posts or your first 50 podcast episodes.
It can honestly be as simple as that, and I’ve seen a lot of professional businesses do it really well lately.
There is a financial business up in Brisbane that is killing it at the moment with short snippets of financial advice and people are like ‘that’s not interesting enough for social media’ but if you are a business owner and you need that sort of advice then it is very relevant to you and helpful and specifically in the case of this business, they’re kind of in the back of my mind and on my radar because they’re constantly coming into my feed with useful information.
Stevie that’s all good and well, we know what the content is, we know how we should be starting to think about content marketing, whether we should be starting to employ it in our businesses and get our heads around it, but why should we do it from a business growth perspective?
How is it going to help us grow our business, and perhaps the best place to start there is how did it help you grow your business back in those early days and then how it’s helped you grow your business today?
Yeha so I never could have guessed the impact that it would have in the early days, and I’m so glad that I started out.
When you first start out in business it can feel like you’re talking to crickets, if you publish blog posts or you start a podcast, and you’re like ‘nobody’s listening, this is so frustrating’, I have been there.
I kicked off my blog for example in January and I don’t think anybody even read it until June or July of that year, and then I went from the blog to a podcast.
What it did for my business, it literally built my business. I didn’t have Facebook ads, I didn’t have any paid spend at all for the first year and a half that I was in business, and I was financially doing really well right from the get go and it literally came from constantly providing value, syndicating that value in the right places and doing that over and over consistently, there’s no secret sauce to it, it’s had a huge impact on my business.
And you have a funnel in place, so without wanting to get too into how it all works, basically you are able to collect people’s emails and have a database of listeners and subscribers that you were then able to get in touch with when the time comes that you have something to sell.
Yeah, so especially if you go into online business, it’s really critical that you have an email list from day one simply because you don’t control your social media platforms and the conversion rate from your email, which is the number of people that are on your email list that actually purchase from you is so much higher than any other platform.
So the way that I did it, and I was very fortunate that I did this in the early days, I created an opt-in which is basically a valuable freebie that people exchange their email for, and it needs to be related to whatever your free content is.
So say if i have a podcast episode all about how to start a podcast, the freebie would be related to that.
Some of the freebies that I do have or used to have, is a podcast equipment cheat sheet. So the first question that people always have is ‘what microphone do i need’, and so i would record a podcast episode about how to start a podcast and then I would mention if you would like a free cheat sheet that will tell you what microphone you need, head over to this url to grab it, and then they would end up on my email and list and I would have an email strategy.
This is getting more complicated, it doesn’t need to be, your email strategy can just be every fortnight you might send out a related piece of content or you may send out your podcast episodes to them every week, so you’re nurturing them and then when it gets to the point that you’re in a launch or you’re in a promotion, then you’ve got an audience of people that have already expressed interest into whatever your core offer is, for me it’s a podcasting course, so you can present that offer and it’s the next logical step for people who do want to take that next step.
Yeah so it’s a case of deciding that you want to do something different in your business, getting your head around the fact that content marketing will actually work for you as a business owner, deciding the type of content marketing you want to get started in, whether it’s a blog, podcasting, video.
Blogs I guess are the easy way to get started.
There’s less tech involved in a blog so it’s good from that perspective
Then it’s a case of using those little bits of information wherever you can, using the content that you have just put together in your blog and putting it out into your other social media.
Then asking for people’s emails but giving them something valuable in exchange, like a downloadable PDF. So that kind of comes into the next level.
You’ve got to start somewhere.
Start with a blog then the next step is start repurposing the information there and putting it out into your social media, the next step will be, what is this free thing that I can offer my audience, my listeners, my readers that they can download so I can start collecting email addresses and building an audience of my own?
Then from there you’ve got this whole group of people that are listening, watching, reading and you can eventually sell to those people when the time’s right.
Totally and that’s how you build up a really warm audience, especially in the early days.
Content marketing obviously takes time but it can take less time when you do things like content repurposing, but it does take time but I feel like if you’re in your first couple of years of business then you’ve got more time than you do money, some people may not but I recommend getting started in the early days because that’s when you have the most ability to do it.
As time goes on and you have more money, less time, you can start to do things like invest in Facebook ads but even things like Facebook ads won’t work if you don’t already have a warm, organic audience.
I just think that starting early, building your email list early, getting those pieces in place, will only ever help you as you grow.
Even if you’ve been in business for three years, five years, or seven years already but you’re looking to change things up, start the blog.
That’s all it is. If you’ve already been in business for that long you’ve probably already got people around you and people that you can say ‘i’m going to start this blog’ go and work out how you can get it up on a website, go and work out how to pull out the pieces of information for me, let’s start moving on some social media.
Just start and once you get started on it, it just becomes so much easier, it’s just getting the wheel turning is the hard part. All of these other things just come naturally over a period of time.
So Stevie, with your business do you mind me asking what it did with your email list right from the very start.
I’m assuming you started out with zero people on your email list like most of us would, and what did it do to your email list? Just to put some perspective around the kind of growth you can get from an audience.
So my email list obviously started out at zero and it grew really significantly.
Even before I started with Facebook ads, Facebook ads kind of put like a rocket fuel on it, but content marketing grew it 15,000 leads which is huge for zero ad spend.
It’s massive. Over what period of time did that take you?
It was at 10,000 within 8 months of starting the business.
It’s always recommended that you do a clean up, so I do a clean up every 6 months and delete people off the list if they haven’t opened anything for a while, which will happen.
So you want to make sure that you’ve got good email deliverability and things like that.
It kind of fluctuated up and down but it was at 10,000 before I did the first cull, and it’s a lot higher now but yeah 10,000.
But very engaged probably as well.
That’s the other thing, it’s so important that you have an engaged email list so if there’s people that aren’t opening your emails it will really hurt your email sends and there’s just no use.
Especially people won’t overtime as well as your business grows, be potentially interested in a social media course that they signed up for a freebie for two years ago.
So it’s something you need to make sure you’re keeping on top of and cleaning, and I’m doing that quite regularly.
If that’s how you started it, it took 8 months to get 10,000 people on your email list, then from there at some point you have something that you’re going to sell, you were selling online courses, what percentage of people when you’re ready to sell something sizeable to that audience that you had been working on accumulating overtime, what percentage of those people were actually purchasing from you?
My conversion rate, on average my warm conversion rate is about 6% which is very high. To put it into perspective, my cold conversion rate, which is people that have never heard of me, sits around 1.6%.
That’s the other thing with content marketing, the relationship that you form with people and the intimacy and the likeliness that they’re going to purchase because you’ve been providing value consistently, means when you do present an offer to them, it is the highest converting audience that you will have.
Stevie those numbers are really interesting, if you’re getting 6% for your audience, I guess hearing that number to start with you might think it’s low, but I guess you’re comparing that to what would be the industry average for that type of thing?
It’s different per industry, but the stats that are thrown out there are between 1-2% and it depends on a whole heap of different things but comparing it to my Facebook ads conversion rate at 1.6%, it’s significantly higher than that.
This 6% is of my entire email list, so for example if I decide that I want to do a launch for my podcasting course, there might only be 2000 of those people that sign up for the free webinar, so the conversion rate on that is much higher.
I’m just talking about the conversion rate of my entire email list.
It’s an interesting way for us to look at it, so it’s just like gathering an engaged audience around us who are primed, ready to buy, when time is right assuming you’re selling something they’re interested in.
I love the concept, where I’m at in my business, I’ve obviously just started my podcast and that is the track that I am heading down, so anyone can do it, trust me if I can do it, anyone can do it.
What I would love for you to let us know is what would be your top tip on creating that effective valuable content marketing?
So when I say your top tips, what is it that we should be thinking about? In my mind I go with, I can give people the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ but do I hold back on the ‘how’?
That is like the conventional content marketing wisdom.
People say don’t give away the ‘how’, and I do say that to a certain extent, but I’ve actually built my business by being overly generous with the advice I give away for free.
I think content marketing has gotten so competitive these days that if you’re holding back people can sense it, and they’ll go to somebody and start listening to the podcast, or start reading the blog or following on social media, somebody who is giving more away.
Even though you don’t obviously give it all away for free, I think giving away bits and pieces but not in a systematic order is totally fine.
For me, using my Instagram course coming up, I give away little snippets of advice that are super valuable, like I have people message me on Instagram and say ‘I can’t believe what you give away for free’ but it’s not in a system so I know that behind the scenes there is so much value in the program and it’s my step by step system that people can actually go through in action.
But I think it’s totally fine to give away, in no particular order, little snippets of super valuable advice.
I feel like we have to get over ourselves a little bit in that way.
Don’t be afraid to put it out there, don’t be afraid to give real advice to people, because in the end that’s how you’re going to stand out.
You will not stand out honestly, everyone these days has a blog or is starting a podcast, there’s so many Youtube channels out there, and if you really want to stand out, you’re not going to do it by having it, you’re going to do it by being the most valuable.
I really passionately believe, give your best advice out for free, it will draw people to you, they will start to see you as the go-to person, the authority, and so who do people want to work with when it comes to the point that they need additional help? They’re going to go to that person, they’re not going to go to the person that’s keeping it all behind the scenes because they’re scared of losing business. The opposite will happen.
Such an important thing to think about is, open up, put yourself out there and the right people will turn up and appreciate it, and they’ll understand that ‘I am getting enough here to take care of my problem that I have got happening right now, this is going to help me move one step further, but if I want real help to solve the problem once and for all and get me past this issue that I have, then I probably need to go directly to that person and get real one on one quality help’.
100%, so another way to do it is you can be super valuable with giving away the first step.
Say you’re doing a blog post and you know that people who struggle with Instagram don’t know how to put together a strategy, and so you could give away everything to do with putting together a strategy and then at the end of the episode, you could say but there’s so many different tasks involved in this, do you want to know more about how to actually execute these individual tasks? That’s when you need to work with me.
Thank you Stevie, I feel as though we have enlightened people as to what content marketing is, even if you know about it at least now we have gone in quite deep, I feel as though people will be able to get involved and start their own blogs, using content marketing in their own businesses in one way or another.
We’ve placed content marketing into the little puzzle of marketing, and let everybody know where it all fits in.
Where is it that people can find you? Where can they find you if they want more information, you mentioned an Instagram course, what have you got coming up? What is it that you can help people out with in the future?
All things content marketing funnily enough, so just head to my website, ‘steviesayssocial.com’, there is a free podcast masterclass, there will shortly a free Instagram masterclass and you can go from there.
I have no doubt that there will be lots of people heading over to ‘steviesayssocial.com’ and checking you out, it’s a fantastic website too by the way.
It’s beautiful and I’ve been there many times because I’ve enjoyed doing the work that I have done with you over the time.
You have helped me build my business to where it is, absolutely without a doubt, so thank you for helping me out, thank you for helping my guests out and thank you for coming on the show.
Thank you so much for having me Jen, I really appreciate it.
Wherever you are in the world, whether you’re in Australia, whether you’re in America, wherever you might be, I want you to have a fantastic week and I look forward to chatting with you again soon.