Dr. Paul Marciano is a leading authority on employee engagement and retention and the author of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT.” As part of our Small Business Shoutout feature, in which we highlight great content marketing examples for small businesses, I asked Paul to explain his approach to content marketing — and how he managed to out-SEO the famous clothing designer who shares his name.

How would you describe your brand in five words or less?

Spreading Respect in the World

What role does content play in your marketing strategy?

Content is everything. Your focus should never be on marketing you, but rather on sharing knowledge and experiences that provide value to others. If you want people to listen to you – and potentially hire you – you need to demonstrate that you can help contribute to and address their important business needs.

It reminds me of interviewing advice: Don’t tell a potential employer why they should hire you, rather, demonstrate the value you have to offer by showing them that you know the industry, their place in the industry, the challenges they face, and how you can help them address those challenges by making suggestion that will make a difference.

How do you define success in your marketing strategy overall?

I look at concrete results, including the number of opens that I get to a blog, how many times it has been tweeted out, and how many people respond with comments. I look for an increase in the number of people who sign up for my newsletter, or reach out to me via e-mail or ask me to connect with them on LinkedIn. Other indicators include the number of people who watch my videos on YouTube or download one of my presentations from SlideShare. I look for an uptick in book sales via Author Central on Amazon.

What types of content does your business produce? Why did you choose those types?

Mainly, we produce blogs and newsletters. We also spread our message of Respect during radio interviews and webinars. We use press releases for news and events that we believe would help us to pick-up followers, such as when I hold a public workshop or have been invited to join the board of a company.

Once we get a story or link, we tweet them and post them on LinkedIn and Facebook. We choose these types of content offerings because they allow us to reach out and offer value to those interested in my work. These activities have eliminated any and all advertising costs. Most critically, these strategies allow content to live forever in the virtual world. I cannot tell you how many times I have had people contact me a year after an article or online radio show posted.

What’s been your biggest challenge in developing and executing your content marketing strategy?

Time and focus! There are an endless number of distribution channels and opportunities to pursue when it comes to delivering your content and marketing yourself. It can become absolutely overwhelming. For example, whatever your area of expertise and interest, there are all kinds of online discussion groups. I belong to about a dozen groups on LinkedIn alone that have to do with human resources, motivation, and employee engagement, as well as, my local Chamber of Commerce and a group of small business owners in New Jersey. These sites provide an excellent venue in which to share your content knowledge by answering others’ questions. You just can’t come across as totally self-promotional or you will lose credibility. I have found them to be extraordinarily effective platforms. If you consistently contribute to these groups, people take notice.

My advice would be to pick and choose just a few strategies and really stick with them. For example, it is better to build a reputation on a few sites than to dabble in many.

What’s your favorite piece of advice for other small-business owners considering using content to market their businesses?

Identify where your tribe is, i.e., your potential customers. Especially when starting your business, you are not going to have a large following. Who has your followers and how can you ride on their coattails? My specific strategy was to contact top business blog sites and pitch them on writing a blog. Two sites invited me to write a piece for them. Both were well-read and commented on, and I was asked to write more pieces.

A final comment that I would like to make is to realize that all of these action steps take time, patience, and persistence. (If you’re a small business owner, than you already know the importance of persistence!) Probably the most important goal of an online marketing strategy is to raise yourself in search rankings. Now, it is probably unreasonable to expect that anything you will do will get you on the first page of Google search results for “Business Consultant.” However, more realistically, you may be able to get your name on the first page. The idea is that if someone has heard of you they can find you on the web.

I have to compete with the CEO of Guess Jeans – Paul Marciano. When I first began contributing content on the web this I did not show up until page seven or eight in search rankings – no one is going to search through that many pages to find me. Through persistence, I have been able to make it onto the first page and people find me easily now. I’m certain that the only way that I will continue to remain on page one is to continue to be “out there” adding content.

New to content marketing? Check out our glossary of common content marketing terms.

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