It's the season of giving. We are all shopping for the perfect gift for the ones we love, with the anticipation of seeing their faces as they unwrap the package. They appreciate getting a present, and their joy makes you feel good as well.

The gift doesn't have to be huge or expensive. Some of my favorites are the things people give from their heart, that they thought about and spent time on, like the hand-made gifts kids are making in school right now. When I open that gift and they are looking at me with giddy anticipation, there is nothing like it. It's even better than the ecstatic face they have when opening their own presents.

There is a real connection between the giver and the receiver.

And that is what is at the core of content marketing. Content marketing is about giving. Giving the gift of your knowledge and your expertise. Giving it away for free with the intension of helping others, providing something of value to them and building a connection.

Of course, in the long run, we want that connection to yield a paying client. But that can't be the focus of the gift. Instead, approach it like a real gift when you plan, give, and react to the giving process.

Planning
Think about your prospective clients when you are planning your gift. Just like you do when you are shopping for your friends or your children. You wouldn't get your two-year-old a shaving kit. You want to give them something they actually want and need. Something they can use right now.

Whether you are writing an article, creating a white-paper, or shooting a video, keep your ideal clients in mind while you are making it.

Giving the gift
When you give your gift, do it with excitement and generosity. If you put your time into it and you thought about them in the process, it will come across. If you whipped out something quick and you are not proud of it, it will be like handing them something in a Walgreens bag with an ashamed face. "Here. Merry Christmas."

How you give the gift can come across online too. How you write about and how you present it are important. Show your sense of pride and anticipation, just like your children do… in your own way, of course!

Reacting
After they receive their gift, be gracious. It is not the time to immediately call them up to make a sale or try to get them to buy in. That would be like giving someone a gift, and when they turn to you and say "Wow! Thank you. That was really nice of you." holding out your hand and saying "Okay, now where is mine?" Or a parent turning to a child who is thrilled with their new toy and saying, "Okay, now you have to do the dishes every night since I got you that."

It immediately changes the situation. It means your gift wasn't really a gift. It was more of a bribe. It tarnishes the relationship and gives a negative association to the gift itself.

Instead, follow up with the person to say "I hope you really liked it." Or to ask them "what did you think of it." Or even to say "if you liked that, then you might like this gift as well." Wow!

Now you have given them more of your time and attention, and started to solidify a relationship. Give that relationship a little time before you begin to ask for things, or offer things for sale. This isn't an exact science. And every sales cycle is a little different. Just make sure that your "ask" isn't tied directly to your "give" or you are negating the power of the gift.

While you are in a gift giving mood, start thinking about what gifts you will give to your prospective clients in the new year.

And have a wonderful, joyful and generous holiday season!
 
 
I believe in the power of creativity and self-expression to transform our lives and our businesses.

This is one of my core beliefs that has guided the creation of my own business and the work that I do. But I’ve noticed that when I talk about “Creativity” in front of groups of people, I often get blank stares.

There is a phenomenon in which many people think, “But I’m not creative. I’m not very good at that.”

I must disagree! Every person is creative, or has the capacity for creativity. And those people who recognize it and harness it are happier and more successful than those who insist that they aren’t creative.

I want to help you recognize your own personal brand of creativity, and in order to do that, we must first acknowledge what creativity is.

What is creativity?

Many people associate creativity with artistic talent – painting, sculpting, composing, choreographing, etc… While those are most certainly creative activities, creativity is not limited to the world of the arts.

I found several definitions of creativity, and they said things like:

“The ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”

“The use of imagination or original ideas”

And the simplest one that really sums it up: “Originality of thought.”

That means that if you have original thoughts, if you think things that no one else told you to think, if you have ideas that you came up with on your own, then you are creative!

Creativity is part of everyone's lives, especially business owners. Creativity is not a compartmental thing that happens when you write or draw or play music. Creativity happens all the time. It is in every solution to every problem.

There is creativity in seeing a problem and coming up with a way to solve it, which is essentially what business owners do every day! And it goes deeper as well, into the way that you choose to solve a problem, which might be different from someone else’s way of solving it. It is connected to your personality and what you believe about the world that makes you think the way that you do.

Creativity is personal. Each individual has their own perspective, their own way of seeing the world. Ten different artists will make ten very different works of art, just like ten entrepreneurs will create ten different businesses.

Harnessing Your Creativity

The problem that I see is that too many people never express their creativity. They have ideas, but they never share them or act on them. They have a unique perspective, but instead they choose to follow someone else’s path.

These things happen because putting your own unique ideas or creations out into the world is scary. There will be people who disagree with you or who don’t like your contribution. So what?

In a way, that is the nature of the individuality of creativity. Some people will connect with your way of thinking and others won’t. And the beauty of the interconnectedness of our modern world is that we are able to more readily connect to those people who resonate with us, if we are courageous enough to put our original thoughts out there.

Creativity and Content Marketing

That, to me, is what content marketing is all about. Not just finding people you can help with your product or service. But finding those who really connect with you. Who understand your way of thinking, your beliefs, and your approach.

Working with people who are in a similar creative group tends to yield better results, happier clients, and a better experience for the business owner as well.

This is part of what I love about working with my clients. Digging deep enough to uncover their own thoughts about what they do and why they do it. Finding their personal creative approach to their work, and showing it to them through the content we create. And they often react with, “Wow! Did I really say that?”

So I encourage you to start looking for and documenting your original thoughts and ideas. They may pop up in conversation when you disagree with someone. They may come through when you think about why you do something in a particular way. They may appear in your priorities and how you choose to spend your time.

When you are ready, you can begin to put your own brand of creativity into what you do, and see how it transforms your life and your business.
 
 
Do you have a free opt-in offer? Something that you give away to prospects in exchange for their information? It is such a critical piece of your marketing because it is how you get the information you need to communicate with people, build relationships with them, and turn them into customers.

If you don’t have one, it is time to create one!*

Perhaps you have one, but not enough people are signing up for it. When this happens, there are usually two primary reasons:

1. The opt-in offer isn’t appealing specifically enough to your ideal client.

2. The opt-in offer isn’t in front of enough of the right kind of people.

Today I am addressing the second reason. (To learn more about the first reason, check out my upcoming teleseminar.*)

Once you have an opt-in offer that you are really proud of, that appeals to your ideal clients and provides great value to them, it is time to get it in front of them. Your opt-in offer cannot build your list on its own. You must actively give it to people.

I think of it like a gift. It is something that you are giving to people for free that you really believe will help them. You should be excited to give it to people, and it should be part of all of your marketing activities.

Here are 9 ways to use your Free Opt-in Offer:

Your website – Obviously your Free Opt-In Offer should be on your website home page. It should be at the top or in the main body of the site, above the fold (visitors should see it right away without having to scroll down). Don’t squeeze it into a side bar. Remember, it should look as though you can’t wait for them to have it.

It should also appear in other places on your website. For example, be sure it is on your blog pages, so that people who come to your site because of a blog article will see it. Where else do people go on your site? Highlight your free offer there.

Landing Page – Create a landing page, or squeeze page, for your Free Opt-In Offer. This is a page that doesn’t have anything else on it besides the offer. These kinds of pages convert at a much higher rate than an opt-in on a regular website. Be sure to identify who your ideal clients are and give some information about what they will learn or what value they will get from your offer. A video introduction on this page is great!

Your Business Card – What do you have on the back of your business card? This is a great place to put your free offer along with a website address or QR code for your landing page so people can get it.

Facebook Page – Of course you should post your Free Offer when it is newly created. But to give it a longer life on Facebook, you can pin that post to the top of your wall. You can also add an opt-in app to your Facebook business page with an image that leads people to it.

Other Social Media Pages – Whatever social media platforms work best for you, post your free offer there. Pin it on Pinterest, Tweet it out, or do whatever you do. Social media posts have a short lifespan and depend on the depth of your network there. So use the platform you are already most comfortable with and best established on.

Your elevator speech – When you are in a networking group, or even just talking to a prospect at an event or on the street, mention your free offer. After you give your name and what you do, tell them you have something to give them. This works great if your opt-in is also on your business card!

Your bio – Include your free offer in your bio. This is the short paragraph that you put after your articles, particularly when you are posting as a guest or on an article directory. It should also be on your e-newsletters, speaking introductions, etc. Keep your personal information short – no one needs to know all your degrees or accomplishments. Instead, after a brief introduction of yourself, offer them your free gift.

When you speak – Whenever you speak to a group of people, maximize the effectiveness of the opportunity by mentioning your free gift. You can even pass around a sign-up form so people can opt-in right there.

Affiliates and Joint Venture Partners – Get other people to help you give away your free offer. These relationships involve a reciprocal participation. You will either have to pay them for the leads they generate for you in some way or you will have to return the favor and promote something from them. But these are wonderful ways to get in front of new groups of people. Of course, you can also ask friends and colleagues to promote your free offer as a favor to you, which is usually less effective but requires much less formality and organization.

If you have a free Opt-in Offer, but it isn’t in all of these places, pick a few that you can add today.

*If you don’t have a Free Opt-In Offer yet, check out my upcoming teleseminar: “How To Create An Awesome Opt-In Offer”