If you have ambitions to scale your digital business and become a leader in your field, it all starts with credibility. What is credibility? It’s the ability to engender a sense of trust in your target audience and prove you are worth investing time, and hopefully money, in.
Sounds like a worthy goal, but how do you achieve it? The short answer is to put out content that connects. And once you have produced it, market it to the most applicable audience.
Before we dive in, you probably need to undergo a paradigm shift. Traditional businesses have a product they want to market so they create some content. The new thinking is your whole business should revolve around content creation and the leverage it gives you. The product comes after.
Build a brand; not just a business
A personal brand overarches everything, including the individual products you want to sell, like a framework upon which everything rests. Your brand is inextricably linked to your personality and essence – it is who you are and what you represent. Once you have established that, you can sell literally any product you wish. It all starts with ‘setting out your stall.’ Share your perspective on life. Tell people what you stand for. Revel in your uniqueness, quirkiness, or whatever makes you you!
Naval Ravikant, the founder of Angelist, said the main leverages to building wealth are: labor, capital, coding, and content. If you don’t have people working for you or pots of money and you can’t code, content is the surest way to develop your digital business. The new wave of millionaires and billionaires, people like Mr. Beast, Joe Rogan, and the Kardashians, are the greatest examples of the power of content creation in action.
Now, whilst few of us have our own reality TV show or podcast that airs to millions, we can emulate the big hitters. I’m going to share five tips that you will hear time and again from those who have gained huge audiences and grown massive business empires.
Make sure the quality doesn’t detract from your message.
If you’re new to creating content, you’ll quickly learn that it can be some of the hardest work known to mankind. What seems so effortless actually takes a lot of time and energy. You may have to ask yourself if you have the time, skill, equipment, and inclination to pump out a consistent content calendar. If the answer is no, you should definitely think about hiring someone else to do it for you.
If you’re in the fortunate position of owning a company already, perhaps that person is one of your trusted employees. If you’re a solopreneur, perhaps it’s time to invest money in hiring professionals or call in favors from some gifted amateurs. Whatever route you take, ensure you produce the best quality content you can with your available budget.
Even if all you have is your phone, you can still pump out some kick-ass content with a bit of thought, effort, and creativity. At the risk of negating everything I’ve just said, many huge influencers started in their bedrooms with dire equipment and no knowledge. That being said, they are in the minority.
Trust is the foundation of your brand
If you do put out skimp on quality, you’re just creating another barrier to entry for your would-be audience. Getting people to look at, or listen to your content will be hard enough. Recent reports suggest that trust is at an all-time low, and even experts have a hard time conveying their messages. Throughout COVID, governments worldwide fought against misinformation and conflicting information. Even doctors and scientists were not automatically believed. People are jaded and tend to trust organizations and voices that are closer to home – the companies they work for, voices in their community, and those they are connected to. So, if the barrier to entry is higher, how can we penetrate new markets?
The answer to ‘getting people to listen’ is to not even try in the first place. Instead, create your own community where people voluntarily belong and take time to build real trust.
Tell your story; build an audience
Storytelling, although very much an ancient art, is still the key to getting people to gather around you and support your cause. We are wired to react emotionally to stories. It’s genetic. Humans are entranced by compelling stories. Our emotions fire in sequence with a well-told story. Character-driven stories trigger the release of Oxytocin, sometimes called the love hormone, which encourages us to be more empathetic and cooperative: a business owner’s dream.
Listeners tend to ‘mirror’ the storyteller’s emotional state so whatever is seen on the screen is felt by the recipient. If you want to engender support or get people to back you, tell them your story. What is your brand all about, what do you believe in, what are you passionate about?
Stand out in the crowd
Standing out from all the rest of the competing messages is one of the hardest things to achieve and also why it is so necessary to dig into your personal experiences, background, failures and successes and share these in a relatable way with your audience. It is the only way to differentiate yourself in the crowded digital space. Think of it as a quid pro quo – share something of your inner-self and, in return, your audience will give their time, attention and even their hard-earned money.
Make a difference in people’s lives
Regardless of how much you appeal to your audience’s emotions, you have to offer them something that will make their lives better. How are you solving their issues and problems? How is your offering making the listener feel better, look better, live better? Without a clear proposition, and a discernible benefit, people will not buy into your brand no matter how much they ‘like you’. To make sure your benefits hit home, you have to understand your audience’s pain points. What do they struggle with? What issues can you solve? How can you answer their burning questions? It is only as you deeply appreciate this psychological aspect that you will really hit home.
Be consistent with your messaging
Many large companies produce marketing handbooks with clear guidelines that include things like the tone of voice, words and phrases that are particular to their brand. Airlines, for example, will talk about soaring effortlessly above the clouds. Computer and mobile phone manufacturers will emphasize how intuitive, addictive and sleek their devices are. You’d do well to copy their marketing strategy.
Once you know who you’re speaking to and what their pain points are, write down some key phrases and descriptive words and try to nail the tone you want to adopt. As you produce content, make sure that it lines up with this particular list of priorities. If it does not, do not be afraid to rework it, rewrite/reshoot it or scrap it. If you veer away from the persona you have presented, you can easily confuse or frustrate your listener. This includes maintaining the same look, feel and sound across all your platforms.
Don’t follow every fad
And, while we’re on the topic, learn from my mistakes. Don’t waste time jumping into every new format that appears. It’s a recipe for burnout. I once did Instagram reels, a reaction to the growing lure of TikTok and found myself performing like a seal, tiring myself out in the process. It was too much work for too little return. Choose media that offer the best bang for your buck. YouTube, for example, keeps your videos around for years so if anyone is searching for your material they can find your whole back catalog. You can’t do that with shorts – it’s about immediacy and is instantly forgettable.
The greatest aspect of being a digital business entrepreneur is the blank canvas it offers. There are literally no limits to how big, how niche or how creative you can be. I firmly believe that there are still incredible opportunities for those who dare to dream, commit and do the work. As global audiences become more sophisticated, we all have to learn new tricks. But, no matter how far we advance, people will always crave community and belonging. Find your own tribe of online devotees and I guarantee you will never look back.
Written by Vanessa Lau.
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