Todd E Jones is a man on a mission – to “resurrect flatlined content”. To him, storytelling is both instinct, and a distinct part of his family’s (and wider humanity’s) shared heritage. So linking storytelling to content and business was no big leap. Plus, back when he was a freelance WordPress designer, it really grinded his gears to consistently see either no content or boring, stilted pieces with no hope of generating leads or conversions.
That’s why his agency Copyflight aims to identify and develop each client’s unique, interesting story so they can communicate more effectively to their customers. On this installment of Agency Gurus, Todd talks to us about integrating storytelling within content marketing, becoming an industry authority, and generating leads for the business.
Cloudways: Hi Todd, thanks for talking with us! So tell us about Copyflight. How did you decide to start your digital agency?
Todd: You know, I just started by building websites. Next, I built WordPress websites. I realized over time I enjoyed the content more and moved that direction. It all works together. We have to have the content and copywriting as much as the technical part. Ultimately, the goal is to get clients more business.
Cloudways: You’re a storyteller first and foremost. Would you say there’s a difference between content marketing and pure storytelling? What elevates content to the level of storytelling as opposed to simply marketing?
Todd: Content marketing at its most basic level is using content to market a company’s product or service. There is an element of education involved.
These days it is just as important to help with conversions as education. Storytelling can help with that.
Pure storytelling is sitting around the table during the holidays and hearing someone tell a story from years ago. Pure storytelling is watching The Equalizer for the fifth time when it comes to TV because the story grabs you and can’t unwatch.
Pure storytelling is hearing that song you love for the fifth time the same day because you find yourself in the song.
We see storytelling in so many areas and it is a natural fit for content marketing. We can use them in blog posts, we can use them in success stories, emails, videos, podcasts, and in images and graphics.
Content marketing can’t be boring, there is too much competition. Storytelling in your content marketing can give you an advantage.
Cloudways: What’s the process you follow for developing and implementing an effective content marketing strategy for a client?
Todd: Probably my most used strategy for content marketing is answering questions.
This is fairly easy to do but many companies don’t take the time to do this. Simply make a list of the top 25-50 questions you get from your customers.
If you have a sales team or customer service representatives, they will know those questions.
The other thing I think is to have a consistent email newsletter. It can be once a month, but just be consistent. Use your social media to repurpose your content and send visitors back to your articles.
Cloudways: Would you say SEO-optimized copy has a higher purpose than search engine rankings, especially as search engine preferences shift to search intent?
Todd: SEO-optimized content is content that has the purpose of ranking. Not all content has the purpose of ranking.
To do this type of content, you have to put some very real effort into the article. Think in terms of a short ebook. It should be that level of good and thorough.
I like to talk about the REO Framework. The R stands for Relevant. The E stands for Engaging and the O stands for Original content.
Make your content relevant, engaging, and original and you are well on your way.
Cloudways: You’ve talked about the necessity of building trust before asking for the sale. What are some ways marketers can establish a reputation as a trusted authority?
Todd: If you are publishing regular content then you will be recognized as an industry authority. Being a guest on a podcast, having a guest article, giving a presentation, these are also things you can do to become trusted as an authority.
Take the time to teach something you are an expert on.
But trust is showing up regularly and giving out good advice to those who need help. Trust is also earned when you prove yourself to your customers by delivering with integrity.
Trust is so much more than just showing you know more and are an expert. People also trust those they like.
Cloudways: In your opinion, what is it that digital marketers and agencies most commonly get wrong about generating and nurturing leads?
Todd: Really knowing the pain points and the motivations that their target market has. We all struggle with this.
It takes interviews, surveys, data mining, and chats to find out what our target market is struggling with.
It is time-consuming, but in the end, you will have better data.
Once you know the real pain points, you can better tell THEIR story and really make a connection.
Cloudways: You’re a vocal part of the WordPress community. What type of hosting do you think is the best for WordPress users? Any plugins that have made your life easier?
Todd: As far as hosting goes, that kind of depends on the needs of the business. I think it is a good idea to use a reputable host who can handle any changes and has good support.
There are some hosts many of us stay away from if we can. There are lots of great hosting companies out there.
As far as plugins, I always install Anti Spam Bee. Another one I use regularly is MainWP to manage multiple sites.
I usually have Updraft Plus installed for backups. I use the Astra theme stack a lot, so the Astra Pro plugin gets installed.
Cloudways: How has the pandemic affected the way Copyflight operates? What does team collaboration look like for you right now? Do you have any advice for agencies and stores struggling to adapt to the “new normal”?
Todd: The pandemic hasn’t affected me that much, thankfully. I have always been virtual and when I collaborate, that is virtual too.
As for advice, find the tools that work for you. Communication is key. However it works best for you, use it. Don’t feel like you have to re-invent the wheel. There are lots of great collaboration tools available.
Advanced Tactics for Highly Collaborative, Remote Teams
Cloudways: What upcoming content marketing and SEO trends are you excited about?
Todd: I think content marketing and SEO trends are happening now. Some people just haven’t adjusted. SEO has moved more to include good, solid content and copywriting. Agencies need to adopt that.
That means needing to hire better writers. Something I have been saying recently is “You can’t get Copyhackers quality for Upwork prices.”
The old “fast, cheap, good” model applies to content too. Cheap content is usually done quickly and the quality is not as good. You have to pay good rates for good content to satisfy your readers and help your content rank higher.
Cloudways: And finally, who are the marketing gurus you look up to for inspiration?
Todd: There’s no way I will remember or list everyone, but here are a few who are on my radar regularly:
Rob Cairns, Kim Doyal, Dave Gerhardt, Benji Hyam, Selena Soo, Laura Belgray, Ross Simmonds, Joanna Wiebe, Shama Hyder, Donald Miller, Neville Medhora, Brendan Hufford, Nabeel Azeez, Talia Wolf, Joel Klettke
Keep reading Agency Gurus for more enlightening words from top agency specialists. And thank you for your valuable insights, Todd!
You can connect with Todd on his LinkedIn.
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Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!