It's time for episode 37 of the Content Champion podcast, and I'm thrilled my guest on the show is experienced copywriter, blogger and speaker, Rachel Foster of Fresh Perspective Copywriting.
If like me you've not really scratched beneath the surface with LinkedIn – apart from sharing a few posts here and there and building up your profile and contacts – then Rachel's innovative five step strategy for driving leads from the platform should encourage you to look at LinkedIn again.
Rachel has enjoyed amazing success generating both email signups and business leads through the network, and in this podcast she shares her step-by-step system that is both easy to understand and follow – and also incredibly effective.
First published as a fascinating post on the ever inspiring Content Marketing Institute blog, Rachel reveals how her unique technique helped her bag over 200 new subscribers from just one LinkedIn post.
Rachel was very generous with her time for this podcast – and we covered a lot of ground to create what is a fascinating and actionable show.
In an illuminating 25-minutes, we discuss:
Plus! The PS Question! Rachel shares a simple but effective strategy that I for one can't believe I wasn't doing before!
Resources mentioned in this show:
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Announcer: Welcome to the official podcast at contentchampion.com. Join our heroic quest to discover truly epic content marketing. Introducing your host, the content champion himself, Loz James.
Loz James: Hi, content champions. Thank you for listening, and welcome to the 37th edition of the Content Champion podcast.
Talented business to business copywriter, highly skilled blogger, engaging event speaker, and founder of Fresh Perspective copywriting, my guest on today's show, Rachel Foster, has many strings to her professional bow.
A specialist in using content to drive lead generation, Rachel was also included in the Online Marketing Institute's list of the top 40 plus digital strategists in marketing for 2014.
With such a depth of experience, we can ask for Rachel's input on many different aspects of content marketing, but it's her unique LinkedIn lead generation strategy that we're focusing on in this call.
When I first read about it in her post on the Content Marketing Institute blog, I just knew I had to invite her onto the show. Let's dive in.
Thanks for coming on, Rachel.
Rachel Foster: Thanks for having me. I'm very excited to be here.
Loz James: Now, you're an experienced B2B copywriter and content marketer, specializing in lead generation, and founder of Fresh Perspective copywriting Services.
You're also a professional blogger and regular contributor to the Content Marketing Institute blog, which is where I found your excellent post entitled, “How to Get 200 Plus New Subscribers From one LinkedIn Article,” which is the subject of today's show. First, could you tell us how you got started as a copywriter and content marketer, please.
Rachel Foster: Sure. I moved to Toronto, in 2007, from the US, and before I moved here, I was working full time as a proposal writer for an architectural firm. After I moved here, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and my career coach suggested that I go into freelance copywriting.
I was fortunate enough to get a grant from the Ontario Self Employment Benefits Program. As part of that program, they talked all about running a business. You did an intensive 10 week course on business training.
One of the things that they taught you was, during the selling part of the class, a lot of people in my group were really nervous about going out there and selling.
We just thought, we associated with Glengarry Glen Ross, kind of sleazy, and just didn't really want to do it, but the instructor explained to us that we needed to stop selling and start helping.
That really resonated with us, because we could help people, and at the time, I had never heard of content marketing, but that's essentially what content marketing is all about. You help, you don't sell.
Loz James: Tell me about Fresh Perspective Copywriting.
Rachel Foster: Sure. I'm a freelance B2B copywriter. I work, mainly, with B2B tech companies, and I help them do things like, take complex technical language and turn it into plain English, so that if their customers aren't tech people, they will understand it.
At the same time, a lot of my customers also have clients who are technical minded, as well, so I could write to them, as well. I help them do things like generate more leads. I help them move from a me focus, it's all about the company strategy, to actually focusing their content on their customers, which is a big change for them.
Loz James: You're based in Toronto. Tell me a little bit about the city. I've been there before. It's a fantastic place to live and work, I guess.
Rachel Foster: Yeah, Toronto is really cool. I always said that you could do anything in Toronto, and whatever you want to do, you could always find people who want to do it, as well.
A few years ago, I was in the building, and I was taking a dance class, and there was another room in the building, and they had a sign on the door, and it said, “Indoor Campfire Singers.” It was January, so I guess, if it's January, and you want to go camping, but you can't because it's too cold, you could still find people to sing campfire songs with.
Loz James: It's a fantastic place. I went to Chinatown, and just a great vibe in the city.
Rachel Foster: Oh, definitely. It's a great town.
Loz James: Okay, then. Before we get into the details of the exact LinkedIn strategy that we mentioned from your post, why is it such a great platform for generating business to business leads?
Rachel Foster: Well, I've heard that LinkedIn is the number one social network for getting B2B leads. I believe Octopost did a study, and they found that from all the social networks, that over 80% of B2B social leads come from LinkedIn. That's compared with, maybe, around 13% on Twitter, and around 7% on Facebook.
LinkedIn is definitely the place to be if you're a B2B company. Specifically for LinkedIn Publisher, a lot of people might have heard about LinkedIn Publisher, have gone, “Oh no, not another blogging platform. I don't have the time for this.”
If you get into it, LinkedIn Publisher offers some unique benefits. One is that your LinkedIn Publisher posts are automatically featured on your profile page, so it keeps your LinkedIn profile.
It keeps some fresh content there, and it gives your connections more reasons to learn more about you when they check out your profile. Another cool thing, is that LinkedIn automatically notifies your connections when you publish something new.
For example, your post will appear in your connections newsfeeds and in their notification dropdown menu, so if they see, when they log in to LinkedIn, they see their new notifications, they might open it and see that you published a new article.
The really cool thing, is that LinkedIn members who aren't in your network can read your post. If you have a small little amount of LinkedIn connections, you can really greatly expand the number of people who read your posts, because when your network shares them, they will see them, and then they could follow you to receive updates when you publish something new.
Loz James: This is the thing that's fascinating about LinkedIn is that, when I read your article, the reach of LinkedIn is very impressive.
I'm on all the main social networks, but really focus on Twitter, and I didn't think that LinkedIn was really worth so much attention, until I read your article. Let's move on to your strategy. What sort of results have you seen from using it? Can we have some current stats on this?
Rachel Foster: Sure. Prior to using LinkedIn Publisher, I was getting a lot of leads contacting me, already, through LinkedIn, because my profile's pretty complete, so people were going to my profile, and either contacting me directly from it, or sometimes going to my website and then contacting me from there.
I was already doing pretty good, but I wanted to see if I could do better, because like you, I was also, well I still am, a big Twitter person, but I don't want to focus too much on just one social network, because you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, as they say.
You never know what the network will do, and they may go in a different direction that doesn't work for you, so you definitely want to diversity your social networks.
Anyway, I was doing well, and I wanted to see if I could do better, so I started posting on LinkedIn Publisher and after my first post, I noticed that I had some really interesting responses.
For my first post, I don't recommend doing this, but for my first time, what I did was, I took an older post from my blog, and I just republished it on LinkedIn Publisher. Later on, I'll talk about why I don't really recommend doing that, but when I published it, originally, to my blog, it got 11 shares on LinkedIn.
When I published it to LinkedIn Publisher, it got over 61 shares, which was really great. You could see how it expanded the reach of the post, and it also received some comments, about 6 comments, and then brought me about 34 new LinkedIn followers.
Then, just from that first article, I had two leads contact me through LinkedIn, who said that they read the article. That was just for my first time using it. I continued to use it, and see how it would help me get more leads, and I have an article that really took off in, I believe, in November. It was called, “How to Plan Your 2015 Content Calendar.”
It was picked up by LinkedIn Pulse, and I think to date it has received about 45 hundred views, and that's really amazing considering that when I started, or when I published the article, I only had about a thousand first connections on LinkedIn, so you could see how, even though I only had a thousand first connections, it really expands and you could get all kinds of people coming and viewing your post.
What was even more amazing about that post, was that I had an opting offer in that, and I got 206 new subscribers to my email list, just from that one LinkedIn article, and they opt in through my offer at the end of the post.
Loz James: That's incredible. It encourages me to really focus on LinkedIn, and use it all the time, and get some original content on there. Okay, well let's dig down to some details of your LinkedIn strategy.
I understand there are five key stages. Could you give us an overview of the whole system, before we dive down into each section?
Rachel Foster: Sure. One thing I should add, too, is that I'm not a LinkedIn influencer, so this is something that anybody can do. You don't already have to be an influencer and getting hundred of thousands of views for all your LinkedIn posts, and anyone could do this really.
The five keys to my LinkedIn Publisher strategy, one is just really focusing on the titles, and making sure that I have a good title, that attracts my target audience. The second key is providing in depth, valuable content.
The third is creating custom content offers. The fourth is driving opt ends. The fifth is putting next steps in your LinkedIn posts, and then we'll go into all these in more detail.
Loz James: Okay, well let's start at the beginning, with step one. Analyzing LinkedIn Publisher titles to see what works. Can you walk us through this first stage please?
Rachel Foster: A few months ago, a Paul Shapiro of Search Wilderness, he published the results of a survey, where he analyzed 3000 of the most successful LinkedIn Pulse posts. He found that titles with between 40 to 49 characters received the greatest number of views.
I don't really count characters as much, to determine if the titles are completely visible below the teaser image for your post, because LinkedIn has these teaser images for the contain your feature image, and then underneath it is a title.
You want to make sure that, how ever many characters it is, that the complete title is viewable underneath that image, and I've experimented with this, and I find that I get more views when people could read the entire title, versus when it's cut off.
If you look at his study, too, he gives a lot of great tips on LinkedIn Pulse and you should definitely check that out.
Loz James: What sort of titles are you writing? Are they benefits laden, sort of a motif, action driven titles? How does that pan out?
Rachel Foster: Yeah, that survey came back and said that on LinkedIn, people respond to neutral titles more than positive titles and the negative titles. I try to keep it neutral, but I do try to get a benefit in there, just to give people a good reason to read the post.
Sometimes I give them a sense of urgency. Some of my posts that did well, they were published at the end of 2014, and they had things in there like how to prepare for 2015, and because that was a hot topic and a lot of people were working on that, these posts got a lot of views. It kind of created that urgency that way.
My two favorite types of titles are the how to and the list posts with the numbers in the beginning. I find that those posts tend to get a lot of views on LinkedIn, and the survey that I had mentioned earlier, they said that questions, putting questions in your LinkedIn titles, they don't perform well at all.
Loz James: Now, we're both copywriters, so hopefully we should be able to write great titles, but for people that aren't copywriters, what are they going to be doing to split test titles, and come up with the right sort of titles?
Is it a case of coming up with several and reading them out loud? Perhaps checking in with someone else in the office to see which one resonates the most?
Rachel Foster: I always write a lot of titles, and then I narrow it down to a couple and try to determine what will work there. Split testing on LinkedIn, I haven't had too much luck with that.
There have been times where I would publish a title and I would check the post right after it was published, and maybe that morning it was published, to see how it was performing, and if I didn't think it was performing well, I would change the title.
You could definitely keep tweaking your title and provide a clear benefit. You know, let them know what they will get out of reading the article.
Loz James: Okay, step one, title is very important. Looking at step two, all about providing in depth, valuable content. What do we need to look out for here?
Rachel Foster: Sure. Netflix has a documentary on it called, “Inside LinkedIn,” and that gives you a behind the scenes look at what LinkedIn is doing. One of the things that they say in the documentary, is that LinkedIn, one of their big goals, is to provide members with content that helps them do their jobs better.
I think that's what we want to do when we're writing for LinkedIn. We want to provide our audiences with content that helps them do their jobs better.
I feel like the content stakes are really high on LinkedIn, because it's such a professional network, and they're using the site to search for new job opportunities, update their profiles, connect with their peers.
The last thing that they want is a bunch of really bad content, cluttering up their streams. I think it's very important to make sure that whatever you're writing on LinkedIn, really resonates with your target audience.
Loz James: I found when I've shared really in depth, actionable posts on LinkedIn, they normally get good traction there. Do you find the same?
Rachel Foster: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I think a few years ago, a lot of people were blogging, and you could get away with just writing a short little 300 word blog post, and then call it a day, and be really high level. I think the trend now, is trending towards longer articles, and posts that I wrote that gave me 260 subscribers was about 900 words.
I'm not huge on counting words. I always say it's important to say what you need to say, without saying too much. You don't want to fill up your article with a bunch of garbage, just to hit your word target. Just use as many words as you need to tell your valuable story. No more, no less.
Loz James: It's interesting, because this morning I was writing an article, it had to be 300 words, for a newsletter for a client, and the brief was five pages long.
What often copywriters are taught, is how to break down information into shorter, more easily understandable chunks, if you were, and blogging's heading in the other direction. All the stuff about sharable posts being 2000 words plus, et cetera. The same thing applies on LinkedIn, meaty posts that really grab attention and show people how to do stuff, I guess.
Rachel Foster: Yeah, people are really into learning how to do something very specific. Instead of the more high level, really dive down and provide some information that will help them learn how to do something better, learn how to do their jobs better.
Announcer: You're listening to the Content Champion Podcast, showcasing the best content marketing strategies across the web.
Loz James: We're back with Rachel Foster. Okay, much like the spoke content upgrades that a lot of bloggers are using to get more email subscribers, steps three and four of your strategy, concern creating custom opt end offers, and driving opt ends using lead pages. Can you talk us through these stages?
Rachel Foster: Custom offers are something that I'm going to be working on a lot this year. A lot of the time to you look at the blog post for an article, and then at the end of the post, there's an offer to download whatever your standard offer is.
Whether that's signing up for a webinar, or downloading an e-book or something, but I've been finding that custom content offers that are very, very specific to whatever you're writing, custom resources are doing very well.
For example, I wrote a blog post on creating an editorial calendar, a content calendar, and then at the end of that post, I had an offer where they could download an editorial calendar template that they could modify for their 2015 content. This was a really, really simple thing.
It's just the editorial calendar that I use myself. At first, I wasn't sure if people would want it, because it was just so basic. It was just like an Excel chart that they would fill in, but it was a practical resource and a lot of people opted in for it, and I did get some feedback from people that they really thought that it was a good resource. It doesn't need to be anything super fancy. It just needs to be helpful.
Loz James: Yeah, I'm finding content upgrades on blog posts work really well. I'm getting some ridiculous response levels from, just sometimes providing a PDF of the post to take away and print out, and things like that. Other offers work, as you say, that are more custom orientated to the post.
I use lead pages, as well, and you're using lead boxes, I understand, to enable these sign ups through LinkedIn?
Rachel Foster: If you're not familiar with lead pages, they do landing pages and pop up boxes and things like that to get people to opt in to your list. They have a tool called the lead box. Normally, how it works is that somebody will click on the link, and then a lead box, which is a pop up window, will come up and they could enter their information and they're on your list.
Because it's LinkedIn, I couldn't really get a pop up box to come up from their, so when they clicked on the link, they were directed to a separate page that just had the pop up box in it, and then they were able to opt in for my editorial calendar template.
One of the other things that I did, in the lead box, was put the feature image that I used in the LinkedIn article, which is pretty cool, because I didn't even need to make an image to go with the custom upgrade I was offering.
I just needed to take the feature image for the LinkedIn Publisher article, and then put it in the opt in box, because what it does is it relates, so people know when they open it, they're like, “OK. This is the some. This relates to the same thing, because the same image is there.” It creates some consistency.
People were able to enter their information there, and the lead box gave me a 60% conversion rate, which is just amazing, because normally with regular landing pages you don't get that type of conversion rate, so that was really great.
Loz James: That's amazing. Where did you take them after that? Was there any other kind of offer after that, or did it take them to a page on your site? What was the thank you page, as it were, in that process?
Rachel Foster: Sure. After they put their email address and their first name in the pop up box, they were just directed to a page where they could just automatically download the template. It went to a direct download.
Loz James: Okay, fantastic. That's all available within lead pages, isn't it? You can upload your downloads in there, can't you?
Rachel Foster: Yeah, I did it all directly through lead pages just to keep it simple. One of the things I was concerned about, because it was a single opt in, most of the time I use double opt in, so I didn't know if a lot of people would unsubscribe after I started sending them my regular weekly newsletter – like, “Oh, I didn't really want to be on this list,” no, my unsubscribe rate is super low. It's always been super low, and that hasn't changed since all these new subscribers came on through LinkedIn.
Loz James: Just to reiterate something you said earlier on, before we go into the final stage, step five. It might sound a bit more complicated than it is, but using lead pages and getting everything set up as you describe, is pretty easy, isn't it?
Rachel Foster: Yeah, it's super easy. You have the option whether you could host these pages on your site, or just through them. I do it through them, because I don't really see what the difference would be if I put them directly on my site, because they're pop up boxes. It's really easy to set up. Yeah.
Loz James: Okay. This final stage then, moving on to step 5 of your LinkedIn strategy, was all about giving readers using next steps on using the information you've given them within the LinkedIn posts. This is particularly intriguing to me. How does this work?
Rachel Foster: Sure. My CMO, her name is Jamie Almond, and she recommended doing this. I'm not only doing it on LinkedIn, but I'm also doing it on my blog as well.
Every time I write an article, either for my blog or for LinkedIn Publisher, at the end of it there's a headline that says, three ways to apply this information now. Then, underneath that, I have three things that they could do right away. Usually, one would be to download the content upgrade, whatever that is.
When they press that link, the pop up box will come up, and they could opt in. Then, LinkedIn Publisher, I might have leave a comment below, to start a conversation.
I find that that's really helped, too, because it's got more people talking and commenting. Then, the other one is to share this article on LinkedIn. I love the way that Jamie suggested I phrase this, because it says sharing quality content increases your visibility and credibility with your existing contact, creating conversations and potentially new business.
Basically, it's saying if you share this article, then you will create new conversations with potential customers for your business and potentially get more business for yourself. It's really excellent phrasing and that, I think, is really clever.
Loz James: Those extra steps, you put those at the end of your article that you've pasted in, or is that in a special widget, or how does that work?
Rachel Foster: I just add it in. It's just copy and pasted in, and I just update all the links in it to make sure that they're directing to the right place.
Loz James: Okay. One of my slight bugbears with LinkedIn is sometimes, finding things, navigating around, can be a bit confusing for some people, so is they're anything to watch out for pitfalls that could make this a bit more streamlined.
Rachel Foster: I have not had any problems with the interface. To publish on LinkedIn Publisher, what you do is you go to your LinkedIn status update, and at the end of the box, where you would type in your status update, there's an icon of a pencil, and you click that and it opens the LinkedIn Publisher blogging platform.
I don't blog directly within LinkedIn. I always do it elsewhere first, and then copy and paste it over. I haven't had a problem uploading or adding images, or anything like that. From what I understand, it looks a little murky, depending on what browser your in. If you want to, you can check in the different browsers to see what it looks like.
Loz James: Really, you're from start to finish your strategy on LinkedIn is really straightforward and anyone can implement this.
Rachel Foster: Yes. There is one issue that I don't like on LinkedIn Publisher. When I first started, with my first post, I was able to look at them and see how many people had shared it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, everything. They had the social icons up with the numbers, and so, by the time I publish my second article, they had taken those counters away.
People could still share your LinkedIn Publisher articles on social media , but they don't tell you how many people are sharing them. That makes it a little hard to determine exactly how well your posts are doing across different networks.
That's something I don't like, and I'm hoping that they'll reinstate the social counters, so you can have a better idea of how people are sharing your content.
Loz James: Overall, this is a great strategy. I'm going to be implementing it to see what sort of results I could get from it.
As soon as I saw the post, I wanted to invite you as a guest on the podcast, because it's one of those innovative and unique ways of using different platforms for content marketing that really get proven results. Is this where it's all going in the next 12 months, creative ways of using social media to drive lead generation.
Rachel Foster: Well, social's definitely one way to drive leads, but to me, it's more about going back to the basics and just understanding your target audience, and go where they are. Wherever they're hanging out. Wherever they like to interact with you. Find those networks. If they like email, then send out the emails, if they like video, then get active on YouTube.
It depends on where you are being tanked out, and what information they want from you, because you can get on all these social networks, and you may not bring in the right traffic. Look at the traffic that's coming into your site, and the networks that it's coming from and determine if you need to change something.
Are you connecting with the right people? Are the right people moving from your social networks to your website, to your opt in. You don't want a bunch of people opting in for your stuff, if they won't become customers.
Loz James: That's excellent advice. Now, just before we move on to the PS question, can you remind us all where we can find you online, please, so we could read more excellent posts, like the one we've been discussing today.
Rachel Foster: Sure, my website is copywritertoronto.com. If you go there you could subscribe, which is a fresh marketing blog, and I send out weekly B2B marketing tips, trends and best practices, and that newsletter always includes whatever I'm publishing on my blog, as well as what I'm publishing on LinkedIn Publisher, and of course, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. You could look me up. I'm Rachel Foster, and on Twitter, I'm copywriterTO.
Announcer: Wait for it listeners, here comes the PS question.
Loz James: Could you please share one advanced content marketing strategy that we can use right after this podcast?
Rachel Foster: I don't know how advanced this is, but the more places that you could connect with your target audience the better, so just like you're using social media to get more people on your list, you might want to do the reverse.
If somebody opts in for your list, you might also want to connect with them on LinkedIn, because the more places where they could see your content, the better, and even though somebody unsubscribes from your list, chances are they're not going to disconnect with you on LinkedIn. It's a great way to connect with people.
Usually, when people subscribe to my list, I try to look them up on LinkedIn and also connect with them there, if we're not already connected.
Loz James: That's fantastic strategy, as is your main LinkedIn one, of course. I'd like to thank you very much for coming on the show today. It's been a brilliant call, and wish you every success in future.
Rachel Foster: Okay. You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Announcer: You've been listening to the Content Champion podcast, available at contentchampion.com, Stitcher, Zune, the Blackbury network, and on iTunes. Until next time, thanks for listening.
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