Steve Gordon: Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon. And we’ve got a fantastic interview for you today. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a long time because our guest is an absolute master of her craft.
Today I’m talking with Lacy Boggs. She’s a content strategist. She’s author of the best-selling e-book Make A Killing with Content, and she’s the director of The Content Direction Agency. And she helps personality-driven brands create and implement content marketing that is really tailor-made to support their customers and reach their goals. And we’re gonna have a really great conversation today around a lot of things that I think you need to be paying attention to right now. So Lacy Boggs, welcome to The Unstoppable CEO. I’m excited to have you here.
Lacy Boggs: Thanks so much for inviting me. I’m proud to be here.
Steve: Yeah, so before we dive into things, give everybody a little bit of background on you and how you got to be the amazing director of The Content Direction Agency.
Lacy: Yeah, it’s been a bit of a long and winding road, that’s for sure. I’ve been doing this for about eight years now. Before that, my last “real job,” quote, unquote… I was the food editor and the associate editor for a magazine here in Colorado, which, nice work if you can get it. Like getting paid to eat is not a bad gig. But it was a very, very small operation.
And so we were there sixty-plus hours a week, and when the magazine was on deadline, we were there till two or three in the morning sometimes, and I got pregnant with my daughter, and I couldn’t imagine doing that with an infant. And here in Colorado, at least, infant child care is extremely expensive. And we did the math and figured out that more than half of my salary would have gone to childcare.
So we decided that I would stay home and, because I was a food writer, the very first thing I tried was putting out a food blog. Because in 2011, that’s what you did. You started a food blog. And the blogging part went pretty well. I was able to, I was getting like 10,000 hits a month. By the end of the year, I grew my list over 1000. In about six months, I got invited to guest blog for one of Martha Stewart’s properties. And I was also making very little money.
I lovingly refer to that as my four-figure year. And at the end of that year, my husband took me aside and said, “I love that you’re staying home with our daughter. I love that you’re trying to make this work, but I need you to make a little more money.” And I said, “Cool. I have another idea. I think people will pay me to do this blogging thing for them.”
And it turned out I was right. And I pivoted and started putting out my shingle as I called myself a ghost blogger, blogging for other people’s small businesses. And you know, at first, I thought I was just a freelancer doing the writing, like I was just in charge of the words, but people started asking me for advice around their marketing, around blogging.
And I didn’t have answers at the beginning. So I took it upon myself to get as educated as I could. I took just about every content marketing course that was available at the time, spent thousands of dollars, and, I don’t know, hundreds of hours learning. And as I did, I found I had some very distinct opinions about things.
And, you know, the longer I worked with clients, I also saw what worked, so it has grown organically from there. And now I have a team under me, and we have a small agency, and we just help people with that, not just the writing now, but the strategy as well.
Steve: That’s fantastic. So many of us sort of take that winding road to get to the business that we’re in, and sometimes it takes that, you know.
Leadership Marketing–How to Rise Above the Noise
Steve: So, you’ve got this concept, which I love, and I’m excited to have a conversation about it, called leadership marketing. And I think it’s very important for everybody that is going to hear this to really listen and to think about, as we’re talking about it today, how they can apply it because I really think it is the way forward in marketing and growing a business. So tell us what leadership marketing means to you. What does that term mean? And kind of give us a high-level view.
Lacy: Yeah. It was sort of a shorthand I came up with, for sort of my view about marketing and content marketing specifically. And that is that, you know, I think a lot of business owners get into their business, and they’re not necessarily in it to be marketers, right? Unless you’re me, or someone in the same industry. You didn’t get in this to be a marketer, but you have to wear a lot of hats at certain stages of business.
And so I see a lot of my clients who are, you know, growing and they’re in a growth phase of business, but they’re not ready to hire an in-house marketer. And so they go for these courses, or they buy somebody’s blueprint, or they get, you know, so and so’s formula for marketing because they feel like they’re getting the expertise, right? They don’t need to learn how to be a full-time marketer themselves.
That’s all fine. I’m not trying to throw shade at people who are selling marketing systems. But the problem is that over the last three, four, five years, maybe I’ve seen that the audiences are getting more sophisticated, right, especially if you’re in a B2B market, but B2C also. And we’ve started to recognize the formulas, right, we recognize the patterns. You see an ad for an online training, free training, and you automatically know there’s going to be a pitch at the end, right?
We’ve gotten so conditioned to the webinar funnel, we know what’s coming. And so all of these formulas and blueprints and whatever that you buy the course or whatever it is, there’s nothing wrong with them in general, but what happens is when people get too overexposed, they lose their efficacy, right?
And I’ve been hearing this, you probably have been hearing this, too, Steve. Anecdotally, people are seeing lower conversion rates. They’re seeing, you know, higher ad prices. And so the same funnels that were working a couple years ago aren’t. So the leadership part comes in to say, like, “Hey, you’re a leader in your business, you’re a leader in your niche. You need to take the step and be a leader in your marketing, too.”
And by that, I mean, don’t just follow the formula, don’t just follow the cookie-cutter, actually do some research, do some thinking about what’s right for your business, your customer, and the niche you’re in, and play with it a little bit.
And I think that’s where I’m really seeing the most, the best success right now through our clients are the ones who are taking bits and pieces from all those formulas that have worked in the past but fitting them together to make a new picture and being the leader in their marketing.
Steve: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. We’re seeing, across the board, lower conversions on a lot of those things, and cost to acquire a customer is going up. And, you know, I’ve thought about this quite a lot over the last year, year-and-a-half, you know, and part of it is that this new medium called the internet, it’s just, you know, it’s maturing slowly.
And, you know, I was having a conversation with Dov Gordon, one of our mutual colleagues. And I remember when I first got into business, the internet wasn’t a thing. We didn’t have it. Like, we had a fax machine. You know, I’m not so old that we had a fax machine and no internet for very long. It was about a year. But you know, so I mean, just, you know, to give you a sense as a new technology that has this much of an impact on how we operate.
It’s in its infancy, and it’s just beginning to mature, and so you’re seeing, like, all of the advertising platforms where you could game the system, those are maturing to the point where you can’t really game them anymore and now, you know, what that does is it, I think, it forces you to take that leadership role because the people who really are being the leaders in their little slice of the world are the ones that are going to get attention.
And what it really boils down to, in my mind, and I’d love to hear your take on this, is that like, there’s two parts, right? You got to get attention somehow. But then you got to hold attention until that potential client or prospect is ready to buy. We’ve had the luxury of having getting attention be so cheap and almost free for the last couple decades, that we haven’t paid any attention to any of the rest of it.
Because, you know, if we let some leads slip through the cracks, you know, if we didn’t do all the things that we should have done, well, we could just, you know, go to Google or go to Facebook and, for a few pennies, buy another truckload of leads, but that’s starting to change. And so how have you started to advise your clients to kind navigate this?
Lacy: You know, it’s funny you talk about the funnel, I wrote a post recently where I was talking about if every internet marketing funnel was an actual physical funnel, you throw it away because you lose 99% of what goes into it. It’s not a very effective funnel.
You know, what we’re focusing on more with our clients now is the balance between organic content and paid content, right, or organic traffic and paid traffic because I think, to your point, a lot of businesses have focused so much on paid traffic because it was so easy and it was so cheap that they may have let the organic demand slide. And yet they’re really two sides of a coin, right?
And whereas paid traffic is fast, it’s a fast hit. You can get traffic immediately as soon as you turn that ad on. Organic traffic takes a lot longer, but it also lasts a lot longer, right? Because as soon as you turn the ad off, as soon as the money dries up and you don’t have that traffic anymore, or if as soon as it gets so expensive, you have to turn that funnel off.
Whereas organic demand done right could send you traffic for years to come. So I think we’re just turning a little more to, you mentioned, like, we get that first click and then what do we do after? I actually call it second click content. What is your second click content? If you get that first click, if you want it, what happens next? We want to make sure there’s content worth a second click.
We’re saying, “Yes, I’ll give you my email address. I want to read more of your blog posts or listen to more of your podcasts,” so that the person actually gets to know your business a little bit instead of just a fly-by-night. Yeah, I hit your landing page, but I didn’t do anything with it.
And so I think, plugging some of those holes in the internet funnel with more thoughtful, more engaging content that will keep people around. You know, there’s so much noise. We have to rise above the noise and be a little bit better than our competition for whatever value of better that might be.
Steve: Yeah, I see people doing all kinds of things with content, but it’s almost always sort of tactic centric, you know. So you mentioned webinar funnel, which is one of my favorite… We did webinar funnels with really great success up until a few years ago, and they just sort of stopped working because everybody was doing them, right. They all look the same.
We were fortunate enough to be a little bit early on that, so it worked for a while. But you know, I see that with LinkedIn tactics and all sorts of stuff. What seems to be missing from my perspective with this stuff is the thought that goes into the ideas. The way that I think you really exercise leadership in a market is you’re the one that’s thinking about what’s happening in the market and where it’s going and what the prospects need to know.
You know what, you’re the one that understands the thing that’s going on inside their head and the decision that they’re struggling with. And all of that informs the content that you’re creating. And I think that’s the thing that’s really, in a lot of businesses, just totally missing.
Lacy: Yeah, that sort of thirty thousand foot view where it’s like, does this tactic actually work for my audience, for my business, for my brand voice, for the way I want to show up in my niche? I’m glad you brought up webinar funnels because I have a great story that goes with this.
So we were doing a launch for a client Q4 of 2019. And she wanted to do a pretty standard webinar launch, so she wanted to do a series of videos that would lead to a webinar with a pitch at the end. When we were brainstorming, I was like, you know, your people, your audience are time-starved entrepreneurs, time-starved business owners, that’s the people we want to reach.
They’re not going to sit through, like, three forty-minute videos and then an hour-long webinar, they don’t have time. Like that’s the whole point. So we came up with a deal, do a challenge, where it would be five-minute videos and the information they needed to collect for the challenge fit on a single Post-it.
That was sort of our hook, like, you only needed one Post-it note to get something out of this challenge. And then it fed into a pretty standard webinar. And that webinar converted at 26-and-a-half percent for her because we had warmed up the audience and helped them see why they needed the product and why they needed the webinar.
So for that nice, warm audience that we had created, it converted really well. So it still worked, but we had to tweak those pieces to make sense for her audience and the people she was trying to work with. If we’d done just a sort of standard three videos and then a webinar, we might have lost people, right?
Steve: But you did the really hard and important work there of empathizing with the prospect, you know. You sort of got inside their world. And I think that’s where a lot of the disconnect is between, “Hey, let’s just do this tactic that, you know, I saw someone else claim they made a million dollars with, and if I just do the formula, you know, the tactical formula, it’ll work.”
But instead, you looked at it and said, “No, no, no, we need to do something different here based on the way that these people are operating in their world and in their lives to be more effective. And what I’ve always found when you do that, assuming you judge the situation accurately, you always get great results. So I love that example. That’s phenomenal.
The Three Pieces Every Marketing Plan Needs
Steve: Yeah, yeah. So as you’re working with businesses through, you know, developing kind of their own leadership marketing, what are some of the things that they sort of trip up on? Where do they have trouble?
Lacy: Yeah, I think, so I kind of feel like every leadership marketing plan has three pieces, right? It has to have “Who’s the client?” It has to have “Who do you want to be as a brand? How do you want to show up?” And then it also has to consider the data because, you know, numbers don’t lie.
If your Facebook ads are not working, really expensive, and not converting the way they used to, then just throwing more money at Facebook ads may not be the right thing to do, right? We have to consider, “What do we know from the data?” And when you combine those three pieces, suddenly you have a different view of what the strategy, what tactics might look like.
So when we look at those three pieces, I always want to ask the customer, my customer, “What’s your big goal? What is the goal? Okay, great, then what are the metrics we’re going to look at to track that goal?” And then we come up with a strategy, right? Because so often I find a disconnect between what people state is their goal and then what they’re measuring or what they’re doing to try to achieve it.
We, in my world, I like to call these vanity metrics, because you know, if your Instagram has 10,000 followers, that’s awesome for your ego. But if none of those followers return into a sale, it doesn’t really help if your goal is revenue, right?
So we have to make sure we know what the goal is, first of all, because nine times out of ten, when people get started, they’re like, “Oh, somebody said I need a blog. Somebody said I need a podcast.” So we want to make sure the goal is there. But then also, how do we actually track if this is being effective? And then from there, let’s back that out and put together a strategy that will combine those things because that’s how you get the right results.
And when you pull in, you know, the voice of the client and also your brand voice, you know, does it make sense for you to do XYZ? Do you hate Instagram? Great, don’t be on it. Like, I’m never gonna force somebody to do something they hate because, guess what, it’ll come through.
You know, people are always like, “Oh, do I have to be on whatever, insert channel here?” And I’ll say, “No, absolutely not. If you hate it, people are going to notice and also, you’re probably going to stop doing it at some point. So let’s focus on the things you enjoy that are good for you, that resonate with your brand voice because that’s where you’re gonna have the most authentic stuff come through.”
Steve: I think that’s so important. There is this sense on the part of a lot of people that I have to be everywhere. I have to be on LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and I guess TikTok now, right?
And tomorrow, though, there’s another one that our kids are doing. I always find out what the new social media platform is because my kids will start to talk about it quietly. They don’t want to talk too overtly about it, because they’re afraid we might get on it and then ruin the party, right? Like, uh, Houseparty is the one they’re talking about this week anyway. So we probably all need a Houseparty account so we can market there.
But, you know, I made a strategic decision a number of years ago to kind of avoid video. It’s not that I never do video, but it’s not part of our regular mix. Because I’m better with, you know, with written word and with audio. And so that’s where I invest my time. I’ve got a client, she’s phenomenal on video. I mean, like, a TV pro, and she kills it on video, and that’s the right place for her.
I think you bring up a really important point that, you know, everybody’s got a medium that they’re most comfortable with. So I know we’re running short on time. But I want to make sure that we really get all the way– we’ve got maybe about ten or fifteen minutes left–I want to make sure we kind of get all the way through your whole process with leadership marketing. So what’s kind of the next piece? You talked about the three components that are a part of a plan. But where do you take somebody from there?
Your Big-Picture Marketing Plan
Lacy: Yeah. So once we kind of have those three parts nailed, you know, the client voice, the brand voice, and what the data is saying, that’s when we can get creative. That’s the fun part, right? That’s when we say, “Oh, we’re going to do a post-it note challenge.” That’s when we say whatever it is, we can start to bring in the actual creative ideas, do some brainstorming.
There’s never a bad idea in the brainstorming process because even the bad ideas might lead to good ideas. I actually, sometimes if clients are feeling stuck, or if they’re anxious about idea generation, I’m like, tell me every bad idea you have. Because then we get them out of the way and we can build on it. And a lot of times the things they think are bad ideas aren’t really that bad, they might just need a little tweak. So that’s where we go.
And that’s really my favorite part of the process is the idea generation. What can we do to make this different? I really rely on the ideas from the book The Blue Ocean Strategy, you know. Where is our wide open blue ocean for each particular client? How can we be different from what else is happening in their niche?
And then, generally, what happens at that point is I go away with all those ideas and help fashion a calendar that makes the most sense for them. So I’m really strong on the idea that every piece of content we put out there should be leading towards a sale at some level, right? Whether it’s a tweet or a tech talk or full-length blog post or podcast, everything should be a stepping stone on the way to a sale.
So the way we do that is to work backwards in terms of the calendar and make sure that whatever their next selling moment is, whether that’s an actual launch, or maybe it’s just an evergreen product that we’re going to promote at a certain time, we are queuing up the right kind of content that will lead people to get excited about it.
And so I generally produce a calendar for the clients at that point. And then whether they take it off and produce that content in-house or they hire us to do it, they have that big picture plan. Say, great, you have a launch in three months, we need to be doing list building now. And here’s some topic ideas. And then we need to warm up for the product. And then we need to be in launch mode and so on and so forth. So that’s kind of how it works when somebody hires us for strategy.
Steve: I hate to say it, but it’s almost mind-blowing. I’m the kind that I think, “Oh, yeah, we want to launch a product” and you know, by the end of the week, we’re launching it, and that has advantages and disadvantages, you know, but that’s fantastic. So you really, you walk them through and I think that’s important for, you know, for an entrepreneur who isn’t a professional marketer.
And you mentioned that at the beginning. That was one of the key insights that really kind of drove our growth in our business was we realized, “Wait a second, our clients don’t actually want to learn how to do this.” And I imagine you’ve kind of learned the same thing, that they want to run the business that they have.
And for somebody that doesn’t want to be a professional marketer and think about, “How are we going to fit this blog post in with social media and where does that fit with getting people onto our email list, and then ultimately, taking them through a sequence that’s going to tee them up to be on a webinar where we’re going to convert them, you know, into a sale or into a sales appointment or whatever?”
The next step is, I mean, there’s some real thought that has to go into that. And, you know, it sounds like you will actually take kind of all of their ideas and input and kind of give them a flight plan.
Lacy: Yes. And, you know, that’s my jam. That’s my zone of genius. I enjoy it and I feel like I’m pretty good at it. And the other thing is that what blows my mind is that if they just want the plan and they’re going to produce the content in-house, it’s a relatively similar investment to buying one of those big-ticket courses where they have to figure it all out themselves. They can hire me for around the same price.
And I will say, “Here you go, check and done, you know, here’s the step-by-step checklist of what to do.” And it’s completely unique. You know, I don’t do two plans that are the same because there’s no two businesses that are the same. So I really think that’s why I keep beating the drum of leadership marketing.
It’s like you don’t have to just buy the cookie-cutter formula, you can come get something bespoke done for you. And then if you don’t have the revenue to make it make sense for us to create it for you, that’s one thing, you know, but the plan itself is affordable for a lot of different businesses. That’s I guess what I want to say there.
Steve: Well, and that’s at least half the battle. I mean, I know, I know, creating content, a lot of work, we create a lot of content. So I know personally that it’s a lot of work. Yeah. And so I’m not discounting that. But I think what’s harder than that is staring at the blank page.
Lacy: Oh, 100%. 100%. And, you know, sometimes that’s all people need is the kick. You know, the one-line thing that I’ve written out that says, “We’re going to talk about this today, and here’s why.” And then they’re like, “Cool, I can do that. I can talk all day about that, right.” But when they don’t have a plan, they’re just staring at the cursor, and it’s blinking back at them. That can be really demoralizing.
Steve: So I think given all that’s happening in the world, we’re going to see a lot of businesses that have ignored doing much of anything, you know, any significant kind of marketing online, moving in that direction, because a lot of the other ways that we’ve marketed and attracted customers are either going to be hampered for a while or kind of go away completely or are just going to be different. So, you know, for businesses who haven’t thought much about this, where do they start?
Lacy: Yeah, that’s a great question. Again, always start with your goal. So what is the goal? Is it to get more leads? Is it to get your voice out there as a thought leader? Is it to create an audience so that you can sell a book or something down the line? Because every strategy will look a little different for those different goals, right, but start with the goal.
And then I think, as you were saying earlier, pick one channel you can really focus on to start and just remember that you need to be, you know, marketing is creating the content, but you also have to be promoting it, right, you can’t just be preaching to the choir. So if you’re only sending your content that you’ve created to your own email list or your existing social media, that’s just talking to people who already know about you.
You also need to figure out how are you going to get it outside your bubble to people who haven’t heard from you yet. Sometimes that’s advertising; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes that could be SEO. Sometimes it could be joint venture partnerships. Or it could be, for example, going on a podcast like this one. I’m reaching a whole new set of people just by talking to you today.
So all those ways are ways to promote yourself outside of just, “I created this content, I shared it with my fans,” because we all like that feeling, that feels really good. But that’s not how you grow an audience necessarily. So that’s where I would start. Start with the goal, come up with a strategy based on that goal, and then focus on just one channel to start. And once you feel confident, you can add more stuff, but usually, that’s enough for people who are just getting started.
Steve: Yeah, I think that’s a great starting point. Well, Lacey, this has been fantastic. You’ve shared a ton of wisdom with us today. And I want to make sure people know where to find you if they want to find out more, maybe they want you to do their plan for them.
Because that sounds like, for me, I’m not the type that would ever create a plan. So I really need somebody like you to come in and help me to do that. So how can they find out more about you? Where can they get your e-book and get connected?
Lacy: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m at lacyboggs.com, pretty easy. And on the website, there’s a “Work With Me” tab, there’s a place that explains what we do and a big red button to get on my calendar. That’s usually the best way to get ahold of me.
And if you are interested in the e-book, it lays out my whole philosophy. It’s called “Make A Killing With Content.” It’s available on Amazon for 99 cents because that’s the cheapest they let me make it on Amazon. Right, it’s for Kindle. So it’s a pretty easy read, but it has a lot of good stuff in there.
Steve: Awesome. It is on my Kindle. It is a good book and, folks, you need to go get it. So, Lacy. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your wisdom today and investing some time with me. This has been fun.
Lacy: Yeah, it has been. Thank you for having me.
Steve: This episode of The Unstoppable CEO Podcast is sponsored by The Unstoppable Agency. That is the agency part of our business where we work with professional service firms and create a done-for-you marketing program. And what that looks like is we actually sit down with you, we come together and define your ideal client with you.
We go build a list of those people and then we begin reaching out to them on your behalf to book them as guests on your podcast. We call it podcast prospecting. And it’s a fantastic way to connect with potential clients and influencers that can refer you and it’s end to end a done-for-you system.
And so if that’s something that you think might be the right fit for your business, go to our website, go to unstoppableceo.net. You can find there on the homepage a link to a video presentation that explains how it all works. And if you’d like, let’s get together and have a quick twenty-minute conversation and see if we’re a fit. Again, that’s unstoppableceo.net. Right on the homepage, look for a link to the video that explains how it all works.