What does it take to develop a great content strategy?
Eugene Farber is the founder of Content Strategy Hub where he shares his wisdom about content marketing. Read the following interview to learn from this accountant turned marketer what it takes to succeed with content marketing.
Success Harbor: How did you get started with content marketing?
Eugene Farber: I always knew that I wanted to pursue a life in business and kind of fell into accounting during school. During my first accounting job out of college I began consuming all the information I could about marketing – both online and offline. It didn’t take long for me to realize that marketing is really what drives business. A great product with bad marketing stands little chance. A subpar product with great marketing, on the other hand, can be hugely successful. I began playing around with building websites and blogs to experiment. The only resource I really had that I could invest in marketing was my own time. So I defaulted to content marketing to promote affiliate products because I didn’t have any of my own at the beginning.
Success Harbor: What was your goal(s) when starting Content Strategy Hub?
Eugene Farber: It was a bit of an experiment. I had an idea for a book I wanted to write and wanted to test a large site launch in a more specific niche than I had been writing about before. So really, the goal was to garner enough interest in the blog (or at least see if I could do it) and eventually create and market a product on the same topic.
Success Harbor: Can you give me some examples of how you validate your ideas?
Eugene Farber: Figure out a way to validate that someone would actually pay for your idea – and do it as quickly as possible. For example, I did this long before launching my product at Content Strategy Hub. I had actually put on a webinar talking about the subject of content marketing in the context of my new site launch, and pre-sold my content marketing guide before it was ever made. Once people paid, I knew they actually wanted the information. People could say that they want what you have to offer, but until they pull out their wallet you can’t really believe them.
Success Harbor: What were the most effective ways to drive traffic and create awareness about Content Strategy Hub?
Eugene Farber: The content I used to launch my website was huge in establishing the blog basically from the very beginning. I approached industry leaders in the space (such as Joe Pulizzi, David Meerman Scott, Mark Schaefer, and so on) for a group interview. It was three-part series where each part highlighted a specific question and all of the experts’ answers. The amount of value the series provided was immense. The social proof it created for my blog was huge. And given that a few of the participants shared the posts to their social networks, it gave an instant injection of targeted traffic.
Success Harbor: What web properties do you own and how do you generate traffic to them?
Eugene Farber: I own a good many properties. Some are for the purposes of targeted specific industries for my marketing services (such as ProfitCrunching.com). Others are affiliate product sites that I have had for a long time. Many of those I simply use for the sake of experimenting to see what works in terms of conversions and SEO rankings.
Success Harbor: Can you be a bit more specific about the web properties you own? Give us some more examples of the sites and the niches they are in?
Eugene Farber: I have one site focusing on dentists at DentaLead.com. So this is doing a similar thing that ProfitCrunching is doing for accountants. Without giving too much away, I also have several affiliate sites in multiple niches. One site I’ve had since almost the beginning is in a dating niche. I feel like most people that get into affiliate marketing select one of a few big niches and this is one of them. I got into the niche because I was reading and listening to a lot of Eben Pagan at the beginning. So, I stupidly tried to replicate his success in the dating industry :).
Success Harbor: How do you monetize your web properties?
Eugene Farber: I guess that would depend on the web property. It’s a mix of selling services, products, and affiliate promotions.
Success Harbor: Can you give me some specific examples of how you monetize some of your specific sites?
Eugene Farber: I offer services through some sites (such as DentaLead). ProfitCrunching is a bit of both. There are, of course, services. But I also have a product-as-a-service in the form of a done-for-you monthly client newsletter. Content Strategy Hub, as I had mentioned, was really launched with the idea of creating a product after the fact. So that product is still there (although I will be phasing it out soon).
Success Harbor: How long did it take you to make enough money with your web properties to quit your job?
Eugene Farber: Starting from scratch, it took a little over a year. It was a lot of time spent experimenting and figuring out how to work all the tech. That being said, it was a lot easier back then. I didn’t have to build a real business because throwing up affiliate sites and ranking them was extremely easy. There was a decent stretch of time where I was ranking first on Google for the number one product on ClickBank with about an hour of work. Things have changed since then – and for the better, in my opinion. I couldn’t get away doing the same thing today. And that’s a good thing. You actually have to be good at marketing these days.
Success Harbor: What makes it more difficult today to get started? You mentioned that it was easier when you started. What is “good marketing” today?
Eugene Farber: I really meant that in terms of SEO and affiliate marketing. It was definitely much easier to be an affiliate marketer when I started because you could literally spam your website with terrible backlinks and rank very quickly. That’s not the case anymore. You can still build your own “unnatural” links but you have to be smart about it and have to know what you’re doing. Or, you can just be a good marketer and get everything naturally; create stuff worth linking to.
Success Harbor: Can you give me some specific examples of experimentations and figuring things out online?
Eugene Farber: I think a good marketer should always be testing; especially in the digital space where testing is so cheap. I have tested different ads to different audiences, tested different landing pages, etc. That is something that pretty much any business should be doing. For me, however, “figuring things out” also applies to search engine rankings (for myself and for my clients). I have a bunch of test sites that don’t make me any money. I literally just throw them up to see different ways I can rank them (different link sources, anchor texts, etc.). No matter what industry you are in, you should always experiment and test assumptions because little incremental changes and improvements can really add up in the long run.
Success Harbor: What marketing channels are the most effective for your websites?
Eugene Farber: LinkedIn has been pretty big for me. But really, people need to focus on where their target audience is congregating. I actually had great success approaching organizers of MeetUp groups of all places. Find a group whose members consist of your target audience and offer them something of value.
Success Harbor: Which one is your favorite social platform and why?
Eugene Farber: That really depends on what I am trying to achieve. LinkedIn has been good to me in terms of sharing content. Facebook is great when it comes to social ads because of the sheer amount of information they have. And Twitter is pretty great for outreach. I feel like they all have their own pros and cons. And you should view them within the context of what your goal is at that particular moment.
Success Harbor: What was the biggest mistake that you have made as an entrepreneur?
Eugene Farber: Entrepreneurial A.D.D. To this day, I still have a hard time not jumping from idea to idea. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way. You have to be somewhat of an “idea person.” That can be a good thing when you are trying out and testing new campaigns. That’s not so good when you come up with a completely new business idea. And it’s hard to just throw ideas to the side and focus on one thing at a time to nurture it enough to where it is sustainable. But that’s what you have to do.
Success Harbor: What is the most important thing for an entrepreneur to do during the first 12-months of being in business?
Eugene Farber: Set a goal. Create a strategic plan. Then focus and follow through. Also, the quicker you can validate an idea, the better. That way you don’t spend your precious time pursuing an idea that is doomed to fail. Validation should take far less than 12 months :).
Success Harbor: What do you think is the biggest time waster for entrepreneurs?
Eugene Farber: It would have to be chasing. Chasing ideas. Chasing knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is definitely something you can’t go without. But the issue is that there is so much content now readily and freely available that you can get lost just consuming content without ever acting on it. The problem is, our brains play a trick on us and make us feel like we are actually doing something when we simply read about it. You should always have a thirst for knowledge. You should always want to learn. But you need to know what you need to learn. Focus on your next 3-5 steps. Not the next 50.
Success Harbor: If you could train someone to be a successful entrepreneur what would be the first thing you’d teach them?
Eugene Farber: Marketing. Hands down. The basics of marketing are easy to learn, but they are a bit counterintuitive. For example, most business owners, when asked who their target customers are, say “everybody.” That is the wrong way to approach a business. It’s far easier to start small, focus on a niche, then establish yourself and grow from there. That is why I have properties such as ProfitCrunching.com. It focuses on marketing for accountants. Sure, I can teach the same information and provide the same services to lawyers. But when I say this is “marketing for accountants,” accountants are far more open to hearing what I have to offer when they see the website. That is also the reason that I own multiple properties targeted different niches. And that is also the reason that I target specific locations (such as my Cleveland SEO page).
Success Harbor: How can people connect with you?
Eugene Farber: You can always tweet at me on Twitter: @eugenefarber. And check out ContentStrategyHub.com.