Everyone wants qualified customers sidling up to the virtual content counter, asking ‘How much?’ and ‘Can I take it home today?’ Nobody wants cobwebs in the newbiz folder, or lookie-loo’s who come to chat because they like the sound of their typing. So how do you attract qualified customers?

Before I dive in and tell you what works for me, a few qualifiers:

  • I assume you know how to create content that provides value – If your idea of content is posting your flyer, good luck. I’ve learned that to get, you have to give. Your blog or website needs to educate, inspire and entertain. For help creating effective content, call me. But don’t look for writing tips in this story.
  • This isn’t about tech – Although my tips incorporate some of the best technology out there, I’m writing for people who find no joy in coding. We’re entrepreneurs, and we need answers, not invitations to explore magical digital labyrinths.
  • It takes time, and never ends – You want results you can see overnight, get a Thighmaster. This is stuff you need to stick with. I’ve acquired the discipline of allotting a bit of time each day to getting myself in front of the right people online. Patience, and curiosity pays.

Still with me? Let’s get started.

Tip 1: Find your audience.

Last summer, my friend (and serial entrepreneur) John McDonald asked me to help launch a new keyword and search term analytics tool.

If you don’t know, keywords and search terms are what honest folk type into their computer when they’re looking for stuff. Search engines like Google hang onto all those terms – if you’re technically adept, you can find them and see how many people are looking for what you’re offering. Useful info.

If you aren’t technically adept, of course, search is like the Enigma code.

If you aren’t technically adept, of course, search is like the Enigma code.

Long story short, John brought me aboard as the ‘Director of keeping it human’. I helped create the brand, then worked on simplifying the product until even a luddite like myself could understand it.

Today, the tool (dubbed Dtermin) has launched, and is starting to build momentum.

I’m not here to sell you on Dtermin. But I can say I use it every day, and it’s helped me focus. I use it to fine tune my blog posts so they reach decision makers in tech, sustainability and healthcare. Combined with an Adwords campaign, it’s even driving sales of my book, and pushing inquiries for my speaking services.

Tip 2: Find your friends.

If you run your blog posts on your website, you’re missing an opportunity. Journals are hungry for content, and your audience will more likely peruse an online journal than pop over to your site.

On the other hand, don’t overdo it. When I started blogging, my stories ran on ten journal sites. Very flattering, but not terribly effective. Remember, this is about reaching your core audience, not everyone with eyeballs.

Remember, you want to reach your core audience with your content, not everyone with eyeballs.

I’ve honed down my list of journals considerably, and am reaping wonderful rewards. Let me tell you about two of the journals, and why my loyalty to them has paid off handsomely.

  • Triple Pundit – Nick Aster and his team at 3P now run most of my sustainability-related posts. What’s more, they push them out over social media like fiends (big shout out to 3P’s social maven Marisa Rosen!). Result: where I used to get a few dozen readers for each post, I now get hundreds. And it isn’t me foisting the stories on my twitter following – it’s a respected journal sending it out to their (considerably larger) fan base.
  • Unreasonable – I love the entrepreneurial bent of Daniel Epstein’s Unreasonable Institute. And his blog lieutenant Nick Beard has dialed into an incredible following of young, noisy commenters. Each of my posts with Unreasonable now gets upwards of 50 comments. Tweets and linkedin shares are also through the roof. Final note – Nick showed me how to add auto-tweet to quotes from my posts. If someone likes what I’m writing, they can easily tweet it. And they do.

Of course, it pays to have friends in other places. When I write a new post, I call on experts in my network to round out my thinking. I also have no shame about tapping my friends’ ideas when it comes to better avenues for my content. Friends have found me conferences to speak at, buyers for my books, even clients. I repay them with credit, tips of my own and time. Idea barter is a wonderful thing.

Tip 3: Find new ways.

When I launched my book, a friend told me I should do an audio version. This in turn got me thinking about creating a podcast.

Of course, I knew nothing about creating a podcast. But if you put the question out there, answers come. My answer came in the form of a talk radio show a friend introduced me to. My monthly slot on the show provides a high quality recording, and a wonderful interviewer who seems genuinely interested in all things futureproof.

Once the recording is done, I run it as a blog post. And in the coming weeks, these audio posts will be launched as podcasts you can subscribe to.

Lesson: it pays to keep your ears open. There’s always someone out there with a better way of reaching a specific audience. There’s always a novel new twist. And if you just ask, chances are the answers will be forthcoming.