Content Marketing: Building Your Brand Online
Over the course of building three successful lawn care businesses, Jason Creel of Alabama Lawn Pros has learned a lot. Rather than hoarding that knowledge, it’s been Jason’s business practice to give his knowledge away to customers, and even potential competitors, in the form of free online content. What’s that mean?
Your company’s content is all the messaging and communications it produces. It could be information on your website, a free newsletter you self-publish, posts on Facebook, Tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, photos on Instagram . . . that’s all content.
“When I started, I didn’t have any idea how to make money giving away content on the internet, I just knew it was a good idea because I’d seen a friend do it with success,” says Creel.
While many field services use social media content to specifically attract new customers (e.g. posting before and after photos of jobs), far fewer go the route of producing and distributing content specifically for the purpose of giving away their knowledge. Communication via content is usually a one-way street—used for marketing purposes, to drive more leads into the top of the funnel—not a two-way conversation.
Fewer still take it to the level that Jason Creel does, actually providing tips to would-be competitors on how to start and run their own independent lawn care businesses.
Starting the two-way conversations
On his YouTube channel, Creel answers a number of subscriber questions, often to do with what equipment a new lawn care business should buy to help start, operate and grow their own business. “It has tremendously helped my local business that I have a strong internet presence. Because of my YouTube channel, the website ranks very well on Google locally,” he explains.
That said, giving away knowledge you’ve spent years acquiring will seem counter-intuitive to many field services businesses. Why show people how to properly apply lawn fertilizer, fix their leaky faucet, or paint their living room for free, when you can charge someone to do it? StartupBell put it nicely:
“When you are able to connect with your customer and create a two-way conversation, it becomes so much more than simply a tool for selling your products. Your customer becomes part of your story. Over time, this shapes new ideas and plays an active role in the development of your business.”
In other words, giving away a little of what you know is just the opening stanza of the conversation. The real value comes when the market engages back with you and that two-way conversation begins. It’s good for your brand and good for your bottom line—think of the free knowledge sharing as a minor loss leader with a significant multiple of ROI.
The consumer is tired of being sold to
It used to be that marketing a business was an exercise in reaching the largest number of people possible with your fixed message. But the internet changed all that. We don’t look at ads anymore (we actually use things like ad blockers to avoid them).
Content crosses the chasm between brands and people. Giving away good content works because it doesn’t try to sell us, or ask something from us in return, it just answers our questions and makes our lives easier.
So, if I’m a homeowner looking for a solution to my weed control problem, or an entrepreneur looking for impartial advice on starting my own small business, I feel like I can trust good content, and even engage its creator to learn more. It’s through that engagement that trust grows, in turn creating opportunity for your business.
So when does the monetizing part come in?
After nearly 3 years of building a strong reputation through content creation and sharing, Creel has started to monetize it. There’s a small but growing stream of revenue from the Alabama Lawn Care Pros YouTube Channel, and the company website appears among the top Google search results for the Montgomery area, meaning local leads are abundant.
To create another revenue stream, Creel recently added video courses to his offerings for others starting a lawn business and created his learning site, start-lawncarebusiness.com. “It’s hard to get information when you start a business. I thought if I could put together something, maybe that will help.”
Creel has also published his own eBook and now supplies startup lawn care businesses with essential marketing materials for a reasonable price. “The feedback has been super positive, whether it’s people that just want to watch the free videos – which is fine – or the people that want to buy products. It all comes from the content.”
Branching out to bridge the digital-physical divide, Creel is producing a lawn care focused business conference in Springville, Alabama. For $79, attendees to the one day event will hear from others who have built successful businesses and get a chance to workshop their own strategies. “We’ll talk about marketing specifically and some of the strategies I’m using. The idea is to get more people thinking about a vision to grow their business.”
As of print, Creel reports that his income for content-born opportunity is onset to double year over year. “At this point it’s making enough money where it would be kind of foolish that to quit doing it. In two or three years, it will be a significant part of my business. It can be time-consuming but it’s absolutely worth it.”