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Winning Content Marketing Tactics & Tips

An Interview with Laura Prael

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser interviewed Laura Prael, the founder and director of LEP Digital, a multi-award-winning international digital content marketing agency. Laura shared several useful suggestions and tips for creating high quality content that engages readers and gets your business on top of the google search results. Watch now for some profound insights.

Start now. So whether it’s experimenting in your business, or starting something new. I think just beginning is really important.

Laura Prael
Founder and director of LEP Digital

Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of E Coffee with Experts. I’m your host, Matt Fraser. And on today’s show, I have with me a very special guest, Laura Prael. She is the founder and director of LEP Digital, a multi-award-winning international digital content marketing agency based in Gosford, Australia. You should look it up on the map, it looks like a little piece of heaven. Anyway, she has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Newcastle and a Master’s in public relations and advertising from the University of South Wales. Laura is also an accomplished award-winning speaker, copywriter, digital marketer, and entrepreneur with broad experience working on campaigns and organizations, including Google Australia, Westpac, Kellogg’s Australia, Sanitarium, Avon, NT Tourism, and New South Wales State Government.
When not working on marketing campaigns for clients, Laura enjoys spending time taking walks on the beach as well as doing yoga and cooking vegetarian dishes. Laura, thank you so much for being here. A pleasure to have you on the show.

Great to be here, Matt. Thank you.

Hey, no problem. So, Laura, how would your university professors describe you as a student?

Studious.

Studious? That’s a good thing.

Yeah, very, very focused. I’d sit at the front of the class and take a lot of notes, I’d ask questions, and I also tried to get to know my lecturers as well. Which a lot of other students didn’t want to do.

Oh, were they just intimidated by them?

I don’t know. I think because my parents were teachers, I had a unique insight into what education means, what it means to teach, and how much effort these lecturers put into the classes. So, for me, I found them interesting people.

Right on. So, do you think what your parents did for a living impacted you in regard to the career path that you’ve chosen?

Yeah, interestingly, because they were teachers and they were both artists, they probably didn’t expect me to go into a business-style role. So, in high school, I played piano, I did art, I also did drama, and I assumed that I was going to go and become an actor, and so did my parents actually. That’s what I was best at in school, it was acting. I Loved it so much. So, I think in their minds I thought she was going to go be an actor or do something in the creative space. Obviously, they are very proud of me for how everything worked out, and I think I lean on a lot of those artistic skills that I learned at school.

Yeah, absolutely. Because it takes a lot of creativity to be in digital marketing and to be a content creator and all the aspects that go with it. It’s funny you mention that because I actually laugh at this, and people laugh at me, but I directed a one-act play. That I took to the finals, the provincial finals, if you will, like people go to basketball provincial finals. I took this one-act play to the finals and won an award for set design and sound design. The girl in it won an award for acting, and we did it in front of a crowd of 800 people and had them all laughing their butts off. So, it’s fun, isn’t it, to get up with people and perform, if you will?

It is about connecting and moving an audience, which is really what you’re doing in marketing.

Absolutely. Do you think the experience that you gained at the Bendon Group has helped you in your development as a digital marketer and entrepreneur?

Yeah, definitely. That was an interesting role. So, it was funny. It was advertised as a communications manager. But when I started the role, I worked out, it was actually an internal communications manager. My role was really about uniting the company, which is global. So, they had offices around the world, and it was about bringing people together, rewarding and recognizing people within the company, being able to share important company news, and having people be really aligned with the brand’s mission. So, that taught me a lot of skills. And at the time, we had a video production element to it, and previously the graphic design people were doing that, and they got all of the graphic design stuff that they were doing for the business because it’s a retail business. So, there were a lot of touching models and models photos and carving out outfits and things like that. So, I put my hand up and said, I’d like to learn video production. I’m happy to do it, and that’s actually really where I learned to do a lot of the video production, and I now support our clients with that. It was a really great way to unite the business and help people feel special. We used to live stream events, so if we had an event at head office, we would Live stream it with all of the other offices so they could be part of it and do interviews with other staff members and so forth. So yeah, that was a lot of fun, and it taught me a lot about how to work with people, which I think helps in my role today as a leader.

Yeah. Do you think that it’s important for people to go and work for other people first before they launch their own? I mean, you got people like Zuckerberg who quit college, and now he’s a billionaire, but he’s the exception, not the rule. I don’t know. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think people should gain some hands-on experience in the field of the area or industry that they want to go into before just putting their own shingles out?

I think so. For me, it meant that I had a really good understanding. I worked for big businesses, and then when I started my own business, I worked for small businesses, which is interesting. And it was the first time I ever worked for small businesses, actually. So, I came in with this big business experience. But what I gained from that is how a company works, how company structures work, who has control and power, who makes decisions, what’s important to a company, and what are the processes that take place? I think that’s incredibly important when you’re dealing with clients and stakeholders, that you have that understanding otherwise, you commission naively, you’re not quite sure how things work, and it can be a little bit of a disadvantage if you don’t have that background and experience.

I totally agree with you, and I can say that from experience as well. Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No. It was never in my plan, it was never in my sight. I feel like I fell into it almost accidentally. It was kind of a series of circumstances that came together and pointed me in this direction. So, as you said, with working for these big businesses, including Benton, for a good part, I think, about ten years or so. And the job that I was working at the time was in Sydney, it was working really long hours because it was a global company. So, I was having meetings with people from the UK, people from the U.S., and where you are. I was so tired, and I just felt like I wasn’t as passionate as I was anymore. And coupled with that, I’d just met my now husband, who had his own business, so he was an entrepreneur. So, I had that influence in my life at all times, which was interesting. And then at the same time, my father was ill, my family is actually from the United States, and I live in Australia. My dad lived in the US, and he was ill. So, I had this sense of, well, I’m going to have to spend a bit more time over in the US, which is going to take me away from my job. I needed to have a little bit more work-life balance. And I had this influence in my life, someone who started a business, who had a lot of tips and guidance around that. And I just wanted to help small businesses as well. I had this feeling of being like a cab working for all these corporations. You know, I’ve helped corporations get rich. so, I was like, how can I help small businesses, people that are really struggling with marketing? And I’ve got all of these skills that I’ve gained over the years working for big business. Maybe it’s time to help them, and then I can do it from anywhere. I can do it from overseas.

Absolutely. I’m going to ask you some questions about that later on. But for now, do you think it’s important to be a mentor for up-and-coming entrepreneurs?

I think it’s important to help people wherever you can, whatever that looks like. Your skill set may not be a natural mentor. It might be someone that is more about sharing information and might be someone that’s more about giving to charity, for example. But yeah, I do think that anyone who has a successful business should give back in any way that they can and help others to succeed. I think that that’s what makes the world go round.

Okay. Do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs to donate their time in regard to volunteering?

I think if they can, they should for sure. Especially as businesses grow, it helps the person at the top to feel grounded and to be grounded, to understand what’s going on in their community, and help where they can. So, not everyone’s time pool, and I understand that not everyone has time to be donating hundreds of hours to doing things, but just do what you can. I think even if it’s one hour a week, one hour a month, whatever that looks like.

Absolutely. You know, I interviewed this guy in Sarasota, and he was talking about how he would go and volunteer for the Salvation Army just once a week or month or whatever. I can’t remember how often, but just in the kitchen, just meeting people. And then he started volunteering, helping businesses or somebody in some business organization. He was volunteering his time, and he was rubbing shoulders with other entrepreneurs. But that’s not why he was doing it. He said, you know, it’s always important to remember that we should give back because the community helped us. So, we should help the community. That’s important for us to keep in mind.

That’s right. And you don’t want to take for granted what you can learn from others. I believe in every experience in life, you can learn something, whether that is for your business, whether that’s as a person and a human, or whether it’s for something about your family. When I started my business, for example, I took on a part-time job as a receptionist in the gym because I just wanted a safety net. I wanted to have a part-time job that could pay the bills and help me while I started the business. The number of things I learned from that job, from just speaking to people day to day, from picking up weights to talking to personal trainers. Also, you rub the shoulders of all sorts of people from all walks of life, and I absolutely love that. You are going outside of your natural network of people, and I feel like it’s so enriching to your life.

As well as your comfort zone, would you say?

Well, I liked going to the gym, so I felt like I wanted to be in the gym. But selling was actually out of my comfort zone because part of that role was to sell gym memberships. That was a little bit uncomfortable for me, and I had to learn how to do that.

Okay. Do you think that experience helped you? Because obviously, being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, and being a marketing person, I mean, there is a certain amount of selling that goes into it. So, did that help you, and looking back, was that experience that helped you in regards to your business and being able to sell your services today?

Absolutely. Something unexpected that came out of that part-time role was they sent us off to sales training. So, we went out to Sydney and listened to people talk through the step by step sales process. Now everyone approaches sales differently, and a lot of that sort of stuff, I thought, that’s not going to be my style. My style is more about getting to understand people and really listening, understanding their problems or challenges, and looking at how I can help them. So, for me, it comes from a place of wanting to help people as opposed to trying to make a quick transaction or following a step process.

It sounds to me like, for instance, there’s a book by Blair Singer called Sales Dogs. In the book, he identifies different kinds of sales dogs, and as you were talking, it sounded to me like you’re the golden retriever type of salesperson where it’s service based. You’re always meant to help people and listen to them. He also talks about the bloodhound, where you’re searching for what their problem is and how you can help them, and then, of course, the stereotypical pit bull, which is like a used car salesman of the aggressive person, you know what I mean? Anyway, it’s a great book for anybody to read who’s in business. It’s an awesome book. But yeah, making sure to identify your sales star point I’m trying to make and adapt to that. Although he would say that, you know, sometimes you gotta be a pit bull in order to close the sale. You know, you can’t always be nice. You got to sometimes, like nicely ask for the sale, but like you got to be a little bold, a little aggressive and get that push to get that deal.

I think you’ve got to have boundaries on your time as well. As much as you want to help people, you can’t be forever giving free information. So, if the same person’s coming back to you for free information over and over again and they’re not ready to make the sale, that tells me that they’re just not quite ready in their customer journey or buyer journey, they need some time. So, what I’ll do is I’ll give them some resources to go off and do some research and thinking. And I tell them to come back to me when you are ready.

Yeah, exactly. Hey, what has been the biggest difference between working with large corporations and helping small businesses?

There’s a big, big difference. But at the same time, I think there’s a really nice, rewarding sense that you changed people’s lives in a really profound way. Because when you work in a big business, you are just one small part of lots of things happening. When you work in a marketing department of a big business, you don’t really talk to your customers. Usually, you’re not out at the coalface, talking to people and really understanding how you’re helping them. So, you kind of don’t get to see the fruits of your labor in a way. You’re just trusting that you’re getting good feedback from your boss, and you’re just trusting that what you’re doing is helping the company. But when you’re working with small business owners, and you’re meeting them, sometimes you meet their families, as you go to their homes sometimes, especially in the early days when working with start-ups. Now we work with businesses that are a little bit bigger than that, but there’s a really nice sense that you’ve changed someone’s life, and the innovations that you’re helping them on is impacting the community, impacting people that use the service, the products. So, it’s a nice feeling.

It is. I agree with you. I had a huge impact on the business that I worked for and saw them have money to be able to renovate their business. There is a lot of pressure, though. What you’re doing is impacting, but we are also relying on you. It’s like holy sometimes the pressure was a lot.

Yeah. I think you have to be honest with your clients as well. If something’s not working, you have to quickly say, look, I don’t think this is working. Let’s change this. Because you don’t have the time, space, and budget to keep pushing this. Some people put their mortgages on the house, which is done a lot to pay for marketing. So yeah, it is a lot of pressure, but I think just keeping the communication lines open, being transparent, being honest, and just really working as hard as you can to make it work.

Someone motivated you to finally put out your own shingle. I think maybe we touched on it, but my apologies. You talked about the different challenges that you had to deal with, be it with your father’s health and so on. Was it really the time constraint then and wanting to have a little bit more work balance and freedom? I just wanted to clarify that.

Yeah, for sure. I think there was a natural sense that I was probably coming to the end of my role where I was in terms of, I didn’t really feel challenged anymore. I felt like I was tired and maybe not feeling as rewarded as I could be. So, I guess that whenever I feel like I’m losing the passion, I don’t feel like it’s something that I should continue. And also, I think the emotional pressures of being there for my dad, feeling the guilt as I’m working all the time. I’m not giving my family the time that they need, and it’s hard in a big business because back in the day, we couldn’t just work remotely. You know, that wasn’t a thing. It was like, you have to be in the office for these hours, you’ve got this set amount of leave, and you have to take the leave when it’s right for the business. You can’t take the leaves right for you. So, it was emotional pressure as well, and it just felt like the time was right.

Yeah. My whole reason for asking you this was trying to give maybe other entrepreneurs a sense of what it was like for you when you knew it was time to leave. So, I think other people will be encouraged by that, that’s for sure.

Yeah. And you can always start small as well. I started doing a few things on the weekend before I left my role. I made sure that didn’t impact my role because I was still dedicated to doing my role while I was there. But you can start small, you can start taking on a little bit of work and see how that feels. And you feel like you’re really engaged, and you feel like it’s time you can. But I don’t think anyone’s ever truly ready. You’ve just got to begin, and a mantra that I love is that we’ve got to open up our wall in neon lights in the office and begin anywhere. You just got to begin.

That’s awesome. Just start. You know, I was talking to my wife, and the hardest thing about anything is starting it. But you just gotta do it. The hardest thing is to get a train going. The hardest thing is taking the first step, but sometimes you just got to start. Like you said, on the weekends or part-time or whatever the case may be. So, what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced in the early stages of launching your agency?

I think a few things were maybe not valuing my time as much, and you do this naturally when you start a business is, you overservice. You do it probably because you need to do a good job. So that you get a good first review. You want to make sure that your service or your product is viable and it’s worthwhile. So, I think that I probably did a lot for free and I undervalued myself. And, you know, maybe looking back, I probably wouldn’t have done that now. Challenge you face when you start a business is you don’t have a set pay. So, obviously, when you work for a company, you know what your salary is going to be. I managed that a little bit with the side part-time job at the gym, but it was hard to know when I was going to get paid and when I was going to get another client, and if I would be able to pay. I had a mortgage.

Yeah. So that’s all courage.

Yeah, it’s very stressful, and in the back of my ear, I had my mom going, Are you crazy? You had this great job that you’re getting paid well, and you know, what are you doing? So, there is that bit of doubt, as am I doing the right thing? Are people going to be proud of me, and are people going to respect what I’m doing? Because when you first tell people, sometimes people don’t take it well, they go, oh, okay, some people go, that’s fantastic, but occasionally there’ll be some people that go, all right, good luck.

So, how did you overcome those challenges of not valuing your time?

I think it helped that I had my partner at home so that I could talk about it and bounce ideas off. It’s how I feel like I’m working really hard, and I found it hard at the start as well to just simply ask or say, look, this is going to be out of scope, or this is going to be more money, I’m going to have to charge you. It was difficult to do that, especially when you’ve come from working in an apartment where you talk to staff about what you need. If you are going for a pay rise or you have a dispute with pay or something. But it’s hard, I think, to initially have conversations about money with the people that have that money. You know, it’s the business owner. I found that tricky.

Any tips that you learned along the way of having those conversations?

As long as you can demonstrate value and demonstrate what you feel is the return on investment. For them, you can clearly demonstrate hours. I met this woman early on at a conference that I went to who had her own marketing business for ten years. And I said, How do you manage them? She said I will only invoice each month if I’ve gone over. I’ll actually note how many hours I’ve gone over so that they can see how many free hours they had. So, they just got to see over time, I paid to this, but you actually got all of this stuff extra, and I guess it gives you a case later, whether it’s a couple of months or six months or whatever to say, look, I’d be doing all this extra stuff for you now. We’re going to raise the rates.

That is bloody brilliant. That’s such a good idea. I wish I had known this when I was running my agency.

Yeah, a lot of clients aren’t aware of it. And a client’s job and a business owner’s job is to get as much as you can out of your contractors or your agents for as little as possible, and they’re going to keep asking you to do stuff until they say no. And if you keep doing it, then it’s not the business owner’s fault.

No, absolutely. I hear you. Hey, what is your favorite aspect of digital marketing? I can say marketing in general, but digital marketing is a part of marketing. But you know.

I love creativity, and I love when a client comes to us with a challenge, and they come to us with, I think it should be this or maybe this. And we come back to them, and they go, wow, I never would have looked at it that way, or I would never have thought of that or like the look on their faces or the email you get back is priceless. We designed a website recently, and it was out there. It was a website for a law firm, and it was a design that wasn’t traditionally looking like a law firm. It was more like a fashion website. And so, it was a big challenge for us to go, Okay, how do we take inspiration from fashion websites and turn that into a law firm? We thought, oh, this could go bad, or it could be amazing. We first sent it off for review, and you sort of waited by the computer for their response. And then to have someone come back and say in capital letters this is amazing. You’ve knocked this out of the park. I’ve shed a tear. This is the most amazing thing. Thank you so much. It’s just such a nice feeling, you truly jump with joy. Like, my team will jump and be like, oh, we did it. It’s a really cool moment.

That is amazing. Is content marketing one of your favorite things to do? Would it be fair to say that?

Yeah, I love writing. I was always good at writing at school, especially creative writing. It’s what I studied at university. So, I love writing, it’s my favorite thing to do, and that’s really content marketing. In essence, it’s coming up with stories, it’s talking about people, it’s figuring out how to be unique, and how to tell a brand story uniquely. I really like that part of it.

Did you have an interest in writing, even going back to a young age like I don’t know what they call it in Australia, but elementary grades, you know, 3 to 6 or whatever? Can you go back that far and see that you enjoyed writing even back then? Like, was it one of your favorite subjects, or did it progress later on?

Yeah, I always liked it. My dad was an English teacher and a writer himself. And it’s funny, he gave me feedback. I was never really into reading as much as I should be. So, reading and writing go hand in hand, and you are a better writer if you read. My dad was an avid reader, he loved reading. And he was always frustrated that I didn’t like reading as much as he did. I like doing things. I’d like to make things in my hands, and I would write as well. And when I got to high school, and I started submitting writing assignments and things, sometimes my dad would look at them before I’d send them to my teacher. And he’d say, you know what? You write a lot better than a lot of my students at school, but there’s no explanation for it because you’re not reading. So, it’s like, I don’t know where this is going.

Well, maybe your IQ. You are just smart.

You know, obviously, he’s my dad, and I’m sure he’s biased, but it’s nice to get that feedback that there’s something here, and there’s obviously something that might in me that I’m good at writing. I enjoy writing, and I should pursue that in whatever career I’m doing.

Absolutely. What do you think are the most important factors to consider when developing a content strategy for your clients?

I think the most important thing to work out, first and foremost, is what are the goals of this. A lot of clients will go, we need to do marketing. We need to do content marketing because they’ve heard in the past when they can say they were doing what we just wish we could do this thing. We need to do this thing, and you need to really take a step back and go, okay, why are we doing this thing? What are your actual goals? And you try to get it beyond vanity metrics. Sometimes they say, oh, we just want more followers, or We just want this and that.

Is it even going to get you more revenue?

Yeah, you’ve got to go a little bit deeper. So, we’d like to sit down with clients and go, tell me what’s really going on. What’s the goal behind this? What do you want to do? And then, who’s your audience? And a lot of times would say, everyone.

I hear that all the time. But everyone cannot be your audience.

Yeah. So, it’s a lot of that investigative work of really boiling it down to. Okay, there might well be a lot of people for this product or service that could be useful, but who’s your ideal customer? Who’s going to make the most money for your company? Being an advocate of product and service, being returning customer, all of that sort of stuff. That’s really important, and then from there, you can start to map out, okay, how can we help these people? Because at the heart of content marketing, it’s not just straight selling. It’s how we make valuable, helpful, relevant content to improve these people’s lives, help them get better at their job, be better as a parent, be better as a friend, whatever it may be, and you’ve got to go deep with it. You’ve got to really get into the psyche of your client. What are their fears? What Are their needs? What are the challenges? So, that’s a great place to start.

Yeah, there are a lot of things clients don’t think about. When I say clients, I mean business owners.

They were not even trying to. A lot of the time, they’ve been kind of like, well, we’re good at making our product, or we’re good at doing our service.

Yeah. Like when I was at the dealership, all they cared about was leads. Like, we just want the phone to ring, and I’m like, but we need to do this work. I also want your phone to ring, I want the web forms to be filled out, I want the chat sessions, I want the same thing. But we can’t just turn Google ads on, we need content. What are we going to say, and how do we know what to say to them if we don’t know who they are and what their problem is, you know, and so on and so forth? Like, really, it is a lot of work to set the foundation for a successful campaign?

I was watching a training session yesterday about advertising and marketing, and I think now that for some purchases, especially large purchases like a car, a customer will likely go to 500 digital touchpoints before they buy something.

Yeah.

So if you think about that, it’s not just one ad that’s going to do it. It’s not just a long article. You’ve really got to sit up and be there for all of those micro-moments where a customer turns to their phone or goes to the desktop computer and googles you or finds some information or calls you, calls the dealership, asking do you have a spreadsheet on this? You need to have all that content laid out, it makes content marketing difficult because it’s just the sheer volume.

Yeah. It’s a long-term play, though, isn’t it? It’s not something that you do for instant leads. Like if a business owner came to you tomorrow and said, I need leads tomorrow. I’m going to go out of business. At this point in my life, I will be like, well, have a nice day.

Yeah, pretty much.

You’ve already screwed up enough, there’s nothing we can really do. But if you could do something like, maybe throw up a Google ads campaign, but the point I’m trying to make is it really is a long-term play in regards to developing that strategy, and by long term, I mean 2-3 years.

Yeah. And I think the question is, how do you deal with that client who wants speed?

Exactly where I was going, especially because I know what you have said. That you like working with small businesses, and I’ve also tried to work with small businesses. So, it is very interesting to me because I went from working with car dealers and blowing lots of money. Like, they blow money like it’s crazy, and it’s just a common thing in the automotive industry that they blow money. But anyway, I won’t get into the exact details, but when you go from dealing with a million and a half, $2 million budget a year, or sometimes you’re spending 40 grand a month just on Facebook ads alone. And then to go to work with someone who has a thousand bucks a month. Like how the flip.

Yes, it’s pretty difficult. Well, a lot of the stuff that we did to start off with was organic. So, when I first started the business, it was like, okay, with a smaller budget, I’m essentially just killing myself, my time to create a bunch of organic stuff, and we won’t advertise. But as time has gone on, it’s pretty much impossible just to do organic marketing.

Oh, I totally agree with you.

You’ve got to supplement, and we paid for advertising. Unfortunately, that is just where the world is going. That is where platforms are going. So, you need to have a mixture of the two. And it has meant that we have had to have tough conversations with clients over the years. And so now we really pitch ourselves if your business has to be established? You know, if you start in the business, it’s my last week, and you don’t have a budget to market. I say go into as much as you can yourself. For a couple of years, get it really going. Light some fires, have it take off, and then come to us with a budget because otherwise, you’re going to go into a lot of debt to try to do this stuff. We don’t want to take on that pressure as well of having a business fall over. So, you really need to do a lot of that stuff at the start, and that’s what I did as a business owner. I didn’t go straight up to someone in accounting and go, I need you to be working several hours a week to balance my books. No, I had to figure out how to do all that stuff myself because I didn’t have the money. So, it is about educating clients about the process, about the fact that it is going to be a long-term commitment and nothing happens overnight. I think the Internet and media are a lot to blame because I think business owners go, I’ve got this great idea and I’m going to be a millionaire overnight. I’m going to launch my website and I’m going to have a million sales because I have such a good product. But in reality, that is not true. It takes years to get brand awareness and customers and all of that sort of stuff.

Yes, it takes a lot of hard work.

Oh, yeah.

You know, In that regard, sometimes I’ll point people and send them to LinkedIn Learning. In the city I live in, with a free library, it used to be $12 a year. You get access to LinkedIn learning for free through the library. Now, I don’t know where they get the money for it because they’re raising taxes all the time. But I think they should go back to the top dollar here thing. But anyway, I make a donation every year. But yeah, that’s how I learned. I wanted to learn how to market, so I went and consumed a lot of content and learned how to do it. That being said, what would you recommend to them? I know you said go, try and do it yourself, but are there any other tips that you would recommend?

I have done the same. So, if there is a specific topic that a client wants to learn about, I’d point them to some free online resources. We give away a lot of stuff for free. We give away a lot of stuff through our social channels. But also, I’m known sometimes to have 90 minutes of strategy consultation with a new client and just give them my time. So, if they ring me up and we quickly define it, that we’re not the right fit because maybe they don’t have the budget or they’re not ready or whatever that might be. I stay on the phone with them, and I give them as much information as I can about how to go and solve their challenges by themselves or using free resources because I want to see them succeed. It’s in my best interest that they succeed and come back to us later. And maybe it’s good for the economy as well.

Absolutely. And you’re sewing into them now. Maybe it will be reciprocated in the future, if not from them, maybe from somebody else.

Yeah. And it’s just goodwill. They might remember me down the track and go, even if they don’t become a client, I’m like, oh, well, you know what? They were really nice to deal with, they were really good business, they were honest, and they did what they could for me, and I think that that’s a nice touch. You can leave people with that nice feeling. Then why not?

Yeah, as long as you can pay your bills. Because if you do that every day, you won’t have any money in the bank.

That’s exactly right. And I find the people, if I find that somebody is a bit snarky and they go, oh, well, if you’re not going to work for anything, then we don’t want to deal with you. I won’t stay on the phone for an hour and help them. I will go. I respect your decision. See you later. But most people are pretty appreciative, I think.

Yeah. So, being that most small businesses are location-based, would you tell them to focus on a Google business profile or whatever they’re calling it nowadays?

Yeah, definitely. Things like that, some basic things that you can set up for free. Your business profile is fantastic to have, and a lot of people are unaware of these things. They don’t.

Are you serious, even to this day?

Yeah.

Gosh.

Yeah. Even established companies sometimes don’t have one because it’s just been missed potentially. Instead of all the companies being so old, maybe it’s a legacy company, you know, maybe they started in the eighties or something, and it just was never set up. They focused on having a website, and they always outsource stuff, and maybe the people they outsource to never told them.

But do you think that it is valuable for a big corporation to have a GM or a Google business profile page as it is for a plumber?

Oh, definitely. It’s great for SEO but not for all businesses. Some businesses may not need one or want one, but it’s great for reviews. A lot of people use it just to get to the business. Simply get to the listing. So, they may already be a customer, but it’s helping the customer to find information quickly, and I think that’s good.

Yeah. When I was in the car dealership, I used UTM links to track the traffic specifically from that website button, putting in a specific call tracking number and key studies showed that it was like a snowball going down the hill. The more revenue you get, the more cars you sell. And it just and I had I just man this trying to convince him to spend 300 bucks on review software and then get the salespeople to use it, even though you’re telling them it’s going to make their money was like kicking against the goal. It was so damn frustrating.

And you know what? I think people are scared of reviews a lot of the time. They go, oh, what if someone puts a bad review?

For those people out there, there’s no such thing as a perfect business. You’re going to screw up sometimes. You’re going to get a two-star review. It’s how you deal with it, with the way you respond to that two-star review, and the way you fix it. There have been people who have done that in case studies. You can look at that have knocked it out of the park. And anybody that has all five-star reviews is either fake or paid somebody to do it. They got their family to do it, their friends to do it, or whatever. Nobody has a perfect business, but yeah, reviews are powerful, and testimonials in marketing are so powerful, and to be able to have a system in place to do that is monumental to me.

It’s the silent sales force.

Absolutely. So, number one, do you think that people should view their websites more as online salespersons rather than as brochures?

Yes. I think people make a mistake a lot of the time by thinking their website is all about them. So, my role on the website is to talk about myself, to talk about all the great stuff that we do, and to convince you that our stuff is awesome. But that’s really what your website is to be a reflection of what your customer’s needs are. Like, we understand you, and we know what your challenges are already.

It’s about making it about them.

Exactly.

That they are the hero and you are the guide. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Donald Miller’s Book Story brand.

No.

You should read that book. I might not tell you what to do, but what you’re saying is exactly what he talks about in his book. Building Story Brand by Donald Miller and how you need to make your website about them and they’re the hero. And you’re talking to them about the journey, and you’re talking about the problem that they have. You’re Luke Skywalker, you’re Yoda, and their problem is Darth Vader. You’re trying to figure out how to help them solve that problem.

I think you should do that in all your communications, be it your website, you’re doing it in face-to-face meetings, you doing all the phone calls, you do in brochures or whatever that looks like.

Absolutely. Do you see that transition happening in business more and more?

Yeah, I think so. Now that content marketing is becoming more well-known. People understand the philosophies behind it, people understand that the customers have the power. I think smart brands, dynamic brands that are open-minded and that are growing, understand this better, and they’re more open to it, for sure.

It’s amazing. Content is the foundation of marketing in today’s world. Like I’ve had people want to do SEO without content. I’ve had people want me to build them a website without content. I gave them their money back. It was a hair salon, and they wouldn’t even provide me with the logo or with content, pictures, with the story behind their anything. They just want me to build websites like you wouldn’t go to somebody and ask them to build your house without putting any input yet. How can you expect me to do this? And it’s amazing. Content is the key to like doing everything. And I know I’m just talking, but it’s like I just want to reiterate to people that what she’s saying is so true. Because you need content for Google ads, you need content for Facebook ads, you need content for articles, you need content for lead magnets if you’re going to provide those, and you can’t market without it.

It’s hard because people always want to attach a tangible ROI to everything. So, people are crazy. They’re like, okay, so if I do this, what am I going to get? That’s not how content marketing works. You don’t immediately get something by just investing in it. It’s a long-term brand building.

It’s like a snowball.

Yeah, exactly. And I think a lot of people go, well, I don’t want to pay for photography. Can’t you just use stock photography? I don’t want to pay for the video, and they think of a myriad of reasons why they can’t do video. But there’s so much evidence that if you invest in photography, in video, in stories, in content, we will be so much more successful than the brands at that time.

It’s so true, absolutely. Are there any new technologies or trends you’re keeping your eye on?

Yeah. Look, I always keep my eye on things like automation because I think a lot of clients go, oh, well, can’t we just automate all of this and integrate? Can we just automate social? Can’t we just get a robot to run the post and then just splatter it out over all the platforms? Can we just use some AI to automate this? I think automation has its place in the world, and I think there are some great ways that automation can help and especially in the areas of safety. So, if there’s a human performing a dangerous job or role that a robot can do, that’s great. Fantastic. But I don’t think it can replace creativity yet. And I also just don’t think that it can replace the amount of insight, research, and intelligence that a human puts into content in terms of relationship-building, in terms of understanding the audience deeply. So, it’s something that I keep my eye on because we do get clients that ask about it.

What about automation, like marketing automation platforms, moving people in and out of funnels? You know, for instance, if someone comes in a lead magnet funnel, I’ll move them into a free consultation funnel, and then they don’t convert, then keep following up, and I’ll put them in to enroll them in a newsletter campaign. As soon as you start talking about automation, that’s where my brain goes.

Yeah. I mean, stuff like that is absolutely fine, right? Because what you’re automating is the process. You’re not automating the content necessarily. Someone’s got to write content for each of them. So, I think that’s absolutely fine, and that has its place. I think whenever I worry is when people want to automate the whole thing, a kind of robot just writes the content as well and can use predictive text to figure out how to respond. I think it’ll grow in popularity and I think it will become better. But right now, and especially for the companies that I’m dealing with at that level, I just think nothing can replace that human layer of communication.

Absolutely. Do you think A.I. has a place in content strategy?

I think it does in some instances, although I guess in my personal life, AI stuff drives me nuts. So, whenever I go to a website, and there’s a chat board on there, and it’s not a real human. I feel like, what is the purpose of this? If it is creating a barrier for me. Getting information and slowing information down, just get rid of it. You’re just driving customers nuts.

Yeah, I agree with you. I think the owners of Drift would disagree with you, but I agree with you. What about AI-assisted content creation, like tools out there that are coming out? Jasper, a company in less than 24 months, has been evaluated for $1.5 billion, and they did raise $156 million through Series A funding. So, it’s interesting that has happened, and there are other players out there that are coming along. But it seems Jasper is just really dominating that market for now, anyway. What are your thoughts on those types of tools?

I think there are some cool tools out there that can help. I mean, there’s a tool that a couple of clients have used before when they’re doing it themselves that figures out different blog topics. So, for example, again, creativity is what clients come to us for. I think that for sure a lot of companies like so, for a lot of clients that go away don’t know what to write about. We don’t see how likely the topic should be. We don’t know what this should be. So, there are tools out there that help them. They can put in a few keywords, and they’ll have generators that’ll go. Here are some ideas. Four topics are based on this, and it pulls in. I presume that it will pull in search trends and data as to what the public is asking for. Is a cool tool, for example, called Ask the Public. Yeah, which you type into this thing, there are things like that that I think definitely have merit, especially for people that are doing it themselves. I think for an agency, we don’t need to use those tools because we’re pretty aware of how to construct a topic. But yeah, there’s absolutely merit for people that are doing it themselves, for sure.

Absolutely. And would you agree with this statement that you should create content that is based on keywords, if nobody is searching for it, is it really valid to create a piece of content for it?

I think yes, I think you should definitely include keywords and your content, but you should do it with a human-first approach. So, the way that we do SEO with our agency is always human first, search second. If you’re simply putting in keywords because you think that’s trending or that’s a niche thing, or you think I’m going to be able to rank for this, but you’re not so much caring about what the actual content is or who your audience is and what you’re trying to do. Then that’s just a wasted effort. You’re kind of just spit out a whole bunch of things to try to rank. But if you feel that it’s in your area of expertise, you can write on it with authority. It’s related to your business. You’re not just writing about it because you think it’s trending and it’s related to your visitor. The person who visits your website is going to be interested in this. It’s going to help them to achieve their goal. Absolutely, put keywords in there and do some research around what keywords people are looking for.

So, do you think it’s important to map out the buyer’s journey as much as possible? And then read and do the keyword research and find out what those certain pieces of content rather than just doing it, allocate one post a month as you go. It’s really a better overall strategy, a lot of budgets allowing, correct?

Yeah, I think it’s nice when a client has enough data. So, they’ve been training for a while. They tend to know how people interact anyway. To map out which pieces of content you need for each part of the user journey. So, in awareness, these are all the things that we’re doing, and this is how we think our customers find us based on data and our experience. This is what we need to produce to help them to consider us over other brands. This is what they need to make a decision, and this is what we need to nurture them. I think that that’s a really nice way to map things out. And also to figure out how people’s searches change over that time because, obviously, someone using the brand awareness phase is putting in a very different search query to when they need to buy. So, I think having some understanding of that is good as well, but make sure that you can be flexible with it because, obviously, people’s appetites change over time, trends change, and what we search for changes. So, you can show that you’re looking at that. I would say once a year is a good time to revise your strategy.

Absolutely. Hey, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. What’s one big takeaway you want listeners to get from this episode?

Just one thing is, it’s always hard, but I would go back to begin anywhere. Whatever that means to you. So, whether it’s experimenting with something new or your business, you may have already had the business for a little while, but you think you’ve been thinking about doing something? I think just beginning is really important. Putting it out there, figuring out the feedback, and being bold in that is really powerful because, naturally, we’ll feel like we’ve got to wait until this best time. But there’s no best time or right time to begin. The beginning is what counts.

Yeah. And even if it begins with picking up the phone and calling your agency for help. So, that being said, how can our listeners connect to you online if they want to do so?

Yes. So, you can visit us at LEP.digital. There’s no .com, digital is the extension. We’re on all the social media channels. You can find me personally on LinkedIn if you want to see what sort of stuff I’m writing about on my profile on LinkedIn. There’s only one Laura Prael. So, thank you so much for having me, Matt.

Hey, no problem. It’s been an absolute pleasure. We’ll make sure to put that information in the show notes.

Brilliant. Thank you so much.

No problem. And thank you for being here.

Take care.

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