Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

How Content can Grow your Box Business with Rai Cornell

September 20, 2021 Julie Ball Episode 92
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
How Content can Grow your Box Business with Rai Cornell
Show Notes Transcript

#092 - In this episode of Subscription Box Basics, Julie is joined by Rai Cornell of Cornell Content Marketing to talk about tips to improve your marketing when bootstrapping your business. 

Rai Cornell studied psychology and human behavior for 10 years with the intention of working as a therapist in the California prison system. Over time, though, her interests and talents took her on a very different path. 

Today, Rai uses her meticulous understanding of human emotions, reactions, and thought patterns to drive sales and engagement for top brands. 

Summary:

  • Introduction of Rai Cornell (00:01:49)
  • Tip 1: Building relationships (00:05:05)
  • Tip 2: Repurpose your content (00:07:50)
  • Tip 3: Always include a call to action (00:12:22)
  • Tip 4: Focus on what you can do consistently and sustainably (00:17:28)
  • What does SEO really mean? (00:22:09)

Links:

Julie:

So you want to launch a subscription box and don't know where to start. Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball, a subscription box coach, and your host here at subscription box basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs that want to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper, and let's have some fun. Hey, everybody! Welcome back to Subscription Box Basics. I'm Julie Ball, your host. And today we are talking about tips to improve your marketing when bootstrapping your business. Can I get an amen? Raise your hand if you are bootstrapping your business. I know what that's like. When I started Sparkle Hustle Grow in October of 2016, I did not have a budget. I was doing a lot of DIY. I was doing, you know, it was getting scrappy and that's how it is for a lot of people when they're starting their business. So I have a guest today to share with you some tips to improve your marketing when you are getting scrappy and when you're bootstrapping. And I'm so excited to share that with you. I'd love to welcome Rai Cornell from Cornell Content Marketing to the podcast.

Rai:

Thank you so much for having me, Julie. This is amazing.

Julie:

I'm so excited. We connected recently and I was immediately blown away by the depth of her knowledge and how she could help me. Even though I've been in business for five years, she came to the table and was like, "Hey, try this, try this and try this". And I was like, why didn't I think of that? I feel like so many times we are so deep into our business that some of those like really easy fixes it , just get beyond us. So anyhow, let's, let's talk about this, Rai. Would you just take a moment to introduce yourself so that people know who you are a little bit about what you do?

Rai:

Sure, absolutely. So, as you said, I run Cornell Content Marketing. We specialize in content marketing for subscription businesses. We do everything from content creation, strategy and planning to copywriting, to more multimedia marketing, like design video podcast production. We've been doing that for a couple of businesses lately. So anything content related, which if you don't know, content marketing in particular is when you are creating resources, educational material. It might be blogs. It might be YouTube videos. It might be podcasts. It could even be social media content, but it is content in particular that you're distributing out to people in order to build a relationship with them so that they recognize your brand, trust your brand and then eventually want to buy from you .

Julie:

Right? Yeah. And I think it's so important from a content marketing perspective that you lead with value and then be really generous. And I'm sure you're going to give us some tips, but that's one of the things that sticks out to me is like, how can I help someone? How can they look at my content and be immediately drawn in and say she gets me and she has the answers.

Rai:

Yep . Yeah. Absolutely.

Julie:

Awesome. So you have an interesting background. You're a trained psychologist, right?

Rai:

Yes. I have a degree in psychology, a master's in marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counseling and a master's in criminology. And I was on track to be a counselor in the prison system. I was raised by two cops. And so going into criminal justice just felt like home for me. And I was working in a mental hospital and I just completely burned out on the mental health world. It is such a tough industry for anybody who is in mental health. I mean, kudos to you. You guys are heroes with way more energy than I could ever muster. And I completely burned out on that pathway, but all along the way, when I was getting my degrees, I was freelance writing on the side. I was doing copywriting and website development for businesses and I loved it. And when I decided to leave the mental health world, I just threw myself full time into that and just grew and grew and grew and eventually found my little home in the subscription industry because I mean, how cool are subscription boxes? It's like Christmas every month. I'm absolutely obsessed. So, yeah. And I've been just really honing in and specializing in subscription content marketing.

Julie:

Awesome. And I know later on in the episode, you've got a juicy little freebie that you can share with everyone. So you guys make sure you listen all the way to the end until then let's dive into some tips. I know you have so much to share. I'm going to just hand over the mic. Where do we start when it comes to bootstrapping your business?

Rai:

Sure. Oh man . And I have to reference my notes here that I have on my screen because I could talk about this for days and days and days. So I have four here in particular though, that I really thought through and wanted to give you guys something that you can do immediately in your business, that doesn't cost you anything. And that's going to get you so much progress in your digital marketing without you having to throw tons and tons of money at ads or outsourcing or anything like that. So the first one that I really want to talk about is building relationships. Content marketing is all about nurturing those relationships and building that initial connection. So if you think of the sales funnel at the very top of the funnel, it's about brand awareness and then the next stage is interest. And then the next stage is decision. The so-called last one is action. But actually in the subscription industry, you also have a fifth level which is retention and your content marketing can really help you at every stage of that funnel, including the retention aspect. So this first one about building relationships, this is all about that top of funnel, making people aware of your brand, making sure that they have positive associations with you and that you are delivering what they're actually going to find useful and helpful. So a lot of things that new subscription businesses struggle with is coming up with, what do I even say? You know , what do I talk about?

Julie:

What do I post? What do I write about?

Rai:

Right, exactly. Okay. I know I need to be creating content, but how do I even do it? I know I need to be SEO- ing it so that Google finds it and all the things, but what do I even say? Go to your audience, ask them, there are Facebook groups, there are Reddit forums. There are Amazon products that are related to yours, or maybe similar to the products you're including in your boxes where you can go into those comments and read what people are saying, what are they complaining about? What are they raving about? Really tap into their language and what they find valuable and important because it may or may not be the same as what you think. And so if you can build that connection and contribute what you know to be valuable and what you bring to the table, while also addressing what they find important in a service or a product that you're going to offer them, then that's where that magic really happens. And you build those positive connotations with your brand.

Julie:

I have the perfect example for this. We recently, this was like a week or two ago, asked our Sparkle Hustle Grow subscribers. What business podcasts are you listening to? Now one, I did that because I wanted to find some new podcasts for myself too . We're thinking about advertising on podcasts. So we wanted to see, you know , what they're listening to. And three, we're going to make a blog post about here's the Sparklers favorite podcasts. So there's some content right there that I didn't have to do the research for. I will explain why I love podcasts, but then I will have the list of the most commonly, you know, say the top 10 that were mentioned when I asked our audience. So there you go. That's super easy blog content with very little work.

Rai:

And you also actually just touched on my second tip, which is repurposing your content. So you just said you did one thing. You asked your audience for one piece of information. What business podcasts are you listening to? And you're using it in multiple different ways. It's the same thing you want to do with your content. So if you first identify, what can you create? That's fun and easy or easier than alternative pieces of content. If you're not a writer, but you love to speak or you love to do video, great do that. And then you can turn those videos. Those audio into blog posts, into email newsletters, into social posts later. And the reverse is also true if you love to write, but you're not so great on video or on audio, you can create a blog post. You can break that into social media content. You can create a slide series that becomes a video based on, so you don't have to be on video. You can always do those.

Julie:

Yeah.

Rai:

Yeah. If you've ever seen Tasty is one on social media that never has an actual person on their social media videos, but they're always doing recipes and creative things and, you know, filming that

Julie:

And then they're gorgeous. Like they're so in rock, like I feel so pulled into those of like, "Ooh, I could make this or Ooh, wonder what this is going to look like in the end."

Rai:

Yes. And I'm sure you've seen other ads where they're videos, but nobody is appearing on the screen. It's just, you know, maybe a yellow background with text and then a red background with text and then flew back on a text and it's engaging to the eye, but you don't have to be on camera. So it's okay to go with your comfort zone, start there and then think about, okay, how can I repurpose this and get creative with it? Because you're putting forth that effort. So you might as well make it into as many pieces of content marketing that you can because people do not consume all of your content. People tend to need be more verbally inclined or visually inclined. So I prefer to read, I would much rather read a 2000 word blog post than watch a two minute video. So I'm going to go read the blog post . I'm not gonna watch the video and vice versa. You're going to have people who are much rather watch your videos. They're not going to read your blogs. They're not going to also listen to the podcast . They are going to pick one form. So you might as well get it out there to appeal to people who have many different styles of consuming content.

Julie:

That's so interesting that you brought that up because I feel like a lot of times, especially if you're a new business owner and you're marketing, you hesitate to say the same thing over and over again because you keep hearing yourself say it. But I have to remember that, you know , maybe only 20% of the people that we emailed it to opened it up and read it, or maybe like you said, someone's listening versus reading or whatever. So we want to think about hitting all the different types of channels. So I guess, for example, in my example, with the podcast recommendations, so I can turn that into a blog. I could turn that into a slide show. Like you said, for Instagram, for example, I could even do an audio voiceover over top of that and make that a video and we could create a pin and pin it back to our blog. So that one question that I asked my subscribers can feed so many different marketing channels where we're not like creating new stuff every single time.

Rai:

And another idea to add to that is, remember that retention piece at the bottom of the funnel, your email newsletter is a really powerful piece of content that you can use to nurture your audience. And so that question that you asked to your audience share the results with them because the other people in your audience are going to be excited to learn about new podcasts, about business, that other members of their community, but that they weren't listening to.

Julie:

Yeah, and you know, we could use that both on our subscriber newsletter. We send out a once weekly, like here's, what's up this week, no, linking back to our Facebook group, linking back to blogs or social media and try to get them engaged. But also to our leads lists , like we want to continue to provide them with value and nurture them. So they eventually convert and start, you know, continue to the next level of the funnel.

Rai:

Yeah, exactly. And you can post it to your Facebook groups as well because you have your community groups, you know, all of that. This also leads into my next point, which is about including a call to action. You always, always, always, always, always want to include a call to action. And so what is that? That is when you say at the bottom of your social posts at the end of your podcast in the middle, or at the end of your blog in your email newsletter somewhere, you have a button that says shop or subscribe or check out our podcast over here. So leaning into your example, if you were to distribute all of this content that you've created from this one question you asked your audience, what would be the natural call to action that would follow something like that? It might be, Hey, did you know that Sparkle Hustle Grow also has a podcast? We have a podcast for Subscription Box Basics, go check us out. And then the people who didn't know that you also run a podcast now becomes subscribers and they now get closer to you. They now become more ingrained in your community.

Julie:

And we're finding that with Sparkle Hustle Grow, we're trying to repurpose content a whole lot more with things just like that. So for example, we created a private podcast just for subscribers so that they can consume the monthly training in an audio format. Because like you said, you have to, you want to feed them in the channel that they, their preferred choice. Like, what do they like? Do they like to listen or do they want to read it? So we are starting to feed the same content into different channels more often. And I guess I didn't even think about it, but that's in the retention funnel or that's in the retention part of the funnel. And so if you guys are not following along with the funnel, just think of a funnel as the journey that you were going to take your possible customers on from the first touch point to when they're a subscriber and you're trying to keep them. So as they go down through the funnel, they're going to have different interactions with you. And that's what Rai and I are talking about here. Like when do you give them a lead magnet? Well, that would be at the top of the funnel. And then you want to nurture them to the bottom of the funnel where you're going to retain them as a paying customer.

Rai:

Yes, exactly. So in that example, I often find that it's easier for people to understand the funnel if they know, okay, what piece of content should be at each of these stages? And there's no one right way to it. You really have to find the journey that works for your customers and for your brand. But just as an example, building off of what you said about, let's say we put a lead magnet out there. That's top of the funnel that is brand awareness. And now that you have their email address, you want to nurture them. So they're going to start building interest in what you have to sell based on what you put in your emails. Then maybe they click one of your emails and they go to a sales landing page. That's where they are in that decision phase. Do I want to buy this or not? Once they do buy that's when they go into action and that's your checkout process, your follow-up emails, your "Hey, congratulations, your box is on the way". We'll see you soon. And then that retention piece is usually email because that's the closest that you can get to someone. The ultimate goal is to get really into that one-on-one conversation, which is usually happening in email. So if you can get them into a retention nurture sequence, then that helps reinforce the value that your subscription provides helps reinforce that relationship that you've built with them and set up there's your content marketing funnel .

Julie:

Look, if all it costs is your time to send an email. So if you're bootstrapping your business, email is a really, really powerful place to have those conversations and to nurture them. And when I, when I think about things like this too , you know, building relationships that doesn't cost anything but your time. Repurposing your content again, you're just like reusing what you have. So when you're thinking about creating all this content, actually put it in your calendar because that's what it's going to cost you. It's in the cost to you at the time. And so I like to do batching. So I was telling , telling Rai today I'm doing four podcasts episode interviews today because I know that it's much more efficient. So put it in your calendar as a non-negotiable a meeting with yourself to write an email every single week, or maybe it is creating, or maybe it is carving out an hour every single week to do that repurposing, that content creation. It shouldn't take, you know, hours and hours and hours to do this. Especially if you're asking your customers or your followers for feedback. Cause they're going to spoon feed you information that you can create the content from.

Rai:

Yep.

Julie:

Okay. So that's three tips so far you've given us build relationships, repurpose your content, and then always include a call to action. So you had , you said you had four what's your last one?

Rai:

Yes. The fourth one is focus on what you can do consistently and sustainably. So one thing that is, you know, there's pros and cons to our digital everything age on the plus side, we can reach so many more people than we ever could. We can build relationships with people who we've never been in a room with, but the downside there's so much out there. And we're constantly seeing these companies that are doing all the things they're doing social on 5, 6, 7 platforms. They're doing podcasting, they're doing videos, they're doing email nurture sequences. They're doing newsletters, they're hosting events, they're writing blogs, all the things they're doing, SEO, they're running ads, all the things. You don't have to do that take a deep breath.

Julie:

I know , right ?

Rai:

Let this be a relief. You do not have to do everything. Pick one or two things that really excite you like maybe Instagram and Pinterest really excite you. Maybe you know that your audience likes to hang out on Tik ToK and Instagram, or maybe they really like Pinterest and YouTube for DIY videos and posts and things, focus on two things that really excite you. And that, you know, you will meet your ideal customer in those places. And then just focus on doing them really well and consistently. And when you do this over time, it becomes easier. You build up processes, you build up discipline, you build up the habit so that you can do those things on autopilot. Essentially, they just become a part of your business operation. And that's when you can really start expanding, start thinking about repurposing , where else can we start taking this content that we've been creating on Pinterest or on our blog for SEO purposes? And how can we now get onto YouTube and then Instagram, and then gradually add the layers over time. Don't jump in thinking that you have to do it all at once in the beginning.

Julie:

That's such good advice. I think we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do all the things. And as you mentioned, you don't have to. And not only that is, if you try, you're probably going to either burn out or fall short because your , your bar's too high. And so I'm all about that. I love trying to create systems for simplicity. I try to create processes that can be duplicated or replicated, whether it's I'm doing the work or passing it along, delegating it to a virtual assistant, maybe. So I think that's really, really good advice. Focus on what you can do consistently and sustainably because if it's not sustainable, then you'll go, you know , hard and heavy for three weeks and then you'll be like, "Oh, I'm done. Can't do it anymore."

Rai:

Yeah. And the golden rule of marketing is that you have to have seven touches with someone before they buy your product onn average. Some people it'll be two . Some people it'll be 14, but on average seven touches, which means short term strategies, throwing an ad in someone's face once probably not going to work.

Julie:

Yeah.

Rai:

That's going to have a really, really high cost attached to it, as opposed to something that you can do steadily consistently that you enjoy. And that will be sustainable over time. You're going to create this runway of content of knowledge about your brand of touch points with people. And after about usually it's about six months that we see with our clients after about six months of consistent content creation and publishing. And that's when they just see the search where all of a sudden people who've been kind of following them here and there, along the way they start buying, they start engaging. They start becoming customers and their audience growth goes up from there. So just know that this is a marathon, it's not a sprint. And the short-term strategies like running a bunch of ads for just two weeks, not worth your time and money.

Julie:

Encouraging to hear that you've seen kind of that after about six months, you've seen this consistent growth in several clients, right? You're saying across the board, like that's what you're seeing.

Rai:

Yes. And for some it's it's quicker. So for example, we just redid an SEO strategy for one of our clients in April, implemented it in May. And now they're seeing the results, their SEO rankings on Google just skyrocketed this month. So what is that? May June, July, August, four months.

Julie:

Talk about SEO for just a second there. So that stands for search engine optimization, but what does it really mean? Like tell our audience there's going to be a lot of people are like, "oh, I hear this SEO term thrown around a lot". So tell us what that really means.

Rai:

Yes. Okay. So how boy, I could go on a soapbox , the SEO all day long, there are great things in there, terrible things about it. So SEO means you're optimizing your content so that Google knows what value your content is providing so that when a user goes on to Google and type something in like how to organize my day so I can be more productive. Well then Google knows because they found the long tail keyword phrase, how to organize your days to be more productive. They found that on your website, on your blog or on a podcast page. And so they connect you with that person. So it's deliberately choosing keywords, key phrases based on high search volume and low ranking difficulty, which you can explore a few tools out there. There's a lot of free ones don't pay for any, please. My favorite one is KW Finder by Mingles, you get, I think, five free searches day and gets you tons of information. So that's a great one. And you want to look for those high volumes, low ranking difficulty, and by low, I mean, like sub 40 and you put your keywords in specific places in your content, so that Google finds it. And you can do this with your YouTube video descriptions, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook business page, your blog content, your website, content, anything that you're putting out there.

Julie:

Okay. So is it fair to say the first step would be okay if I was a potential customer, trying to find what my subscription box helps you with? What would that person search for? And then use the KW Finder keyword tool to help you figure out what are some of those keywords that I need to make sure are peppered in that blog or are on my homepage or on some sort of content that I've created for the business. So that is that marathon you were talking about is creating content over the months and over the weeks that have those keywords in it.

Rai:

Yes, exactly. And so at Cornell, we do SEO strategies for businesses all the time. And they're one of my favorite projects because at the beginning of the project, we say, okay, ideally in a perfect world, if you could wave a magic wand, what would you want to rank for? And they usually rattle off, you know, a half dozen or a dozen items. And then we go do the research and we see is this keyword that they really, really want to rank for. Is that even valuable? And sometimes we see no nobody's searching for that.

Julie:

Nobody types that in.

Rai:

Exactly. Nobody types that into Google, or nobody says that to Siri. And so then we find derivations different versions of that keyword. There actually are getting high search volume. And that's where it gets really interesting because you start to pick up on your target audiences' language, and the phrases and words that they're actually using. So you can tailor to that. Cause so far, you've just been basing it on your own mind.

Julie:

So this is where your psychology degree comes in.

Rai:

Yes, everything that I do is from the perspective of, you know, how are other people thinking about this? How are they feeling about this? How does this one word make them feel? You know, what are they going through? What are their pain points that are making them go to Google for a solution? And if your subscription box in particular is a solution where there's some out there like , oh, what's the marshmallow of the month club that are just for fun. They're just for fun. They're not a necessarily a problem-solution sort of subscription box. But if you do have that problem-solution relationship where you are coming into your subscribers life to provide ease for a pain point that they've been dealing with, start there, start at the pain point, start thinking about all the ways they might be going out and trying to find solutions. And that goes back to that first point of go talk to them, find Reddit forums, find Facebook groups, find Amazon reviews and start picking up on their language. That's really going to help you with that SEO aspect.

Julie:

I love that. And I'm glad you just said about like Facebook reviews and Amazon reviews and all that or Facebook groups, because if you're not sure what content to even write about.

Rai:

Yeah.

Julie:

That's where you go. You see what people are talking about to see what questions they're answered those questions in your blog post and then repurpose it everywhere, right?

Rai:

Yes. And one thing I will say that will be the final thing I'll say about SEO. Don't put Google above your readers or your viewers or your customers. So many people will think, oh man, if this is ever going to get seen, I have to make sure that this keyword is in here a zillion times and you read these articles or these pages, and you're like, did a human write this? It just feels very disconnected. And it just feels forced. And you see the same kind of uncomfortable phrase over and over and over again on that page. And then you go, oh, they're doing this just for SEO. And they're doing it just to please the Google bots. But remember that humans are the ones that are reading this and humans are the ones who are going to press buy on your website. They're the ones who have the buying power. So always prioritize the experience for the humans you want to connect with. And then Google can take second place on that priority list.

Julie:

Good advice. Is there any sort of rule of thumb, like how often to put the keywords in your content?

Rai:

Yes. And actually I have an SEO checklist for you guys that you guys can download. There are, there's a list of 14 places where you need to be putting your SEO keywords. So there are hundreds of criteria that Google checks. Don't worry about those hundreds, worry about these 14. If you focus on these checklist items, your content will be so much stronger. You will start getting traffic, you'll start getting inbound leads just from people, typing things into Google and finding you as the solution.

Julie:

Brilliant. Thank you so much. Where can we download that?

Rai:

Sure! So we can put the link in the show notes. The full link is not that pretty, but you can also go to CornellContentMarketing.com/subcos. That's S U B C O S in order to use our resources that we have for subscription business .

Julie:

Awesome! We will definitely put that link in the show notes so everyone can download that checklist. It's so super helpful that you have narrowed it down for us because it can be overwhelming, especially when it's a brand new subscription box business owner, or they're about to launch. There's a lot of things on their plate. So thank you for that. And for sharing that link.

Rai:

Yeah, absolutely.

Julie:

So let's do a quick recap of all four marketing tips you gave us when bootstrapping your business.

Rai:

So number one, prioritize building relationships, go to your audience, find out what they want, what they need. Number two, repurpose your content, get the most out of everything that you're creating because you're putting in that time and energy, make it go farther. Number three, always include a call to action. You don't always have to be salesy. You can always be, you know, join our email newsletter or get this coupon code or Hey, check out our podcasts , but always give them some way to engage with you further. And then number four, focus on what you can do consistently and sustainable because that's the only way it's going to be successful. You need to build up that runway. Don't go for these short-term quick fix solutions.

Julie:

Love it . Such good advice. Right? Thank you so much for chatting with us today about marketing techniques that we can implement right now, especially if your budget is low and you still want a solid launch. So where can people find you online other than the content marketing checklist? Where can they find you online and engage with you?

Rai:

Sure. So you can go to CornellContentMarketing.com. We have lots of blogs, resources, case studies that you can use as inspiration to build your business. We also have tons of marketing tips on our Instagram and LinkedIn Facebook pages. So our handle is Cornell Content Marketing for Facebook and Instagram. And you can find me on LinkedIn at Rai Cornell and that's R A I.

Julie:

R A I. That's right. I love it. Thank you again. This has been so super helpful and fun, and it's really inspired me to take a deeper look at our content plan. You know , I think the first thing I'm going to do is start with keywords because that's where people are going to find us. So thank you again. Everybody, I hope this has inspired you to look at your own content marketing plan. I'd love to hear what type of content works best for you. You can always DM me on Instagram. I'm at Subscription Box Bootcamp. Thanks as always for listening. And we'll see you on the next episode.

Rai:

Thanks so much for having me, Julie

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .