Want the audio version of this post? Listen to the podcast episode here:
In this post, I’m going to show you the purpose-driven marketing strategy that we’ve used to drive over 86,000 monthly views to our brand here at Grow Ensemble.
Along with our traffic growth, we’ve:
- Grown our podcast listenership in 2020 by 339% vs. 2019.
- Grown our Better World Weekly Newsletter list by 132% in the last 6 months.
- All the while paying $0 for ads. We’ve done this entirely with our content marketing strategy (blogs, podcasts, etc.).
How were we able to build this global community of change-makers in 15 months’ time without any ad spending? We follow the Grow Ensemble 4Ps of Purpose-Driven Content Marketing:
How We’ve Used the Grow Ensemble 4 Ps of Purpose-Driven Marketing’ to Drive Over 86,000 Monthly Pageviews Without Paying for Ads
We published our very first post to our Grow Ensemble Social Good Blog on October 31, 2019.
By staying loyal to our 4 Ps, we’ve since seen our total website traffic grow at exciting rates since our humble beginnings of the Blog launch.
Maybe most important?
The community discovering Grow Ensemble is finding us because of the content we’ve been producing over the past year on causes, issues, and values that we believe are important to leaving the world a better place than we found it.
Search for “Conscious Consumerism,” and we come up #1.
Or, try “socially responsible companies.”
Or, “Alternatives to Amazon,” where we come up #2.
And, the best part is that all the content that we create gets more traffic with time without us having to do any active promotion.
We have plenty of examples of this, like our post on 50 Social Entrepreneurs Changing the World Through Business:
This post didn’t see its “peak” traffic until almost a year after it was published. But now, it consistently sees upwards of 5,000 views per month.
While this kind of content marketing success requires diligent effort, I believe you can do the very same thing for your purpose-driven business or organization.
While more resources (budget, team, etc.) are always nice to have and could accelerate this process, they are not necessary. We’ve completely bootstrapped this whole process. And we haven’t spent a single cent on ads!
4 Steps to Using the Grow Ensemble Purpose-Driven Marketing Strategy to Build Engagement & Action Around Your Brand + Mission
There are 4 steps to our Grow Ensemble Purpose-Driven Marketing Strategy.
- Build a content marketing Plan based on topics and questions we know people are already interested in, that align with our brand purpose.
- Produce content that is comprehensive, engaging, and addresses those topics and questions in-depth.
- Publish the content in such a way that’s both user-friendly and search-friendly (or Google-friendly).
- Promote and distribute that content so we can capture some early attention, build our authority, and assess if our pieces are landing with our audience like we hoped they would.
This strategy has worked really well for building engagement and community around Grow Ensemble because it allows us to position ourselves as a center-point for information on the topics we care about.
We want to amplify the movement of triple bottom line business and grow the community of individuals and companies looking to make a difference in the world.
At the same time, we never wanted to be a traditional media company or publication. We don’t publish 8 articles a day, sustain our business with ad revenues, or attempt to keep up with or disseminate the news.
Instead, we focus on creating fewer, high-quality articles that develop into a Grow Ensemble library with resources that will retain their relevance for months and years to come, all the while attracting new and return visitors month after month after month.
In today’s digital world, purpose-driven brands have the opportunity to build and maintain their own audience, positioning themselves as a go-to leader within the relevant cause. In other words, they have the opportunity to be the best parts of a media company all in-house.
What do I mean by the “best parts” of a media company? Media companies are often the “organizers” and center-point for any industry or niche. People go to them for information, news, or important updates as it relates to their interests or professions.
Our methods make becoming a center-point much more accessible to non-media brands, and purpose-driven companies are well-positioned to succeed with this model.
In fact, many companies we talk to are already putting in significant time and energy creating blog content, but just need a few tweaks to get the traffic results they want.
Using your own content and platform to meet your media needs all of a sudden brings YOU and your organization into the center of the conversation in your industry.
You’re hosting it.
We follow these 4 Ps step-by-step in every single one of the purpose-driven marketing campaigns we run with our partners to get the word out and inspire action around their better-for-the-world companies and mission. We help them use our content marketing strategy to reach customers who care about their message.
If you want to learn more about what it looks like to become a Grow Ensemble partner, learn more here.
Step #1: Build a Content Plan Based on Interests & Questions
The first step in any successful purpose-driven marketing campaign is to think about who you are attempting to reach.
This is our first step in any cause marketing campaign we run with any of our purpose-driven brand partners, and this is a step that we take continuously with the content we produce for our Social Good Blog and Social Entrepreneurship Podcast.
While having a planning process seems obvious, we’ve seen plenty of our clients and partners miss out on one (or both) of the critical components:
- Market & Audience Research (many do this)
- Data Validation (most ALL don’t do this).
Essentially these two components distill down to (1) understanding the people you are attempting to reach and what problems, questions, challenges they have and (2) validating your understanding of those people with data.
Again, most would do part #1. But, most don’t do step #2, or they do it incorrectly. Let’s work through each here
Planning: Market & Audience Research
To conduct proper market & audience research, we’ll usually formally sit down with a questionnaire and do a brain dump around the following questions:
- Who is your ideal target audience? (*Think about a person specifically*)
- What’s the problem that your product or service solves?
- What questions have you been asked about your product, service, or impact already?
- Who are your traditional “competitors?”
- How would your current customer base and supporters describe your business, your product or service to someone who knew nothing about you?
Normally, we want to connect content with customers who have questions, curiosities, and challenges as it relates to the key issue your business or organization solves—but, they don’t likely know you exist yet.
This process varies depending on where your purpose-driven business is at in its trajectory of growth. Do you have an existing audience or community of customers and followers? Are you working from scratch?
Of course, having some
historical data to work off is better, but it’s not a deal breaker. Part of the purpose of these exercises is to figure that out. 😀
Planning: Validating with Data
THIS step might be what most businesses miss out on. While they may do a good job of conducting their qualitative research, it’s this final quantitative step that they miss. A critical factor.
Our assessment of what’s “of interest” generally, and what’s of interest specifically to our target audience is limited! We need to test out our hypothesis and see what the data says.
And how do we do this?
Let’s walk through how we do this at Grow Ensemble with a specific example.
In October of 2020, we ran a purpose-driven content marketing campaign with our partners at Plaine Products. Plaine Products is a Certified B Corporation and 1% for the Planet Business Member and they provide plastic-free personal care products and as means for people to cut down on their everyday plastic waste.
When developing the strategy for a series, we wanted to create an education and awareness piece of content that would share useful information as to why it’s so important for reducing our own plastic waste on a day to day basis, as well as encouraging the reduction of the waste created by our friends and families.
And while there are a lot of topics we thought we could cover, we thought that thinking through how plastic actually affects us (as humans) would be a hard-hitting, impactful topic.
With this topic in mind, we put it into our Keyword Research Tool. In our case, this is Ahrefs. There are others (some free and some paid), but Ahrefs I would argue is the top of the line.
Using a tool like Ahrefs, we can begin to test our assumptions about our topics and see if they are in fact of interest.
Of course, not everything you input into a tool like this will come back how you’d like. You’ll often find you were wrong! People aren’t interested in the topic you were thinking about writing on.
Whew! Saves some time, huh?
But! Notice above, a tool like Ahrefs will provide you with suggestions that might be more popular…and this is where “real leads” begin to develop for what would be data-validated topics for you to create content around.
Ultimately, it was leads like this that brought us to the term “How does plastic pollution affect humans,” which we felt had satisfactory interest, and matched the intent of the article we were thinking of writing.
And, it was our processes in Steps #2 – #4 that pushed us to the first page for the term within a month, getting new searchers to discover our content, discover our partners, Plaine Products, and engage with this issue that’s important to them.
Don’t have or want a Keyword Research Tool?
No problem…your next best tool can be Google itself.
If you are wondering if there is any interest or demand around a topic or question you are thinking about creating content around, just search for it in Google and see what comes up.
Everything that Google begins to reveal to you is a clue. It’s a clue as to what sorts of needs Google is anticipating a user has, and, whether there seem to be more popular ways in which people search for what you searched for.
For example, taking note of the example above, I input “how does plastic pollution affect us,” and Google didn’t return that result for me exactly. What seems to be more common is some form of the effects of plastic on humans.
That’s an indicator to me of what might be a more interesting term to others.
While this process isn’t as exact as keyword research, it’s way better than not taking the time to validate your topics at all.
Step #2: Produce Comprehensive & Engaging Content
Once we’ve validated our content topics, we then take an article through our full editorial process. This being, creating a content brief, writer assignment, drafting and editing.
The most critical part here being, the content brief.
Content Briefing—The KEY to this Entire Strategy
For us, a content brief is essentially the strategy behind the piece of content we’ll be creating. We want to go from our keyword researched topic to building an outline and angle for the article that’s going to be written.
This is crucial, as this process sets us up for the greatest chance of getting back what we are hoping for from the writer.
It’s at this stage that people will ask…”You do this for EVERY single blog post?” Where Annie and I reply, “yup.” We want to make sure that the content we write has the greatest chance for success in ranking high in Google for the term we are targeting.
And how do we do that?
Determine how to create the most comprehensive and unique resource to best match whatever is the searchers need when they are using that term in Google.
It’s this key element of content strategy and SEO expertise that allows us to reverse engineer what sort of objective we have for every piece of content.
Writers will also be given a set of site-wide editorial guidelines, depicting our desired tone, style, and objectives with our holistic approach to content. As well, we use a tool called Surfer to determine for us a target word count and recommend relevant topics to include in the piece.
With a content brief in hand, we deliver to our various contributing writers. Over time, we get a feel for who prefers and excels at writing different types of pieces, who has what previous knowledge, and who we can trust. 😉
We give our writers anywhere from 1-3 days to review the assignment, any requests and thoughts we propose for the piece, and come back to us with an outline of their own. It’s at this point, we’ll review, make any needed revisions, and set the writer off for drafting.
*This is an incredibly important step! We’ve learned plenty of hard lessons, where writers have received an assignment, went ahead with drafting right away, and returned to us a piece of content that was nothing like what we had asked for, and would require some serious reworking.
Instead, head this potential issue off early, by making sure you and your writer are on the same page before they go too far!
At this point, with a brief and agreed-upon strategy/outline for the article, we let our writers fly. Typically, we’ll provide 10-14 days for a turnaround time on our articles. While some pieces take a longer time and some shorter, we imagine our writers will spend roughly 6-10 hours per article.
We need these articles to be quality! While our style is very accessible and somewhat informal, it doesn’t mean that our research can be lacking or the prose not engaging!
As well, setting deadlines is critical. Its elements like these that legitimize your content production process versus have it seem like a ‘casual blog.’ We like to shoot to have our deadlines 2 weeks (if not more) before our projected date of publication.
This ensures Annie a proper amount of editing time, and our development team a proper amount of lead time for publication.
Of course, each could be done in a short time span, but we prefer to play it safe.
Written post in hand, our team (predominantly Annie) gives the article a thorough edit. Depending on the timeframe, she’ll make some return requests to writers or just integrate changes herself.
We couldn’t possibly have achieved what we have without her editing ability!
By the way, we currently manage our publication process through an Asana board.
Ready to publish? Yeah…so AM I.
Step #3: Publish User-Friendly & Google Friendly Content
I will say, planning, writing, and editing the content is where the bulk of the work comes in. However, the publication process shouldn’t be overlooked!
We want this to be consistent and technically sound. Our top priorities when publishing our new content is to make our live post:
- User-Friendly: Make it easy & enjoyable for readers to engage with.
- Google-Friendly: Make it easy and efficient for Google to read (and therefore know what to rank us for)
Really, the first component really feeds the other. If our post isn’t User-Friendly, then Google won’t like it either. Google ideally wants to show the best possible results to the searchers. If your post doesn’t provide an excellent user experience, then you might not be the best possible result!
For example, if your site takes 6 seconds to load (or more), then a lot of searchers who would discover you from Google won’t wait around for your content to load. It doesn’t matter if you wrote the absolute best possible blog post on the internet for your topic.
If it loads slow, doesn’t display properly on different devices, or doesn’t have added visuals to make it more engaging, then people won’t read it!
And, Google won’t show it!
So, there is a laundry list of items you could check for publication each time, but here are a few to get you started…
- Are there added graphics, visuals, and videos (if applicable) that make the post more engaging?
- Does the page look good on different devices?
- Does the page load fast?
- Are there any broken links that take away from the user experience?
- Is the post scannable? Or are there large blocks of text for readers to get lost in.
- Could you add a table of contents to make navigation of the page easier?
- Do you have your researched keyword in the title of your page?
- Have you written custom meta descriptions and header tags?
- Do you have useful and relevant links to your other content throughout the page?
- Do you have useful, relevant, and credible links to external sites throughout the content?
The list could go on. Make sure you/your company is getting this final step right. While 80% of the work was done with the content that we created, we want to make sure and push ourselves closer to 100% certainty that our newly created page will get discovered.
Speaking of…let’s talk about how we move that newly published content.
Step #4: Promote the Content
Honestly, our traffic strategy at Grow Ensemble doesn’t focus on a lot of manual and up-front promotion. Bootstrapping the blog as we have, we’ve preferred to focus any time and available resources into what we know how to do—write articles that drive long-term, sustainable traffic.
That’s why we see traffic trajectories similar to this one for almost every single post we write:
While it requires some patience, we do it with relative consistency and I believe with applied effort, you can too.
Even still, early promotion and distribution on content can help accelerate that traffic trajectory you see above. The sooner that you get readers on your content, the sooner that engagement data (how long they spend on the page if they scroll and click through, etc.) can go back to search engines like Google.
Google wants to assess how visitors interact with your page to determine if your content is engaging and worth being organically discovered by a wider audience.
So, here are a few ways we can begin to get that early engagement.
Share with Your Community!
Obviously, we should begin with distributing our content to our existing brand audiences. These are people who live on our email list, follow us on social media, etc.
A couple words of warning—
1) Start building an email list, now! If you haven’t already done so, building an email list is the best way to keep in close contact with your community on a regular basis. Social followings can be great, but they should be used in a supplementary fashion. Those platforms can change how they operate, shut down, or become more ‘pay to play’ (as Facebook has become). Your goal should always be to move social followers from social media to your website to sign up for your list. We use Convertkit.
2) Feel comfortable sharing “old” content. The likelihood that every single one of your email list subscribers clicked and read your latest article after your latest newsletter or social followers did the same after you sent a tweet is 0! In fact, it’s so far away from being the case, as a small number of our followers actually see/engage with our updates anytime we send them. Repetition is OKAY and important! Especially if you are creating things that have longevity to them and will continue to be valuable resources standing the test of time.
Make this part of your promotion as systemic and procedural as possible. And, if you don’t have large followings or communities now, be patient, if you continue to create the content you are creating they will grow with time.
In compounding fashion, too!
After distributing your content within your existing community and promotion channels its time to do some external, manual outreach.
You never know who might engage with and/or share your content with their own communities and audiences. Don’t be spammy, but if you think that people might genuinely appreciate or take an interest in what you’ve put together, here are some people you can send emails to:
- People/organizations who you mention in your article
- People/organizations who have overlapping topical interests with what you wrote about.
- Associations/groups that you are a part of, maybe they can share with other members of the community.
A little bit of outreach can go a long way. Make it personal, don’t spam, and really don’t ask for anything in return. Don’t ask them to Tweet your post or share it with their email list. Just give them the opportunity to check it out.
If they like it (which we should work hard to make sure they do), enough will share it.
Build Your Authority
Lastly, an ongoing effort to build up your/your business’ name ID and credibility will help to accelerate the growth of eyeballs you’ll be seeing on your own site.
Google is always assessing what blogs, publications, etc. are “credible” and authoritative as to determine whether or not they should place those various publishers in top spots. They want to know you aren’t just some weirdo publishing on the internet!
For this reason, it’s really important to make sure that you are ‘getting your name out,’ building industry relationships and contributing to whatever community you are a part of. Ideally, by taking these actions we get mentions and features of us/our purpose-driven brand on other authoritative, industry-relevant websites on the internet.
Those mentions (and the quality of them) are how Google assesses how our credibility should be considered.
This looks like; getting featured on podcasts, writing valuable guest articles for important publications, hosting events and useful workshops, and getting positive press.
Rinse & Repeat: Community Building Takes Time
And with a run-through of the process, we want to start all over and do it again. But, better the next time. And the next. And the next. 🙂
Building a community like this online takes time and serious effort. Just ask Annie who has had her hand on all 100+ pieces of content that we published in the last 12 months through editing and/or writing. We are getting her some editing support now. 😅
But, if you commit to it, it will be well worth it. At Grow Ensemble, we have thousands (now approaching hundreds of thousands) of people engaging with our website each and every month from all different sectors of impact, all over the globe.
We get emails daily from academics, early-stage/late-stage social entrepreneurs & entrepreneurs, nonprofit founders, high school students, and college students and everyone in between.
Oh yeah, it’s why you’re reading this now, too. 😉
What questions do you have or what might you have the greatest challenges implementing first?
Let us know with a comment below!
Co-Founder & CEO, Grow Ensemble
I’m Cory Ames. I’m a writer, podcaster, social entrepreneur, and the Founder of Grow Ensemble.