As a personal branding strategist who’s focused heavily on helping my clients package their message into profitable content over the last few years, I’ve noticed so many trends in the way we deliver content and turn it into money.

X EBooks
X Free Email Courses
X Live Webinars
X Case Studies
X 30 Day Challenges

That’s the thing about trends. Even if they’re based on actual marketing principles, they eventually die down. SO WHAT IS ACTUALLY WORKING?

That’s what us marketers are secretly always trying to figure out behind the scenes. Yes — we sweat, and get nervous, and frantically look for the answers too.

A few weeks ago, I was grabbing chips and guac with my friend Verick (#vegan) and was telling him about how much my following blew up in 2015 from doing live video on Periscope almost everyday. I had so many fans and delivered a ridiculous amount of content — blog posts, live video, challenges, funny tweets, etc. I grew to be one of the best content creators that talked about personal branding online.

It was a great year, but it wasn’t sustainable.

Two thing I’ve learned:

1. Almost anything can be profitable, but only few things can be sustainable. Live launching? Exhausting. Blogging “consistently”? Exhausting. Live video daily? Exhausting.

2. CONSISTENCY is not synonymous with FREQUENCY. You can create consistent content and grow a following without burning yourself out. I wrote a blog post about that here.

The thing about sustainability is that it requires a solid foundation — systems. And most people don’t build out systems for sustainability because they only think about “get rich quick” ideas or short term solutions. I, on the other hand, know I will be doing this for YEARS to come… so I play the long game.

I became so obsessed with implementing and teaching systems that Smart Content Toolbox — my very own content processes, templates, and systems to help people produce content consistently — became one of my bestsellers.

I really enjoyed the behind the scenes of my business (organizing my Google Drive) which meant less time/energy to publishing blog posts and going live on video. And while I had built up enough credibility and systems for my brand in 2015 to still have consistent income rolling in for the last couple years, I started missing the feeling of having “fans”.

  • I wanted people to be REALLY excited about Maya Elious again.
  • I wanted to be the person that was tagged in posts as the BEST person for personal branding advice.
  • I wanted to become THE person to go to for online business advice again… without having to do things live all the time.

🤔 So I started pondering on what got people excited in the first place. I didn’t necessarily care about:

  • Blogging consistently. I cared about having conversations with my community.
  • Being on live video. I was just excited to share new information with my community.
  • Always scrolling and posting on social media. I cared about cutting up and cracking jokes with my community.

I was always building a relationship with my community and that’s why they trusted me.

I was having a conversation with Regina Anaejionu, one of the most intentional people I know, and was explaining how I didn’t want to hop on the trends of:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Facebook Bots
  • Facebook Live
  • Etc etc etc

And the most important thing I realized is that it’s not about the trends. It’s about how I use the trends to make a deeper connection. Instead of solely asking “how can I use this new trend to help further my agenda” we have to also start asking “how can I use this new trend to help my audience reach their goal”.

No fancy marketing trend will work for you if people don’t know you, trust you, or know what you do.

In 2018, let’s stop focusing on trends and start focusing on sustainability. Here are the 3 things you need to focus on in 2018 to make sure your business doesn’t die down when the trends do.

Sustainability Tip #1: Build trustworthy relationships with your community.

Learn how to build relationships with your community on the platforms that come most naturally to you. You’ll produce better, more consistent, content there.

I built up years of archived content through blogging and YouTube videos. And truth be told, blogging and YouTube videos are now the long game. Blogging, podcasting, and YouTubing are the platforms that help you create sustainability, but do not rely on them to get you results quickly.

Your blog (or any of your other long-form content platforms) is no longer the immediate trust builder. It’s where people go to consume your content AFTER they trust you.

With SO much content being forced on us, people are realizing how much of their time is being wasted on consumption.

Time is our most precious commodity, and it can only be spent (like money) with people we trust.

If I don’t trust you, I’m far more likely to scroll through your Instagram posts (easy-to-consume micro-content) than listen to your 30 minute podcast episode.

Do not expect someone who’s new to your content to go through your 3-part video series, or your 30 day challenge. Social media stories and quick checklists are best for engagement with new audiences.

If I do trust you, I’m willing to consume your more in-depth content on any platform.

Something important to note here — Build your blog and website over time. Build trustworthy relationships immediately (but naturally).

☝🏽 Building trust with content

Most people already know who they trust.

“Your favorite expert is the new search engine,” I told Verick. People are just straight up asking the experts they already trust for advice — usually via social media.

Two days after sharing that with Verick, I got an email from someone that said:

“… I literally type a problem I’m having with my blog into google search and write Maya Elious right in front of it to see if you have spoken about the issue.”

So then the follow up question Verick and I were wondering was “if your blog is now for people who already trust you, how DO you become that go-to expert for people that have never heard of you?”

I thought on that. And after re-reading the email I had received, something else she said stood out to me.

“I find myself, replaying old podcast episodes that you have done with Side Hustle Pro or Femtrpreneur just to get every gem…”

That’s it. She started trusting me based on the podcasts she heard me on. People trust you based on the environment in which they found you.

So what does that mean for my strategy to build trust with “cold audiences”?

💡 Build relationships with people who are trusted in your industry (and get on their platform if possible/applicable).

If your favorite blogger told you to follow one of their friends, wouldn’t you listen? If your mentor told you about an awesome new journal that helped her with productivity, wouldn’t you be curious about buying one?

Determine your community (read this quick post on the break down of a community) and start building your relationship with your them.

  • In early 2014, I started blogging about my life as a business owner (freelance designer).
  • Mariah Coz (creator of Femtrepreneur) reached out to me as a fellow blogger, and we grew our friendship. We even met in person on a whim.
  • She encouraged me to launch my course Blogademics that Nicaila Okome (creator of Side Hustle Pro) enrolled in and LOVED.
  • That same year I came up with my signature process for building a profitable online brand.
  • I pitched that process to Blogalicious and got accepted to speak at their 2015 Conference
  • I met Regina and Nicole Walters (in person) at that conference.
  • I met Verick through Regina — and visited them in Mexico for three weeks.
  • Verick invited me to a private influence dinner in Las Vegas hosted by Selana Soo.
  • Selena’s business partner is Chris Winfield.
  • I met Chris a few weeks earlier by speaking at Ontrapalooza.
  • I got a speaking gig at Ontrapalooza from a client who spoke there and put in a good word.
  • I met my future business coach at Selena’s event.

All this happened because I blogged 4 years ago and built relationships during the process.

Listen. Make friends. You do not get a reward for trying to do this alone.

You know what the best part of building those relationship was? I didn’t have to pretend to be anybody I wasn’t. I was just someone trying to figure things out, live my life, refine my craft. I had a deep connection with a lot of these people (and others not mentioned) simply because of my lifestyle, not because of how much I knew about my industry.

Who do you want/need to be building relationships with? Make a list of at least 10 people.

Sustainability Tip #2: Humanize your brand with storytelling

We can get so caught up in proving that we’re experts that we forget to just be human.

If you want to prove that you’re an expert, become a master content creator.
If you want to prove that you’re a relatable human, become a master storyteller.

At some point people want to see beyond the “3 tips you need to know about _________” and they just want to know what you’re up to in life. Yes, the “what I’m eating for breakfast” posts actually do matter.

You want to know who people are trusting? The people that are real. The people who don’t rely on flat lays and quotes from famous dead people to build their brand. The people who share their REAL LIFE. You know? Because people don’t buy products, they buy into lifestyles.

In 2018, building a lifestyle brand to complement your professional brand is the wave.

  • When I started growing my relationship with God, folks were lit.
  • When I lost 30 pounds and shared my journey, folks were lit.
  • When I went to Mexico to hang out with Regina and Verick for 3 weeks, folks were lit.

*Lit = they were really excited [about seeing this part of my life].

None of those have to do with my expertise as a personal brand, but it built a different kind of a trust. I showcased a lifestyle worth following.

Beyond your expertise, people are soooo hungry for your story.

  • Why do you think Snapchat was huge?
  • Why do you think Instagram swooped in and took over with Stories?
  • Why do you think reality TV shows have been on the rise for the past decade?

We’re nosey and want to see what people are doing in their everyday lives.

I actually met one of my closest business friends, Katya Sarmiento, because I posted a screenshot on my Instagram Stories of me trying to learn Spanish through an app. It turns out she’s Cuban, speaks Spanish, and lives in Atlanta.

My overall point?

Don’t go so hard in trying to prove you’re an expert that you forget to be a human. People connect with (and hire) the PERSON behind the expertise.

Being a master storyteller also opens up opportunities for you to work with brands as an influence marketer.  Influencer Marketing budget are going up in 2018: “39% of marketers will increase influencer marketing budgets in 2018, with the majority planning to spend between $25,000 and $50,000.

Sustainability Tip #3: Maintain a clear FOCUS on what you want to be known for so you can leverage your relationships.

You’re an actual person who has probably dabbled in a LOT of different things, but it doesn’t mean that you should try to be an expert at everything.

Even though beyond my expertise people knew me for talking about my faith, losing weight, and traveling, I don’t discuss those topics (from an expert standpoint) on anyone else’s platform.

I am clear on what I want to be known for. The buzzwords I keep around my name are “content, branding, impact, purpose.”

You should be so clear about what you do that people can confidently make a decision to hire you, pitch/invite you, or refer you.

Generally when I’m pitched/invited to speak (at conference, podcast, virtual summit, etc), the person reaching out to me knows to mention content, branding, impact, and/or purpose around my talk/interview. And if they don’t, I’m clear on what my main speaking topics are.

When you search for “Maya Elious” on iTunes (podcast), these 10 interviews/episodes come up.

And guess what buzzwords you’ll find? Anything regarding content, strategy, purpose, or storytelling.

Here’s my main suggestion for my clients; Make everything “signature”, repeatable, and branded to fit your personality.

  • Signature Value Proposition (who are you? Who do you help? How do you do it?)
  • Signature Opt-in (what resource can you give away in exchange for an email address)
  • Signature Platforms (where can people get access to your best content and see your everyday lifestyle?)
  • Signature Process (what’s your step-by-step method to get people from A to B?)
  • Signature Topics (this makes it easier to pitch yourself and write your core blog posts)
  • Signature Product/Service (what is the main thing you’re trying to sell?)

Signature Value Proposition

Become that “go-to” expert on the topics you know best. Speak on your topic so much that someone can search for {Your Name} + {Your Topic} and find what you had to say about it.

When you google “Maya Sales Funnel” this blog post and this Side Hustle Pro interview of me comes up.

The hardest thing about building a trustworthy brand is that the consistency makes us feel redundant. I talk about personal branding all the time. But guess what I’m known for as an expert? Personal branding.

People need to hear what you’re saying over and over because they’re not going to implement your advice immediately anyway.

Yes, tell your story and share your diverse lifestyle on social media. But when it comes to being an expert, talk about your expertise.

Signature Opt-in

Create a free resource that is easily digestible and helps your audience get a quick win. From your opt-in you should have an email sequence that shares stories, builds trust, and leads your reader to the sale. A lot of people are now successful without websites because they have a landing page, lead magnet, and engaging email sequences. They chose a platform outside of their website that worked for them.

Again, in 2018, your blog/website is not usually the first place people go to see if they trust you. It’s where people go AFTER they trust you. So it’s not an immediate need. Build trust immediately through a freebie and the ongoing emails and decide what platform you enjoy best. (Hint: most people go to your social media to see social proof. They want to know if you’re worth following based on whether or not you’ve already generated a following.)

Signature Platform

For me it used to be Periscope. Now it’s Instagram and my Facebook group. Go where your audience is and where you know you’ll deliver good content and storytelling consistently without feeling burnt out.

A lot of times I kept overthinking where my content should go. I tried doing more video. I tried to create a podcast. But the truth is, once you’ve proven your content is worth consuming, your audience will go where you publish.

And when it comes to long-form content, write a nicely detailed post and get it on platforms like Reddit and Medium. I will definitely be doing this in 2018.

Signature Process

I came up with my signature process when I started coaching. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to guide the my coaching conversations and lead people in a structured way. Ask yourself “what are the 3 – 5 steps someone needs to take to meet their goal?

For me it was:

  1. Understanding their brand message
  2. Implementing a brand strategy
  3. Developing their brand design/presence

I’ve used this framework for every workshop, masterclass, online course, etc that I’ve sold over the last 3 years. This clarity has made it easy for me to teach as an expert in online personal branding.

Signature Topics

Create 5 – 7 really good blog posts for your own blog, but put your energy into using your key topics to get on other people’s platforms through the relationships you build.

Signature Product/Service

What do you want to be known for as far as what you sell?

I stripped away a lot of my offerings when people kept asking me “I’m not sure which product is right for me.” Confused people do not take action. I wanted to clear up the confusion by having a clear offering.

The less you offer, the more you’re remembered. – Han Gwon Lung

Conclusion

It’s over and done with for the overnight success.

None of the shiny tactics and trends will work if people don’t know you, trust you, or know what you do.

The ones who will succeed are the ones who build sustainable relationships and systems over time. It’ll be the ones who FOCUS and avoid “reinventing” themselves every 30 days. That’s who will win in 2018 (and beyond). I can guarantee it.

I want to attribute some of the ideas from this post to my close business friends that I talk to daily about the direction of online content marketing for 2018.

*pictures of me and my business friends to validate my level of significance*

Note to self: I should start screenshotting and recording conversations with business friends. They’re always so insightful.

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