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“From Zero to $3.8 Million. The Secret? Empathy.

As Strategic Director for Orbit, Andy Crestodina has provided web strategy advice to more than 1000 businesses over the last 12 years. He loves to teach web marketing, both as a public speaker and on the Orbit blog. He has written hundreds of articles on content marketing topics including SEO, email marketing, social media, and Analytics.
Orbit Media is a Chicago web design company, made up of passionate and experienced people; who love where they work and what they do. The Orbit Media team is focused on one service: web design and development. Their purpose is to serve their clients and community.

Orbit Media is proud to be a Certified B Corporation and of the annual donations they make to Chicago non-profits.

Orbit Media Studios

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you start off by telling us a bit about the inspiration behind Content Chemistry?

Andy: Back in 2000, I realized that building a site for a client wasn’t enough. I remember waking up one morning and realizing that I needed to understand search engines or my clients wouldn’t have a return on their investments. 

But rather than offering marketing as a service, we built it into the web design process, then focused on teaching clients how to get the most from their websites. Later, when blogging and social media came around, we drove our teaching into our content. A few years later, we starting holding regular events in our office and eventually, we’d built both a community and a growing body of work.

So the book followed naturally. It started with a set of core topics, some of which started as blog posts. Then we added another 80 pages of deep, how-to content and wrapped it all within a science theme. It’s intended to be an owner’s manual for websites.

BusinessInterviews.com: What would you say to someone who has a blog but is struggling to find inspiration for content?

Andy: Start by listening. Your audience is quietly telling you what they want to read. They’re asking questions, sharing articles, leaving comments and searching for keywords. If you know where to listen (the phone, in meetings, in social channels and in search engines, respectively) then you’ll find a deep well of topics. 

Also, make sure you’ve covered the basics. Have you told the story of how you started? Have you interviewed your top clients? Have you connected your business to your passions? Have you answered the burning questions in your industry? Here’s a post with 23 questions to inspire content (along with a promotion tip for each). That should get the juices flowing.

BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you pass onto a manager who is facing challenges when it comes to building their team?

Andy: Hire for personality, drive and talent. Everything else is trainable. Marketing as an industry changes pretty fast. So rather than find someone who is good at one channel, find someone who is resourceful and learns quickly. Diverse skills are good. The ideal marketer is both analytical and a people-person. 

The key to success is execution, so don’t be seduced by big ideas and high-level strategy. Find someone who is smart, but has the endurance to grind through the activity that really drives results. The best marketers read a lot and write a lot.

Beyond that, focus on team structure and management. A well-organized team is more powerful than a disorganized group of geniuses.

BusinessInterviews.com: How can a startup find ways to build fan base and engaging their potential customers? 

Andy: Start by looking closely at your business. Make sure that the value you offer is very clear in your messaging. Next, make sure you know who you’re talking to. If you get these two things wrong, nothing else works.

Now you’re ready to start publishing. Experiment with various topics, tone, formats, themes, frequency and length. Once you get going, focus on consistency and your audience. Interact as much as possible. The next two bits of advice are absolutely critical: spend at least as much time promoting content as you do creating it. Finally, measure results. Get a bit obsessed with your Analytics. Run experiments and watch the numbers.

Here are a few more tips in no particular order:
• Find your super-fans. A few strong connections are better than a lot of weak ones.
• Curate content from other experts, and draw them into your community.
• Within social networks, build a list of people who might be able to help. Watch that list and interact.
• Collaborate with your audience. Ask questions, publish answers, then ask for input.
• Focus on building your email list. I don’t know any serious marketers who aren’t aggressively growing their lists.

BusinessInterviews.com: Where does your strong sense of social responsibility stem from?

Andy: Web design is a very collaborative industry, requiring teams of specialists. It’s also a nearly universal service; virtually every company has a website. So we’re a small community, within the broader business community.

For these two reasons, inside and outside, it’s really about people. We are dozens of people working for hundreds of people, who have thousands of visitors. How could you work in this field and not have a strong sense of empathy? How could we not care?

From the beginning, we always donated services. For the last four years, we’ve formalized these donations and found other companies who also want to help. That’s how Chicago Cause was born.

BusinessInterviews.com: If a website isn’t actually helping to increase traffic or convert visitors – what can be done?

Andy: There are often small website changes that can make a big difference. Contact forms should be short and sweet, title tags and navigation should be descriptive. More often, the problem is that the site is one giant ad, and there’s no useful content. If the site isn’t helpful to readers, it’s probably not going to lead to email subscriptions, shares, follows, links and rank. As a result, traffic and conversions are low.

Ultimately, there are two kinds of websites: online brochures and publishing platforms. In other words, some sites are ads, while other sites deliver useful advice.

Ask yourself: do you search for ads? Do you subscribe to ads? Do you share them? Or are you looking for advice? Useful information? Are you looking for help making a buying decision?

If you want to win at search, social and email marketing, you have to be good. Be useful and you’ll be relevant. So be as generous as possible and always give away your best advice. You get what you give. Besides, it’s fun.

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