Our Digital Content Partner Dan Shepherd has been working with us since the end of 2017. He supports us and our clients by managing a variety of high-quality content produced by a team of experienced writers, journalists, editors and video producers (many of whom have worked as teachers and trainers in the past).
As someone with many years of experience in ELT and two years co-running Hubbub Labs – a content marketing agency for startups and education companies, Dan is a multifaceted expert with a deep knowledge of both industries.
But what is content marketing? And how can you get started with your own educational content marketing strategy? Dan lets us in on his expertise.
From teaching to writing
In 2010, after completing a degree in forensic science, Dan decided to travel the world and teach English. Although he had grand plans, Barcelona stopped him in his tracks.
He began working full-time at Oxford House, one of the biggest English language schools in the city and started to get more comfortable with teaching.
“I ended up working at Oxford House for the next seven years as a teacher, young learner coordinator and then Director of Studies. During that time, I also tried my hand at teacher training, started giving workshops at conferences and became a Cambridge English speaking examiner and team leader for Exams Catalunya,” he says.
Dan fell into content marketing by accident. The first time he dabbled in it was during his time at Oxford House.
“As Director of Studies, I really enjoyed the business and marketing side of things. I worked closely with the director, the sales and marketing manager (who both taught me a huge amount) and the rest of the admin team and together we saw the school grow by about 30% in just a couple of years,” he recounts.
Dan never saw himself as a writer – he enjoyed creating his own materials but never actually “made it official” by starting a blog.
“However, I wrote a few articles about teaching teens which I published on LinkedIn and the feedback was excellent. I got a lot more views and comments than I expected. It was really nice to see that I was helping fellow teachers. That’s probably what gave me the motivation to start writing more often,” he says.
Launching a content marketing agency
Starting his own business was another fortunate “accident” in Dan’s life. After three years working as Director of Studies, he felt it was time to move on to a new challenge.
“By chance, a good friend and ex-colleague at Oxford House, George Chilton had just moved back to Barcelona. Since we’d met, George had started his lesson planning blog Designer Lessons, helped set up a cooperative for English Teachers in Barcelona, had worked as an editor and materials writer for an international publisher and had lived in Colombia, working as the Managing Editor of a PR company for startups in Silicon Valley. We put our heads together and decided to start creating content in English to help companies get their voice out there,” he explains.
This included writing blog articles, social media posts, ebooks and newsletters. They focused their efforts on startups and education companies. They worked hard and managed to create a buzz. By attending events and producing their own content, they soon started to pick up clients.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve worked with schools, academies, universities, publishers and a number of non-ed startups. As well as content production, we’ve also been doing talks at events, delivering workshops and helping companies with marketing and content strategy,” Dan adds.
Join Dan and George at iELT Barcelona 2019 for a pre-conference workshop on content marketing for education businesses!
Content marketing for growing businesses
Dan believes that content marketing should be an absolute priority for young businesses.
“In 2019, having just a website is not enough. Customers expect you to have a blog, a Facebook page and even an Instagram account. However, if you don’t keep them up-to-date and offer high-value content, your social media accounts will just create a bad impression,” he says.
The biggest challenge that content marketers face is all the noise out there that makes it hard for small businesses to get noticed. As of 2019, over 4 million blog posts are published every single day and over 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram daily.
The only way to get around this is by producing high-quality, “thumb-stopping content” that readers don’t scroll over because it immediately resonates with them. “To do this, you need to think carefully about your target audience and how your product or service can help solve any problems they might be facing,” Dan says.
The Benefits of Content Marketing
The ultimate goal of content marketing is to help you convert more leads and get more sales. Added benefits include raising awareness of your company, product or service; presenting yourself as a thought leader in your industry; creating trust and building your community; as well as driving traffic to your website and improving SEO.
Wondering about the return on investment (ROI) when it comes to content marketing? Just look at the statistics. Research has shown that content marketing:
- Gets three times the leads than paid search.
- Generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing while costing 62% less.
- Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without.
If you are thinking about creating or improving your own content marketing strategy, Dan has compiled a list of surefire tips to get you started:
- Have a strategy in place before you start producing content. Think about your short-term goals, your long-term goals and what you need to do to reach them.
- Once you start producing content, you need to test it, track it and optimise it. Then repeat what works.
- Be more human. Remember, your audience is made up of people just like you.
- Offer value first. Think about your audience and what problems they may be facing. It’s your job to solve their problems first and sell products second.
- Diversify your content. Write blogs, create social media posts, make videos, repurpose user-generated content, create long-form content such as whitepapers and ebooks, and so on. The kinds of content you create will depend on your target audience and the platform you are using to communicate with them.
- Promote your content. There’s no point in having great posts if nobody knows they exist. Use paid social ads, newsletter campaigns, Medium, LinkedIn or other blogging platforms to get your content seen.