012 | Getting Your Content Really Tightened Up For Continuous Business Growth, With Marilynn Hughes

The title of today’s episode is how to get your content really tightened up before you go with Marilyn Hughes. As usual, I’m your host Manuj Aggarwal and today I’m talking to Marilyn Hughes content marketing and out of body travel expert And we will discuss how entrepreneurs and professionals can get their content tightened up and grow their business. So welcome, Marilyn. Thank you. It’s great to be with you.   Marilyn is a well known expert on the subject of content marketing. And she has consented to this interview to share our experience and wisdom and knowledge with us. So once again, Marilyn, thank you so much for joining us.

So let’s dive in. So my first set of questions will be about your experience and your background so that our audience can understand where you’re coming from, you know, how they can relate to you in terms of their experience and where they are in their business as well. Sure. All right, great. So let’s talk about content marketing. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience with content marketing?

Well, my experience goes way back, like, you know, a couple of decades here, but a few decades, Actually, but yeah, my I’m an out of body travel expert. I’ve been writing books about out of body travel since, like 1988. This hit 30 years. So in terms of content marketing, what I’d like to talk about is how it’s really important that before you go that you have a vision of your content. Okay? The interesting thing was for me, because I had several books published before the world of the internet even existed was that what I ended up realizing over time was, there was a great deal of tightening up that occurred in the years before I launched into the internet world. Okay. I think that what I have to share with entrepreneurs is the real importance of, you know, trusting your gut, and taking the things that you have, you know, because everything you know, your gifts are bringing to the market are those things that need to be tightened up and made ready for the public. In my case, what was interesting was, you know, I had no idea that the internet would exist, and, you know, 10-15 years. But what I did was I trusted a lot of with my gut feelings, and I have a lot of content, both in terms of books, because I have over 90 books that I’ve written on. But I also have CDs, I have art. And so what I did was, I was preparing all those products. And I went from the standpoint of I’m not exactly sure how this is going to manifest, but I’m going to get it ready. And then and ironically, you know, what happened for me was, it was almost, you know, like a God thing. And the fact that the internet emerged, and it’s like, oh, everything that I have done, is now in its perfect state to go live on the internet. Because, you know, we have a downloadable world that did not exist when I was putting all this stuff together. So you know, I, I had a lot of music that I, you know, I worked on in my garage to tighten up the recordings, took them to studios got them already. And then was really surprised when I learned that, you know, we went from a world where we had a few record companies that dominated the music scene to a time when independent artists were able to jump into the game. And so the it just happened where I had focused on my content, the books, the music, the art, not only painting the art, but then making sure I had, you know, the proper of photographs that I could utilize for, you know, the use and covers or other things like that. And then when the internet emerged, it was like, it all just kind of fell into place. So it was Yeah, so I, you know, I started out with the ideas, but I really follow through. And I think that’s really important for those who are looking at an entrepreneurial path

For sure. So when you say tightened up, can you elaborate a little bit more on that. So obviously, you said, you know, you probably got professsional photographs and things of that nature, but somebody who’s just starting off, you know, what would mean for them to tighten up the content that we’re producing?

Well, in my case, as a writer, a lot of it was rewriting the rewrites, the editing that needed to happen, there was a great deal of research that went in, because my books include quotations from ancient sacred texts from all around the world. And so there were literally years, that I was spending, you know, tightening up with editing, and then adding the quotations doing the research to find them, because, again, this was pre internet. So I had to find the quotations for the book, the old fashioned way, you know, in the actual books, rather than just look something up or a subject on the internet. And you know, what was really fascinating about that was at that time, it was kind of hard to get some of these ancient texts, because a lot of them were out of print. And I think what is really exciting about the rise of the Internet world, is that most of these really important ancient holy texts are now available at the drop of your finger on the internet. So it’s really open the world of, of, you know, really maintaining history and the documents from our past and being able to access them literally at the touch of a finger, you can do a search and find, you know, the things that I had to comb through, you know, volumes of books to find. So I did a lot of the editing, I think I re edited the first couple of books that I put out, probably four or five times, and wanted to make sure that they were really directed to the reader in the correct way. Because sometimes as a writer, what you want to, you don’t want to go off on a tangent, you want to figure out how to bring your reader into your concepts without then overplaying. And so there was a lot of that editing. And then also, you know, the ancient sacred texts was for the purpose of accenting what I was experiencing and writing about. So there was a lot of that. And a lot of the other things in terms of tightening up we’re figuring out with the painting was, you know, getting all the paintings done for one, you know, because I was painting images from my out of body experiences that were actually written about in my books, and I wanted to have the ability to publish those paintings with some of the books, even though at that time, it didn’t seem like that would happen or make any sense because of the internet did not exist. But so it was painting everything, getting it in order, figuring out how to photograph the paintings in a way that was, you know, high enough quality to utilize in publishing or other things, and then figuring out how to edit them into digital type files. So it was a lot of that sort of thing. And you know, as well, once the internet did emerge, then there was this whole new area of, you know, figuring out what are your keywords going to be what are you know, you want you want to have your seven or eight keywords that really describe what you do. And then you know, you want to have everything that you’re doing, having those tags so that when people look for something that were, you know, refers to your work, that they’re actually going to find it. And that was a an important part of the journey as well.

So it’s like quite a bit of work. And how long did it take for you to acquire all these experiences?

Well, it’s been going on for…..well over the experiences was over 35 years. And I think my first book was published in 1991. The second one was 1992, through a traditional publisher, and then the out of body travel Foundation was founded in 2003. So in 91, and 92, my first books were published in the old fashioned way, which means they had metal plates for every single page. Who could have thought that, you know, between 1992 and 2003 11 years, we were going to be able to use a PDF file or what was a PDF file that we didn’t know, you know, but to go from these metal plates and to go from, you know, what, literally costed $60,000, in the 90s, to publish a new book, to being able to publish a book if you’re willing to do the work and to almost costing you nothing.  And so the technology boom, was really good for publishing, not just even in the sense of making things available on demand, it really lowered the cost of running business. I know that like, with my publishers, the biggest cost was the warehouses that they had to maintain, because they had to print the books ahead of time. And so print on demand changed the nature of the market, so that you wouldn’t have to pay for warehouses. Oh, even just the fact that it’s internet stores came in changed the fact that we didn’t have to have the expensive of a store, you know, a storefront. And now we can have an inexpensive storefront on the internet. And so everything changed in that little period of 10 or 11 years. And, you know, change the world of publishing forever, for sure.

So that’s awesome. Now, let’s, let’s talk about some entrepreneurs who want to just get started, right? Like, obviously, they may not have 35 years to do all that research. So what advice you can give them to get started and start and a lot of them may not even want to publish books, they may just want to, you know, publish some articles or ebooks or what have you to market their business. So what is some advice that you can share with them to get started?

I think the biggest The biggest thing that I think is the most important thing is focusing in on what is your passion? What is your market? You know, before you in you know, a lot of people have a different different views on this, I’ve heard a lot of different opinions. But I really think that before you take off, you want to have an idea of your market. And if you want it to be clear enough, at least to you because you have to have a focus in a direction. So that’s really important, then you want to look into and research the particular products that you are interested in. And then figure out the ways to make it happen in the least expensive way, you want to create a nice streamlined process, that is going to be the least expensive I one of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is not being frugal. You know, you as an entrepreneur, one of the things that I have learned that I think is really important, you got to be willing to work your tail off. And you got to be willing to learn how to do everything you know. So this is not the path for someone who just Well, this is my job here, that’s not going to work for you, you’ve got to be willing to learn everything. So you’re going to be learning a lot of new stuff. And a lot of that stuff, it may not be related to your passion and your focus. But you have to understand and put it together in your marketing plan, that all of those things that don’t seem to be related to the primary focus, if they are, you know, whether it’s learning how to make a PDF, or all the little other little details about you know, that that have happened over the years of the new technologies, that’s part of the whole dream.

Alright, so my next question is about some tools and resources that you can share with entrepreneurs, especially with people who are just getting started, if they can use any of these resources to start their career as a content marketer.

Well, there’s a lot of tools in terms of software, you know, I use PDF 995, to create files that are usable for publication. Learning how to use e pub is very important for publishing as well. there’s a lot of different formats and platforms that you can use. If you’re looking in publishing, you’ve got a lot of options, but I do a lot of my work through Audible. And Amazon companies, because, you know, audible is a great, really a great resource, because you can go to their site, which is a ACX.com, and you can hire producers and narrators for your projects. And they will. And you can get the whole project done without having to you know, invest in a studio yourself. And, you know, because when we first started doing the audible type books, or the audio books is what they were called before audible. It was you know, I had a studio in my closet, you know, and I had to learn all of these techniques. But it’s nice, because the Amazon companies, for one have provided a lot of resources, when it comes to paperbacks, to kindle books and to putting your books into audio. So for those things, that’s fantastic. Personally I use Network Solutions for my websites. And you know, that has worked out well. I prefer that because you don’t want to have a website with a company that will not respond to, you know, customer support needs, you can’t have a website that crashes, and you can’t get ahold of anybody who can put it back up. So, that’s a big deal right there just having the right company behind all your products, because that’s what’s going to keep you in business. So for me, Network Solutions has been great. Amazon has been very helpful, because they are very user friendly, meaning that they are very much aware of what their audience their readers want. And so them they provide simple ways for people to create their products that will maximize that potential online. You know, if you to get your books on everything that you want them on, you’ll need to go through lulu.com to get your iTunes, and your ebook stores and nook, you know, Barnes and Noble book nooks, and all those things. And so, you know, I utilize their platform as well. Another thing that really helps me out, , I use a product called pro site maps, okay, this is important for your search engine optimization, as it automatically updates those site maps at the search engines require. And that helps, because otherwise, you have to do that manually. So I prefer to use pro site maps at this point, because they’re very reasonably priced. And that takes one thing off my list of things to do. Otherwise, I’d have to be doing that, like, at least once a week, make sure that the website is being catalogued properly. Yeah, and so for me, one thing, I would definitely say, for a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of people push for you to have your own storefront on your site. And I would go, I would definitely throw out the option to people that having your own storefront on your site, depending on your product may not be the best option. Because what what you’re doing is creating a lot of additional steps and a lot of work to do, then you have to deal with shipping and all this kind of stuff. What I have found is by using other platforms, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, you are limiting the amount of extra work that you’re having to do, they already have all these systems in place that provide for returns and you know, making sure that things are shipped out properly and quickly. And it takes a lot of work off your shoulders. And it also simplifies the process a great deal. So I personally prefer to have the storefronts not on board my own website, some people really push for that to have it on your website. But personally, I think there’s a lot of reasons not to, depending on your field of business, you know what I’m saying?

Yeah, so So are you running? Are you selling your products on Amazon? Is that is that right?

Yes, they’re being they’re being sold on Amazon, on Kindle, on Audible on Barnes and Noble, iTunes, on every, you know, dealer online dealer store, one of the things you learn to do is you work through Ingram distributors, when you when you put up publications, if you’re looking into publications, and you find the ways to make sure you maximize getting all of your products available in every country, you know, and in every distributor, one of the nice things that’s happened with Amazon recently has been, it was in the past year or two, I think that they started building pretty companies on each continent. One of the problems we ran into before that was that people who were international customers were really getting slogged on, you know, the shipping costs. So you know, Amazon really has the upper edge on that, if you’re trying to make things easier for your international customers. And that’s important for me, because we do serve internationally. So you know, you got to look where your customers are getting served the best, because you’re still going to get big shipping costs from a lot of these other distributors, simply because they may only have a printer in the United States. So those are big issues for making your product easily accessible to customers around the world. And also affordable, which is a you know, really important part of it.

Yeah,  for sure. Do you other than books? Do you also ship any other physical products?

Not anymore, I used to do that. But I have, I have off boarded all of those kinds of things. We have, you know, we have logo wear t shirts, hats and things like that. And that’s all offloaded through cafe press. And they will create a logo where which you can, you know, you can sell in concert with your products or your organization, they work very well. That would be a lot of a lot of extra time. You know, one of the things people don’t realize about shipping your own products, is you know, the amount of time you’re spending going to and from the post office, not to mention packing everything. And to be able to do that and off board, it is going to really increase your creativity in the realm of where your passion and your focus is, in terms of what it is your your product and your you know, your purpose that you’re going forward with in your company. Yeah. And that makes makes a big difference.

Yeah, for sure. That’s, that’s a good piece of advice right there. All right. So those are very impressive accomplishments. Now let’s move on to the set of questions that guide our audience, in getting similar results that you have, so I’m going to ask you a series of questions about what you will do, if you had to start all over again, from scratch and strive to duplicate your results. So now, if you had to start all over again, and growing your business through content marketing, in today’s world, with today’s tools, time constraints and other factors, what would you do differently?

Wow, um, you know, to be honest with you, I wouldn’t do much differently at this point, because we what we’re doing is really working. I think the, you know, the biggest thing that people are going to find, if they’re going to be an entrepreneur, you have to think about this is a long term prospect. You know, a lot of times people in entrepreneurial things think, Oh, I need to have this off the floor and a year or six months, whatever. That’s true. But you also have to be extremely malleable in the sense that you have to adjust to the changes in the markets and the technologies over the next 5-10 decades ahead. Yeah, I had. And so a big part of what I think, and what I’ve experienced is being very prepared to go through big changes, you know, we’ve had to go through several major changes, where you like, for instance, having to republish everything, because the technology completely changed having to redo entire websites, because the technology is no longer compatible, being ready and prepared and willing to put that work in when those times come because they inevitably do. And so I think the biggest, you know, there really isn’t anything, I would do different because it really is following the market, staying with it continuing to remain focused on your prime objective, you know, you’ve got to keep doing that. And then always seeing the the bigger picture with all of the details, there are so many details that you don’t want them to get lost, because those are the things that drive your business. Okay, awesome.

All right, and where should entrepreneurs focus their efforts? If they want to grow their business? Like, is it blogging? Is it publishing books? What should they focus on?

Well, you know, every entrepreneur is going to be different, depending on what it is their focus and prime objective is, I think the book publishing area is is a very vital area, bloggers are making a lot of headway as well. So I wouldn’t discourage that, I do think it’s important to get the word out about your product. So you have to be conscious instantly aware of the changing environment in terms of radio, TV, podcasting, and internet interviews that you can do that will help to bring awareness to your projects, and to what you’re doing. But you also then want to be looking at you know, guest writing, you know, so writing articles for you know, it used to be magazines, now, it’s online magazines, you know, I’m being open to doing those kinds of things, depending on your particular product, and your particular focus, you might even look into constantly, you know, being aware and being involved in you know, like writing for online, excite encyclopedias in your area of expertise, I spent quite a bit of time doing that. And that is a very good thing too. Because again, it First of all, it keeps you sharp, on your subject matter, but it also keeps you up to date with the current constantly moving market, I don’t really think that there’s anything that you want to take out of the picture, you want to pretty much bring whatever you have available forward. So for instance, you know, some people are very gifted at blogging, and so they might want to put that focus there. And then there’s other people like myself, where my primary gift is the writing of the books, my focus is going to be there. But I think that people need to follow their instincts about where they are most gifted and talented, and utilizing those talents and gifts, and not being afraid to go there. And then also going to the places, and this might be your secondary focus. But you also want to go to the places where you’re not as comfortable. So, you know, depending on your project, you’re also going to want to incorporate some public speaking engagements and things like that. But it again, it depends on your subject matter. But yes, you want to go into the uncomfortable areas as well, because you want to do everything. Yeah, you bring that message out. So you do want to be prepared to to do a little bit of it all, you know.

Sure,  Okay, awesome. Now, let me ask you one thing, you’ve done so much you’ve written so many books? How do you manage to come up with engaging content to keep your audience engaged? And you know, customers engaged?

Well, you know, it’s an interesting question, because I am a different kind of writer, a little bit of a different guest. Every book I’ve ever written, you know, I’ve received the title in mystical experiences. And every book that I write, you know, it comes through out of body travel experiences. So, in my particular case, it’s a little different, you know, the music that I’ve written was written in out of body, Charles states, the painting that so you know, everything that I do, is, there’s a lot of surrender and trust in the will of God in it, in the sense that a lot of times, I may start writing a book and have no idea what it’s going to be about, you know, that may not be the best approach for every writer. But that’s what works for me. And again, that’s a good lesson right there, you do what works for you, a lot of writers really need to have a plan of action, and they have, you know, a plan of what they’re going to do with that book. But yes, that’s how I do it. I, you know, I mean, even if you’re not an out of body traveler, for instance, you want to trust your intuition, your inspiration, you know, because that’s where it comes from, you know, one of the things that I do that I think is really important for entrepreneurs, especially creative ones, is meditation every day, because if you do not clear your mind and allow the everything to cleanse, and, you know, clear that slate so that something can come in, you know, some of my best ideas come when I’m meditating, just emptying everything out, and I’m allowing for the creative seed to kind of just come forth, and it does. And so you want to engage in practices that will contribute to creativity, creativity in itself, is is an asset that you have to be aware of it, it needs cultivation, it needs to have the proper, things going on, that will help you to keep creativity moving forward. So that, you know, you want to do the things that make that possible. I’m very also very aware of my environment and creating a beautiful environment, work in for me to sleep in to create an energy that’s going to be conducive to creativity.

Awesome, that’s great. All right. Any final thoughts that you want to share to help motivate our audience in jumping into content marketing and growing their businesses,

I think the biggest thing, one of the biggest mistakes I see in younger entrepreneurs, is thinking of entrepreneurism, as more of an just like an idea, I hear a lot of people saying I need to, you know, create you know, like an image or a product line, and it’s very ephemeral. It’s not, you know, a theory or not, you want to figure out what it is, you are going to represent what it is that you do, be, you know, so there’s, there’s no reason to create a buzz just about yourself. Yeah, I understand what it is that you are going to be representing. And that’s what you want to create the buzz about. Because otherwise, you’re going to kind of be, you know, kind of lost in that. You. So I see that a lot. I see a lot of people, it’s like they want to create their brand. I hear that, you know, it’s like, okay, but what is your brand? Yeah, your brand? And they don’t know. And so, it’s it’s okay, that you don’t know. But you want to be working on that first, before you start doing all these other things without having any clear idea of what it is that your brand really is, what is your passion? What is your message? What are you bringing forth, it’s really important that you have those things in alignment, before you start just putting a lot of stuff out there. That’s pretty, you know, what happens is it waters it down, it becomes more big, you don’t have focus, you need to get unique. I have, you know, my previous publisher was Hampton Roads, publishing, who published my first books, they were the ones who encouraged me to open up my own company and foundation, because they said, you really have a niche market. And I went ahead and took them up on it. And they were right. And part of the thing was, you know, from the minute that we went online to today, you know, we started and we remain in the top, you know, two or three, four out of body travel. And part of the reason for that is because I knew my niche. And I wasn’t afraid to own my niche, you know, I didn’t need to go out and grab, you know, something that was, you know, sort of, you know, we have to know our niche, and be totally unafraid of going just for that, you know, that’s why draws in your customers is your uniqueness. Yeah, if you push yourself to be too mainstream to fit into, well, then you’re losing that quality that makes your products unique, which is you have a unique niche. And I credit my former publishers with realizing that a lot lot longer before I did.

that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Marilyn, for sharing your experience, I’m sure our audience learned a lot about doing their businesses through content marketing. And before I let you go, can you tell us a little bit about your company and your foundation, specifically how it helps entrepreneurs, sustaining business growth and, you know, get into other unique experiences?

Well, our website is outofbodytravel.org. We are the out of body travel foundation traveling at the speed of light. And the course one of our main objectives has been to reduce spiritual hunger worldwide. We started out based on a comment made by Mother Teresa shortly before her passing where she said that the spiritual poverty in the West was worse than the physical poverty she had seen anywhere in the world. And so we strove to make every one of our products downloadable for free, you can read all our books for free, but they’re also available on any format you might wish. But what we also ended up doing was when we moved into 2004, the big tsunami hit. And it was very devastating, we started a secondary campaign to improve and reduce physical hunger worldwide. So we’ve been working with a lot of money rate, raising money and utilizing funds that we might earn for projects around the world. We’ve done disaster relief, we did a lot of work with building homes for people, and a lot of work with water, because the United Nations in 2012 declare that water and the access to water and sanitation was the biggest obstacle to third order countries to become capable of rising to a better status for their people. So we’re like, okay, we’re going to do this because, you know, people cannot pursue spiritual matters, if they cannot take care of their physical needs first. So we have to address those things. And among those things that we did address, ironically, that you bring that up for entrepreneurs, is, you know, we’ve worked with a lot of projects, to assist other entrepreneurs all around the world, to start businesses in their countries, for instance, women in India, who we provided sewing machines for, and they got instructions on how to start their own businesses, by sewing clothes and other things for people, and also providing animals you know, goats, pigs, cows, I think we put, we put some fish in a pond so that people could start. So we’ve done a lot of those kinds of things. Another one, that a lot of people liked was our donkey project, which was providing donkeys for families so that they could go back and forth to the local town and have better access to having their daily needs met, and with less difficulty. But you know, we put in a lot of wells, we put in sanitation, which is a big deal, because, you know, the lack of sanitation is what causes a lot of these, these diseases that, you know, really cause a lot of trouble for these people. So we wanted to get the, you know, the the plumbing in the the outhouses, get rid of the outhouses and get actual plumbing, because that’s going to read do a lot of the world diseases. But we’ve done a lot with, also, you know, like, with people who need to start businesses, a lot of these people, you know, you get them a chicken, and they’re going to have an egg business, you know, you get them a goat or a cow, and they’re going to be having, they’re going to create a milk business, we can learn a lot from these people around the country. And it’s not just what we’re doing. A lot of people are doing this and finding that these people are really resourceful. And if you want to look at people with an entrepreneurial spirit, look at this, you know, I get you a chicken. And you know, a few years later, you know, your whole family is just doing great, you know, and that’s amazing. how many of us could figure out how to do that, but we’re doing it all the time. And so they show a great deal of, you know, resilience and fortitude. And again, that focus, it’s like, Okay, I’ve got an egg business, you know, and they really do it, you know, they do everything they have to do. And, that’s the kind of thing that really brings entrepreneurs forward in what they’re trying to make happen. It’s just, I’ve got this is what I’m going to do, and you focus on it, and you do the work. You don’t, no matter what hits you, you do the work, and you don’t give up.

That’s awesome. Those are very noble causes. thank thank you so much for doing that, and spreading the spirit of entrepreneurs ship and also helping people across the world who really need the help. So thanks a lot for doing that.

Oh, you’re welcome. I’m very honored to be able to do any little part that we can.

Alright, so that brings us to the end of the interview. Thank you so much, Marilyn, for sharing all your wisdom with us. And thank you so much. Thank you, all the professionals and entrepreneurs in our audience for joining us for this awesome interview. Thanks A  lot.

Thank you

 

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