Income Store is a company that buys and creates high-traction “Google authority sites” for purchase partnerships by organizations with the potential to grow their businesses by selling online. They then support the organizations in growing their commerce sites further in an arrangement that allows them to participate in a profit sharing relationship for the online revenue growth they create. What this means for them that others can benefit from also: Public relations, and especially the thought leadership and content side of public relations, is king. Ken has shared a number of the ideas he’s developed through years of business in a 2013 book (he has another book in the works that’ll come out shortly as well). With that in mind, here are three of the ideas he suggests:
Idea 1: “Who can help?”
In 1997, while running a family brick and mortar video store, Ken Courtright learned a lesson in the course of growing that business that he now suggests as a strategy to every entrepreneur (both online and off). At the time he was caught in the throes of the midsummer retail blahs that hit every store like his own. Nothing he or wife Kerri could do seemed to make a difference.
On a somber day he drove around aimlessly for a period of hours in search of inspiration. As the thought “What can I do?” pounded in his head, he suddenly changed the thought from “What can I do?” to “Who can help me?” Now the picture shifted and he found himself in front of neighboring business Louie’s Pizza store. What goes well with videos? Pizza. In a flash of brilliance he printed up 5,000 video store coupons and walked into the store. He asked the manager on duty if they could please distribute one of these coupons on the boxes of the next 5,000 pizzas they sold. Out came Louie, pronouncing there would be “no way in Hell” they would take on the work of distributing those 5,000 coupons. So Courtright began to barter. What if, in exchange, the Courtrights were willing to distribute 10,000 coupons for Louie’s to every customer who walked through their doors? Louie’s eyes lit up, and they had struck a bargain. In both directions, the coupons began to fly. In the immovable market, the Courtrights’ sales rose 22%. Louie’s sales rose 6%. In both directions, the extra effort proved to be a deal worth making.
In the online arena, instead of thinking “What can I do?” to find yet another conduit to communicate a one-way message, convert your thinking to “Who can help?” What are the aligned services and product sites that can benefit your customers? Cross articles on your sites, in your online newsletters, and most especially consider sharing your opted in customer database with each other, if you can appropriately do so, and you will each walk away with a contact list twice as large. Then track the resulting business you create in both directions to help determine if the arrangement is a good one, and how much priority to give it in both directions from now on.
Idea #2: Forget about simply publishing “content.” Instead, think informational value-add.
In another case, the Income Store made a bid to invest in a plumbing website, ThePlumbingInfo.com. Ken Courtright entreated the founder of the original business, Art Kavanaugh, with decades of wisdom in his field, to publish once a week as a part of the deal. The senior executive felt the publishing would be too big an endeavor and turned the deal down. But after sleeping on it, he came back and said “Okay, I’ll do it—but only if my son, Sean, can help.” Now they had a deal.
The inclusion of Kavanaugh’s son turned out to be a stroke of genius. Instead of thinking of his assignment to publish as a weekly “checkmark to hit” and straining to produce a kind of essay to fill the space, he thought through what information would be most value to the company’s customers. Inspiration struck, and he created a review of various alternatives for shower heads. Yes, it took a little doing to test the alternatives and to come up with the ratings, but the post was immediately compelling. It was classic thought leadership in action—non-promotional no-spin information of the kind the company’s customer base legitimately wanted to know. The post was a success, had a significant lifespan and drew many views. This was fairly well the last the company thought about the project until one day, six or so months later, a set of visitors from Germany arrived at their door.
“We are the providers of Hans Grohe shower heads,” they said. “Do you remember us?” Why yes, replied Sean. “We reviewed your product,” he said. “You came in second out of ten.”The manufacturers then said, “And our inventory of that product immediately sold out. We needed to find you to see what else we can do. Since that review was posted, sales of that product have risen sharply." A blog assignment, meant to provide authentic value. It led to a significant increase in sales and deepened partnerships with the providers of the products Kavanaugh’s customers now understood and valued more than before.
Idea #3: There’s an image for that.
Here’s an idea an energy provider used to create so much PR reaction it momentarily caused Google to think the business was behaving illegally and temporarily de-list the site in Google results. Several years ago, while Income Store and the company were considering what they could do to generate interest, they gathered in the newest data available from Consumer Reports and created an infographic (pictured below) on all of the areas within a house where energy savings or loss could occur. They published the piece, and, as they say, “the crowds went wild.” Then the team noticed, a month or two later, the traction had suddenly stopped. What happened? Investigation showed someone had translated the infographic into Japanese, but had left the attribution and link in place that credited the energy co. as the source. It produced 400 links to the company from Japan within the space of a weekend. Google had assumed such a spike in traffic wasn’t possible unless the company had illegally purchased the links.
“It was almost funny—except that it wasn’t, when they delisted our client’s site,” Courtright said. But after a phone call to show and explain the story, a Google representative gave a verbal apology and restored the site to its rightful role.
What educational information is unique to your company and service that you could publish and share to the world in a visual format like this? Three ideas, all possible without high agency budgets (or likely possible without agency involvement at all. For every entrepreneur who is growing an online business the increased revenue these ideas create will be welcome news.