Amber Vilhauer is an online digital marketing expert who supports authors, speakers, and coaches to establish a powerful, integrated online presence that gets results and empowers them to make a difference in their industry. Since starting her agency, NGNG (No Guts No Glory) Enterprises in 2007, she has spent her career impacting her community and building strong strategic alliances with industry leaders and game-changers across the web. Amber has supported more than one thousand entrepreneurs on six continents to get results, and she is the launch manager for dozens of #1 bestselling books, including those for Mark Victor Hansen, Brendon Burchard, Lisa Nichols and Les Brown.
Today on Stay Paid, Amber talks about how to jump headfirst into content marketing, and why video is a great way to attract a more genuine audience.
- Video can be a great introduction and should be a crucial piece of your marketing plan
- Be personal and human in your approach with customers to gain better engagement
- Think practically about how to accomplish your goals instead of worrying about what others are doing
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Growing up, I was very much in my older sister’s shadow. She was the popular one with lots of friends, a straight A student, Miss Teen Arizona—and I was not that. I was not very gregarious or social. So I started to feel very small and not very seen or heard. I didn’t have confidence in myself. And then I stumbled into a job selling knives.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Cutco Cutlery. I started this job selling knives and I just did what they told me to do. After my first weekend, I went into the office and I was surrounded by applause. It turns out, I actually ended up being one of the top sales reps in my entire training class that weekend. I thought, “Man, I’m just going to keep doing what they tell me to do because it’s going to work.” And I loved the feeling of being recognized and valued. It set me off on a crazy trajectory for success. I finished the number two sales rep in my office that summer, I was promoted into management, and over the next five years with that company, it was promotion after promotion, beating national records. It was crazy. Looking back, it’s so meaningful to me because here was someone who had no confidence, that didn’t feel seen in the world, and when we can see that person and give them a little confidence who knows what they’re capable of after that? It empowers this belief of wanting to connect with people in order to build them up.
So it’s no surprise that I’m launching books and working with influencers today. But just as random as it was that I got this job selling knives, about five years in I felt like I had gotten as much as I was going to get out of that opportunity. I was about 24 at this time, and there was a local conference in Denver teaching local entrepreneurs how to get capital into their business and how to market online. This was like fifteen years ago when Google AdWords was new and nobody knew what blogging was, or SEO. I came in to run that event, so I was coordinating the speakers and the agendas and the lighting and the vendors and all this stuff. That was my first introduction to the online world and I thought, “This looks like a challenge!”
I went home from that event and taught myself code and set up my own website. I started learning everything I could about copyright and conversion, and I was testing things and doing social media. All of a sudden people just started coming to me and asking for help with their social media. I thought, “Sure!” and that’s how the company was born. I didn’t write a thirty-page business plan or have this vision. It was very grassroots and organic, and, over time, the word got out. My business is very much powered by word of mouth and people are seeing the amazing work they’re doing and they can’t stop talking about it to others.
Q: What was the company name inspired by?
I thought you might like that—No Guts, No Glory. I was trying to think of a company name, and I was young and didn’t know what I was doing. I was just figuring out my way. But my mom used to say that phrase all the time to me growing up. “Just remember, no guts, no glory, Amber!” So I thought, “Cool, what better phrase to use every day to face my fears?” And you’ll see, it became something that was really important to my clients coming in. So now everybody loves this idea of no guts, no glory—whether you’re scared to death to record that podcast or turn on the video camera or publish that book or make that sales call.
Q: How can a service-based sales professional start to develop or repurpose content?
I definitely encourage everybody to use video. People get so sick of me saying that, but it is the best way to make a personal connection in a digital landscape. We’re highly intuitive beings, and we make a lot of our decisions based on how we feel about things, so if I’m watching a video of you, I’m reading you. You can’t hide from that. I’m making these judgements and assumptions about you. So I’m a huge advocate of video.
To overcome your fear of video and staring into the blank emptiness of the lens, I have a few tips. Right before I get ready to record, I try and think of somebody really recently that rocks my world. It’s usually going to be a client who is really high energy and fun to work with. That’s who I’m thinking of, and I’ll hit record and only think about them in that moment. So you’re getting your energy levels up in that moment. And what’s really cool is you start to attract more people like that because of the energy you’re putting out and people are resonating and connecting. The people who aren’t a fit might think, “She talks too fast” or “She’s too smiley.” But the right people are so excited to connect with me. We’ll move into a sales call and they’ll say, “Amber, it feels like I already know you.”
But repurposing I think is just smart. It’s born out of necessity. As a business owner, you’ve got a million things going on. So to try and reinvent the wheel from scratch every single time—it just doesn’t make sense. And there’s value in every single thing you create. So out of this podcast, you could be chopping that up into several different segments. And, in fact, you do, and you have a really great Facebook channel so everybody needs to go and like your page if they haven’t already. But you really can repurpose that into social media posts that attracts and engages the audience you’re trying to build.
Q: Are there tools for people to be able to repurpose video on their own?
There’s no wrong path. For me, I’m a stickler for quality. I’m not going to put something out there that’s not of “Amber’s quality.” Because that’s part of your reputation, so it does matter how you get this stuff done. I think a lot of business owners think they know the right way to do everything in their business. So maybe you come up with the process the first time, but the key is to systematize it and document the step by step. But here’s the missing ingredient: tell your people why you want it done that way. Instead of just saying I want you to take the best one-minute clips of this podcast episode, tell them why you want them to do that. “Well, I figure if we do this one-minute segment, then that’s going to give people enough of a taste to go subscribe to YouTube.” When you’re telling your people why you want them to do something, you’re developing their thought leadership now so they can start to think on their own as an extension of you. Then they’re producing higher quality work as if you’re doing it yourself.
I literally recorded a batch of videos. I documented every single thing I wanted a virtual assistant to do on my behalf. I would want them to first watch the video. Then I would want them to extract out key takeaways. Then I would want them to circle the keywords and do a little bit of keyword research to figure out what people are searching for the most. I would want them to come up with a title and description, and here’s how I want them to do it, and why. Then I would say repurpose the video into a blog post, and how do we optimize that for Google? How can we repurpose that to do all of my social media and make it sound like it’s coming from Amber, even though it wasn’t. How can we repurpose that into an email?
So, yeah, did it take me some time? Yes. I documented every single detail, sent that to my team, but then didn’t have to worry about it after that. When I explained the why, they just started to pick up on how Amber would do it. Because I used that video, they were using my words, my personality in all the other content, and it worked really well for us.
Q: What is the content you’re seeing that’s resonating with people?
I think the safest bet is really education-based. Based on the frequently asked questions your audience wants to know the answers to. That’s the win, that’s the layout. When you think about it, your audience is out in Google every single day asking questions. They want to know how to do x. So if, in your videos, you’re giving them the answers, tools, or ideas, you become the hero. And now, if you’re leading with video, you’ve had an opportunity to develop this personal relationship and now they’ll look at what else you have to offer. So that’s a safe bet, regardless of what industry you’re in. Some industries will have a harder time doing that.
So another idea to look at is story-based content. So you do have teaching moments within a story, but you might be talking about, “Hey, I was going out talking to this client about blah blah blah, and they had this problem and this is the advice I gave them and they went out and did this other thing and this was the result of that.” People love stories. They remember stories. They share stories. And now they’re embedding you into their brain even further. So yes, it is a form of educating, but you could do either of those two ideas and it will work really well.
Q: In your experience with content marketing, how do you get the lead through the door?
I encourage my clients to think through a customer journey. The exercise is so simple I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it. But you start by listing all of the ways someone might hear about you, be it from your videos, or a podcast, or word of mouth, or a Google ad. And once these people hear about you, ultimately what do you want them to do next? For me, I want everybody to go to my website. That’s the only thing I want them to do. And you might be thinking the other options would be to go to my Instagram or my YouTube channel, but I want everybody going to my website because that’s the hub and heart of everything I do. The thing with websites these days, in my opinion, is that they need to be experiential. Meaning, when I land, I get to experience you and what makes you unique. So when you visit ambervilhauer.com, you land and it’s this background that is so me—it’s fast beat, things are moving all around, but that’s me. Now, it’s giving people enough of your uniqueness to get them intrigued.
Then I think to myself, back to the customer journey, there’s all kinds of things they could do on my website, but what’s the one thing I wish they would do. For me, there’s a video at the top center of my website. And I want everyone to watch that because it explains who I am, what I do, who I do it for, how I do it, and what I want you to do next. So then, ultimately, I want you to opt in to download my pricing menu. It’s this gorgeous twenty-page PDF that talks about all of the services we offer and why they are different and meaningful. It showcases our payment plan, testimonials, that is a salesperson, in a sense. My personal approach to business is I want to be fully transparent. I want you to have all the information up front before you even get on a call with me. There are other brands that are the opposite of that. So you have to do you in this process, but gosh has that worked well for me. For my audience type, they come in and appreciate that I’ve told them the process and the pricing, and that they feel like they’ve gotten to know me from that video. So by the time I get on a call, I’ve started closing more than 80 percent of the time on these calls because they were properly prepared going into that. Prior to that it was like 25 percent.
Q: Is there a formula you follow for the customer journey that’s easy for someone to do?
Honestly, it was pretty fast and easy. I don’t want to overcomplicate anything. Life is complicated enough. I’m constantly thinking about what’s the easier, simpler way to do things. Really, what’s happening by giving your audience some of the information up front is going to save you time in the end. The number of opt-ins has decreased, but the number of qualified opt-ins has increased. So I just got rid of the fluff. I feel like what’s being taught so much now in the online world is all about list size. But honestly, I know those people and behind the scenes, those lists are not converting as well. They are full of people that are like, “Oh yeah, he’s cool.” But they’re not engaging. I would rather have a smaller list of highly qualified people that I can actually create transformation with. But that’s just me, to each their own. But in general, when you look at the customer journey, people are going to be finding out about me somehow. They go to my website, and I’m probably going to want them to do one of two things: pick up the phone and call me or apply beforehand, or join my email list. And that’s really the next step of the journey, so thinking through what state of mind would somebody need to be in to want to pick up the phone and call me. Usually it’s going to be because you’ve put some sort of video on your website to build that trust.
Q: Once you get people on your email list, how often are you sending them emails?
It’s going to be different for everybody, but for me, it’s once a week. I really try to make it personal here again. I try and imagine, “OK, Beth who’s on my email list is on fifty million other email lists. She’s getting bombarded.” So I really just sit with that for just a second and think, “What would I need to experience to make my email worthwhile.” So usually there will be some sort of transparent moment. For example, I just launched a course last week. So I sent an email and I said, I have to be honest, I’m nervous to send this mail right now. And that was the way I started the course launch. Some people might think that’s a risk, but I say it’s human. I just put it out there. As a business owner and a marketer, there is such freedom in being honest and real with people. The people reading that email really appreciate that. You don’t have to overdo it, just have the guts to be honest.
But then I do go into some value, so I’m always educational and inspirational and end with some sort of call to action. The other piece is I try and make sure there’s always variety. People always pick up on patterns and then they’ll get bored and disengage. So I’m always trying to switch up pieces of the format or plug this in or change that out. It’s a simple text email but it always feels like something new and original.
Q: Do you find that shorter or longer form emails perform the best?
Both have worked for me. I’m a little longwinded when I’m writing, so I think people might be used to that. But for me, I don’t focus on length as much I focus on, “Did it matter?” If not, I’m just wasting their time and mine. So I really check myself before sending anything out and I think there is value in that. My YouTube videos, some are three minutes and some are forty minutes, so I feel like however long it needs to be to really have the message land and get a transformation to occur. Everything is worth testing online, but I’ve seen both statistically be successful.
Q: There’s a major problem in the content marketing world to post noise. What are your thoughts on that?
This is what’s kind of crazy about our world. I’m only subscribed to one email list. I really try to be careful about the input I have in my mind. I’d rather my content and delivery be as original as possible. A lot of times, it may be that someone is saying something in a similar way but to me it feels very genuine and authentic and original because I clear out a lot of the noise. That doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to what is happening in the world. I have to by nature of what I chose to do. But I do it in doses. Instead of letting it become my mindset so I can’t think creatively for myself. I think we need to get out into the world and tap into who we really want to be and what we want to share.
I’ll give you one other random thing that just came in. I decided to start an Instagram series called “Things I Want My Son to Know.” I was really having a hard time with Instastories and I knew I should do it but I just wasn’t enjoying the process until I came up with this idea. So I’ll pull out my phone and say, “You know, what I really want my son to know is to be kind and respectful or thoughtful or funny or whatever it is.” And people dig it. And it’s like, what the heck does that have to do with websites or book launches? But when you allow yourself to be creative, that’s when these ideas come through. And that’s what I encourage because that’s what people want from you anyway.
Q: What are your routines that have driven success for you?
I’m a very routine structured person, and I was even before my three year old, but now it’s even more so. I have a few different routines. It starts with my morning routine, and I wake up around 5 a.m. It’s all about getting my head right. Sometimes that involves working out, and sometimes that involves just listening to music. Slowly getting ready, never in a rush. I would rather get up early and take my time. I’m really just thinking through my day, who I am, what’s exciting me, what’s troubling me. And then all of a sudden a few hours later it’s go time. I get my three year old up and in the bath and all the morning routine with him.
But by the time I get in the office at nine, I’m prepared for the day, mentally. Then I have my day. And then I have an end of work routine. Before I leave to go pick up my son I have about forty minutes carved where I’m not rushing last minute emails and chaos. It’s my time to transition. I will methodically clean my desk and pull out my to-do book—I designed my own. So what happens is there is a page for each day, and I’ll turn the page and write out tomorrow’s to-do list. I’ll prioritize, and put it right there on my desk. And as I’m walking out I have a post-it note on my desk that says, “What three things did I accomplish today?” Because I really want to not just be thinking about what I didn’t accomplish, I want to give gratitude for what I got done today.
And then it’s all family time. The beautiful thing is because I’m not obsessing, it’s already on my to-do list, I’m not distracted. I just get to be with family. And then once I put Clay down, it’s like finally Amber time again. Usually I’m exhausted. But right before I go to bed I try and get my mind in the right place. I’m thinking about something that’s positive and preparing for rest. I’ve been told if you think about something happy or positive, that’s what is going to help you process the day as you’re sleeping. And I noticed, I used to have really nasty nightmares all the time, but since I started doing that I haven’t had those in a very long time. I wake up feeling recharged and it keeps cycling through.
Q: What advice would you go back and give younger Amber?
I would say, take more risks sooner. I’m somebody that likes to be prepared. I’m hyper-intentional. So it requires thought. I want to do good work in the world and be my best self and elevate every experience. But that can slow things down a little bit. I think there are moments in my life where I wish I just went for it or asked that person for what I really wanted the most. But honestly, looking back, especially in contrast to who I was as a teenager and how scared and lonely I was, things are sitting pretty good right now. I’m pretty darn happy with everything I’ve accomplished and where I am right now.
Connect with Amber:
- Film a story about one of your clients to share how you’ve helped them, and repurpose it into an email