The Great Recession of 2008-2009 left me out of a job and in the middle of an existential crisis. A story experienced by millions. But it was also a time of change, of exploration, reinvention.
This is the story of how I survived – and thrived – during the recession. It’s the story about how I got my first international client, and several more, with my blog
Starting The New Blog
I was laid off from a sales job on January 4th 2009 – right after the holidays. In sales it’s “what have you done for me lately.” One quarter you’re up – and you’re the hero. The next quarter you’re down, and then you’re out.
Needless to say my wife was far from thrilled. In fact we were both scared. This wasn’t a good time to be out of a job.
But I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of getting another job either. I had started a blog at work, and I was bit by the blogging bug. I saw possibilities I didn’t see before.
So I did a lot of thinking. I talked to friends. I Googled every idea under the sun. I went to the new social media meetups that were popping up all over my hometown of Austin, TX.
I wanted to start a business, but I didn’t know what kind of business to start.
Then a friend of mine told me that since I’m a bi-lingual English-Spanish speaker I could try to help companies from Latin America with their goal of entering the U.S. market. There was a particular type of company called nearshore software development companies, outsourcing companies from Latin America offering their consulting services to U.S. firms.
That was it! It was a perfect intersection of three things that made sense for me:
- My passion: I have always been passionate about Latin America. All my father’s side of the family live in Mexico. I got a degree in Latin American Studies in college. I spent my summers doing volunteer work in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Paraguay. And I married a beautiful woman from Nicaragua (following in Mick Jagger’s footsteps).
- My knowledge: Most of my working adult life had been in the technology space, so helping software development companies would be right in my wheelhouse.
- My skills: I was fluent in Spanish.
That intersection of my passion, knowledge and skills sealed my blogging and business fate for me.
I decided to become a marketing consultant, helping nearshore software outsourcing companies from Latin America enter the U.S. market.
And I started my new blog, Latin IT Marketing, with a series of posts that were all over the map. Frankly I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.
Most of my posts were “how-tos” and advice about how to successfully sell software services in the U.S. market.
All this time I was madly searching the web and reading any piece of advice I could about how to improve my blogging results.
So how did I actually get clients from my blog? Ok, I’m getting there.
The List Post
Every time I read a cool post I liked on Copyblogger or Junta 42, I tried out the advice i had just learned. One of my first experiments was a list post where I created my own “awards.”
The Junta 42 list of the top 42 content marketing blogs was my inspiration here.
I created my own list: the Top 10 Content Sites for Custom Software Developers in Latin America.
I looked at the websites of some of the top nearshore software development companies, from Mexico all the way to Argentina. I choose the 10 best websites, in terms of content in correct English, the best calls to action, the best design.
I got a lot of comments on that post. Everybody wanted to know who had the best website. The companies included in the list were really excited. Those I left off commented in detail as to why they should be on the next list. And many others wrote suggesting other sites.
But no clients yet!
The SEO Post
I was blogging about 2-3 times a week pretty regularly, but most of the traffic I was getting was from my social media shares. I was hardly making an impact on Google. Then I read an article about how you should write for Google every now and then.
So I checked out my Google Analytics to see what was up. I noticed the few times people accidentally stumbled on my site from a Google search were from keywords that had nothing to do with the terms I was using.
See, I had assumed that by using the Spanish translation for “marketing software services in the U.S.,” that people would naturally search for that.
But nobody did. What I found instead was that the Spanish translation for “how to sell software” (cómo vender software) brought the few little breadcrumbs I got.
So I wrote a post using that keyphrase. The result was How to Sell Software: How to Identify My Niche. To this day, that is the number one landing page on the site, and the one with the most comments. I’m still on page one of Google for that search term.
But this post didn’t attract my first client either.
The Controversial Post
I think it was a Copyblogger post that recommended writing about a controversial topic.
That’s how I came up with this post: Urgent Action Required: How to Compete With India.
I wanted to wake up the nearshore community. I wanted to get under the skin of companies from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Argentina who were too timid in their approach.
If I couldn’t inspire them with the possibilities of using marketing to enter the U.S. market, then I could inspire their competitive instincts.
Boy did that hit a nerve. This became my second most commented post.
And then I got a phone call from a government official from Mexico. He told me “Fernando, I’m writing about your post about how to compete with India…”
“….Fernando, you and I are on the same page! This is exactly what I’ve been trying to tell the companies I work with!”
This guy loved the post! He worked for TechBA, a Mexican government-sponsored accelerator for technology companies from Mexico trying to enter the U.S. market.
He introduced me to my first client for whom I wrote a white paper and a brochure.
I started getting emails as a result of my blog.
The truth was, there wasn’t one particular blog post that prompted this. I had built up a body of work after six months of blogging several times a week. The “steady as you go” approach was making an impact. My posts weren’t going viral, but they were attracting attention over the long haul – and generating results.
Some of the emails I got resulted in coffee meetings and lunches with Latin American software firms that already had a presence in the U.S. After keeping in contact with several of them they eventually hired me as well.
All because of my blog.
By combining my passions, skills and knowledge; keeping a regular blogging schedule; actively promoting my blog on social media; and implementing blogging hacks such as list posts, SEO posting, controversial posts and others, I was able to finally say goodbye to my dead-end career in sales, and open up a whole new world of blogging and content marketing.
What does the future hold? A lot – and content is at the center of it. Stay tuned for more…