Copyblogger http://www.copyblogger.com Content marketing tools and training. Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Beyond Niches: Tap Into This Psychological Driver to Create the Ultimate Message http://www.copyblogger.com/worldview-content-marketing/ http://www.copyblogger.com/worldview-content-marketing/#respond Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42541 The number of blog posts published every day is absurd. Let’s just say it exceeds the population of the four largest countries in the world and be done with it. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. The point is — and we all know it — the volume of written content online is overwhelming.

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close-up portrait of a smiling woman, her clenched hand covers half of her mouth

The number of blog posts published every day is absurd.

Let’s just say it exceeds the population of the four largest countries in the world and be done with it.

Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. The point is — and we all know it — the volume of written content online is overwhelming.

And let’s not forget about other media: videos, podcasts, Google+ Hangouts, photographs, etc.

Shock is one way to describe our reaction to the tonnage dumped each day.

Despair is another — especially for content producers who want to find an audience.

The conventional advice is to find a viable niche, the territory competitors have overlooked. Once you occupy that ground, you will stand out — you will rise above the noise.

That plan leaves us jockeying for the content gap, looking for a way in. Miss your opportunity, however, and you are just another contributor to the landfill that is the World Wide Web.

But you can do better than that.

Identifying a niche is important, but it isn’t enough.

You need to understand your audience’s outlook. In other words, you need to tap into their worldview.

Introducing the worldview

What is a worldview? It’s a descriptive model of the world. Your worldview, whether you’re aware of it or not, answers questions such as:

  • What should we do next?
  • What is true and false?
  • How should we attain our goals?
  • How do we explain our intentions?

Your worldview is not systematically developed. You don’t sit down, set your chin on your fist, and say, “What do I need to do to become a postmodern pragmatist?”

No. Your worldview develops over time. Your parents, friends, education, experiences, and your genetic makeup all influence your worldview. And, like your favorite Instagram filter, it colors how you see the world.

worldview-filter

As we get older, we can choose and change this filter, but because our worldview informs everything we do, think, and say, a dramatic challenge to it can feel devastating.

You might be wondering what this metaphysical notion has to do with marketing.

The answer is: everything.

Let me prove it to you.

The worldviews of popular Super Bowl ads

You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy Super Bowl commercials. In fact, I have a hunch that the entertaining ads contribute to the Super Bowl’s popularity.

First, take the GoDaddy “Perfect Match” commercial. Supermodel Bar Refaeli kisses nerdy actor Jesse Heiman. The model represent the sexy side of GoDaddy; the geek represents the technical. The kiss is the perfect blend of these two “disciplines.”

The worldview? One of pleasure that says you can and should have it all. It’s empowering.

Then there’s the Ram Trucks “Farmer” commercial, better known as, “So God Made a Farmer.”

Portions of a Carter-era speech by Paul Harvey, a Christian lecturer, flows over images of hard-working and weathered farmers who embody the ethics of selflessness, strength, and solidarity — the values that embody the Ram truck.

That, my friends, is how great advertising can tap into worldview. Both campaigns communicate messages that resonate with their intended audience’s worldview.

The worldview of the most-loved advertiser

Perhaps the most-loved example of worldview in advertising is the 1984 Apple commercial. Its message is simple: be a non-conformist. It’s a worldview that embraces individuality, originality, and creativity.

Apple also did this brilliantly with The Crazy Ones campaign.

On one hand, self-identifying with outcasts contradicts conventional, mass marketing wisdom.

Yet here’s the brilliance of the ad: don’t most of us actually feel like we don’t fit in? Don’t most of us feel like we are misfits?

The message is, of course, that truly great people don’t fit in and — oh, by the way — those people own Macs.

It was an effective approach that displayed an ultimate message.

And it still resonates, despite the ubiquity of Apple products in the marketplace. Apple users still feel like rebels because worldview isn’t about reality — it’s about self-perception.

It’s the same thing for you.

The potency of worldviews: a wine study

Did you know that the same glass of wine will taste differently to you depending upon your emotions and circumstances?

The same glass of wine will taste one way at the end of a productive writing day with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees on a hillside in Sweden, cherry blossom petals falling gently to the ground …

And quite another way when you are crowded into a hot kitchen with your mother and her sisters yelling at you to hurry up with the stuffing, the residue of an argument with your hubby lingering in the back of your mind.

Same glass of wine. Two different tastes, according to a live-action experiment conducted by neuroscientist Daniel Salzman of Columbia University.

Salzman began with a hypothesis: we don’t experience objects or events in complete isolation. Rather, these objects or events are colored by:

… our past experiences, our current mood, our expectations, and any number of incidental details — an annoying neighbor, a waiter who keeps banging your chair, a beautiful painting in your line of sight.

The same thing can be said about the content we consume and the products we buy.

It’s about empathy — really understanding, seeing, and relating back how a person views things.

When you confirm someone’s worldview, he or she is attracted to you. That’s the power of an ultimate message.

As Dr. Frank Luntz said in his book Words That Work, “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

Luntz, who’s helped dozens of Fortune 500 companies and politicians communicate, goes on to say,

You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs. It’s not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.”

A great example of this method is the one question Joanna Wiebe at Copyhackers recommends businesses ask people who visit their websites: “What’s happening in your life that brought you to my website?”

The answer to that question will tell you a lot about your audience: who they are, how they think, what they think about, what they feel, what troubles them, etc.

How to discover your prospect’s worldview

To start, review the empathy map I talked about in my last storytelling post.

Then, to get a more complete picture of your audience’s worldview, try the following methods:

  • Conduct one-on-one interviews.
  • Read the comments on your blog.
  • Study Amazon reviews.
  • Create a survey. (You can use tools such as Google Docs or Survey Monkey.)
  • Eavesdrop on real-life conversations.
  • Analyze your support emails.
  • Review your testimonials.
  • Monitor your audience on the social web and across forums.

You’ll discover that it is difficult to put a simple label on your prospect. What you are after, however, is a general sense of the way the world works. In your interviews, surveys, and conversations, it helps to ask questions such as:

  • Are things handed to us? Is luck part of success? Or is hard work the difference between success and failure?
  • Can anyone succeed? How important is formal education?
  • Do you view the world as one of abundance and opportunity? Or do you see the world as one of scarcity and competition? Or both?
  • Is life a game? A war? An adventure? A giant cocktail party? A chess match? Meaningless?
  • What truly matters in life? Is taking action pointless? Should we have it all? Or is that selfish?
  • What virtues mean the most to you? Independence? Intelligence? Compassion? Duty?
  • Are you practical, or do you gravitate toward the abstract? Are you a lover of literature? A lover of pop culture? Or both? Do you love ideas or prefer people?
  • How do you view death? Is it something to be feared or embraced? Why?

Again, these specifics may sound a bit metaphysical for the world of business, but remember that our worldview informs how we behave, including how we spend our money.

You have to start there.

The game is won at the beginning, at the research phase, when you begin to understand who you want to reach and what will make them do business with you.

That’s where an ultimate message is born.

Two hypothetical worldviews

Very few people fall into a strict worldview category. In fact, you want to create your own label.

For example, let’s say your ideal audience believes in the act of creation.

They are creatives, so you define them like this:

My creatives believe they can carve out their own worlds. They believe in determination, honesty, and perseverance. They believe in maximizing human potential. The world is not a field of competition, but a community, a commune where we should all share our resources and be at peace.

Here’s another example. Let’s say your ideal audience is made up of athletes:

My athletes have a chip on their shoulders. Life is hard and resources are scarce. If you don’t take care of yourself, then nobody will. They have something to prove, nothing to lose, and everything to gain. No matter the cost.

By the way, the discoveries you make about your ideal audience may startle you. Keep in mind, your job is not to change their beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. Your job is to create a message that resonates with those beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors.

That is the ultimate message.

And the person who creates that ultimate message consistently over time will stand out because content marketing is a long game.

The difference between worldviews and personas

You’ve probably noticed that a worldview has a lot in common with a persona. But they are not the same.

Here’s a good definition of persona:

“A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a ‘type’ regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics.”

A worldview, on the other hand, tells you the why behind those behavioral patterns, purchasing decisions, use of technology, and so on that make up the persona. It serves as a bedrock to that persona.

Take this worldview quiz

If you’d like additional information to help you create an ultimate message, check out the online marketing training in these sixteen free ebooks. Then download the series of podcasts on the 11 essential ingredients every blog post needs. And stay tuned: I’ll also expand on this topic in future posts.

In closing, I thought it would be fun to end with some worldview-identification practice. So here’s a quiz …

Guess the worldview of each company, product, or advertising message below:

  • Patagonia
  • American Apparel
  • “Where’s the Beef?” by Wendy’s
  • “Just Do It” by Nike
  • Energizer batteries
  • Android

Leave your answers on Google+ here.

And we can’t forget the bonus question: What worldview does the New Rainmaker podcast tap into?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Dimitris Papazimouris.

About the author

Demian Farnworth


Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media's Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Case Study: How One Veteran’s Podcast Built a Million-Dollar Business http://www.copyblogger.com/john-dumas-case-study/ http://www.copyblogger.com/john-dumas-case-study/#respond Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42869 After spending many years in traditional career fields — including real estate, finance, and eight years as an Army Officer — John Lee Dumas still felt unfulfilled. He couldn’t shake the feeling that his real calling was still out there — that there must be a way for him to feel excited to go to

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traditional radio microphone

After spending many years in traditional career fields — including real estate, finance, and eight years as an Army Officer — John Lee Dumas still felt unfulfilled.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that his real calling was still out there — that there must be a way for him to feel excited to go to work every day.

He took a leap of faith and launched an interview-based business podcast called EntrepreneurOnFire. Within its first few months, the podcast became a top-ranked iTunes business podcast and earned a coveted spot on the “Best of iTunes” list.

The podcast is now the cornerstone (and biggest lead generator) of a thriving business that regularly brings in six figures each month.

Is John excited to go to work? You bet he is.

I sat down with John and asked him to share the secrets of his success and how he turned a unique idea for a podcast into the business of his dreams.

Ignoring the skeptics and launching a crazy idea

In 2012, John Lee Dumas had a big idea.

Back then, John was a real estate agent who spent a ton of time in his car. He passed the time by listening to podcasts, but noticed he finished weekly podcast episodes faster than his favorite podcasters could create them.

He wondered if other podcast listeners experienced the same problem.

One day, John had a moment of life-changing inspiration that started with a simple question. He asked himself, “Why doesn’t someone create a business podcast that publishes episodes seven days a week?”

The idea stuck, and John started taking steps to create a daily business podcast with useful content for entrepreneurs and business owners.

However, the production schedule required to publish seven-day-a-week podcast episodes was daunting. And he encountered many naysayers.

John’s advisors told him the idea would fail. They looked at the market and said, “No one else is doing this. There’s no way it will work.”

But John has always subscribed to the “blue-ocean” strategy of business — so his mentors’ doubts actually confirmed his decision and made him even more determined to get his daily podcast off the ground.

After three months of intense work, John launched the first episode of the EntrepreneurOnFire podcast in September 2012. He kept his word and published a podcast episode every single day — no matter what.

In the first few months after his launch, John snagged some early wins. iTunes listed the podcast as “New and Noteworthy,” and he landed interviews with high-profile guests, like Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran and author Tim Ferriss.

EntrepreneurOnFire grew a big fan base of loyal listeners. As it turns out, John’s big idea wasn’t so crazy after all.

Secret #1: Build your online empire’s foundation

Of course, once you have a great, marketable idea, you’ve got to get organized and implement that idea in a smart, scalable way.

Over time, John built the online structures he needed to build an EntrepreneurOnFire empire — not just a podcast.

He launched a blog, where he published posts that provided advice for entrepreneurs trying to grow or monetize their businesses. He also built an email autoresponder series called The Fire Path, and weekly newsletter subscribers grew to more than 14,000 people.

John built his business on the basic rules of smart content marketing — providing free, relevant content to his audience on a daily basis.

His audience members love him for it.

Click here to get two weeks of free training that
will change the way you think about online marketing …

Secret #2: Create multiple income streams

As the podcast grew in popularity, John attracted a number of sponsors willing to pay for exposure to his audience, and he quickly grew his sponsorship income to $46,000 a month. And while it definitely made sense to take on sponsors for his show, John didn’t want sponsorships to be his only source of income.

So he listened to his audience, figured out what they needed most, and provided it. Now he sells a number of products and services to serve his community members.

Last year, EntrepreneurOnFire started publishing monthly reports detailing the business’s income and expenses. Here are some of their biggest streams of income for June 2014:

  • Sponsorship income for the podcast: $43,719
  • Podcaster’s Paradise (membership site): $134,335
  • WebinarOnFire (webinar training program): $15,083
  • Fire Nation Elite mastermind group: $10,550
  • One-on-one client mentoring: $5,000

The business also generates income from affiliate relationships and ebook sales.

In June 2014, EntrepreneurOnFire’s net profit was more than $162,000.

Secret #3: Take immediate action

After John’s initial inspiration struck, he immersed himself in the launch of the new podcast.

John advocates taking “immediate, massive action” on projects and plans. He says:

Within one month of my ‘aha’ moment — which literally came out of nowhere — I had quit my job and hired my mentor. Within three months of that, I launched my podcast.

John’s goal was to provide as much value as possible with his podcast interviews and attract people who liked his content and message.

One of the primary benefits about taking immediate, bold action is that you see results quickly, which helps you gain momentum and motivation to keep going.

Once John launched the show, he attracted an amazing community of like-minded people who supported his mission and loved his content. He called them the “Fire Nation,” and once his community started to grow, he became even more driven to provide them with top-notch content.

Secret #4: Listen to your audience

John had an existing client base when he was ready to create (paid) products and services. His audience members already knew and trusted him, and they appreciated the great content he published every day.

But before he built anything to sell, he listened. John then created solutions for his audience’s problems.

John says:

Listening to my audience has shaped every [inspiration] I’ve had in my business. They speak, and I listen. I kept hearing that they didn’t know how to start their podcasts and they needed support because they felt alone.

John published his ebook, Podcast Launch, in early 2013. After that, he created and launched a membership site, Podcaster’s Paradise, which provides how-to information and professional support for podcasters.

Now he has a suite of products and services that are custom-made for his entrepreneurial fans.

Secret #5: Make smart connections

John made critical connections early in his podcasting career.

He hired a business coach right away, and she introduced him to key players in their industry. Those connections have shaped John’s journey with EntrepreneurOnFire.

He realized that many successful entrepreneurs all have large platforms of fans and followers. When he published his interviews with entrepreneurs, those guests shared the episodes with their audiences via email and social networking sites.

The extra exposure rocketed his podcast’s growth.

Secret #6: Streamline your business systems

In 2013, I was a guest on John’s show. Before, during, and after my interview with him, I noticed John’s incredible organization and how he used templates and systems for every aspect of his podcast process. For example:

  • When I accepted his interview request, he immediately emailed me a list of available time slots.
  • After I chose a time, he emailed me a document that included his interview questions, directions for connecting to the call, and an explanation of the whole process.
  • When the podcast episode was live a few weeks later, John emailed me again with a link to the show and instructions for quickly sharing the interview with my fans.

It was the easiest, smoothest interview I’d ever done, and I remember thinking, “John Dumas is going to take over the world.”

Clear systems for every aspect of John’s business enable him to publish a podcast seven days a week.

What’s next for this wildly successful podcaster?

When it comes to business strategy, John recommends that entrepreneurs FOCUS (Follow One Course Until Success). John and his team expand and promote their existing products.

Since the EntrepreneurOnFire podcast is still the engine that makes their entire business possible, they continue to create killer daily content for their fans.

So, what is John’s advice for other podcasters and online marketers? He says:

Just start! So many entrepreneurs let fear and the unknown stand in their way of building their dreams. You have to make a lot of sacrifices, and there are a lot of times when you’re going to want to give up.

Don’t give up.

Are you ready to turn your wild idea into reality?

It’s your time to start

What’s the first step you can take to build your online media business?

Let’s go over to Google+ and discuss taking action!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Renée Johnson.


Are you ready to build your online empire like John?

Then you’re going to need a solid, secure, easy-to-use foundation.

Check out Copyblogger’s Rainmaker platform, which gives you everything you need to start an attractive, functional, secure website.

It’s a blank canvas you can use to create dynamic media, including a podcast, coaching business, or information marketing venture — anything you want.

Get started with Rainmaker today.

About the Author: Beth Hayden is an author, speaker, and social media expert who specializes in Pinterest marketing. To find out how to get more traffic to your website or blog using Pinterest, grab your free copy of Beth’s e-book, The Definitive Guide to Driving Traffic with Pinterest.

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5 Subtle Writing Strategies That Drive Email Signups http://www.copyblogger.com/drive-email-signups/ http://www.copyblogger.com/drive-email-signups/#respond Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42540 Email subscribers are your protection from Google. Even Brian Clark agrees with me on that one. Your email list is a group of readers who have chosen to get information from you. They want to hear from you, and you want a large email list that is full of potential clients or customers. But how

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bird eating seeds out of a person's hand

Email subscribers are your protection from Google.

Even Brian Clark agrees with me on that one.

Your email list is a group of readers who have chosen to get information from you. They want to hear from you, and you want a large email list that is full of potential clients or customers.

But how do you gain more email subscribers?

You already have so many ongoing content marketing tasks. When it comes to growing your email list, which methods work and which ones are a waste of time?

In this post, I’m going to share five writing strategies I use on my blogs and online advertising campaigns that always lead to more subscribers.

They work for me, and I think they’ll work for you, too.

You can review these techniques whenever you write new content.

1. Use time-sensitive language

Marketers have been using time-sensitive language forever. It works in both print and online media.

Human beings are wired to avoid loss. We have evolved with a whole system of chemical rewards that teach us to avoid missing food, shelter, water, etc. When you apply that concept to your email list promotion, you may see big dividends.

amy_porterfield

Facebook wizard, Amy Porterfield, uses this to great effect when promoting her webinars and other time-sensitive offers. She mentions that spaces are finite and they fill up fast — motivating people to act.

If you can incorporate time-sensitivity into offers that require people to sign up to your mailing list, you’ll see a huge boost in numbers.

It’s important to note that it’s unethical (and in some countries illegal) to have a time-sensitive offer unless you actually do have a time limit on it. The same goes for closing a sale and opening it up again the next week.

Never mislead your readers.

2. Tell unusual stories

When I changed my About page from the usual “my site is about this and that” to one that told my story in a slightly different way, I saw signups increase from around three percent to over six percent.

In an online world where standing out from the crowd is more important than ever, stories set you apart and create an initial connection with a new reader.

Even extremely dry topics (like reviews or tech-talk) can be spiced up with stories about how you were feeling, what you were doing, how you use something in your daily life, etc.

Michael from VSauce (see the video below) has built one of the most popular YouTube channels in the world by combining science with historical stories.

Why can’t high school teachers do this?!

Sonia Simone is an absolute master at teaching us how to be better storytellers.

3. Include social proof in a natural (real) way

Social proof shows people that others have gone before them.

Humans don’t like being first. It’s scary.

But people often integrate social proof online in a clumsy and fake-sounding way. You need to incorporate it into your landing pages and sales pitches in a way that makes people feel like they’re encountering something valuable.

Have a look at how Copyblogger does this on their Authority sales page:

We built Copyblogger Media with online content and smart copywriting — and without venture capital, advertising, or an outbound sales team — into a thriving company with over 100,000 customers. We’re one of the few who can honestly claim we got here by purely practicing what we teach.

They show you both the story and the proof. Demonstrate social proof, but make sure it’s natural and completely targeted to your pitch/audience.

james

James Chartrand from Men with Pens does this effortlessly on her About page. She displays client feedback below the introduction to her team.

The combination simultaneously helps people overcome their objections and shows factual social proof.

4. Draft individual landing pages and test them

Most bloggers know they need email subscribers, but they only provide opt-in forms in their sidebars.

That is a huge mistake.

Don’t leave anything to guesswork. Run at least a few A/B tests — especially for landing pages — to see whether or not your favorite online marketing practices actually pay off.

Barack Obama raised over $60 million by tweaking some of his.

Instead of just sticking a form in your sidebar, develop a single-column landing page for each specific offer you have. You can then direct social media promotions to these individual pages and test them with a service such as Visual Website Optimizer.

I develop different landing pages for different events, offers, or even segments that I want to target; I send readers to content tailored for their needs.

5. Write for people and search engines

Experts often tell you not to write for search engines.

It’s just not true.

You need to write for both search engines and people if you want to maximize your conversions. Why is this the case?

Well, take a basic keyword such as the word “medium.” Now, this is an interesting example because there is a new blogging platform called Medium, but the word “medium” also means “middle” and a “spirit-medium” — someone who mediates communication between spirits of the dead and other human beings.

If you write a blog post targeting the keywords “medium blog,” you might get a lot of traffic from people searching for spirit guides when you actually wanted to target folks looking for articles on the Medium platform.

If you don’t know how search engines work, and you don’t write for them, you will potentially get a lot of wasted traffic.

You need to target the keywords that bring the right people to your blog — because the right people on the right page are far more likely to choose to sign up so they can receive more content from you.

Now over to you …

Writing online is not just about headlines, blog posts, and grammar. It’s also about the freedom to test new ideas and discover different methods to display your copy.

How do you experiment with your writing to drive more email subscriptions? Has anything you tried worked particularly well? (Or not worked at all?)

Let’s continue the discussion on Google+.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Shandi-lee Cox.

Editor’s note: If you’d like to learn more about the connection between blogging and email marketing, we recommend Beth Hayden’s post 8 Smart Ways to Combine Blogging with Email Marketing for Best-Selling Success.

About the Author: Ramsay Taplin is known as The Blog Tyrant, a 25-year-old guy from Australia who has sold several websites for large sums of money and now shares his methods for growing your blog and dominating your niche. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or sign up for his email updates.

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No Blog Traffic? Here’s a Simple Strategy to Seduce Readers and Win Clients http://www.copyblogger.com/simple-blog-strategy/ http://www.copyblogger.com/simple-blog-strategy/#respond Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=41807 You sit down at your desk. You start your computer. You check Google Analytics and your email provider dashboard. A deep sigh escapes from your soul. Why is your number of email subscribers still so low? Why aren’t readers flocking to your blog? And when will those business inquiries finally arrive? We all know that

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image of a coffee cup with an intricate design in the foam and a cookie next to it on the saucer

You sit down at your desk.

You start your computer.

You check Google Analytics and your email provider dashboard. A deep sigh escapes from your soul.

Why is your number of email subscribers still so low?

Why aren’t readers flocking to your blog?

And when will those business inquiries finally arrive?

We all know that blogging is hard work, but what should you do when your efforts don’t seem to pay off?

Should you cross your fingers and keep plugging away? Hope that your readership will snowball? Pray that business inquiries will soon flood your inbox?

You need a new blog strategy, not wishful thinking.

When your blog isn’t doing as well as you’d like, don’t simply step up your efforts. Don’t keep slaving away.

Instead, take a step back and review what you’ve done so far. Do you have the right building blocks in place to seduce readers and win clients?

If you want to create a simple blog plan that will help you win more readers, fans, and clients, answer the five critical questions below.

Sound good?

Let’s start with understanding your reader.

1. Who is your one fan?

You might be aiming to gain 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 blog readers.

But when you think about large numbers of readers, you turn people into a faceless crowd. And when you write for a faceless crowd, your writing becomes colorless, drab, and boring.

Do you think Stephen King focuses on millions of readers when writing his bestsellers?

In his book On Writing, King tells us he writes for one reader only — his wife. When he writes, he doesn’t wonder whether his millions of fans will enjoy his new book. He wonders, “What will Tabitha think about this section?”

When you write for one reader, your blog instantly becomes more engaging, personal, and persuasive. You’ll get more comments and shares, which will help you generate ideas for new blog posts.

Do you know your one fan?

Can you imagine picking up the phone, sharing a joke, and asking her view on your latest blog post?

Your ideal reader, your one fan, can be an imaginary person, your favorite customer, or a composite of various people you know.

To visualize your one fan, go beyond demographics. Understand her dreams and struggles. Empathize with her, and inspire her.

If you’d like a little help with creating your fan’s profile, download a free form here (no opt-in required).

2. Why would your fan read your blog?

Your blog might help you achieve a number of goals — generate more traffic to your website, raise your profile, boost your authority, gain more clients, etc.

But have you thought about what’s in it for your favorite fan?

Why would he read your blog?

Your blog reader isn’t interested in your company objectives or your personal aims. He doesn’t want to hear your promotional messages, your sales pitches, or even your company story.

He simply wants to know what’s in it for him. How can you take away his problems? How can you make him happier or more successful?

Here’s a quick exercise:

  1. Don’t think about your objectives.
  2. Quit worrying about business and sales.
  3. Finish this sentence: My favorite fan reads my blog because I help him …

A few examples:

  • As a marketing coach, you might want to help freelance writers find
    higher-paying clients.
  • As a web developer, you could help small business marketers create websites that convert more web visitors into leads.
  • As a premium social media app marketer, you could teach entrepreneurs how to network with influencers on Twitter.

Your blog purpose defines how you help your readers and keeps you focused on engaging and inspiring them.

That’s how your blog becomes a must-read resource in your niche.

3. Does each blog post help your fan?

Do you write for yourself or for your favorite fan?

To engage your readers and win business, you must write for your fans. You must write about the topics they crave.

Don’t wait until you have to write your next blog post to generate ideas. Spend 30 minutes this week brainstorming at least 30 ideas.

Here’s how you can generate 30 ideas in fewer than 30 minutes …

First, get away from your computer, and think about your favorite fan. Now, kickstart your brainstorming session with these questions, keeping in mind ways you can help:

  • What are her dreams?
  • What are her struggles?
  • Which difficult decisions does she have to make?
  • Which hot industry topics does she follow?
  • Which mistakes does she make?
  • Which buying decisions does she need to make?
  • Which resources could educate her?
  • What could experts teach her?
  • What questions does she have?

Stop creating content for the sake of creating content.

Instead, create a business blog for your readers.

Inquiries will flood your inbox once your authority grows.

4. Can your fans find you?

As a Copyblogger reader, you know about content marketing. You know you need to create quality content and promote it.

But this is where many of us get stuck.

Promoting content feels like a giant time-suck — an endless list of must-dos that you’re never able to complete.

How can you promote your content without going crazy? Let’s add some sanity to your content distribution plan:

How can you make time for guest blogging?
Guest blogging is the quickest way to boost your authority, gain valuable links, and increase email subscribers. If you struggle to find time for guest blogging, consider reducing your publishing schedule. Write a guest post one week and a post for your own blog the next week.

Which social media channels do you currently enjoy the most?
Be active on the platforms where your fans hang out and where you enjoy hanging out. When you enjoy yourself, you gain a wider audience and create more engagement. To start, choose two or three channels.

How well-established is your site?
Driving SEO traffic to a totally new site isn’t easy. If your blog is new, and you don’t know much about SEO yet, focus on other traffic-generating activities first. You can plan for future traffic with some smart SEO fundamentals, but don’t expect SEO traffic to be significant in the early stages.

Can new fans find your blog?
A blog without a promotional strategy is like a restaurant that’s not listed on a map. The establishment lacks diners because nobody knows how to get there. Guide readers to your blog with simple tactics, and don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. Do you build long-term relationships?

It’s easy to forget that people buy from people. The concept is a cliché, but it’s true.

Before people will hire you or buy your products, you need to build relationships:

To turn your readers into avid fans and loyal buyers, be a good friend. Don’t treat them like numbers.

Here’s what to do next

Ready to generate some serious business with your blog?

Follow these steps:

  1. Over the next five days, block 30 minutes for reviewing your blog.
  2. On day one, create a profile of your favorite fan.
  3. On day two, write down your blog purpose and discover why your fans come to your blog.
  4. On day three, think about your favorite fan and write down at least 30 blog topics that he’d love to read.
  5. On day four, review your blog promotion strategy. How can you reach more people in the time available to you? Which activities can you cut? How can you experiment?
  6. On day five, consider your email strategy. How can you build a closer relationship with the fans on your list?

The simple truth about your business blog

Of course you’d love to get more clicks, shares, and comments. But the truth is, these factors don’t matter.

Authentic engagement with the people who might want to buy from you is what matters.

Develop relationships with your readers. Put them first.

That’s how you win more business.

Your opportunity to seduce

Does your blog strategy keep readers engaged with your writing and serve their needs?

How does your content help readers know, like, and trust you?

Let’s discuss turning your audience into buyers over on Google+!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via HarshLight.

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer. She's on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

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Pamela Wilson Is Now Working With the Copyblogger Team http://www.copyblogger.com/pamela-wilson-copyblogger/ http://www.copyblogger.com/pamela-wilson-copyblogger/#respond Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42937 I am so pleased to announce that Pamela Wilson is going to be working with the Copyblogger Media team on some cool new projects. You may know Pamela from her many Copyblogger posts, or from her business, Big Brand System, where she gives out lots of great business and design advice to help business owners

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Designer and business educator Pamela Wilson

I am so pleased to announce that Pamela Wilson is going to be working with the Copyblogger Media team on some cool new projects.

You may know Pamela from her many Copyblogger posts, or from her business, Big Brand System, where she gives out lots of great business and design advice to help business owners look more professional, cohesive, and successful. She’s an award-winning graphic designer and marketing consultant who’s been helping small businesses and large organizations create “big brands” since 1987.

Pamela also has a real gift for taking complex marketing tasks and breaking them into easy-to-understand sequences.

She’ll be helping us to create some great new educational resources for content marketers of all levels — from business owners who aren’t too sure what this “content marketing” thing is all about, to seasoned copywriters, to WordPress designers, developers, and aficionados.

She’s also going to help us with the massive undertaking of mining the Copyblogger archives for the very best material, and sharing it with you in a more accessible way.

Everyone on the team is as excited as can be to have her with us, and we hope you’ll join us in giving her a warm welcome. :) You can send her a more personal greeting over at Google Plus.

About the author

Sonia Simone


Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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Master This Storytelling Technique to Create an Irresistible Content Series http://www.copyblogger.com/master-storytelling/ http://www.copyblogger.com/master-storytelling/#respond Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42539 In this cold, hard, commercial world, everyone is looking for answers online. We are all “searchers” looking for the best way to solve a problem or satisfy a desire. And we are ruthless … We make split-second decisions about clicking a headline. How does your website look at a glance? If you try to consummate the fragile exchange of attention and

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man telling a story at a cafe

In this cold, hard, commercial world, everyone is looking for answers online.

We are all “searchers” looking for the best way to solve a problem or satisfy a desire.

And we are ruthless …

We make split-second decisions about clicking a headline.

How does your website look at a glance?

If you try to consummate the fragile exchange of attention and education too quickly with a “buy this” button, you’ll likely lose long-term prospects and lifetime sales.

The reality is — whether you sell garden hoses or reputation management services — you have to master the know-like-trust factor first.

How do you accomplish this vital component of content marketing?

You educate people step-by-step.

And, if you ignite a feeling that inspires a commercial transaction, then you’ve created successful content marketing.

You lift prospects out of their ordinary worlds and invite them to consider a journey that ultimately leads to a transaction.

This article is all about how you create that journey.

Welcome to storyboarding

One idea we are quite fond of around here is the hero’s journey. It’s content marketing that educates your audience through the storytelling arc, and it works best with a blog series.

For example, last year I wrote a series on Google Authorship and Google+. It was a six-post series.

I could have approached the task by simply gathering and presenting the facts. Unfortunately, there were smarter people than me who’d already done that. I needed to give our audience something they couldn’t get elsewhere.

You, as you probably know, have the same problem. Some call it content shock.

It’s just reality.

The same was true this year when I tackled native advertising. I was late to this party, but we wanted to create a resource for our audience that added value to the current conversation. So, among other things, I used a special technique to create that content.

Storyboarding.

Radio commercial advertisers, television directors, animators, and screenwriters all employee this technique. And it’s something that content creators like you can use, too.

Here are six steps to help you storyboard an irresistible content series.

1. Discover your ideal audience

Do you even know what your audience looks like?

Keep in mind, this step is not about drafting a buyer persona. Instead, we want to figure out who your ideal audience is.

Fortunately, you can discover the answer by using an empathy map.

empathy-map

An empathy map is a simple tool that helps you crawl into the shoes of your customers. Here’s how you create an empathy map on your whiteboard or large sheet of paper:

  • Draw a large square.
  • Divide that square into four quadrants.
  • Label the quadrants “Think and Feel,” “See,” “Say and Do,” and “Hear.”
  • Create two boxes below labeled “Pain” and “Gain.”

Ask simple, open-ended questions to your audience:

  • What do you want to know?
  • Why?
  • What keeps you up at night?

On the diagram, fill in the responses, especially the ones that challenge your assumptions about what you thought you knew. Then, you begin to empathize with your ideal audience.

Empathy is really understanding, seeing, and relating to a person’s views. When someone has a certain belief about the world and you confirm it for him, that’s a very powerful psychological connection.

One of the beautiful benefits of the audience-first approach is that when you create content that resonates with people, and it’s well-organized and easily discoverable, then it gets shared and you get the links you want.

2. Inform your hunch

A good blog series starts with a hunch. A theory. An idea about how you think the world works, how certain problems should be solved.

This hunch may be fuzzy. It might just be a word or two. Whatever it is, use it as a stepping stone.

This will get you started in the right direction. Next, do this:

  • Exhaust the search engine: Jump on your favorite search engine and pull up all the articles on your topic. Follow links, take notes, recognize where people are going, trends that are developing. If you don’t find much material, you may be onto something rare. That’s not a bad thing. But it hardly happens. Keep digging.
  • Expose the keywords: Keyword research helps you see where your root idea branches off. Google Keyword Tool or Scribe can help you see how topics are related. You’ll discover new connections. You might want to take a look at Neil Patel’s article on semantic research to learn how to group these keywords.
  • Conduct interviews: Reach out to people who advocate for and against your position. Adding quotes from authorities to your articles adds a depth and freshness that people appreciate. This is good journalism. This is good content direction.
  • Survey: Both readers and Google are looking for original and fresh content. One of the best ways to produce it is to develop an idea out of an original survey. This was the approach I took with the native advertising series. I had a hunch about native advertising — namely, it was a hot topic inside the industry, but everyone else (including many marketers) was clueless. The results from the survey helped inform the direction and content of the series.
  • Eavesdrop on the competition: The next step to understanding topics and language is to get out there and see what else there is. Don’t be intimidated by the level of competition. Find the holes. Find out what you can do differently. Find out what people complain about.

It’s “marketing research tough love.”

As Brian Clark said:

You effectively need to grill yourself on your own assumptions and expectations of how you think this particular idea or industry or content marketing approach is going to go. Then you need to effectively try to disprove yourself. There is no fault or crime in being wrong, as long as you find out you’re wrong before it’s too late.

baked-potato

3. Compile

Next, gather all of your material.

How you compile depends upon your style. I prefer a large whiteboard.

I collect all my notes on Evernote and then list them on the whiteboard. This is where the story of your series starts to take shape.

whiteboard-storytelling

You make categories, and then drop related notes beneath the labels.

At the compilation stage, you will discover holes in your research. More questions will be raised. Make notes about these questions and gaps.

You’ll come across further questions later in the writing process, as well. That’s fine. Repeat Step Two as many times as needed.

4. Create a narrative

This is where you bring it all together. One way to think about this process is episodic education. We are taking a playbook out of cable television, motion pictures, commercials, radio, and animation.

In other words, storyboarding is a technique that visualizes the sequence of a story.

Here’s a classic example of a storyboard. In this scene, Forrest Gump compares scars with Lyndon B. Johnson.

forrestgump-storyboard

According to the DGA Quarterly, “Chris Bonura’s storyboards helped director Robert Zemeckis meld archival footage with new footage.”

As a writer, storyboarding helps you:

  • Define the parameters of a story within available resources and time
  • Organize and focus a story
  • Figure out what medium to use for each part of the story
  • Start and publish the first article without writing the remaining articles

Once you’ve compiled your facts, think about the narrative flow.

How is each individual article going to dovetail into the next? What is the central conflict? The main challenge?

This won’t be as neat as a novel, and you won’t use illustrations (unless you have the talent). You just need to arrange your ideas into a story-like sequence.

See, your story needs a framework, and this is where the idea of scaffolding is helpful. It gives dimension and direction to your series. Scaffolding helps you corral and streamline all of your research into one big idea.

This could be as simple as using the 5 W’s or the copywriting formula Problem-Agitate-Solve.

In addition, a framework builds anticipation into each article. With each article in the series, you program your readers to anticipate the next scene in the story. But you can’t storyboard effectively, however, until you have a hook that unifies the entire series.

5. Find the hook

The hook is the unifying theme. It could be a motif. A worldview. But it always involves conflict.

In the Google Authorship series, the hook was the shared fear of obscurity that most writers suffer. That concern was manifested in the opening article with the introduction of Hunter S. Thompson, an apt mascot for our series and our culture.

In 1959, before his fame, Thompson wrote:

As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says, ‘you are nothing,’ I will be a writer.

He wondered why he had to park his personality at the door. Why can’t he, the journalist, be a central part of the story? Thompson went on to challenge other journalistic conventions, and make history.

And that conflict — the fear of authorial obscurity — became the central motif behind the Google Authorship series. Thompson was the hero we were happy to follow.

His spirit remained throughout the series, but discovering that motif was not instantaneous. Hooks will hide from you. You must dig (see Step Two).

6. Repurpose

Finally, after all that research and note-taking and storyboarding, you’ll write that first article, and before you know it, six weeks have gone by and you are exhausted.

But don’t rest yet. There’s still something else you need to think about: repurposing your content.

Could your series work as a:

  • Podcast series
  • Book
  • SlideShare
  • Sequence of email autoresponder messages
  • Video seminar
  • Landing page

All of the above? Probably so.

You can put your creation in each new medium over a long period of time, always directing traffic to the original posts, giving life to your archives. And even make money from those old posts.

Let’s not forget, your blog series can also become cornerstone content.

Your turn

So, at the end of the day, if you want to capture the attention of a prospect hell-bent on finding what she wants, then create a content series that answers her most pressing needs or satisfies her curiosity — in a manner that appeals to the way she thinks, feels, and acts.

But storyboard it, like you were creating a cable television show or comic book.

This is a gentle, non-threatening way to open up the relationship — one where you respect your prospect, and, ultimately, your prospect recognizes and respects your authority. She views spending money with you as a sound investment.

And for one final example of a content series built like a story, check out our New Rainmaker podcast hosted by Robert Bruce and Brian Clark.

Let us know what you think here.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Jim Pennucci.

About the author

Demian Farnworth


Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media's Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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7 Lessons Learned While Content Marketing for an Early-Stage Startup http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing-for-startups/ http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing-for-startups/#respond Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42715 If you’re marketing for an early-stage startup, every second counts. Any mistake is a massive setback. Setbacks ultimately lose potential customers. During our content marketing journey with Spectafy, a real-time photo sharing app, we made plenty of mistakes. Fortunately for you, we kept track of what works and what doesn’t to help you avoid wasting

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quill pen and apple on podium in front of chalkboard

If you’re marketing for an early-stage startup, every second counts.

Any mistake is a massive setback.

Setbacks ultimately lose potential customers.

During our content marketing journey with Spectafy, a real-time photo sharing app, we made plenty of mistakes.

Fortunately for you, we kept track of what works and what doesn’t to help you avoid wasting time with your own content marketing efforts.

Background: What is Spectafy?

Spectafy is a real-time photo sharing app that allows you to choose a location, such as the beach, and request an image from that location.

Someone at the location will be prompted to reply with an image, and then you will know how busy it is, what the weather is like, and how big the waves are, to help you determine whether or not you want to go there.

Now that you know what the app does, let’s jump straight in!

Here are seven content marketing lessons we learned while launching Spectafy that you can adopt for your startup.

1. Choose benefits over features

For the first few weeks, we wasted a lot of time trying to explain Spectafy.

This was a huge mistake.

Once we used UserTesting to get objective feedback, we discovered we were trying to talk about what Spectafy can do in as few words as possible, rather than showing what you can do with Spectafy.

Focus on the benefit of your product or service.

In May, we changed our headline from “Spectafy gives you real-time visual information, instantly” to simply, “See what’s happening right now.”

Over the next 30 days, we had an 184.62-percent conversion rate increase on the homepage, which led to a 275-percent increase in goal completions for our early-access call to action at the bottom of the page.

Lesson learned: Focus on benefits, and show those benefits, rather than explaining features.

2. Show, don’t tell

Don’t skimp on visuals.

People retain over 80 percent of what they experience visually, while they tend to only retain 10 percent of what they hear and 20 percent of what they read.

effective visual representations

A reader is far more likely to remember a visual representation of a headline or action. Icons are popular because they’re easily recalled and actionable. (That’s why so many icons are included in the landing page feature of Rainmaker.)

Throughout the Spectafy homepage, we displayed visuals of specific use cases.

visual achors

These beautiful and educational visual representations helped anchor the user’s attention and led to a 331.25-percent increase in conversions to our early-access list from the homepage in one month.

Lesson learned: Copy is powerful but visuals assist comprehension and boost conversion.

3. Use local-targeted content

We focused a lot of our content and examples around activities the Spectafy team would personally use the app for within the local San Francisco community: finding the perfect surf spot, locating pickup basketball games, visiting the farmers’ market, or going to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We built “personas” for our preferred audience (on-the-go people in San Francisco), which established a subliminal connection to the benefits of using the app.

By announcing early on through blog posts, email newsletters, and beta list sites that we would first launch in San Francisco, we had a 550-percent increase in conversions from California, and a 2,900-percent increase in conversions in San Francisco month-over-month for our early-access beta.

Specifying a launch location and focusing on local content breeds trust from people within a community and increases the probability that they will sign up.

Lesson learned: Focusing on a small audience helps you hit a big market by facilitating a sharing mentality within a very engaged community.

4. Evaluate traffic sources

Early on, as any startup should, we tried to generate traffic from content we had on the site.

One way we decided to do this, mainly due to our involvement in the community on these platforms, was to promote our content on Reddit and StumbleUpon.

We quickly learned it wasn’t worth the time.

On Reddit, we had a ton of views and impressions on our blog posts and a good amount of feedback in the comments, but no conversions.

StumbleUpon was essentially the same experience. Even though it remains our largest traffic source, it hasn’t produced any conversions.

Lesson learned: StumbleUpon and Reddit don’t produce genuine engagement. Targeted lists will convert better.

5. Focus on the right audience

After we learned that Reddit and StumbleUpon don’t convert, we targeted a list of startup sites that feature early-stage startups and promote their content.

We quickly learned that this was the best option for promoting Spectafy off-site, other than through editorial content.

Betalist is the king.

When Spectafy’s Betalist listing went live, we had a surge of highly primed traffic that converted like magic. We have a 21.63-percent conversion rate from traffic referred from Betalist’s “Visit Site” link.

spectafy

We made sure the homepage converted perfectly before this listing went live, so we could reap every bit of the benefit from this highly targeted traffic, and boy did it work. It remains the highest converting referrer to Spectafy.

Lesson learned: Focus on engaged networks that are primed to convert. You may receive less traffic, but you’ll get far more conversions.

6. Syndicate content

Syndicating content has been a no-no in the SEO community for quite a while, but I pretty much set that aside and said “to hell with it” when implementing this tactic for Spectafy.

I’ve gained a quick flood of traffic from personal Medium posts when they connect with the right group, so I decided to apply the same principles to see if we could create some cool content marketing buzz around Spectafy.

I added Eric, the CEO of Spectafy, as a “writer” for my “Coffee Time” collection on Medium, a collection specifically focusing on productivity tactics and information that can be consumed in a coffee break. My “Coffee Time” collection has over 1,000 followers, so he would instantly reach a good number of readers.

coffee-time

We nailed down topics that would go over well on this collection, but also on Medium as a whole, just in case they were picked up on the front page of the site (where the real floodgates of traffic open up).

While our Spectafy blog posts all had a strong call to action, our Medium blog posts were less direct.

We pushed out a few posts, and one in particular had over 1,500 views in two days; it also got picked up in the “Most Recommended” section on Medium’s front page. The post was named “3 Types of Visual Information We Use Everyday, And Why They Work” and converted well due to the large amount of useful information and strong visual themes.

Medium actually has had less referral traffic than Reddit or StumbleUpon, yet Medium traffic converts better than Reddit, StumbleUpon, Facebook, and Twitter combined.

Lesson learned: We haven’t had any negative SEO repercussions from syndicating quality content on Medium, and it remains one of our highest converting sources of traffic.

Editor’s note: To ensure that search engines know the syndicated article originated on your site, be sure to use the rel=”canonical” meta tag to point back to the original article from the syndicated page.

7. Satirical landing pages don’t work

When we were writing one of our blog posts, “The End Goal of Productivity is Not More Time for Kitten Videos,” we had this funny idea to make satirical landing pages focusing on Internet fads.

Specifically we focused on kittens and Game of Thrones.

game-of-thrones

We linked to these pages and promoted them within the blog post, essentially thinking that it would be funny to bait people into clicking on these pages, and when they got there they would laugh and sign up.

We overlooked the fact that we had tricked them into clicking on a sign-up page and they would probably react to this betrayal with a bounce, instead of a sign up.

That’s exactly what happened.

These pages had a ton of traffic and not a single conversion.

Lesson learned: Don’t use tricks; they don’t convert. This kind of content may be fun to make, and it may even quickly communicate a bit of company culture, but you don’t want to trick your customers. Period.

Let’s hear about your content marketing lessons

What content marketing lessons have you learned while developing your business?

Have you ever tried any of the strategies listed above?

Click over to Google+ to discuss!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tom Gill.

Editor’s note: If you found this post useful, we recommend you read this case study about one of the most famous and inspiring content marketing success stories: Case Study: How Content Marketing Saved this Brick-and-Mortar Business.

About the Author: Sean Smith is a content marketer and social media strategy consultant, having worked with brands like Best Western, Holiday Inn, Bidsketch, and Baker Hughes to boost revenue through clever content and community building. He’s a lead marketeer at SimpleTiger digital marketing, and a consultant for hire. Get more from Sean on Twitter.

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The Prepared Writer’s Process for Creating Excellent Content Every Day http://www.copyblogger.com/content-every-day/ http://www.copyblogger.com/content-every-day/#respond Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42543 I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning. ~ William Faulkner Authors often claim that writing a book is like having a baby — both in effort and length of time. Since I’ve done both myself, I would personally insist that birthing a child is, in fact,

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a watch and pen on a notepad with a mind map

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning. ~ William Faulkner

Authors often claim that writing a book is like having a baby — both in effort and length of time.

Since I’ve done both myself, I would personally insist that birthing a child is, in fact, more difficult.

There is value in the comparison though.

Even when you write from a place of passion and purpose, you may still have trouble birthing your important ideas consistently.

Babies tend to come into the world when they are ready, but how do you regularly give birth to remarkable content?

You have to command it.

Rather than waiting for inspiration to strike, I take control of the content on my blog.

The secret of the prepared writer

I’ve been a writer for over a decade.

I began as a journalist and my reporting experience has greatly contributed to the success of my blog, but for reasons you might not expect.

Of course I was trained to follow grammar rules and avoid commonly misused words, but the real value was the practice of writing daily, on subjects I didn’t necessarily care about, and meeting a deadline.

I also knew that potentially thousands of people were going to read my work, so mediocre effort was not an option.

During those years of reporting, and throughout more than five years of blogging, I’ve also never encountered writer’s block. In fact, I don’t believe it actually exists.

Why?

Because writing good content, like anything else, requires proper research, planning, and execution. A prepared writer can implement a system to prevent writer’s block.

I developed a process that allowed me to write articles in under an hour and hand them off to my editor, and I still use this process each day when I blog.

This process assumes you already have two foundations in place:

  • A content strategy — before I created my blog, I mapped out my ultimate goal and the content I would need to write to accomplish it. I created 300 post topics and planned how they all would eventually link to each other.
  • An ultimate goal — my writing goal is to provide useful information that will aid my readers in making lasting changes for our children’s futures. My ultimate goal keeps me focused on writing content that my readers will be able to find, enjoy, and use immediately.

Here is my step-by-step process. See if it will work for you as well as it’s work for me …

1. Create a writing environment

I discovered early in my journalism career that optimizing a writing environment and creating rituals are important. I optimize my environment by removing all of the excuses and interruptions that slow down the writing process.

My current writing environment is a room in my house where I can put on soft music, avoid outside noise, have a cup of coffee or tea, and turn off the Internet. Years ago, I didn’t have the luxury of writing in the same place every day, so I created a writing environment with music on my CD player and a cup of coffee.

Creating a special writing environment trains your mind to get in the mood to write when you are in that space.

I’ve practiced this routine for so long that even a cup of coffee is usually enough to get me in the zone to write these days.

2. Schedule writing time

If you’ve used the excuse you don’t have time to write, writing isn’t a priority for you.

Harsh?

Maybe, but consider this: I have five children and the oldest is seven. I homeschool them. Our family is involved in multiple sports and activities. I cook 21 meals a week from scratch. I just finished the first draft of a cookbook. And I have written over 750 blog posts in the last three and a half years.

It comes down to priorities.

Blogging is on my daily schedule. In fact, I block off one hour and treat it with the same importance that I treat a doctor’s appointment or my son’s baseball game. I won’t miss it.

I stand at my desk (standing helps my creative juices), and for that hour I do nothing but write or attempt to write.

If I finish one post, I start on another one until that hour is up.

Then, I stop.

Schedule this time every day, even if you don’t need to create a new post. The extra writing time will help you become a better writer and give you time to practice without the pressure of having to hit Publish.

3. Have a framework

One of the most frustrating aspects of blogging is the ailment known as “what-should-I-write-about-today-itis.” To avoid this illness of mind, I have a framework for topics I write about for different days of the week.

For me, this is:

  • Monday: health/core content
  • Tuesday: natural living
  • Wednesday: recipes
  • Thursday: DIY

I have individual checklists for the structures of each of these types of posts to make the writing process faster. The more structure you add to the framework, the less you have to start from scratch each time you write.

Once you have established your content strategy and ultimate goal, split up your post topics into categories that refer back to your cornerstone content.

A framework also provides consistency for your readers and teaches them what to expect from you so that you can become an authoritative online presence in your area of speciality.

I also keep a running list of possible blog topics organized by category in Evernote for easy reference when writing.

4. Outline for two minutes

Sit down with a piece of paper and pen and create a two-minute outline for the content you plan to write.

I start by writing the topic and working title at the top of the page. Then, I number three to five main points (or occasionally up to nine) and fill in bullet points under each of these sections.

Use the full two minutes to get all of your ideas on paper before you begin so you can write the full post quickly.

5. Write 200 words

I only commit to writing the first 200 words after I outline. After 200 words, I re-read what I’ve written and make sure that I like the direction of the post. If not, I re-start with a new direction.

I very rarely have to restart, but taking 30 seconds to reread and reevaluate helps refine the focus on my post.

If I start over, I’ll save the 200 words I’ve already written in another document, so I can use them later in the post or for another post.

6. Refine

Spend 10 to 15 minutes refining and editing your content. If you have an editor, you get to skip this step.

I don’t, so I use the last 10 to 15 minutes of my writing time to find weak sections and refine the content. I usually trim down a blog post by a few hundred words and add links to relevant content.

7. Optimize

After I’ve written a post, I run through the following checklist before I publish:

  • Set the featured image and make sure it’s eye-catching
  • Run WordPress SEO by Yoast
  • Run Scribe Content Optimizer

Bonus exercises: creativity triggers if you get stuck

If I’m really having trouble getting into the writing zone, I take two minutes to do one of these creativity triggers:

  • Read an unrelated article that is inspiring or funny
  • Stand on your head (really, it gets the blood flowing!)
  • Review your cornerstone content to ensure your post aligns with your goals

Now over to you …

Have you ever struggled to get in the mood to write?

Does a blogging schedule and routine help keep you on track?

Let’s go over to Google+ and discuss other ways to birth extraordinary content on our blogs.

Editor’s note: if you found this article useful, we recommend you read 10 Rules for Writing First Drafts and download the free poster to hang up in your writing space.

About the Author: Katie, a.k.a. The Wellness Mama, is a blogger, podcaster, author, wife, and mother of five. She blogs about health, nutrition, motherhood, natural remedies, and organic living at WellnessMama.com. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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Use Images (Not Just Words) to Turn Your Distracted Visitors into Engaged Readers http://www.copyblogger.com/use-images/ http://www.copyblogger.com/use-images/#respond Mon, 07 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=41762 If you have kids — or if you’ve ever been around kids — you’ve heard the sound before. It’s a noise that’s somewhere between the cry of a lost wolf cub and the wail of a nearby car alarm. It’s one of the most annoying sounds you’ll ever hear. It’s the ear-piercing cry of a

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woman taking iPhone photo

If you have kids — or if you’ve ever been around kids — you’ve heard the sound before.

It’s a noise that’s somewhere between the cry of a lost wolf cub and the wail of a nearby car alarm. It’s one of the most annoying sounds you’ll ever hear.

It’s the ear-piercing cry of a child who has been over-stimulated.

The angelic child becomes a hot mess of whiny, clingy neediness.

If you’re the adult in charge and you manage to keep a cool head, you say something like, “Calm down. I don’t understand what you need. Use your words.”

And sometimes it works. It stops children long enough to engage their brains rather than just their emotions, and they are able to communicate what they need.

As consumers of information online, we’re a little like that over-stimulated child.

But as producers of online content, one of the worst things we can do is throw more words at our readers. Because the best way to reach an over-stimulated population is to offer something different. How do we do that?

I propose you offer an image.

We are visual people

More than half the surface of the brain is reserved for processing visual information.

With that much brain power behind understanding visuals, it makes sense to harness the power of images to communicate our messages.

Besides, we all know we’re drowning in words.

So. Much. Content.

Not. Enough. Time.

Fortunately, images are processed in a different part of our brains than words. Using them gives the over-stimulated, word-crunching parts of our brains a break. And images will help your carefully crafted words attract and hold attention and have more impact.

Harness the power of images

We’re living in an amazing time for people with the courage to learn new skills online. There are tools and resources available to all of us — many of them free — that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

Let’s review some of our options when it comes to image creation, starting with the pure DIY track.

Make your own images
Most of us are walking around with powerful cameras right on our phones.

You may feel like you’re not a competent photographer, but consistently using a service like Instagram can increase your confidence.

Instagram’s square format forces you to focus on the most important elements in your viewfinder, and the easy-to-apply effects make even ordinary photos more interesting.

A content marketing bonus? You can set up your account so it posts to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook all at once. That’s what I call social media efficiency.

When looking for images to use in your blog posts and email marketing, think beyond images with people. Focus on showing the telling details instead.

For example, zoom in on the tools you use to do your work, whether they’re machines, computers, paintbrushes, or a big stack of books. Let viewers into your world by sharing close-ups from your environment.

Enlist stock photos
Stock photo sites are pretty amazing. I still remember the days when stock photo catalogs would arrive at the design studio where I worked in the early days of my career. They were bulky, unwieldy, and printed on paper. (Can you imagine?)

Plus, those stock photos each cost several hundred dollars, and the exact prices depended on how you would use the images. Once you received an image, which came in slide form, you had to pay to have it scanned and converted so you could use it in print.

Now, we have access to thousands of searchable, inexpensive stock images on sites such as:

And there are plenty of free stock image sites, too. Here are a few of my favorites:

To use photos from these sites for business purposes, be sure to review and respect any licenses associated with the images. And steer clear of the obvious, overused images and lame visual clichés.

Modify images with easy-to-use online tools
Unless you purchase exclusive rights to a stock image, you won’t be the only person using it.

The solution? Modify the image — add a filter, crop it creatively, or add text to it. My favorite sites for editing images are:

Remember, you want your image to be easy to “read” visually. Use filters that enhance, not obliterate, the original image.

If you decide to add text, use a clear, high-contrast font so the message can be read and understood in a single glance.

Dig into Flickr’s Creative Commons
Flickr has a deep well of images by photographers who’ve agreed to share their photos on a Creative Commons license. You’ll notice you see many Flickr images on Copyblogger. They take longer to find, but if you take the time they often bring a creativity that can be hard to find on the stock sites.

Searching Flickr by “Creative Commons” allows you to look through photos with a variety of licenses that allow you to share, adapt, or even use for commercial purposes. Be sure you understand what rights you have — and don’t have — for a given image. The broadest license is “Attribution Only,” which needs only credit and a link to the creator.

Keep in mind that it it takes time to find the great photos in the sea of amateur images. Copyblogger likes to build relationships with exceptional photographers on Flickr, in some cases even those who retain copyright of their work. The photographer gets a wider audience, and Copyblogger gets fantastic images. It’s a win-win.

Lead with an image

Our brains also process images faster than words.

Way faster.

Visual information is processed 60,000 times faster than text.

Images at the top of blog posts work so well because they make an immediate impact and open the door to the rest of the information you present.

When you choose your image carefully, it can add shades of meaning to your content.

Look for images beyond typical stock photo fare. Avoid overly posed and polished images that feature professional models. Aim to find images that feature everyday people.

Avoid the obvious, and go for subtlety.

Get radical: consider only using images

Sometimes, an image can stand alone– whether it’s on your blog or social media.

Take, for example, this popular infographic here on Copyblogger: 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs.

It’s strongly visual content (paired, of course, with some well-chosen words), and as of this writing it has been shared more than 3,000 times on Twitter.

If you want to stretch this idea a bit, video is another format for sharing compelling content.

Think outside the word box

The next time you need a direct line to the inside of your prospects’ brains, consider an image.

If you’d like to chat more about how to use images to communicate your message, click over to Google+, and we’ll compare notes there.

Editor’s Note: If you are excited to learn more about how incorporating images increases the impact of your blog posts, we recommend you read this post by Alex Turnbull next: The 8 Types of Images That Increase the Psychological Impact of Your Content.

Image via Death to the Stock Photo.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson founded Big Brand System to empower small business owners with marketing and design information that gives their businesses an edge. Want to learn more about using images to communicate? Sign up for the free 12 Days of Visual Buzz series here.

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How to Be in the Top 5% of Bloggers: New Research Results http://www.copyblogger.com/blogger-research/ http://www.copyblogger.com/blogger-research/#respond Wed, 02 Jul 2014 16:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42521 We’ve said it so often you’re probably sick of it. Content marketing doesn’t work unless the content is genuinely worth reading. Routine, phone-it-in content won’t get you the audience, the leads, the prospects, or the conversions you need. Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media Studios is one of the content marketers who really gets it.

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Department of Blogging Labor Seal

We’ve said it so often you’re probably sick of it.

Content marketing doesn’t work unless the content is genuinely worth reading.

Routine, phone-it-in content won’t get you the audience, the leads, the prospects, or the conversions you need.

Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media Studios is one of the content marketers who really gets it. When I found out that Andy had conducted a survey of more than 1,000 bloggers about the specifics of how they work, I knew that I wanted to get a post together to share our takeaways from the survey.

Good content takes time. It’s a lot of work. And it can be hard to put the time in when we have deadlines and publishing calendars to meet.

This tension is built into the lives of all content marketers. Every blogger and every content creator is looking for that balance between quality and quantity. All of us.

So how much time and how much work does it really take?

Let’s dig into some specifics from the Orbit survey and see what we can glean.

The quality factor

The first thing the data shows is a huge difference in the amount of time spent per post among bloggers.

  • 54 percent of bloggers spend fewer than 2 hours on a typical post
  • Just 5.5 percent of bloggers spend 6+ hours per post

The survey shows other big differences in what people put into their content.

  • Only 15 percent of bloggers have a formal editing process
  • 4.9 percent of bloggers write 1500+ words in a typical post
  • Less than half of bloggers use multiple images
  • 14.7 percent are adding video

In case you’re curious, on Copyblogger the typical post takes about 5-7 hours to create (sometimes quite a bit more), but that work is spread out over several content creators. Because we have the luxury of an editorial staff, we have a multi-stage editorial process in addition to the time that the original writer spends on each post.

If you don’t have a team of writers, don’t worry. Solo content creators can absolutely create excellent content, and some of the most wonderful blogs on the web are produced by individuals.

One key is to give yourself enough time to create quality work. Strong writing is a product of many factors, but those factors always include time for proofreading, editing, fact-checking, and rewriting.

Make the commitment to producing your content in several phases — a draft phase, an editing phase, a fact-check phase, and a final “picky” proofreading phase.

The Rule of 24 is an excellent one for every writer. Allow at least 24 hours between your draft phase and your editing phase whenever humanly possible.

In order to make this happen, we have to get real about the quantity of content you’ll be able to produce.

The quantity factor

You can probably guess that those who are spending six hours per post aren’t likely to be posting every day.

Here’s a partial breakdown of the post frequency among the bloggers who were surveyed:

  • 54 percent of bloggers are publishing at least weekly
  • 32 percent publish more than once per week
  • 3.3 percent publish daily

The good news is that most bloggers are actually consistent. They’re getting the job done. Most bloggers are publishing a lot of content.

When we go deeper into the data, it’s clear that the biggest bloggers aren’t usually the most frequent bloggers. (Not including large, multi-author blogs like Copyblogger.)

Only 4.3 percent of the bloggers who publish weekly are spending 6+ hours per post. In the trade-off between quality and quantity, they’ve made a choice.

Every content creator makes that choice. The question goes something like this:

What’s better: a solid weekly post or a monthly masterpiece?

Frequency is important, right?

Ideally, your content frequency is aligned with the length of your sales cycle. If it takes two weeks for your prospect to discover you, learn to trust you, and fall in love with you (or go hire your competitor), it seems that you’d better publish at least weekly — monthly won’t cut it.

Right?

Well …

Monthly won’t cut it unless it’s great. Unless it’s so good, it’s memorable.

A monthly post that your reader remembers (and shares) is worth a lot more than a weekly post they’ll forget. A memorable monthly article beats four soft weekly posts every time.

If you do decide to cut back on your publishing schedule in order to boost quality, I always recommend you put a really good email autoresponder sequence in place. That will serve the role of nurturing the lead until she’s ready to buy from you — holding her attention (and building your credibility) until the buyer is ready to make her decision.

Email marketing consistently proves itself as the most effective online method for moving an audience through attraction and interest and on to a purchase. And an email autoresponder is the way to use terrific content to make email much more effective.

Will you be average or awesome?

Most bloggers spend around 2.5 hours writing 800-word posts and publish weekly. They share it on social media (94 percent) and move on to the next post. Only half check analytics on a regular basis.

Is this what excellent looks like?

Andy and I both want to throw down a challenge for you:

Just maybe we can get away with higher quality. Maybe we can add the research, the audio, the polish. Maybe we can put more time and thought into our content. Maybe we can check our analytics to see if our content is hitting the mark.

Maybe it’s time to publish less, but write more.

Look back at your blog. Have you published a lot of “ok” material? Pretty-good stuff that answers audience questions in a routine way?

Now look forward at your calendar. Planning more of the same?

Try putting this on your publishing schedule: go big at least twice a year. Epic posts. Game-changing posts. Posts that establish real credibility and authority, and don’t just conform to a schedule.

Where you take it from there is up to you.

The internet wants quality.

It doesn’t want more … it wants more original.

Check out the full survey

Make sure to head over to Orbit Media Studios and read Survey of 1,000+ Bloggers: How to Be in the Top 5 Percent.

And if you have thoughts about the survey, or the gauntlet we’ve laid down above, join us for a discussion over at Google+.

Image via Orbit Media Studios.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is the co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and Google+.

Andy Crestodina is a web strategist and the co-founder of Orbit Media. He is a speaker, content marketer, environmentalist, and author: Get more from Andy on Twitter.

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