Remember the ecommerce commercial that showed a small group hovering around a computer as they launched their new website? They cheered when the first order notification came through, and again with the second… and then freaked out as the order blips became a relentless torrent.
That’s what Adam Schwartz, CEO of Articulate, said it felt like last Wednesday when we launched their new Rapid E-Learning Blog. The blog attracted 6,312 subscribers in the 24-hour period following the launch promotion, and now has over 8,500 and counting less than a week later.
Existing businesses have incredibly valuable assets that others do not—customer and prospect lists. That being said, telling your existing customers about your new blog full of press release content and expecting them to come running is a recipe for mediocrity. If you don’t have an existing list, you can create an offer that is attractive to social media news site users and your results will be similar.
Articulate is one of the few companies I’ve continued to work with outside of my own projects in the last year, and Adam gave the green light to share the strategy we implemented. Here’s what we did, step-by-step.
- Positioning: Articulate sells software that allows users to develop flash-based e-learning and training courses based on PowerPoint, which has become known as rapid e-learning due to the ease of use of the tools. The goal for the blog is to provide valuable content related to rapid e-learning development (outside of the software) and to establish 15-year e-learning veteran and Articulate VP of Community Tom Kuhlmann as an authority in the field.
In other words, the blog is designed not to sell software directly, but to offer value to existing and prospective customers of Articulate. The halo effect of Tom’s tips over time can do nothing but enhance the Articulate brand as the definitive leader in the rapid e-learning space.
- Cornerstone Content: Before the blog was made public, Tom developed some great foundational content in the form of a 7-part series called Rapid E-Learning 101 and a 5-part series called 5 Myths About Rapid E-Learning. A first-time visitor to the blog has plenty of well-organized and targeted content to dive into, which also acts as a motivator to get on board as a subscriber.
- Incentive: The next step was a free ebook that became the focus of the launch promotion. Tom put together the Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro, which focused on the business end of e-learning, and I added a bit of editorial input. This content is unique and valuable to corporate instructional designers because it helps them see what the true role of e-learning and training is within the larger business context. The strategies in the book allow training staff to create courses that provide a true return on investment, and are also perceived as valuable to upper management and the learners themselves.
- Launch Email: I wrote a brief email formatted in HTML with a nice graphical representation of the ebook. This 72-word email was not designed to sell the subscription, but to sell the click through to the landing page, and was sent to a house list of both customers and people who had downloaded a free trial of Articulate software. The initial response briefly crashed the dedicated server that houses only the new blog.
- Landing Page: The landing page consists of an ebook graphic positioned just as in the email, a brief intro, 8 bullet points related to the content of the ebook, a statement that lets the reader know they are subscribing to the blog, a call to action, an email form, and a “no spam” statement.
- Delivery: The email subscription is powered by Feedburner’s email service, so new blog posts are automatically sent to subscribers. The ebook is delivered via the WP RSS Sticky plugin that Chris Garrett also uses. This means that people who subscribe via feed reader will also receive the free ebook.
- Start Blogging: The launch went very well, and Tom is now perfectly positioned to become the preeminent voice in the growing rapid e-learning space. Mission accomplished, but now the real work begins. Once you’re perceived as an authority, you have a responsibility to continue to deliver, and I have no doubts that Tom is up for it.
No Customer or Prospect List?
The above is an excellent game plan for any existing business to enhance their market position with valuable content delivered via blog. But if you don’t have an existing customer or prospect email list, substitute in a social media site like Digg, Reddit, Sphinn, Netscape or some of the other small niche sites as your launch pad. The key is to offer something that people really want, surround it with other valuable, targeted content, and then continue to deliver over time to maintain and grow your subscriber base.
P.S. For those scoring at home, the promotional email drew a 10% click through ratio, which was fairly strong given that the prospect portion of the opt-in list did not require email validation to download the free software trial (in other words, there was likely a lot of junk on the list). The conversion rate on the landing page opt-in was right at 54%.
About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Google+.