Tag Archive | "Readers"

CMWorld Interview: Path to 1M Monthly Readers Has No Shortcuts, Says J.P. Medved

In her introduction to The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing, Content Marketing Institute’s Cathy McPhillips draws several commonalities between content marketing and video games: the interactivity, the trial-and-error learnings, the camradery.

But, while many marketers have their own personal “cheat codes” that help them gain an edge, there are no true hacks in content. Certain video games allow you to tap in a series of commands and gain invincibility, or jump ahead to the next level. Content marketers, however, cannot magically produce an audience or monetization out of thin air.

As the Content Director for Capterra, and also an avowed lover of gaming, J.P. Medved understands this reality. His company’s industry-specific blogs have grown to 1 million monthly readers, and it wasn’t because of any secret elixir.

Instead, Capterra’s success owes to a proven, adoptable strategy tethered to the fundamentals of organization, goals, promotion, and experimentation. Medved will explain this formula in-depth during his Content Marketing World session, Better Than Hacks and Schemes: A Proven Approach to Building Your Audience, and was also kind enough to share some insights with us ahead of the September event.    

Medved has a reputation for being sharply honest and entertaining, and those traits definitely came through during our interview with him. Keep reading to find his thoughts on silent content, scalability, documenting strategies, and content marketing lessons learned from his experience writing fiction.


What does your role as Content Marketing Director at Capterra entail? What are your main areas of focus and key priorities?

My day-to-day as a Content Director involves a lot of email and meetings, at this point. We’ve grown to a team of nine writers, six of whom I manage directly, so a lot of my time is devoted to supporting them. I join monthly topic planning meetings with all of them, as well as frequent check-ins with the editors and the marketing folks that support the content we produce. I also now spend a fair amount of time in our analytics and various content management systems just checking in and tracking things.

As we’ve grown—and I suspect this is common in most roles—I’ve transitioned away from being a content producer, to being a content manager. I no longer write content myself, and we centralized editing early last year so I no longer edit individual pieces either. Instead I spend more time coordinating long-term content plans and calendars with other teams in the business, managing content experiments or helping new projects get off the ground, and working with the folks on my team to help advance their career goals.


Why should content marketers beware of “hacks” and shortcuts when it comes to growing their audience and impact?

The content marketing world, and the digital marketing space more generally, loves the idea of the Cinderella story. That blog that hits everything just right and experiences exponential, “hockey stick” growth and also there’s a royal wedding involved somehow. But our experience, and that of the vast majority of successful content marketing operations I’m aware of, is actually a lot more boring.

Jimmy Daley of the great animalz.co blog calls it “silent content;” that company that has just been plugging away and producing and refining great content for years, and grown a consistent, large audience and strong search position.  

With Capterra’s content, we’ve grown to a million readers a month, writing in an ostensibly boring, B2B software space, and we never had a breakout “viral” hit, or flashy media coverage, or exponential traffic growth (it’s all been linear). We’ve just been working away at it since 2013, publishing consistently and getting a little bit better each month.

I think if you waste all your time and energy chasing new “hacks” and shortcuts sold to you by whatever case study is making the rounds on YouMoz that week, you never get really good at the fundamentals of content marketing; the block-and-tackle of creating and promoting really great, helpful—if unassuming—content. As a result your growth, though it may experience the occasional spike, will actually slow and it’ll take you more time to build a sustainable traffic base in the long-run.

If you waste all your time and energy chasing new “hacks” & shortcuts, you never get really good at the fundamentals of content marketing. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld
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What are the most pivotal roles in developing an effective and scalable content strategy?

Scalability is still something we struggle with, having grown the team 6X in the last four years. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is actually to bring on/promote other managers earlier than you think you need it. Assuming an average writer production schedule of two, 1,500 word articles a week, a full-time manager can effectively manage and edit 3-4 writers. If they’re not editing (you bring in a centralized editing team, or use a round-robin method, or delegate to senior writers), that number goes up to 6-7.  

But you should have someone in place to help you well before you hit that number, not only to give them time to ramp-up and learn management skills, but also to allow you to plan effectively for new hires and content coverage growth.

The biggest lesson content I’ve learned is actually to bring on/promote other managers earlier than you think you need it. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld
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Why is experimentation so critical in the content creation process?

Most of our content fails. Like, over 90% of it. And that’s not at all uncommon in the content marketing world. If everyone knew the exact ingredients to a “viral” content piece, that’s all anyone would produce. But we don’t know. Pieces I think will do really well, more-often-than-not sink without a trace, and pieces that seem like throwaways can take off because they’ve tapped into some pent-up need in the marketplace of ideas.

So we try to test a lot. 50% or more of our content is trying out new topics or channels or formats, and the other 50% is either updating successful past content, or scaling up a content type that our previous testing has discovered works.

I differ here from the current received-wisdom in the content marketing industry. Right now it’s hip to say content marketers need to produce fewer pieces of longer, higher quality content. But I actually argue you should produce a higher volume of content (at least early on) to discover what “hits” with your particular audience, so you can scale that later.

Brian Dean of Backlinko is often the poster-child of the “publish less, publish higher-quality” model, and I love his content and he’s obviously been very successful. But might he have been more successful publishing weekly instead of monthly? Could he have sacrificed a little bit of length to experiment with a broader range of topic ideas earlier on before scaling the ones that worked? I think it’s possible.

You should produce a higher volume of content (at least early on) to discover what “hits” with your particular audience, so you can scale that later. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld
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What are the most common mistakes you see individuals and companies make when developing and launching a blog?

The biggest one is not taking content marketing seriously. That manifests itself in two major tactical mistakes: not hiring someone to do content full-time, and trying to squeeze direct revenue out of content in the first year.

If no one’s doing content full-time, then content just becomes a side project for someone at your company who may-or-may-not get to it once they finish their “real work” for the day. We tried this model for years and never got any traction with our content until someone owned it full-time and could devote themselves to thinking about it strategically and producing content consistently.

And you should not try to monetize your content in the first year. It will distort your writing, even if you think you can guard against it, and result in lower-quality, less helpful, more salesy content. Focus on creating content that is genuinely helpful for your audience first, and you will build reader trust for any kind of monetization scheme you want to implement later down the road.

If no one’s doing content full-time, then content just becomes a side project for someone at your company who may-or-may-not get to it once they finish their real work for the day. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld
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Why is it important for businesses to have a documented content strategy, as opposed to an intangible framework?

I think people get intimidated when you say, “You need to have a documented content strategy” because they envision this 30-page document written in corporate buzzwords that will take a month to create. But we literally started with nothing more than a two-page Word doc with some bullet points listing our short and long-term goals/metrics, the type of content we wanted to create, and who was responsible for what aspects.

The benefits to us of even something that basic have been huge. Actually writing it down forced us to think through the specifics and showed us where the gaps in our plan were, having agreed-upon goals and timelines upfront made for easier team and executive buy-in, and it gave us something to refer back to when we had questions about whether a new content idea fit our overall goals.


What have you learned in your ‘side hustle’ as a fiction novelist that applies to your day job as a content marketer?

For writing fiction I spent a lot of time studying story structure, and plot architecture, and all the elements that make a story really “flow” and feel effortless to people reading it. What struck me is how many of the same principles apply to a content piece.

You want to start off with a strong “hook” that introduces an element of mystery and makes the reader want to know more, your “climax” needs to deliver a memorable experience or information, and the dénouement has to be satisfying. A novel that doesn’t tie up loose ends in the last few chapters is as unsatisfying as a blog post that doesn’t include a concrete next step or call to action in the last few paragraphs.


Which speaker presentations are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2018?

I love video games, so I’m excited to hear Jane Weedon of Twitch give her talk. I’ve also always been fascinated by the science behind online behavior, so Brian Massey’s talk on Behavioral Science for Content Marketers is high on my list as well.

Find Your Path to Content Marketing Greatness

Consistency, experimentation, and getting better each month: They might not be the stuff of Cinderella stories, but in the real world these techniques work and Medved’s team serves as living proof.

He is one of many CMWorld speakers who contributed to The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing, so as we look forward to seeing them on stage in Cleveland, make sure to soak in all their awesome advice by clicking through the slides below:

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PayPal Here Launches Two New Card Readers, Giving Small Businesses More Ways to Accept Payments

Every customer wants a swift and smooth payment transaction, with little fuss. This holds true regardless of whether they’re buying from a major enterprise or a small business. That goal is certainly possible with PayPal Here’s two new payment card readers.

PayPal recently launched a Chip and Swipe reader and a Chip and Tap reader, both of which will help users and small companies easily conduct credit card transactions anywhere.

The Chip and Swipe reader is an improved version of the company’s previous swipe-style reader. It now comes with support for debit and credit cards with EMV chip technology. Meanwhile, the Chip and Tap reader can process contactless payment options from NFC-supported devices and also accepts EMV-supported cards. The device also comes with a portable charging stand.

Image result for paypal chip and swipe card reader

Both payment readers can easily process transaction choices like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay.

PayPal’s new readers have been designed with portability in mind. The two devices are about the size of a deck of cards, making it possible for small retailers and entrepreneurs to do business in any location—a country fair, the neighborhood cafe—without worrying about wires or having to carry bulky hardware. They can easily connect to any mobile device using Bluetooth technology. The readers also have a user-friendly interface and can now be used for extended periods, thanks to their rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

PayPal is offering the Chip and Swipe reader for $ 24.99 and the Chip and Tap reader for $ 59.99. Both devices will work seamlessly with the PayPal Here. The app is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play.

In a statement, PayPal In-Store’s Chief Chris Gardner stated that the company understands the “challenges small businesses face—including protection from fraudulent transactions and the costs of equipment to run their business—and constantly work to develop products and services that allow them to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.” Their new and affordable card payment readers are their newest endeavor to help small business.

Gardner also pointed out that small and medium businesses also look for a “one-stop shop” for all their commerce and payment services. After all, these companies don’t have the time to deal with various vendors to manage all these financial activities. PayPal is determined to be the company to handle these demands. Merchants can use PayPal for their online transactions, PayPal Here for their physical processes, and PayPal Working Capital to help finance their expansion.

[Featured image via PayPal]

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Fix This Writing Mistake to Engage Readers with the Right Challenges

In college, there are three kinds of classes. First, there’s the blow-off classes, where 80 percent of your grade comes from fill-in-the-blank worksheets. To pass, all you really have to do is show up. Then, there are the classes taught by “real hardasses.” These classes kept you up well past midnight, flipping frenetically through flashcards,
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7 Ways to Find Readers and Subscribers When No One Knows You Yet

"You don't have to just wait for your audience to stumble across you." – Sonia Simone

The early days of a new blog, podcast, or video channel are actually a sort of magical time.

It’s quiet. No one has shown up yet. You can say or do nearly anything. You have the opportunity to experiment and play without fear.

And, let’s face it … we all want to get past it as quickly as humanly possible.

While I truly would encourage you to stop and smell those roses, I also appreciate that we start websites because we want to build and serve audiences.

If you have something cooking and you’d like to accelerate the process of pulling your audience together, here are seven things I’ve found useful for my own projects.

Before we start on that, though, you must absolutely understand who you want to serve. What they believe, what they fear, what they know, what they don’t know. Keep digging and keep researching until you have someone in mind who feels like a genuine individual person.

Once you have a vibrant Who in mind, let’s get to work building an audience of them.

#1: Be ready for the traffic you get

At the beginning, when we’re squeaking along with just a few site visitors, it’s particularly important to capture every little scrap of attention we can.

So before you start trying tactics to get more new visitors, make sure that:

  • You have at least a few interesting other bits of content for visitors to look at
  • Your site doesn’t look like a dog’s breakfast
  • You have a good way to capture visitor email addresses

If you’re making something interesting, you may well find that those first subscribers go on to become some of your most loyal fans. Give them a way to stay in touch by offering a smart email subscription that delivers plenty of value.

You’re not going to get a zillion visitors in the early days. But if you can spark and maintain solid relationships with the ones you do get, you’ll start to pick up momentum.

#2: Answer the right questions

Once you (truly, madly, deeply) understand your Who, you’re ready to think about how to best serve them.

One time-honored tactic comes from sales consultant Marcus Sheridan — answer every question you’ve ever seen, received, or heard of in your topic.

The idea isn’t to write a 150,000-word manual. Instead, make each answer a single blog post — and keep the answers simple and useful.

This does a few things for you:

  • It gets you past that dread of the “blank page.” Answering questions is pretty straightforward.
  • It reveals any knowledge gaps that you need to work on.
  • It spurs you to head out into the digital world and start hunting for those questions. That’s a great way to learn a lot about your audience.
  • It creates a steady stream of fresh content. This is helpful for search engine optimization, but, more importantly, it makes your site interesting for human beings.

Figure out a calendar you can stick to for these. Since they’re fairly easy to create, you might publish two of them a week for six months or more. Every other week, swap in a more in-depth article that’s got more meat to it.

You may want to have a few of these done in advance, because I promise you’ll have days when even a 10-minute post is going to be tough to get created and published.

This is also a great way for you to start developing good publishing habits.

I refer folks all the time to Pamela Wilson’s post on publishing one strong piece of content a week, as a model for the steps you want to go through. These quick Q&A posts don’t need as much promotion, but it’s still a good opportunity to practice your process on lower-risk content.

#3: Do one epic thing

If you want influencers to link to you, social media darlings to share you, and potential customers to connect with you, you have to do something to deserve all of that attention.

You have to do something epic.

You might be epically good at what you do. You might be able to pull off some kind of epic stunt.

But most likely, your venture into the realm of epic is going to involve creating a seriously good piece of content.

Boring blog posts, weak videos, or copycat podcast episodes won’t cut it. (We already knew that, right?)

Not every piece of content is going to be a home run. But, at least once in a while, you need to swing for the fences.

Make time regularly to create and publish content that’s more thorough, or more creative — or maybe more innovative, empathetic, or far-reaching.

You’ll create a few near-misses before you come up with one that’s genuinely epic. So you should probably get started on those early attempts. Maybe today.

#4: Be a social butterfly

You might love social media, or you might avoid it like the zombie apocalypse. Either way, it’s a good place to look for new connections.

When you’re growing your audience, schedule one or two short sessions on one relevant social platform every day.

Most likely, it will be a combination of those.

If you’re trying to get a site off the ground, you don’t have hours every day to waste on Facebook. But two well-planned, 10-minute sessions every day can do you a world of good.

Facebook is the biggest dog at the moment, but it isn’t the only option. Instagram has been showing a lot of promise lately, and for the right business, Pinterest can be a winner. And for those with B2B products and services, LinkedIn is refreshingly drama-free — and a place where people expect to do business.

If you have trouble with keeping yourself to short sessions, consider a productivity app to help out.

And don’t fall into the trap of building a giant community on a social platform — and neglecting your own site. Your time is typically better spent optimizing your content to get more shares and building up a good volume of high-value content.

#5: Take one controversial stand

We all know that one person on social media who flips the table over every irritation or slight.

That’s exhausting and counterproductive.

But there’s a word for people who never take a difficult stand, never ruffle any feathers, and never speak out:


Whether or not you overtly address politics is up to you. But, as Brian Clark likes to say, “This is the internet — there’s potential for controversy in any strong statement.”

Whether your niche is fitness, dog training, finance, parenting, or knitting — there are fiercely passionate camps around certain topics.

Do some real research. Question your own biases. Weigh the evidence and consider other points of view. Be willing to be swayed by reliable evidence that contradicts your assumptions.

And once you feel confident that your position is grounded with solid evidence, take your stand in the camp you believe is right.

You can literally enrage some people by asserting that the earth is round.

Trying to placate the ignorant doesn’t change the roundness of the earth.

Speak up.

(By the way, if you click the link above, how cool would it be to have a Science Emergency Defense Plan with NdGT on tap.)

#6: Buy a little traffic with money

So if you have a steady, consistent stream of useful material (your question and answer content), along with a few epic pieces, and you’ve taken a stand in your topic … is there anything else to do to get the ball rolling?

You can always try buying a bit of traffic with social media ads.

This is a game with rules that change almost daily, but it’s a game worth playing. Pick the most financially viable platform of the moment (right now it’s Facebook) and buy a little bit of traffic.

“A little bit” is not $ 1,000 worth of traffic. It’s not $ 100. Maybe spend $ 10 this week. And, if budget permits, $ 10 next week.

Think “risking your Frappuccino,” not “risking your mortgage.”

Learning to buy small amounts of traffic will give your momentum a bit of a push. It will also teach you all kinds of useful things that you’ll be glad you understand when you get more successful or have an offer you’d like to promote.

#7: Buy a little more traffic with time

The other way to “buy” some traffic is to put time and energy into writing guest post content for other sites. You may also find it valuable to appear on other people’s podcasts.

Like #6, this makes sense once you’ve got something worth checking out on your own site.

Guest posting broadens your audience and gives you a great opportunity to form relationships with other web publishers. It can also have nice SEO benefits … but that typically comes down the line, when your site’s a little more mature.

Remember to only submit excellent material for guest posts. It just isn’t smart to show less-than-great work on a larger stage.

Where are you on your journey?

Do you have all the traffic and subscribers you want? Still working on it? Found any great strategies for building an audience in the early days?

Let us know in the comments! :)

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Master This Writing Practice to Find More Loyal Readers

"In order to work, pre-internet writers had to follow a publication’s editorial standards." – Stefanie Flaxman

If you want to write about anything you’d like, as often as you’d like, there’s a place for that: your own website.

It’s a modern privilege that gives writers the freedom to digitally publish their work publicly, with the potential to reach any reader with an internet connection.

Can you imagine going back in time and telling that to someone who only wrote on paper? Someone whose only readers were those in physical possession of their writing?

We’re so lucky.

But we may miss out on ways to spread our writing, because we’re not as accustomed to the practices our writer predecessors needed to implement to get their work in front of new readers.

I want to show you how to seize more contemporary opportunities with classic grit.

And the practice I’m going to talk about is guest posting.

While I know you’ve heard the benefits of guest posting before, I don’t think it’s often discussed as a practice.

A lot has to happen before more readers discover your writing, and one big obstacle blocks many internet-era writers …

Has our entitlement cup runneth over?

Since we’re so used to writing on our own sites, it’s natural to think our own style is acceptable on other sites.

The misconception is that once you find a site that has an audience you want to connect with, you can offer that site a typical article you’d write and lock down a publishing spot on their editorial calendar.

While it’s certainly possible to have that experience with guest posting, many large publications aren’t interested in publishing a post that would appear on your blog.

Instead, they may be interested in your expertise and point of view, but they need you to craft an article that honors their editorial standards and would appear on their blog.

In order to work, pre-internet writers had to follow a publication’s editorial standards.

They didn’t have the luxury of publishing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted; they had to learn to trust an editor’s vision for their writing in order to get their articles in front of new readers.

An example: monster truck racing for ladies

I want to demonstrate how the practice of guest posting — or contributing to a publication other than your own — can help you both grow your audience and grow professionally.

In this scenario, monster truck racing has recently surged in popularity among women. Women can’t get enough information about monster truck competitions, so Edith Editor at Cosmopolitan magazine gets a pitch from Frank Freelancer.

Frank regularly contributes to The Monster Truck Times and runs his own blog, Big Wheel Freaks, where he specifically writes about monster truck races.

Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to educate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.

Since Frank is a pro, he knows he needs to be flexible. He understands that Cosmopolitan subscribers aren’t used to reading the usual content he writes for The Monster Truck Times and Big Wheel Freaks.

If he wants to connect with Cosmopolitan’s audience (which he does), he has to adapt his writing based on Edith’s guidance. Frank knows that working writers don’t always get to write exactly what they want, and he welcomes the opportunity to strengthen his creative muscles.

Plus, he understands that if Cosmopolitan publishes his writing, he gains authority and validation as a trustworthy source of information. He has a chance to capture the attention of new people who aren’t familiar with his work and then direct them to his typical articles.

If he didn’t view the situation with that attitude, Edith wouldn’t be able to publish his article and she’d find another monster truck writer with more experience working for a professional publication.

Practice the process of guest posting

So, as you can see, my view on guest posting is more involved than simply getting another website to agree to publish one of your articles.

It’s a process of finding publications that are looking for what you offer and collaborating with them.

Successful guest posting consists of:

  • Building relationships
  • Learning and following rules
  • Adapting your writing to become a regular contributor

Let’s look at each one …

Building relationships

"There is only one reason you should initiate a relationship with a content publisher — you genuinely enjoy their work." – Sonia Simone

The way two people connect and bond may look nothing like what another two people experience, so I think it’s best to view relationship-building as an art form with a variety of factors that are different for everyone.

But that also makes the process a bit difficult to describe.

First, accept that every relationship develops differently. You’ll rarely be able to duplicate something that worked for someone else and get the same results — your copycat version will seem forced and inauthentic.

Second, relationship-building needs you to detach from possible outcomes. For example, when you have an authentic interest in talking to a blogger whose site you enjoy, you’ll genuinely enjoy chatting with them in blog comments or having a quick email exchange.

The experience of connection is the reward.

On the other hand, if you contact someone because you want something from them, you’ll be preoccupied with getting that person to agree to your request. You might even feel entitled to their time and attention.

Your agenda is always more obvious than you realize — and it’s not attractive.

Connect with people you want to meet without needing anything from them. If a relationship grows naturally, somewhere down the line you’ll probably both be happy to help each other out.

Learning and following rules

"That's why they call it work." – Robert Bruce

The first “rule” on your radar should be familiarizing yourself with what certain publications are looking for, or not looking for …

Now’s a good time to mention that Copyblogger does not currently review unsolicited guest post pitches. However, many publications do review them and display guidelines on their sites to help you shape your submissions.

Those guidelines aren’t arbitrary. They are what the publication wants you to submit to optimize your chances of getting the “yes” response that you’d like, so study and follow the instructions.

You want to be intimately familiar with any site you pitch to (like how Frank Freelancer knew Edith Editor would be looking for a monster truck writer), so even if pitch guidelines aren’t available, you’ll naturally know how to grab their attention.

For instance, some publications prefer receiving a full article for consideration while others want to see an outline before the author finishes writing.

Regardless of your publication’s preference, demonstrate that you can offer their readers a new perspective, but that you’re also a professional who will meet their standards.

Pitching to smaller publications is a great way to practice guest posting.

Many won’t have as many rules as larger sites, so getting your writing published is sometimes a quicker process. Even though their audiences may contain fewer people, those individuals may be highly engaged with the site’s content, which helps you initiate new relationships and invite those readers back to your site.

Adapting your writing to become a regular contributor

"'Link building' is something I’ve never done in my 19 years of publishing online." – Brian Clark

It’s definitely an accomplishment to have a site other than your own publish your writing. But guest posting will be the most beneficial to your writing career if you aim to become a regular contributor — to one site or several.

Guest posting can help influence your area of expertise. Keep learning about the topics that the sites you’ve contributed to want to share with their readers.

For example, Frank Freelancer might enjoy writing for Cosmopolitan and continue to perform detailed research on relevant subjects for the magazine. He’ll treat his Cosmopolitan articles with great care and submit his best work.

As you grow a long-term relationship with a publication, they’ll get to know you better as well and appreciate your professional attributes, such as meeting deadlines and submitting drafts without typos.

When you contribute value over time, the publication will also be much more willing to help you out with a favor, if you ever need one.

Finding loyal readers requires the same persistence writers have needed since the birth of the first writing instrument … but I think those ancient writers would have preferred to have access to new audiences on the internet. Don’t squander your upper hand.

Want to grow professionally as a writer?

Our Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful tool to learn new writing strategies and position your business for greater success. Add your email address to our waiting list below to be the first to hear about when we reopen the program to new students.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

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How to Write So Vividly that Readers Fall in Love with Your Ideas

use words that make them swoon

With a deep sigh, Helen Fields switches on her PC. Another Monday. Another article to write about leadership.

Hasn’t everything been written already?

Helen checks her Twitter stream and answers a few emails. She doesn’t feel like writing. Not yet. She googles the word “leadership.”

756 million articles. Ouch. But still … Helen knows she can help, encourage, and inspire her readers.

While sipping her green tea, she leafs through her notebook with article ideas. Nothing feels right. Everything feels bland.

She doesn’t want to write a humdrum article. She doesn’t want to dump her ideas online. She wants to write with power, passion, and pizzazz.

She wants to wake up her readers, electrify them with her words, and jump-start them to change the world.

Why write if you can’t inspire change? Why write if people only skim your subheads before clicking away? How do you choose vivid words that make readers not only remember — but also love — your ideas?

Craft a red poppy in a sea of grey content

In this distracted world chock-full of content, inspiring readers with your message may feel like an impossible task.

But when you learn to harness the power of visual language — when you sketch vibrant images with only words, your message bursts into life.

Your message stands out like a red poppy in a sea of grey content. Vibrant. Proud. And memorable.

Want to ignite and inspire your readers too?

Visual language energizes your ideas

Remember 2001?

You probably had a portable compact disc player.

While other manufacturers were fussing about enhancing sound quality even further, Steve Jobs decided to launch a product with vastly inferior sound quality.

Within 11 years, he sold 350 million iPods. Why?

The unparalleled power of visual language:

1,000 songs in your pocket.

Abstract writing fails to connect with readers because you can’t visualize abstract concepts and generalizations.

In contrast, visual writing engages readers’ senses and allows them to picture your ideas. As readers start to imagine the positive impact your idea could have on their lives, your ideas become inspirational and memorable.

“Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts. Abstraction is the luxury of experts.” – Chip and Dan Heath

But how do you make your message more concrete?

Harness the power of the senses

Sensory words are no ordinary words. They pack a punch. They communicate with piercing precision. Research shows people read sensory words as if they feel the silkiness, hear the buzz, and see the sparkle.

Here’s an example of a typical business-like sentence:

Your vision might be vague.

Now, here’s a more sensory option from the book Illuminate by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez:

“Yet no one sees the future with perfect clarity. At times, it feels close and attainable. Other times it appears distant and turbulent, or as a dreamy, faint image lacking detail.”

To make your content more sensory, first look for key sentences in your writing — which words should readers remember?

Take a sheet of paper and a pencil, and write your original sentence at the top. Play around with different versions of your sentence and keep the different senses in mind:

  • Visual words: Paint vibrant or gloomy pictures.
  • Tactile words: Cut the fluff and make your sentences silky-smooth.
  • Auditory words: Create a buzz and let your words sizzle.
  • Words related to smell and taste: Turn bland writing into zesty sound bites.
  • Motion words: Put on your dancing shoes, and let your sentences swing and swirl.

No one “right” word exists. Which words appeal most to you? Which words paint the most vibrant picture? Which words give you goose bumps?

Embrace your inner poet and nurture a sense of fun. Experiment. Play.

Turbocharge your sensory power

Metaphors help people visualize and remember ideas by comparing abstract ideas with concrete pictures.

And what’s more, metaphors help your ideas stand out because you can make your metaphors unique. Here’s an example of a metaphor:

Do you remember Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking sky-jump for the Red Bull Stratos project?

Imagine this guy free-falling at 833.9 miles per hour, smashing through the sound barrier.

And you know what?

He couldn’t feel the air movement. Because of his full-pressure space suit, he couldn’t feel his extraordinary, supersonic speed.

Incredible, isn’t it?

He said afterwards it’s like swimming without feeling the water.

Bland blog posts have a similar problem.

They present useful tips without feeling, without imagination, and without the power of visual language.

What’s your content like?

Do you touch your readers with your words? Or do you let your readers swim without feeling?

To dream up your own metaphor:

For instance, you can compare:

  • Writing skills with cooking skills: Like a chef needs to learn how to chop, sauté, roast, and grill, a writer needs to learn how to choose words for impact, how to create a smooth reading experience with transitional phrases, and how to create a pleasurable rhythm.
  • Cooking ingredients with words: Like a chef tastes a dish before serving, you need to know when your content lacks flavor. You have to spot weak phrases. And just like a chef grinds a little extra pepper, sprinkles a few coriander leaves, or drizzles extra lime juice, you need to balance the flavors of your writing too.
  • The writing process with the cooking process: You prepare a curry step by step; first you chop the veggies, grind the spices, and then you let the ingredients simmer for a while. When writing blog content, it’s the same. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Break down the process into steps — idea generation, outlining, writing a first draft, editing, and formatting.

Since I love cooking (and eating!), cooking is my favorite source of metaphors; you may prefer other topics such as gardening, parenting, traveling, or sports — all good sources for metaphors.

Nervous about finding original ideas? Don’t be afraid to reuse metaphors — you can make them your own by adding sensory details.

For instance, the idea that a leader is a torchbearer is not really original. But Duarte and Sanchez make the metaphor unique by adding their own details:

The future is a formless void,

a blank space waiting to be filled.

And then a Torchbearer envisions a new possibility.

That vision is your dream, your calling,

And it burns like a fire in your belly.

But you can’t create the future alone.

You need Travelers to come along.

Yet the path through the unknown is dark and unclear.

You have to illuminate the path for travelers.

Torchbearers communicate in a way that conquers fear and inspires hope.

Some say being a torchbearer is a burden.

Some say it’s a blessing.

Either way, those who light the path

are the ones who change the world.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

When I started writing, I didn’t believe I had any creative talent.

But I wanted my messages to stand out.

Because I wanted to be heard.

Encouraged by the guidance in Anne Miller’s book The Tall Lady With The Iceberg (formerly titled Metaphorically Selling), I mustered the courage to write my first metaphor.

My secret to embarking on this creative journey?

Foster a sense of fun. Get away from your computer. I get my best ideas while making spicy meatballs, pedaling my bike, or when listening to the murmur of rain on a walk.

I also started hunting for sensory words and created my own collection of favorites. That’s how my writing improved and my voice evolved.

Even better … people engaged with me because the metaphors gave them a glimpse into my life. The metaphors turned out to be excellent conversation starters.

Enchant your readers

How often do we read content that surprises and delights?

How often are we really inspired by a blog post?

Life is too short for monotone voices. Life is too short for wishy-washy writing. Life is too short to regurgitate ideas without adding value.

It’s time to have fun, infuse your content with your personality, and dazzle your readers with your words.

Come on. Dare to be that red poppy shining brightly in an ocean of grey content.

Let your ideas sparkle, shimmer, sing, swing, swirl, shock, and sizzle.

You’re the leader your readers are waiting for.

Get ready to spark change.

The post How to Write So Vividly that Readers Fall in Love with Your Ideas appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Convince Your Skeptical Readers to Accept a New Idea

3 ways to write convincingly

If you look at the last 30 years of the men’s 100-meter finals at the Olympics, you’ll find a number of athletes who didn’t make it to retirement without getting saddled with a doping allegation. 

  • Carl Lewis: failed drug test, 1988
  • Ben Johnson: failed drug test, 1988
  • Linford Christie: tests positive for pseudoephedrine, 1988
  • Justin Gatlin: failed drug test, 2006
  • Maurice Greene: admits to buying performance-enhancing drugs, 2008

And then Usain Bolt comes along. He not only wins the gold in both the 100-meter and 200-meter finals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — he also breaks two world records for those races.

Can anyone blame you if you’re cynical? Don’t you want some sort of proof that Bolt didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs?

Not surprisingly, so does your reader. 

When you write an article, you may do it Usain Bolt-style — full of gusto and glee. Yet, your reader is still skeptical — and rightly so. Stating something does not necessarily make it believable.

So, how do you enhance the believability of your article?

You do so by addressing objections.

When you write your article, it’s important to have it flow both ways — in your favor and away from it — to build trust. You do this by taking on the objections that sprout up in your reader’s mind.

There are three main ways to bypass a reader’s skepticism. Let’s look at all three, shall we?

  • Direction 1: Disagreement
  • Direction 2: Proof
  • Direction 3: More Information

We’ll tackle Disagreement first.

Direction 1: Disagreement

When you make a statement such as: “Discounting is bad for a business,” I may choose to disagree. I may feel that discounting is necessary in my business or else I’d go out of business. 

You may have a ton of valid points to support why discounting will suck the life out of my business. And you may be right. But at this specific moment, I’m fiercely on the discounting side of the fence. To get me over to your side, you have to tackle the discounting argument very quickly. 

When a topic is highly controversial, or likely to be debated, you need to place the objection right at the top of your article. There’s no point in keeping the objection submerged somewhere down the page. 

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re losing clients because they’re hiring consulting firms that are cheaper. In this case, your article needs to address the problem head-on.

Your headline may be: Why It’s a Good Idea to Hire a Consulting Firm that Costs 20 Percent More than the Competition. Now you’ve got your reader’s attention. 

Present the disagreement immediately. The opening of your article could look like this:

“Imagine going to your boss and telling him that you’ve hired a consultant who’s 20 percent more expensive than average. What will that get you? A raise? Or will you instantly get fired?

The answer is: It depends. Although it seems like a pretty good idea to hire a consulting firm that’s a lot cheaper, you may want to know how that decision will come to bite you (and your firm) in the bum in the months to come. So, let’s find out three big reasons why the big guns don’t hire the cheaper outfits.”

You see what’s happening in that example? 

The objection isn’t waiting in the wings. It jumped on stage and is hogging the spotlight. And it doesn’t let go until the rest of the article unfolds. When you present an objection at the start of your article, it gets and keeps attention.

If you know your client is going to disagree like crazy, add an objection right away.

This leads us to the second way to address objections, namely Proof.

Direction 2: Proof

Proof isn’t like disagreement. It’s not quite as volatile.

For instance, you may just need to support a valid point. You may have said that smart firms don’t hire cheaper consultants. Fair enough. But where’s the proof? You need to demonstrate your point with a case study or two.

Testimonials offer another way to back up your claims. No matter how magnificently well you craft your article, there are times when your audience will simply need proof.

Why are they looking for that evidence?

It’s human nature to seek a second opinion. Or maybe the person reading the article doesn’t have the proper knowledge to make a decision and needs to present the argument to someone else.

Second opinions help us justify our decisions. When we have proof, we feel a lot better. We can talk to our partners, coworkers, and friends about the situation and get their opinions about it.

In the case of the person needing to sell the idea to a superior, you can see that evidence is necessary to help make his or her case.

And this leads us to the third method: More information.

Direction 3: More information

If you face a disagreement head-on, that’s all very fine. But often it may not be necessary to go over the top. And having proof is certainly very dandy, but again, case studies and testimonials may not be needed. In many of your articles, all your reader needs is more information. They’re not sure, that’s all.

If you give them more information, they’re more than happy to agree with your point and take the next step.

For example, let’s say your article is about convincing someone to try a new flavor of ice cream. There’s really no factor of disagreement. And proof won’t matter much because taste is subjective. All you really have to do is take on the objection.

And what is the objection? You know the answer. It’s: what if I don’t like the flavor? 

To tackle the objection, you simply need to be rational or emotional. But what’s rational and what’s emotional?

Rational is when you simply state the facts. For example: The store doesn’t require you to buy the ice cream. You can taste it and decide for yourself.

The emotional way to defuse an objection is to use a story. For example: My niece, Keira, doesn’t like anything but her usual gum-drop flavor of ice cream. Yet, she was all over this new flavor and even asked for more.

For an even more powerful information package, you can combine both rational and emotional information into a single objection-defuser.

Adding an objection at just the right time

Let’s take a breather and summarize. There are three main ways you can overcome objections.

  1. Disagreement: You can address a disagreement head-on. 
  2. Proof: You can show proof with case studies and/or testimonials.
  3. More information: You can add rational or emotional information to defuse the objection.

The objection can go anywhere it is needed in your article. It can go in your introduction. It can be in the middle. It’s most often found toward the end of the article. However, there’s no fixed rule.

If skepticism needs to be managed right away, there’s no point in saving the objection until later. Bring it on with full force as soon as possible.

If you feel the need to create a little “speed bump” and change the pace of the article, slip in an objection.

And yes, you can address more than one objection in an article. Just be sure not to overdo it or you’ll weaken your case. 

Earn trust by presenting objections

Does every article need an objection? Can you write a strong article without one? Sure you can.

Many articles don’t need to bring up objections, but there are times when your enthusiasm alone won’t support your point. You’ll need an objection to drive the facts home.

And it helps satisfy that human nature quirk. We’re not saying you’re wrong. We’re just saying, “prove it to me.”

Objections are needed for some articles — but they’re incredibly critical when selling a product or service.

Get a taste of where objections live and thrive in the sales process with this free goodie.

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Why Writers Need Readers

When I was in grade 12, the final year of high school in Australia where I grew up, we were given a year-long writing assignment in English class. We had to spend the entire year researching and writing about a topic, then by the end of final semester, submit this…

The post Why Writers Need Readers appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

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11 Insights on Finding a Writing Voice Readers Take Seriously [SlideShare]

11 famous authors help you find your writing voice

This is the trap we typically fall into online:

We survey the landscape, note what our contemporaries and competitors are doing, and do likewise. We might put a small spin on what we see, but we largely end up saying something mild and meaningless to avoid criticism. God forbid if we upset the applecart.

Poppycock. Online, you must upset the applecart. Particularly if your livelihood is on the line.

As my friend Joanna Wiebe said, the attention and sales go to the people who “say something of consequence.” That convinces people to take you seriously.

And I’m not talking about being sensational here. Don’t say something controversial for the sake of controversy.

Instead, dig deep during your research to uncover the hook — the one idea that takes a risk and stands out. The angle, words, or voice in your content marketing that make people take a second look. Even if it is shocking.

And speaking of voice, make sure you are comfortable in your own skin. Own up to your quirks and what makes you unique — indulge in those quirks.

Listen. The tension between blending in to avoid criticism and standing out as a writer is not new. It’s something we have struggled with for ages, and thoughtful writers have been encouraging other writers to be bold.

So, to remind you that you are not alone in this conflict and help inspire you on your journey to find your own unique writing voice, here are 11 insights from authors who ultimately took risks and said things of consequence.

Don’t forget to grab your free PDF featuring these 11 author insights as printable mini posters. And scroll through our SlideShare presentation at the end of this article.

1. Stop listening to the enemy in your head


Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing something in the face of fear. We all doubt our abilities — no matter the amount of experience we have.

Every time I sit down to write an article (including when I wrote this article), I think to myself, “This is not going to work. How in the world am I going to pull this together?”

You would think after writing hundreds of articles I wouldn’t need to fight that self-doubt. But I do. And so will you. The key is to fight it. And win.

2. Celebrate your overactive mind


Remarkable writers live in their minds. They get lost in their thoughts and miss the greeting given by an acquaintance passing on the street.

But don’t let anyone tell you that’s inappropriate. Your imagination is a gift.

And your job is to translate what you see or hear in your mind onto the page.

3. Take risks to grow as a writer


Certainly the more you challenge yourself, the more you will fail. But at least you will be failing forward.

Learn from your mistakes, recognize your weaknesses, and enhance your strengths.

This process can only happen when you throw yourself into the unknown.

4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable


How open you are about your struggles depends upon how comfortable you are talking about yourself. I’m honestly not very comfortable talking about my challenges.

I debated sharing that entry above about my insecurities six times before I decided it was okay to share, because it supported what I was saying.

Find your comfort level, and then share. You will draw people in, and they will warm up to you and your work.

5. Embrace your flair


Need I say more?

6. Resist adding to the echo chamber


When it comes to creating content, go beyond what everyone else is saying.

In fact, try to go 10 times beyond what other people are saying.

People send me links to articles they’ve written all the time. I look at every single one of them.

And I read the ones where the person has added an original thought to the conversation, rather than repeated what’s already been said.

7. Hit publish to correct your ignorances


I love the Internet as a writer because I can hit publish and within 24 hours people will respond.

Often, I will share ideas that I know are premature — or I feel are not correct — so that a reader’s objective point of view can help me see what I’m missing.

However, you will only grow from this feedback if you are humble.

8. Write to explore yourself and the world around you


One of the reasons I find new social situations awkward (and can come across as shy or stuck-up) is because I’m often reluctant to open my mouth and commit to a position until I’ve thought it through. The last thing I want is to sound dumb.

So I do most of my thinking on paper. This is how I process my own feelings and experiences in the world.

Don’t be ashamed if this is how you are as well. It’s yet another trait of remarkable writers.

9. Pay attention to those nagging ideas


Great ideas have a tendency to keep coming back. This is one of the reasons I’m not quick to whip out a notebook every time I have an idea.

I trust the process. I trust (and my suspicions have been confirmed by experience) that truly great ideas will stick around and make themselves known.

So if you have an idea that will not go away, it’s probably time to commit it to paper.

10. Don’t let perfectionism ruin your life


There will never be an ideal place to write. An ideal time. An ideal topic to write about.

Nor will you be able to match what you see in your head to what you put on the page. It will be messy. But hard work will make it beautiful.

You just have to know when to abandon it.

11. Regret nothing


This quote from Mitch Albom is the culmination of everything I’ve been saying up to this point.

When we refuse to say things of consequence, we ultimately hide in the shadows, filled with shame and regret — full of should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve.

That’s a bad place to be.

Vow to be a writer who people take seriously


Click to download our free 11 Insights on Finding a Writing Voice Readers Take Seriously PDF (5.5 MB). Print your favorite words of wisdom and keep them handy while you work.

Being a person of consequence starts by saying things of consequence. Yes, you’ll be taking a risk, but you also take a risk when you blend in — you risk obscurity and financial failure.

The last thing we need are more rank-and-file writers.

So, do me a favor: Vow to be a writer who people take seriously. A writer who says things of consequence. Who, in spite of fear and risk, wants to push the conversation to uncomfortable, but unique, original, and evocative levels.

Vow to be a writer people can’t ignore. You’ll be in good company.

Now check out these 11 author insights in our SlideShare presentation below!

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Chief Content Writer for Rainmaker Digital. Subscribe to his podcast Rough Draft

The post 11 Insights on Finding a Writing Voice Readers Take Seriously [SlideShare] appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Why Writers Need Readers

When I was in grade 12, the final year of high school in Australia where I grew up, we were given a year-long writing assignment in English class. We had to spend the entire year researching and writing about a topic, then by the end of final semester, submit this…

The post Why Writers Need Readers appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

Posted in IM NewsComments Off