Tag Archive | "Write"

How to Stop Wishing You Had More Time to Write

“If only I had all the time in the world, my blog would be perfect.” That thought has probably crossed your mind more than once. I know it’s crossed mine. I find myself lost in daydreams about how amazing my motorcycle blog could be — if only I had more time. When writerly productivity is
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How to Write a Killer Book Introduction

It might be a short ebook you intend to give away to blog subscribers. Or you might be trying to pen a New York Times bestseller. Either way, I think I know which bit of your book is causing you problems. The introduction. It’s the biggest hurdle for most of the writers I work with.
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How to Write Marketing Case Studies That Convert

Posted by kerryjones

In my last post, I discussed why your top funnel content shouldn’t be all about your brand. Today I’m making a 180-degree turn and covering the value of content at the opposite end of the spectrum: content that’s directly about your business and offers proof of your effectiveness.

Specifically, I’m talking about case studies.

I’m a big believer in investing in case studies because I’ve seen firsthand what happened once we started doing so at Fractl. Case studies were a huge game changer for our B2B marketing efforts. For one, our case studies portfolio page brings in a lot of traffic – it’s the second most-visited page on our site, aside from our home page. It also brings in a significant volume of organic traffic, being our fourth most-visited page from organic searches. Most importantly, our case studies are highly effective at converting visitors to leads – about half of our leads view at least one of our case studies before contacting us.

Assuming anyone who reads the Moz Blog is performing some type of marketing function, I’m zeroing in on how to write a compelling marketing case study that differentiates your service offering and pulls prospects down the sales funnel. However, what I’m sharing can be used as a framework for creating case studies in any industry.

Get your client on board with a case study

Marketers shy away from creating case studies for a few reasons:

  1. They’re too busy “in the weeds” with deliverables.
  2. They don’t think their results are impressive enough.
  3. They don’t have clients’ permission to create case studies.

While I can’t help you with #1 and #2 (it’s up to you to make the time and to get the results deserving of a case study!), I do have some advice on #3.

In a perfect world, clients would encourage you to share every little detail of your time working together. In reality, most clients expect you to remain tight-lipped about the work you’ve done for them.

cobert-gif.gif

Understandably, this might discourage you from creating any case studies. But it shouldn’t.

With some compromising, chances are your client will be game for a case study. We’ve noticed the following two objections are common regarding case studies.

Client objection 1: “We don’t want to share specific numbers.”

At first it you may think, “Why bother?” if a client tells you this, but don’t let it hold you back. (Truth is, the majority of your clients will probably feel this way).

In this instance, you’ll want your case study to focus on highlighting the strategy and describing projects, while steering away from showing specific numbers regarding short and long-term results. Believe it or not, the solution part of the case study can be just as, or more, compelling than the results. (I’ll get to that shortly.)

And don’t worry, you don’t have to completely leave out the results. One way to get around not sharing actual numbers but still showing results is to use growth percentages.

Specific numbers: “Grew organic traffic from 5,000 to 7,500 visitors per month”

Growth percentage: “Increased organic traffic by 150%”

We do this for most of our case studies at Fractl, and our clients are totally fine with it.

Client objection 2: “We don’t want to reveal our marketing strategy to competitors.”

A fear of giving away too much intel to competitors is especially common in highly competitive niches.

So how do you get around this?

Keep it anonymous. Don’t reveal who the client is and keep it vague about what niche they’re in. This can be as ambiguous as referring to the client as “Client A” or slightly more specific (“our client in the auto industry”). Instead, the case study will focus on the process and results – this is what your prospects care about, anyway.

Gather different perspectives

Unless you were directly working with the client who you are writing the case study about, you will need to conduct a few interviews to get a full picture of the who, what, how, and why of the engagement. At Fractl, our marketing team puts together case studies based on interviews with clients and the internal team who worked on the client’s account.

The client

Arrange an interview with the client, either on a call or via email. If you have multiple contacts within the client’s team, interview the main point of contact who has been the most involved in the engagement.

What to ask:

  • What challenge were you facing that you hired us to help with?
  • Had you previously tried to solve this challenge (working with another vendor, using internal resources, etc.)?
  • What were your goals for the engagement?
  • How did you benefit from the engagement (short-term and long-term results, unexpected wins, etc.)?

You’ll also want to run the case study draft by the client before publishing it, which offers another chance for their feedback.

The project team

Who was responsible for this client’s account? Speak with the team behind the strategy and execution.

What to ask:

  • How was the strategy formed? Were strategic decisions made based on your experience and expertise, competitive research, etc.?
  • What project(s) were launched as part of the strategy? What was the most successful project?
  • Were there any unexpected issues that you overcame?
  • Did you refine the strategy to improve results?
  • How did you and the client work together? Was there a lot of collaboration or was the client more hands-off? (Many prospective clients are curious about what their level of involvement in your process would look like.)
  • What did you learn during the engagement? Any takeaways?

Include the three crucial elements of a case study

There’s more than one way to package case studies, but the most convincing ones all have something in common: great storytelling. To ensure you’re telling a proper narrative, your case study should include the conflict, the resolution, and the happy ending (but not necessarily in this order).

We find a case study is most compelling when you get straight to the point, rather than making someone read the entire case study before seeing the results. To grab readers’ attention, we begin with a quick overview of conflict-resolution-happy ending right in the introduction.

For example, in our Fanatics case study, we summarized the most pertinent details in the first three paragraphs. The rest of the case study focused on the resolution and examples of specific projects.

fanatics-case-study.png

Let’s take a look at what the conflict, resolution, and happy ending of your case study should include.

The Conflict: What goal did the client want to accomplish?

Typically serving as the introduction of the case study, “the conflict” should briefly describe the client’s business, the problem they hired you to work on, and what was keeping them from fixing this problem (ex. lack of internal resources or internal expertise). This helps readers identify with the problem the client faced and empathize with them – which can help them envision coming to you for help with this problem, too.

Here are a few examples of “conflicts” from our case studies:

  • “Movoto engaged Fractl to showcase its authority on local markets by increasing brand recognition, driving traffic to its website, and earning links back to on-site content.”
  • “Alexa came to us looking to increase awareness – not just around the Alexa name but also its resources. Many people had known Alexa as the site-ranking destination; however, Alexa also provides SEO tools that are invaluable to marketers.”
  • “While they already had strong brand recognition within the link building and SEO communities, Buzzstream came to Fractl for help with launching large-scale campaigns that would position them as thought leaders and provide long-term value for their brand.”

The Resolution: How did you solve the conflict?

Case studies are obviously great for showing proof of results you’ve achieved for clients. But perhaps more importantly, case studies give prospective clients a glimpse into your processes and how you approach problems. A great case study paints a picture of what it’s like to work with you.

For this reason, the bulk of your case study should detail the resolution, sharing as much specific information as you and your client are comfortable with; the more you’re able to share, the more you can highlight your strategic thinking and problem solving abilities.

The following snippets from our case studies are examples of details you may want to include as part of your solution section:

What our strategy encompassed:

“Mixing evergreen content and timely content helped usher new and existing audience members to the We Are Fanatics blog in record numbers. We focused on presenting interesting data through evergreen content that appealed to a variety of sports fans as well as content that capitalized on current interest around major sporting events.” – from Fanatics case study

How strategy was decided:

“We began by forming our ideation process around Movoto’s key real estate themes. Buying, selling, or renting a home is an inherently emotional experience, so we turned to our research on viral emotions to figure out how to identify with and engage the audience and Movoto’s prospective clients. Based on this, we decided to build on the high-arousal feelings of curiosity, interest, and trust that would be part of the experience of moving.

We tapped into familiar cultural references and topics that would pique interest in the regions consumers were considering. Comic book characters served us well in this regard, as did combining publicly available data (such as high school graduation rates or IQ averages) with our own original research.” – from Movoto case study

Why strategy was changed based on initial results:

“After analyzing the initial campaigns, we determined the most effective strategy included a combination of the following content types designed to achieve different goals [case study then lists the three types of content and goals]…

This strategy yielded even better results, with some campaigns achieving up to 4 times the amount of featured stories and social engagement that we achieved in earlier campaigns.” – from BuzzStream case study

How our approach was tailored to the client’s niche:

“In general, when our promotions team starts its outreach, they’ll email writers and editors who they think would be a good fit for the content. If the writer or editor responds, they often ask for more information or say they’re going to do a write-up that incorporates our project. From there, the story is up to publishers – they pick and choose which visual assets they want to incorporate in their post, and they shape the narrative.

What we discovered was that, in the marketing niche, publishers preferred to feature other experts’ opinions in the form of guest posts rather than using our assets in a piece they were already working on. We had suspected this (as our Fractl marketing team often contributes guest columns to marketing publications), but we confirmed that guest posts were going to make up the majority of our outreach efforts after performing outreach for Alexa’s campaigns.” – from Alexa case study

Who worked on the project:

Since the interviews you conduct with your internal team will inform the solution section of the case study, you may want to give individuals credit via quotes or anecdotes as a means to humanize the people behind the work. In the example below, one of our case studies featured a Q&A section with one of the project leads.

The Happy Ending: What did your resolution achieve?

Obviously, this is the part where you share your results. As I mentioned previously, we like to feature the results at the beginning of the case study, rather than buried at the end.

In our Superdrug Online Doctor case study, we summarized the overall results our campaigns achieved over 16 months:

But the happy ending isn’t finished here.

A lot of case studies fail to answer an important question: What impact did the results have on the client’s business? Be sure to tie in how the results you achieved had a bottom-line impact.

In the case of Superdrug Online Doctor, the results from our campaigns lead to a 238% increase in organic traffic. This type of outcome has tangible value for the client.

You can also share secondary benefits in addition to the primary goals the client hired you for.

In the case of our client Busbud, who hired us for SEO-oriented goals, we included examples of secondary results.

Busbud saw positive impacts beyond SEO, though, including the following:

  • Increased blog traffic
  • New partnerships as a result of more brands reaching out to work with the site
  • Brand recognition at large industry events
  • An uptick in hiring
  • Featured as a “best practice” case study at an SEO conference

Similarly, in our Fractl brand marketing case study, which focused on lead generation, we listed all of the additional benefits resulting from our strategy.

How to get the most out of your case studies

You’ve published your case study, now what should you do with it?

Build a case study page on your site

Once you’ve created several case studies, I recommend housing them all on the same page. This makes it easy to show off your results in a single snapshot and saves visitors from searching through your blog or clicking on a category tag to find all of your case studies in one place. Make this page easy to find through your site navigation and internal links.

While it probably goes without saying, make sure to optimize this page for search. When we initially created our case study portfolio page, we underestimated its potential to bring in search traffic and assumed it would mostly be accessed from our site navigation. Because of this, we were previously using a generic URL to house our case study portfolio. Since updating the URL from “frac.tl/our-work” to “frac.tl/content-marketing-case-studies,” we’ve jumped from page 2 to the top #1–3 positions for a specific phrase we wanted to rank for (“content marketing case studies”), which attracts highly relevant search traffic.

Use case studies as concrete proof in blog posts and off-site content

Case studies can serve as tangible examples that back up your claims. Did you state that creating original content for six months can double your organic traffic? On its own, this assertion may not be believable to some, but a case study showing these results will make your claim credible.

In a post on the Curata blog, my colleague Andrea Lehr used our BuzzStream case study to back up her assertion that in order to attract links, social shares, and traffic, your off-site content should appeal to an audience beyond your target customer. Showing the results this strategy earned for a client gives a lot more weight to her advice.

On the same note, case studies have high linking potential. Not only do they make a credible citation for your own off-site content, they can also be cited by others writing about your service/product vertical. Making industry publishers aware that you publish case studies by reaching out when you’ve released a new case study can lead to links down the road.

Repurpose your case studies into multiple content formats

Creating a case study takes a lot of time, but fortunately it can be reused again and again in various applications.

Long-form case studies

While a case study featured on your site may only be a few hundred words, creating a more in-depth version is a chance to reveal more details. If you want to get your case study featured on other sites, consider writing a long-form version as a guest post.

Most of the case studies you’ll find on the Moz Blog are extremely detailed:

Video

HubSpot has hundreds of case studieson its site, dozens of which also feature supplemental video case studies, such as the one below for Eyeota.

Don’t feel like you have to create flashy videos with impressive production value, even no-frills videos can work. Within its short case study summaries, PR That Converts embeds videos of clients talking about its service. These videos are simple and short, featuring the client speaking to their webcam for a few minutes.

Speaking engagements

Marketing conferences love case studies. Look on any conference agenda, and you’re sure to notice at least a handful of speaker presentations focused on case studies. If you’re looking to secure more speaking gigs, including case studies in your speaking pitch can give you a leg up over other submissions – after all, your case studies are original data no one else can offer.

My colleague Kelsey Libert centered her MozCon presentation a few years ago around some of our viral campaign case studies.

Sales collateral

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, many of our leads view the case studies on our site right before contacting us about working together. Once that initial contact is made, we don’t stop showing off our case studies.

We keep a running “best of” list of stats from our case studies, which allows us to quickly pull compelling stats to share in written and verbal conversations. Our pitch and proposal decks feature bite-sized versions of our case studies.

Consider how you can incorporate case studies into various touch points throughout your sales process and make sure the case studies you share align with the industry and goals of whoever you’re speaking with.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite ways to repurpose case studies here but there are at least a dozen other applications, from email marketing to webinars to gated content to printed marketing materials. I even link to our case studies page in my email signature.

case study email.png

My last bit of advice: Don’t expect immediate results. Case studies typically pay off over time. The good news is it’s worth the wait, because case studies retain their value – we’re still seeing leads come in and getting links to case studies we created three or more years ago. By extending their lifespan through repurposing, the case studies you create today can remain an essential part of your marketing strategy for years to come.

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Ask MarketingSherpa: How do I write emails that sell?

At MarketingSherpa, we get a lot of questions from readers. When one reader asked about how to write more effective emails, we saw it as a good opportunity to discuss stepping back and considering what really makes an effective marketing email.
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5 Keyboard Shortcuts to Help You Write and Edit with Ease

We’re all guilty of it at some point. I know I certainly am. Glamorizing writing is an easy trap to fall into … You forget about the countless hours of drafting and imagine a cushy writing life where the right words flow effortlessly from your finger tips as you sit in your ideal setting and
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Why You Should Pour Yourself a Glass of Water and Write for 15 Minutes Today

Daydreaming is inherently flexible. You don’t need to set aside time for it or plan how to execute it properly. It effortlessly arises and plays out until you shift your focus back to your responsibilities. Last week, I talked about getting more out of your expectations, and today I’m going to talk about a daily
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Google Shopping feed optimization: Speak your customers’ language and write more compelling product titles

Product titles are among the most important factors influencing the performance of your Google Shopping campaigns. Contributor Andreas Reiffen shares data on how to optimize them.

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How to Invite Your Creative Angel and Devilish Editor to Help You Write

how to harness both sides of your writing brain

Type, type, type. Backspace, backspace, backspace. Type more, delete, rewrite.

Sound familiar?

Writing and trying to edit as you go gets you nowhere. It’s two steps forward and one step back. It makes your writing process excruciatingly slow.

Stick around because it gets worse.

When you try to write and edit at the same time, you’re setting up two sides of your brain in a duel. Rather than getting these two sides to support one another, you’re putting them into a competition that neither wins.

As author Susan Reynolds says in Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer:

“Your editing brain is not the same as your writing brain, which is why you kindly ask the editor to step outside while your more imaginative and spontaneous brain is writing the first draft.”

Here’s the reality:

Writing uses one part of your brain. Editing uses another.

Once you understand this and accept it, you can work with it. And it all starts when you think about those two sides of your brain in terms of two characters I’d like to introduce you to:

Your Creative Angel and your Devilish Editor.

Meet your Creative Angel

Your Creative Angel is that part of your brain that encourages you. It tells you, “You’ve got this.” It supports you through the writing process.

Your Creative Angel helps you think of new angles for your writing. It pushes you gently toward finding the sparkliest word, the most precise phrase, and those intriguing arguments you use in your writing.

Your Creative Angel is creative, so its focus is on production. Your Creative Angel delivers the words onto the page.

Need help getting your Creative Angel to work for you? Read these:

7 Fun and Easy Warm Ups to Start Your Writing Day

How to Write Conversationally: 7 Tips to Engage and Delight Your Audience

Want to Sharpen Your Writing Skills? Try This Fun Challenge

Your Creative Angel helps you go from a blank page to a page full of words that are ready to be edited.

And in the next step, your Devilish Editor takes those words and ruthlessly deletes, changes, and polishes what remains until it’s an engaging package of information.

Read on to learn how the devil it happens.

Meet your Devilish Editor

The Devilish Editor has a vital role to play. Its job is every bit as important as the Creative Angel’s job.

The only problem is that the Devilish Editor really cannot be in the same room as the Creative Angel. More on that later.

In a perfect world, your Devilish Editor comes around after your Creative Angel has written its last word and has been whisked off to a safe location to rest, relax, and eat bonbons while waiting for your next creative project.

Your Devilish Editor doesn’t just edit, proof, and polish your words. It represents the skeptical voice that stands in for your readers.

Imagine it standing on your shoulder saying, “Prove it to me!” and “Oh, really? Says who?” and “Go ahead … make me click.”

Your Devilish Editor does his or her finest work when there’s not a whiff of your Creative Angel hovering around your writing.

This means letting your writing sit for a while unattended so all that creative fairy dust clears off it and there’s no “magic” left. Just words.

Those unadorned words are the raw materials your Devilish Editor works with.

Need help getting your Devilish Editor to work for you? Read these:

3 Editing and Proofreading Lessons to Help You Elevate the Quality of Your Content

4 Delightful Editing Tips to Make Your Words Dazzle and Dance

Explore the Content Editor Cosmos to Produce Out-of-This-World Writing [Infographic]

Give your Devilish Editor the support it needs by taking a break from writing before you refine your words. And then cut, rewrite, and proofread until it shines.

How to invite your Creative Angel and your Devilish Editor to your keyboard

First off, let’s answer an obvious question. Must you choose to be one of these and hire the other?

In other words, if you’re a writer, do you need to hire an editor? And if editing is your strength, does that mean you’re just not cut out to write?

Nothing of the sort.

Both of these sides of the writing process can coexist peacefully at your keyboard. But there are a few ground rules you’ll want to keep in mind so their relationship with each other — and with you — works well.

Think about the writing process as having an Act I and an Act II.

In Act I, invite your Creative Angel in to help. And remember what the Creative Angel whispers in your ear:

“Write forward, not backward.”

Don’t look back at the words you’ve written. Forget about the delete key. Just get the ideas in your head into written form. Leave the editing to later.

Cooperate with your Creative Angel and write.

In Act II, invite your Devilish Editor to sit at your keyboard. And remember what the Devilish Editor always says:

“Fresh eyes see all mitsakes.”

(That’s a joke!)

Give your Devilish Editor the optimal working environment by getting into critical, careful proofreading mode. Read carefully. This is not another writing day: it’s a day to polish and get your writing ready to be shared.

This article was inspired by you

This article was inspired by numerous conversations I’ve had with our readers that go something like this:

“I have started and stopped the same article for three days.”

“I wrote and rewrote this email to you before I would let myself send it.”

“I try to write but I never seem to get past the first paragraph.”

These are all statements made by writers who have a Creative Angel on one shoulder and a Devilish Editor on the other. Both are talking at once. It’s no wonder nothing gets written!

Step back and give each part of your brain the space to do its job. You’ll soon find out that the Creative Angel and the Devilish Editor are your best allies — just don’t invite them to your keyboard at the same time, OK?

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How to Write a High-Value Lesson Plan that Makes Your Course Easy to Sell

a step-by-step guide to organizing and delivering your course

The demand for online education is exploding.

The global market for online courses is estimated around $ 107 billion. A mind-boggling figure, right?

Imagine stuffing one-dollar bills into a 53-foot truck. Depending on how crumpled your bills are, you’d need around 1,000 trucks stuffed up to the roof to transport those 107-billion dollar bills.

Would you like one of those trucks to deliver a heap of money to you?

Then you must create a lesson plan so valuable that students get excited about buying your online course.

A high-value lesson plan motivates people to both study and implement your advice. It makes students so happy about their newly acquired skills that they tell all of their friends about your course. That’s how your course starts selling like hot cakes.

Ready to get started?

Step #1: Carefully assess your students’ needs

When developing a course on your own platform, the most logical starting point often seems to be your expertise.

How can you teach your skills to others?

This common approach is asking for trouble. Big trouble.

Because it’s hard to create a valuable learning experience when you think from your own perspective rather than from the student’s perspective.

Think about your course buyers first:

  • Who will buy your course?
  • How will the course transform them?
  • Why are they interested in this transformation?

Imagine, for instance, that you’re a social media expert, and you want to create a course to share your Twitter knowledge. You could answer the three questions above in widely different ways:

  • You might want to target Twitter novices who are hoping to build a Twitter following because they want more traffic to their websites.
  • You might want to target freelance writers who want to connect with publishers and influencers because they want to write for well-known publications that pay higher fees.
  • You might want to target small business marketers who find Twitter a time suck; they want to promote their brands in less time.

Each of these audiences requires a different lesson plan because they have different learning objectives and different levels of experience.

So before you create your lesson plan, define who your audience is and how you’ll help them.

If you’re unsure, read questions in relevant forums and check out the comment sections of popular blogs. Or, even better, ask your own email subscribers what they’re struggling with and how you can help.

Once you understand your audience and the overall aim of your course, you can start creating your lesson plan — the foundation of a popular course.

Step #2: Assign learning objectives to each part of your course

Courses often fail to deliver a smooth learning experience because participants lose track of their objectives.

Students become demotivated when they don’t understand the value of each lesson. They don’t see how your information contributes to their goals. They might even forget why they’re taking your course.

To keep your participants motivated, break the overall objective of your course down into mini-targets for each lesson.

You can fill in the blanks of this magical sentence for each target:

Learn [how this works], so you can [achieve so-and-so].

Each module, each lesson, and each assignment in your course should have a purpose. When participants understand the value of the information and how they’ll benefit from it, they’re more likely to engage with your course and implement your advice.

And what’s more, your valuable lesson plan makes crafting a sales page a breeze, too.

You already know who’s going to buy your course and why (for the transformation). You’ve already listed features (what people learn) and benefits (why they care about learning the information you teach). So, your lesson plan is the ideal selling tool for your course.

But how do you define the purpose of each lesson? And how do you make sure all of the lessons help students achieve their overall goal — their transformation?

Step #3: Create simple, digestible lessons

Ever felt overwhelmed when taking a course?

Or perhaps you’ve studied a course diligently, but were left wondering: “Now, what?”

Ensuring your course meets or exceeds your buyer’s expectations is a tough job. You can’t leave any gaps, but you also can’t overwhelm students by inundating them with too much information.

To avoid any gaps in your lesson plan, start with listing the steps you take to complete a specific task.

Let’s look at an easy example first.

Imagine creating a mini-course for cycling enthusiasts about packing a bicycle for transportation on a plane. You can create this course by making notes of the steps you take when packing your bike.

In this case, it’s even easier to record a video of yourself and provide a running commentary. But when you’re teaching an abstract topic, like leadership or digital marketing skills, it’s more difficult.

For abstract topics, reverse-engineer your processes

As an expert, you often accomplish tasks effortlessly. You don’t think about how you create a presentation; you simply put the slides together. You don’t think about how to write an email or give a client a quote. You simply perform the tasks.

To break down your processes, start by asking yourself, “How did I arrive at this result?”

Imagine creating online training materials for senior managers. One skill you want to teach is conducting performance reviews that motivate staff members and make them more productive.

You can picture yourself going through the process:

  • How do you prepare?
  • How do you ask your team members to prepare?
  • How do you conduct the performance review?
  • What type of notes do you take?

You can mentally rehearse your latest performance reviews and break down the complicated parts. You can play back how you dealt with an underperforming team member. You can think about the questions you asked to help you understand what your team member was struggling with.

You’ll find that you often need to mix different types of digestible chunks, especially for complicated topics or advanced skills. For instance, in my Enchanting Business Blogging course:

  • You learn how to write headlines, subheads, opening paragraphs, the main body text, and closing paragraphs — these are all different parts of a blog post
  • You learn how to generate ideas, outline, write a first draft, and edit — these are all different stages of the blog writing process
  • You also learn how to tell a mini-story, use metaphors, and include specific examples — these are all different writing techniques

You have to dig deep to distinguish different parts, chop up a process, and pinpoint techniques. You have to understand the essence of your topic and the foundation of your skills.

In the Da Vinci course from Sean D’Souza at Psychotactics, for instance, you can learn how to draw cartoons. But first, what’s the foundation of drawing? The course begins with drawing circles.

Now you’ve reverse-engineered your process. You’ve created a lesson plan that’s logical and enticing. Each lesson has a clear learning objective, and your valuable lesson plan is nearly ready.

Step #4: Motivate students to implement your advice

Consuming information in digestible chunks is not the same as learning.

To give your students real value and create raving fans, encourage students to implement your advice. At the end of each lesson, create an assignment for them.

For example, my guide for writing About pages, co-written with Julia Rymut, is a five-day mini-course.

Each day features new information plus an assignment so you can implement what you’ve learned:

  • Learn how to order the key components of an About page to create an engaging flow. Review how your favorite websites communicate the essential components of an About page (analysis of other people’s work helps reinforce the lesson).
  • Learn how to generate ideas for your About page. Complete a 23-point questionnaire so writing about yourself becomes a breeze.
  • Learn specific editing tips for About pages. Edit your page to make your content credible, persuasive, and enjoyable.

Remember, a valuable lesson plan doesn’t simply share information. It inspires students to implement your advice by suggesting activities and assignments.

Step #5: Avoid the biggest pitfall in lesson creation

You’re an expert. You’re brimming with enthusiasm for your topic. You want to share your knowledge and teach your skills. You want to inspire people.

Your red-cheeked enthusiasm is both a huge advantage and an enormous potential pitfall.

While your teaching materials will likely reflect your enthusiasm and get students excited about your course, your enthusiasm may also make you prone to overwhelming your students.

Because you want to teach them everything. Each method. Each trick. Each example. Each exception. And you risk leaving your students gasping for air.

Sharing everything you know is not necessary. Go back to the objective of your course, and ask yourself, “What’s the minimum students need to learn to fulfill that objective?”

Then evaluate your lesson plan:

  • Can you eliminate any learning material that’s not absolutely necessary? (Instead of scrapping lessons, consider turning them into bonus material.)
  • Does each lesson have one, straightforward learning objective, or have you muddled your program by sneaking multiple objectives into one lesson? Try cutting lessons into smaller chunks.
  • For each exercise or assignment, have you covered the relevant knowledge and skills?
  • Do the learning objectives follow each other in a logical order?
  • What could prevent students from implementing your advice? And how can you help overcome those hurdles?
  • Have you warned students about common mistakes?
  • Do the learning objectives match your overall promise?

Too much information makes students feel overwhelmed and leads to inaction. Not enough information leaves students confused and defeated. Good teachers inspire their students by giving exactly the right amount of information.

When running a test drive or beta version of your course, keep a close eye on the questions people ask.

Is important information missing? Are specific assignments stumbling blocks? Do students need a pep talk halfway through your course because they’re losing confidence? Or do you need to slow down and recap the lessons so far?

As a good teacher, do more than share information. Encourage. Motivate. Inspire.

Set the foundation for a thriving online training business

Some say that online learning may be more effective than the traditional model of classroom learning.

People can study at their own pace. They don’t waste time traveling and can save energy by studying from home. They can connect with like-minded people across the world.

But online learning only works if we, as providers, deliver a valuable learning experience.

Creating a valuable lesson plan can be tricky. I’m sure you’ve taken courses that left you confused, cross-eyed, and without hair. Or perhaps you gave up long before that. Defeated, you moved on to the next shiny course. Without making progress.

Your students deserve better than that.

So don’t simply share your knowledge. Create a course that teaches a real skill. Make your course so inspirational that people are begging you to create another course next.

Your valuable lesson plan is the solid foundation of a thriving training business.

Can you hear that truck honking?

The driver leans out of the window, a smile on his face. He’s waving at you, ready to deliver a heap of dollar bills.

Free Webinar: How to Develop an Irresistible Online Course People Will Line Up to Buy (and Then Actually Use)

  • Are you currently planning or developing an online course and looking for a few key pieces of practical advice (from a proven expert) that will put you in a position to have a successful launch?
  • Do you already have an online course that you’re looking to improve before your next launch?
  • Or are you simply curious what this online course craze is all about?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the three questions above, then join Rainmaker Digital founder and CEO Brian Clark on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time for a free webinar.

By the end of the hour, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of how to develop an online course that your target audience needs … and that they will be compelled to pay for.

Learn More and Register for Free

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on August 18, 2015.

The post How to Write a High-Value Lesson Plan that Makes Your Course Easy to Sell appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Write 16 Knockout Articles When You Only Have One Wimpy Idea

How to Write 16 Knockout Articles When You Only Have One Wimpy Idea

Serious content creators know that each article they publish is a piece of a larger content marketing arena.

But the thought of generating content ideas on a regular basis often knocks us out before the opening bell even rings.

It can be difficult to consistently write exceptional content that encourages visitors to stick around and learn about your unique selling proposition.

For example, let’s pretend you’re the marketing director for a store that makes and sells boxing equipment. You need to convey the passion, care, and expertise your company puts into creating its specialized gear, but the problem is that your message is only a couple paragraphs.

Your wimpy, single piece of content reads more like a press release or “About” page than a compelling story that spreads across multiple blog posts.

You’re stuck with limited material when you need to develop many different articles that help boxers and boxing enthusiasts find your merchandise. Instead of “throwing in the towel” and losing a marketing opportunity, view your situation from a creative perspective.

With that in mind, here are 16 ways a boxing equipment business could approach blog post writing. Note that each idea below can be applied to your niche to make your website a fresh and valuable resource in your industry.

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Focus on products

1. Tell stories

Feature your individual products in separate blog posts, rather than merely listing that you sell gloves, bags, mouthguards, tape, etc. What are their special benefits? Which qualities make them the perfect purchase for your ideal customer?

2. Customer testimonials

After you’ve posted articles that spotlight each of your products, create complementary posts with testimonials about those products. Link the new posts to relevant old posts.

3. Reader discounts

Show your appreciation for your blog readers by rewarding them with special offers or giveaways. As an incentive to subscribe to your website, you may also want to offer a freebie or discount on a physical product.

4. Neighborly love

If you don’t sell clothing and accessories, such as boxing trunks and water bottles, promote other businesses that do sell those items. Write posts about your favorite boxing stores and link to their websites to initiate camaraderie.

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Share your company’s story

5. Employee profiles

Demonstrate that your team members are true boxing aficionados — people with relatable interests. You can structure these posts in a “Question & Answer” format to make them easy to read. What’s his or her daily role? How does his or her skill set contribute to the company’s business objectives?

6. Behind the scenes

Tell stories about day-to-day activities. They may seem mundane to you, but routines at your organization give insight into your operations. What’s it like to work at your company? Which best practices differentiate you from competitors? Why do customers love your products?

7. Philosophy

Use your blog to describe your mission statement in a personable way. The casual tone that is appropriate on your blog allows you to make professional jargon more understandable. Why do you make and sell boxing equipment? What problems do your products fix? Why is your quality unparalleled?

8. Captivating visuals

Show your products in action with photos, slideshows, and videos. This is especially useful if you are in an athletic or active industry like boxing. Images help potential customers get a sense of what it’s like to own your specific brand.

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Discuss important events

9. Journalism

Keep your content current by writing about local and national fights on a regular basis. You can make announcements about upcoming events and also write blog posts about their highlights and pitfalls after they’ve occurred.

10. High-profile fights

Standard blog posts may be 300–500 words, but special occasions are a chance for you to produce longer, in-depth articles closer to 1,000 words. Provide comprehensive details and analysis.

11. Field reports

Do you have correspondents at a big fight or tournament? Is a trade show or conference nearby? Explain what you’ve learned about your customers’ needs from associates who interact with a broader range of consumers.

12. Training and classes

Consider offering boxing training in your store, and use your blog to see if your customers would be interested. It might even be possible to create an online course that could help your target audience. If that’s not a possibility, discuss the classes or online courses you’d recommend.

knockout-3

Educate and illuminate

13. Exclusive interviews

Look for ways to educate your audience by tapping the wisdom of other people in your industry. Ask professional boxers and trainers to share their knowledge with your readers.

14. Insider instructions

Continue educating with boxing tips and techniques. What are the best ways to treat wounds? How do you strengthen your muscles for optimal performance? What should boxers eat?

15. Reviews and resources

You can review apps, websites, books, or magazine articles related to boxing. Are they helpful or a waste of time? Guide your customers to the right resources.

16. Direct correspondence

Listen to your customers’ questions. You probably don’t answer all of them on your website, so address them in blog posts. If you already have a thorough “Frequently Asked Questions” section, repurpose or update your text and publish it in a series.

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Build your own content marketing arena

Content helps you expand the “know, like, and trust” factor that you need to satisfy before customers feel comfortable buying from you.

When you write content with a focused editorial strategy, your website becomes a channel that broadcasts your news. It’s a media outlet that potential customers regularly visit to get the next installment of your unfolding narrative.

Your readers focus their attention on your boxing ring and become interested in fighting the good fight with you.

How do you use blog posts to share your business’s unique story and attract customers?

Share in the comments below!

Learn how to connect with content

Want to learn more about how you can use content marketing to grow relationships with the audience you’d like to attract to your business?

Then claim your free My Copyblogger membership! You’ll get instant access to a treasure chest of proven content marketing training.

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Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on January 7, 2014.

The post How to Write 16 Knockout Articles When You Only Have One Wimpy Idea appeared first on Copyblogger.


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