“Make a new plan, Stan,” as Paul Simon would say. That’s what we’re talking about today. We finished last week with a list of the Top Ten Bad Content Creation Plans. If you didn’t read that, you might want to click the link back there and check it out. It’s the post with the picture of the Marine and his flame thrower. This week, as promised, we’re continuing the discussion by talking about Good Content Creation Plans – ones that actually work.
A good content creation plan is the lifeblood of a successful website. If you have you’re planning on building an audience, expanding your influence, or selling anything, you have to have a content creation plan. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. You’re kidding yourself if you think any of these things are going to happen if you’re posting sporadically and working piece-meal.
Just like any other element of your business, you succeed where you plan to succeed. This is a long distance run – not a sprint, so you better know where you’re going. Now let’s look at the key elements of a Good Content Creation Plan.
It’s Publishing – Not Advertising
The first thing you need to clearly understand in order to develop a solid content creation plan is that you’re not advertising – you’re publishing! This is huge, because until you understand this, you won’t know where to start. Most business people I work with still think of their website as a place to feature sales and special offers. Sure, there’s the obligatory “About Us” junk, but the purpose is to “push” products and services.
Would you subscribe to a magazine if it were entirely full of ads? If so, I have a bridge you should really consider buying. The answer to that question had better be, “No.” Advertising is something we put up with in order to get the content we really want. Yeah, Bassmaster Magazine is going to offer to sell me baits and gear, and I may even consider buying some if the articles I read convinced me that it would be a worth-while purchase.
People visit your website for the same reason that they read their favorite magazine. They want to be informed, educated, and entertained by the stuff you publish there. So, if you are someone who owns a company or manages one or even a part of one, get this through your head. Websites are for publishing! And the department that handles your website is not marketing. It’s publishing! If I were you, I’d even call it publishing, so that everyone understands.
Three Essential Elements
I’ve already mention the first essential element. It’s forethought. In order to develop a content creation plan that really works, you have to look into the future. Now, you need to know that cards are stacked against you here, because only about 10% of us have personalities that are naturally future-oriented. Everybody else has to put forth some effort to make this happen.
It’s not rocket science, though. You already do this in a ton of other areas. You forecast your expenses and income. You plan for emergencies and future expansion. This is no different. It’s the same process of global to local thinking. You start with a desired end result and then break it down into smaller pieces until you have bite-sized chunks that you can handle daily. Then, over time, you manage to obtain your goal piece by piece.
The second essential element of your content creation plan is form. It’s not enough to break your goal down into pieces that you can handle. You have to decide how you’re going to handle them. You need tools, equipment, implements of destruction as Arlo Guthrie would say. No one fixes a car without screwdrivers and wrenches. No one plants a garden without a shovel and a hoe. Form allows you to know where and how to begin.
I wrote a series of posts not long ago about types of articles. This was an effort to provide form for your content creation. We actually have plans to release a product this fall that will take content creation to a whole new level and I look forward to launching it, but for now, the tools we have to work with are blog posts, social media, and email. These are the basics, but they’re also all you need to get started.
The third essential content creation element is fortitude. This is bottom line. Once you formulate a goal with your forethought, and then break it down into pieces and decide what to do with it using your form, you have to actually do something. That’s where fortitude comes in. Those articles aren’t going to write themselves. Facebook isn’t going to read your mind and send traffic accordingly. You need a daily regimen of writing and posting.
For this lesson, I take you back to my college days at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I was trumpet player and I had the privilege of studying under James Olcott. J.O., as we called him, taught me so much more than trumpet playing. He taught me life. On the wall behind the door to his office hung a placard with a golden shovel attached to it. The golden shovel award was given to the student who shoveled the most crap and still managed to, “Take Care of Business.”
There was no gray middle ground when it came to taking care of business. You either did or you didn’t. And you were rewarded or chastised accordingly. Like a loving father, J.O. held us to a high standard for our own good, and now I’m doing the same for you. Remember, there are two kinds of people in this world – those who take care of business and those who don’t. One kind gets paid and the other doesn’t. Which one do you want to be?
Plans That Work
Now I’m going to share some practical stuff. Here are some plans that really work based on the type of publication you’re trying to create.
Newsletters / eMagazines
Newsletters and eMags are nothing more than collections of articles. In fact most mailing list services have the ability to pull the last several posts from your site and compile them into a newsletter. You just create a template that tells the list service that article one goes here and article two goes here, etc. Then you tell it how many articles to use for each issue, when to collect them, and when to send it out.
I use Aweber for my mailing list service. I can set it to compile and send a newsletter every time I get five new posts. Then I just write. I can also tell it to compile and send a newsletter on a certain day every month. Then I just have to make sure that I’ve published enough content to my blog by the time the newsletter goes out. Automation is awesome isn’t it?
Like newsletters and emags, ebooks are just another way of compiling blog posts. In this case, I outline my book, turn the outline “sideways” and schedule the posts out over the calendar. This gives me a production schedule which allows me to know when to promote and sell my ebook. It also gives me a product I can publish on Amazon and other ebook stores to create perpetual sales.
The thing about ebooks is that they don’t assemble themselves. I have to compile and edit the collection of posts myself or hire someone else to do it for me. In my opinion, it’s a small price to pay for a resource that will bring value over and over again for years.
It begins as blog content. Then it becomes and ebook for sale. Next it may be a free gift given to mailing list subscribers. Finally, it ends up as a value-adding element available to people who join my membership site.
Guides are also collections of content, but they are usually smaller than ebooks. You’ll see these offered on the web as, “The Beginner’s Guide to…” or ” The Complete Guide to…” Sometimes you can even find, “The Ultimate Guide to…” Whatever you call it, guides tend to look more like suped-up infographics with lots of data and artwork.
Using a graphic approach to presentation make them easier to skim and consume in chunks. This is great for people with very little time for reading. Guides also make great reference materials. Folks will often keep them on file so they can refer to them again and again. This means that they have shelf life and keep your content in front of your readers longer.
Another approach that I’ve used with companies is the handbook method. When they have a hard time deciding what to publish, I ask them, “What do you wish you had a handbook for?” Often times, they answer with things like, “Teaching my employees how to provide good customer service,” or, “How to get the most value out of our product.” Great! Then write a handbook for that.
We outline what the handbook should contain and, the next thing they know, they have a list of posts and a schedule for writing them. The cool thing is that, when it’s finished, they have a valuable tool for training their employees. They’ve also created a detailed account of exactly what sets them apart from their competitors. And, on top of all that, they can sell it or give it away to build customer loyalty.
Courses / Workbooks
Courses work a lot like handbooks except that they include media and study materials. However, the concept is the same. Ask yourself, “What do I wish I had a course for?” or “What do my customers ask about most often?” Then write a course to teach what needs to be learned. Courses are cool, because you can launch them over and over again and they’ll keep generating income time after time.
Workbooks can be created in conjunction with a course or as a stand alone resource. A workbook is simply a tool that walks people through the process of learning something. Make a list of the most frequent complaints you receive from customers about your product or service. Now turn that list into something positive by writing a workbook that addresses and solves each of one of your most troublesome issues.
Thanks for reading another post about content creation. I write about this so much, because it is the one thing that most people either can’t or won’t do with their websites. It’s the hardest part of this whole digital marketing process. Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll be discussing the differences between Creation and Management. This is a critical distinction that too many businesses fail to make. See you then.
What struggle and success have you had with content creation plans? Share a comment and let’s talk about it.