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BUSINESS STRATEGY

4 Elements Of An Effective Content Marketing Plan

Four elements of an effective content marketing plan - because you shouldn't be winging your marketing if you want to get results. Tips for female entrepreneurs and online business owners who are creating content on a regular basis to grow their brand.

Do you know why you create the content you plan to create?

So you publish a blog once a week and you post on Facebook every day, but what is your plan based on? Sometimes our plans are focused on the action we want to take, not the results we want from the action. The 4 elements of an effective content marketing plan force you to think about who you are actually speaking to, why are you creating the content you want to create, what the goal is of the content, and what you eventually lead to in order to grow your business.

4 Elements of An Effective Content Marketing Plan

IS IT RELATABLE?

I start every client call and every course I have by talking about how important it is to have a target audience (seriously, so important). If you’re not relating to your target audience, you’re going to have a hard time selling anything to them. When you get inside the heads of the people in your target audience, you can really understand what they want, why they want it, where to find them, instead of just selling to them.

Take Action: Make sure you’re connecting with your audience on a personal level in some way. Relate to your audience just like you would with a friend. You may be attracted to someone because you have a lot in common or because you are opposites and they are really knowledgeable in certain areas that you aren’t. If your audience is never saying things like, “I feel the same way,” or “You totally get me,” then they probably aren’t relating to your content and that’s a red flag.

IS IT ENGAGING?

If your marketing is boring or generic, you don’t have an effective content marketing plan.  You need to be engaging your audience by giving them things to care about and helping them in some way. If you are just talking at them and not talking with them, you are not going to be engaging them in a conversation or helping them care about what you’re saying. So ask yourself, “Why should people care?” Any time you share content whether it’s a blog post or a post on social media, think about why people should care. Are you sharing just to share or are you sharing because you have something valuable or entertaining?

Take Action: Talk to your audience and ask them what they’re thinking. What do they want? Speak to a specific person, ask them a question or try to figure out what they might be thinking or feeling, and create content that way. You’ll see what happens when you create content that engages with a specific person instead of trying to appeal to a lot of people and hope someone responds. If you hear crickets, then you’re not connecting with your audience and you need to figure out why that is!

IS IT ACTIONABLE?

While engaging is figuring out the why, making content actionable is the how. Once people care about your business and whatever you’re selling, how do they take the next step to work with you or buy what you’re selling? You need to tell them what is it you want them to do and how they can do it.

Take Action: Give your audience the call to action! Ask them to sign up for a free training, tell them to request a discovery call. With all the noise in the business space, it’s easy to overlook an opportunity and move on. You need that extra push of telling people what to do if you don’t want people to scroll away and move on to the next thing.

IS IT LIST-BUILDING?

If your audience is on social media, your blog, or YouTube, you don’t own your audience the same way you do with an email list. Social media algorithms are always changing. Even if people subscribe to your YouTube channel or follow you on social media, they only view a very small percentage of what you share. But email? Everyone checks their email. More people are likely to see your content via your email list than any social media platform, average conversion rates are higher, and YOU are in control of your email list.

I’m definitely not saying other aspects of your marketing don’t matter, but if email isn’t a part of your marketing strategy I would seriously think about getting started now (sooner is better than later). #trust

Take Action: You should have multiple ways for people to get on your email list. Not everyone is going to be attracted to the same opt-in. The more ways you have for people to opt in, the more they are going to do it. It could be a free email course, a challenge, a checklist, or free training like a webinar. There are a number of ways to get people to subscribe. Your email list will build your relationship with your audience and lead to that ultimate sell.

Is it time to revamp your content marketing plan? Download my free content planning worksheets to help you get started!

 

My Highest Converting Sales Funnel

Behind the scenes of my highest converting sales funnel - from how I came up with the idea, how I launched the membership program, how I set up the sales funnel, to tactical strategies I've used to grow my business.

A few months into 2016, I was brainstorming potential new revenue streams and I knew I wanted to create some sort of membership (because recurring revenue sounded like a good thing). So in June (after 3 exhausting back-to-back course launches), I was ready for something else and wanted to test a low-priced offering because up until then everything I’d offered had been $100+ – little did I know that this particular idea would lead to my highest converting sales funnel of the year!

MY INITIAL IDEA

The Styled Stock Society happened kind of accidentally. I didn’t have a specific membership idea in mind, so I took a look at my email list to see if there were any particular opt-ins that were more popular than others. I was actually surprised to see that around 1,000 people had downloaded my free stock photos during April + May, so I thought ok, maybe I could offer regular stock photos for a monthly fee.

I decided on a simple photo subscription. I wanted it to be affordable but I also needed it to be worth my time. I don’t plan for the Styled Stock Society to be my primary income stream, so my original goal was earning around $1o00 / month for about 8 hours of work (2 hours on planning + prep, 2 hours shooting photos, 2 hours editing, 2 hours on admin). Not so bad, right?

Initially, the thought of “selling” my photos made me uncomfortable (because at the time I didn’t even think of myself as a photographer). I thought I had to go buy a bunch of new props to take all these photos.  And I was worried that if I didn’t make everything “perfect” that no one would sign up and it would be a huge failure blah blah blah.

I was telling my husband all of this and he basically told me to just STOP overthinking and just create an minimum viable product (MVP).

Stop overthinking and just create a minimum viable product.

To create an MVP, I basically just needed photos + a way for people to pay for them + a way to give them access to download the photos after they paid. I was hesitant to invest a lot of time or money without knowing what was going to happen, so the only props I bought were pink peonies ($16 at my local deli) and I used other notebooks / pens / etc. that I already had. All of the June photos were pink / gold / black / white because those are my brand colors, and I figured worst case scenario, if no one bought the photos, I could still use them for myself!

DURING THE “LAUNCH”

So without creating a fancy sales page, and without setting up a new membership site, I pre-sold the idea by sending 2 emails to the people who had previously downloaded my free stock photos. The first email announced the membership details with a special pre-launch offer ($25/year – which is crazy low, but I wasn’t confident that anyone would buy at all) and the second email reminded people that the pre-launch offer was ending.

I sent 2 emails and ended up with 72 members in that first week…

So I doubled the price.

For the next couple of weeks, the payment options were $25 for 6 months or $50 for 12 months. I essentially sent the same 2 emails to the rest of my email list with one announcing the new payment options and one reminding people that the offer was expiring and ended up with an additional 78 new members before the end of June.

In total, during the launch period in June, I launched to approximately 3,000 people and 150 people joined the Styled Stock Society during the launch period. That’s a 7.5% conversion – which was really surprising since most of my courses have previously converted around 2-3% – but I also took it as a sign to raise the prices again!

TESTING PRICING OPTIONS

Over the next couple of months I tested a few different pricing options – I gradually raised the prices and offered a combination of monthly / quarterly / 6 month / 12 month memberships. Knowing that I was spending 2 days per month on Styled Stock Society related activities, I doubled my income goal to $2,000 recurring revenue per month and tried to find the best combination of pricing options that would maximize my conversions AND my revenue. Currently there are 2 pricing tiers ($69 for 3 months and $199 for 12 months) – the most popular plan is the 6 month option which isn’t really surprising – even though the 12 month membership is a better value, having a sub-$100 price point for the shorter term option is more attractive to my particular audience and I’ve been pleased with the results and revenue so far.

SETTING UP THE SALES FUNNEL

After the initial launch period, I knew that if I wanted to continue to attract new members on a consistent basis I needed to have a process in place to attract and convert potential customers into paying Styled Stock Society members. I set up a really basic funnel that consists of:

A) An attractive free offer – 10 free feminine styled stock photos

B) A landing page – I also have a simple landing page to share the free offer.

C) A promotion strategy – I link directly to that landing page linked in all of my social media bios. I mention the free photos on Instagram once every 10 days and I have regularly scheduled posts on Twitter / Facebook that link to that landing page. I also have 2 different pins on Pinterest that lead to the landing page and those are re-pinned to my own board and group boards on a regular basis. I share the free photos in Facebook groups for bloggers / online business owners (though to be honest, I’m not at all consistent with that). 90% of my promotion is promoting the free photos and not the membership itself because I want people to download the free photos and end up on my email list where I can share more information with them over time! I also have affiliates for the Styled Stock Society who earn a commission for referring new members, and occasionally I offer other incentives for current members to share how much they love their stock photos on social media.

D) An automated email sequence using ConvertKit – The day after new subscribers download my free stock photos, they receive an email introducing them to the Styled Stock Society membership. I give a brief overview of the membership sharing the key features + benefits as well as share a preview of the photos that are currently available to members. A couple of days later I send a second email with answers to membership FAQs, examples of how you can use styled stock photos for your business or your blog, and brief testimonials from current Styled Stock Society members. This is an incredibly simple email sequence (though at some point I will probably add a third email), but for now, this simple automation is converting around 8-9% (meaning 8-9% of people who receive these emails end up becoming Styled Stock Society members). Sometimes simplest things are the best.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

E) A time-sensitive offer – As an incentive to join the Styled Stock Society, I have a time sensitive offer “pitch” included in my email sequence.

TACTICAL MOVES

While this particular income stream is fairly passive – I’ve also tested a few marketing tactics to see see if I could make small “time” investments that yield not-so-small results.

  • Flash sales – I’ve done a couple of sales on 6/12 month memberships (but never the lowest tier) that have been successful at growing the Styled Stock Society membership. I don’t like to offer “sales” too often, but once in awhile they are can be very effective – for my birthday, I held a 24 hour flash sale on 12 month memberships and increased my (average) monthly revenue by 40% in less than a day!
  • Bonus offers – If you don’t want to run a sale, offering a bonus can also be an effective sales tool to convert potential customers who are on the fence. Around Labor Day I ran a special promotion that basically meant any new members received double the amount of stock photos than normal because they were given access to a previous month’s collection. It was an easy bonus to offer since it required no extra work on my part, but increased my membership by over 30% that month. In November, I created an bonus collection of holiday-themed photos that was “gifted” to anyone who joined before Thanksgiving and that was so successful that I’m now planning to offer quarterly seasonal collections throughout the year.

TWEAK + REPEAT

I’m regularly tweaking my automated sales sequence as well as thinking about ways that I can add more value to the Styled Stock Society while keeping it affordable (and well worth my time)! Since Styled Stock Society launched (just over 6 months ago from the time this post was published), I went from having no sales page whatsoever to having a separate website with information on the Styled Stock Society membership as well as a SHOP and separate services page for custom photography.

Now with over 1,000 members (consistently growing each month!), I’ve doubled my membership goals again and again (and again) over the past year or so. If you’re interested in learning more about the Styled Stock Society, you can learn more about membership options right the way! 

 

What I learned from 4 launches in 3 months

What I Learned from Four Launches in Three Months - Launching Courses + Subscriptions

 

Some of y’all may know that in March I started to shift my business from primarily client-based work to incorporating online courses and other more “passive” forms of income. I kinda hate the term passive income because (in my experience) A LOT of work goes into creating / marketing digital products, but it is pretty damn cool to literally make money while I’m sleeping. With that said, I still enjoy one-on-one client work and am (currently) not trying to replace it completely with other income streams. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about launching, so I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned from launching 3 online courses + 1 membership program during the past few months!

Fail Fast + Get Better

I’m somewhat of a chronic over-planner, but for some reason this hasn’t translated to my business – and I’m thankful for that. Instead of spending months planning + agonizing over every aspect of my launch plans, I can go from idea to live sales page in less than a week. I set a “minimum goal” for pre-sales and once I hit that, I create + launch within 2-3 weeks. My first launch wasn’t perfect. My second launch wasn’t perfect. There’s always something to improve or try differently the next time and I don’t really think there’s such a thing as a “perfect” launch.

My “plan” for the last 3 months was essentially, fail fast + learn + tweak + repeat. I actually closed the cart on my first launch + opened the pre-sale for my second launch exactly 12 hours later. I wouldn’t recommend that timeline to anyone else (take a freakin’ break y’all!), but if you’ve been planning your launch for awhile and haven’t just DONE it already – make it happen. I wouldn’t consider any of my launches actual failures – I hit my minimum sales goals every time, and I hit my target sales goals most of the time. I still haven’t hit my “stretch goals” for any of my launches, but I’m continuing to grow my email list, try new strategies, and tweak my sales funnels.

Key takeaway: Assuming you have an audience (even a small one) – create an MVP and put it out there. You can always make it better, but you’ll never know unless you just do it.  

The More Specific The Better

I talked about how finding a niche made SUCH A DIFFERENCE in my first launch vs. my second launch in this post. And a couple of launches later, I still feel the same way. As long as you can find your audience and validate your idea, I think the more specific it is, the better.

It’s a little weird because you’d think a general course on something like “Photoshop for bloggers” would attract more people than something really specific like “Photoshop for nomadic food bloggers in Europe” – but in that example, I’d bet most of the nomadic food bloggers in Europe get excited about the course because it’s REALLY specific to them. If you create a generic product or service, you’re probably going to have a lot of competition. And if you can stand out, that’s great – but it’s much easier to stand out when you’re doing something that no one else is doing in a particular niche! 

Key takeaway: If your idea is so specific that it makes you a little uncomfortable, that’s probably a good thing.

There’s A Good Reason I’m My Own Boss

I’m kind of a control freak. I prefer being in charge of (most) things because I know I’m picky about the way they get done. So it’s probably no surprise I was never big into team sports (I was a competitive swimmer) or group projects (my “less-motivated” friends loved being on my team for group projects because they knew I would do all the work and just put their names on it).

When it comes to launching, I like to get a LOT done in a short amount of time. My schedule is a bit manic and I wouldn’t impose it on anyone else. It wouldn’t be fair. While I’m not great at delegating, I’m working on it. I love my VA but we basically just check in once a month so it’s not like we’re actively communicating all the time. And my solo webinars have all been more profitable than my joint webinars. It’s not that I can’t play well with others, but I’m just more comfortable working on my on terms. And that’s ok.

Key takeaway: The “best” way to launch something is the way that works for you.

FOMO Is A Big Motivator

I’ve done both open/close cart launches and evergreen launches. I’ve experimented with price increases, bonuses, upsells, downsells, bundles, etc. but urgency has been the biggest motivator for generating sales. Meaning EVERY time I send an email about an offer ending soon, I get sales. FOMO is real y’all. People don’t like to miss out.

Limited time offers are your friend, but that doesn’t mean you constantly have to have “sales” or discount your products / services – on the flip side, you can always give MORE value for a limited time by offering a bonus.

Key takeaway: Wish you were getting more sales right NOW? Launch a time sensitive offer.

It’s Easier To Sell To Your Existing Audience Than To Find A New One

There are a lot of articles (and a few well-known courses) out there that will tell you that you don’t have to grow your audience before you launch, because you can launch with a small audience and/or grow your audience while you plan your launch. I agree to an extent (you gotta start somewhere) BUT, from my experience it’s easier to create something that your existing audience already wants, rather than find a new audience to buy the thing you want to create. For my first course – I chose my course idea before I had a targeted audience (don’t do this). Even though I had over 1,000 people on my email list when I launched, but only about 300 were really interested in the course. I felt like I had to spend a lot of time trying to convince people WHY they would benefit from it, and in the end it didn’t convert as well as well as I wanted.

For my most recent launch – I had quadrupled the size of my email list, and I also realized that I had over 1,000 people interested in a specific product, so I created a membership based on something that I already knew people wanted. I didn’t need to convince people it was good idea, because they already wanted what I was selling. It was a much easier (and more profitable) launch. 

Key takeaway: Give your audience want they want, not what you think they need.

List Building + Nurturing Is Sooo Important (So Important)

Speaking of email lists, it’s worth repeating that while you can launch with a small audience (especially if they are SUPER engaged), list building is soooo important if you want to sell digital products and especially if you want to sell evergreen products. If you want to sell (and keep selling), you need to keep growing your list + converting more subscribers into customers. So if your list growth is stagnant, it taps out. BUT a bigger list isn’t necessarily better IF it’s not targeted. Meaning if 2,500 people opt in to your email list because you gave away free stock photos, and then you try to sell them a ecourse on Facebook ads – its probably not going to convert very well. So make sure your opt-ins relate to your paid products (or services)!

Key takeaway: Focus on growing your email list if you want passive income! 

What’s Next

So those are a few of the key things I’ve learned from 4 launches in 3 months – though there could easily be a part 2 of this post with even more of the technical lessons I learned from launching (comment if that’s something you’d want to see)! Now that the year is halfway over, I’ve been re-assessing where my business is and where I want it to be at the end of 2016 so I can plan for the next few months. Even though I keep track of things month-to-month, it’s been helpful to take a step back and look at my overall goals for the year.

If you’ve launched digital products, can you relate to any of these lessons? And if you’re thinking about launching – what questions do you have?! 

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