Allstate: offline call data improved SEM performance and the customer experience

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Call tracking, now frequently rebranded as “call intelligence” or “call analytics,” went from being a novelty in the SEM world a few years ago to a perceived commodity today. However the benefits of using call analytics extend well beyond campaign optimization into operational and customer experience insights for brands and marketers.

Allstate offers a case study, which was presented last week at SMX East. The company worked with Invoca on a paid-search campaign specifically for local insurance agents in multiple provinces in Canada, along with French-speaking Quebec.

As a basic matter, call data provides insight into what’s happening “offline.” As I’ve written multiple times before, this is now critical for all digital marketers (whether search or display).

Using DoubleClick for search and Invoca, Allstate was able to combine click and call data for improved bidding and targeting. Allstate was able to identify the keywords that resulted in calls and then analyzed which of those calls maked quotes and later sales.

Allstate Invoca

Allstate was also able to improve local agent productivity by using Invoca’s technology to block unwanted telemarketing in-bound spam calls to agents — a kind of mirror of the online click fraud problem. It also obtained considerable audience data based on the location of calls.

The company found that a great deal of online quote requests came from the PC. The majority of calls were coming from mobile phones, which offered better leads. Allstate reported the following campaign results:

  • A 16 percent increase in calls year over year
  • A more than 50 percent decrease in abandoned calls
  • Decreased customer acquisition costs

Rather than optimizing against clicks and using lead-capture forms to determine efficacy, Allstate was able to optimize against real ROI metrics, using call analytics. Perhaps a great deal of interesting, however, was how Allstate moved beyond campaign optimization and was able to use call data to improve the customer experience.

Allstate discovered that its previous IVR menu, which ran in excess of 60 seconds, was causing people to drop off calls in impatience or frustration. The company shortened the IVR message for paid-search callers and improved call routing. Accordingly, it was able to capture more high-intent leads.

It was also able to do a better job, using location data, to route calls to local agents and the correct default language. Overall the call experience, where a great deal of sales happened, was improved and the company was able to close more business.

The post Allstate: offline call data improved SEM performance and the customer experience appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Search Engine Land

50 Business Ideas People are Actually Making Money From (Complete with Examples)

50 Business Ideas People are Actually Making Money From (Complete with Examples)

Choosing a business idea is an incredibly important decision. A great idea can make your life so much easier. People will naturally identify with your mission and help to share your message. The right topic will make you come alive and you’ll fall in love with your business and customers.

A poorly chosen idea, on the other hand, can make life difficult. When people stop by your site, they won’t find a compelling reason to stick around. You’ll be swimming upstream every week, wondering where you went wrong. We don’t want that to happen to you, which is why we've already identified 10 common mistakes to avoid when choosing a business idea.

Now that you know what to avoid when choosing an idea, we’re ready to share with you 50 business ideas that will spark your imagination, stimulate your creativity, and put you on the path to indie business success. These are real ideas independent business founders, including many of the members in the Fizzle community, have used to generate income and build a business.

Note: below we mention several examples of effective businesses run by founders who are featured in Fizzle Founder Stories. Founder Stories are in-depth, high-definition, behind-the-scenes interviews with effective entrepreneurs where we find out how they got begined, how they earn money, why they’ve been effective, and what advice they have for new business builders. There are dozens of Founder Stories in the Fizzle library, and several are mentioned here.

Is one of the ideas on this list right for you? Let’s find out…

1. Podcaster

As the popularity of podcasts continues to grow, increasing numbers of podcast hosts and creators are finding ways to monetize their shows. This comes with selling products and services to the audience, as well as landing deals with advertisers.

Real World Examples: Jordan Harbinger has built a business around his effective podcast, The Art of Charm, and is featured in one of our Fizzle Founders Stories.

John Lee Dumas has also built a massively effective business around his daily podcast, Entrepreneur on Fire, and hosts Fizzle’s Advanced Podcasting course.

(You’re already subscribed to The Fizzle Show, right? We covered Choosing and Vetting a Business Idea way back in episode #8, and more the latestly discussed How to Get Past the Fear of Choosing the Wrong Business Idea in episode #154.)

2. Blogger

For over two decades bloggers have been building audiences by delivering free, relevant, entertaining, and/or informative content on a myriad  of topics, including fashion, food, fitness, health and wellness, minimalism, business, careers, and technology. Much like podcasting, bloggers are able to monetize their audience in a number of ways, including selling products and services directly to their audience, as well as selling access to their audience to advertisers.

Real World Examples: Dana and John Shultz have built a business around their blog Minimalist Baker, and they share their expertise as the hosts of Fizzle’s Essentials of Building a Great Food Blog course.

Keeping with the minimalist blogger theme, Leo Babauta also makes a living via his blog Zen Habits, which was named one of Time Magazine’s top 25 blogs in the world two years in a row. Leo is featured in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories and also hosts our course, “How to Create Effective and Engaging Content.”

3. Selling Through Etsy and Ebay

Online retailers offer indie business builders an existing platform with which to sell products online (no complicated shopping cart or website development required). Handmade art, vintage collectables, jewelry, and custom creations can all be sold effectively through websites like Etsy and Ebay.

Real World Example: Think selling jewelry is “too small” a business idea for you? In her Fizzle Founder Story, former Fizzler and current popular podcast host Jess Lively explains how selling jewelry was an instrumental component in her incredible business journey.

4. Wedding Photographer

Soon-to-be-wed couples are always on the hunt for a talented photographer to snap unforgettable shots on their special day. The generally higher rates for wedding related products and services presents an excellent opportunity for wedding photographers to generate great income.  

Real World Example: Friend of Fizzle Jen Wojcik specializes in “Fine Art Weddings” and has built an impressive client list and portfolio in just a few years.

5. Video Producer/Creator

A quick scroll through your Facebook feed will reveal just how prevalent online videos have become. Whether it’s sales, education, animations, or instructional, the ability to create high quality video content is a skill that’s only going continue to rise in demand.

Real World Examples: Former Fizzle team member (and host of our “Essential of Shooting and Editing Video” course) Caleb Wojcik runs a effective video production business.

As does Chris Johnson of Simplifilm, who’s featured in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories.

Richard Boehmcke of Vibrant Motion also makes a living creating videos. Richard hosts our “Getting Started with Video Production” course inside of Fizzle.

6. Freelance Writer / Content Creator

While the prevalence of podcasting and videos continues to rise, the majority of online content is still based in the good ol’ fashioned written word. Talented writers have a myriad of opportunities to build a business by offering their writing services in the creation of blog posts, magazine articles, editorials, and more.

Real World Example: Check our article on How to Become a Freelance Writer for tips from over 25 effective freelance writing experts.

7. Personal Chef

Our insanely busy modern lifestyle is, paradoxically, coinciding with increasing understanding of the importance of nutrition in our lives. The result is many busy people looking for a personal chef to cook them healthy and delicious meals.

Real World Example: Fizzle member “Chef Shelley” is a personal chef and runs the site Chef in the ‘Burbs where she shares recipes honed from working as a chef and cooking for her two boys (one of whom is a very picky eater).

8. Freelance Designer

Online resources like Squarespace and WordPress can take the average DIY website builder a long way. That said, many businesses still want to hire a design professional to design and build their websites.

Real World Example: Chuck Longandecker, of user-experience web design company Digital Telepathy, shares the way to build a design company from scratch in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories.

9. Photography Teacher

Already built a effective photography business? Time to begin teaching what you know to others.

Real World Example: That’s what long-time Fizzler Darlene Hildebrandt does through her business Digital Photo Mentor.

10. Copywriter

Copywriters create content intended to produce a specific action from the reader, be it make a purchase, book a consultation, or opt-in to a mailing list. These writing gigs can include sales pages, email marketing, landing pages, white papers, in-app messaging, and more.

Real World Examples: One of our nearly all prolific Fizzle Forum contributors, Faith Watson, offers copywriting services via her business Pen to Zen.

Think this idea might be for you? Read our article, Writing Copy for the Web: The 80/20 Guide to Copywriting for Entrepreneurs.

11. Online Course Creator

It’s no secret that information products like online courses are an extremely effective means of sharing your knowledge with an audience. Your course can be self-hosted, or sold and hosted through online learning sites like Udemy and Lynda.  

Real World Example: Fizzler John Corcoran of Smart Business Revolution has created effective courses on connecting with influencers and hosting webinars. He the latestly launched his latest course on finding and working with ideal clients.  

12. Software as a Service

People need software to solve their problems. If you have the insight and the skill-set to create that software, you’ll have a effective business on your hands.

Real World Examples: Frustrated with the existing webinar software available, Fizzler Omar Zenhom created Webinar Ninja.

In one of our Fizzle Founder Stories, Sahil Lavinga shares how he created Gumroad to help creatives sell their products directly to their audience. (Checkout Fizzle’s Gumroad Quick Start Guide.)

13. Curated Resource Seller

This business idea involves selling curated resources to your audience, usually at a significantly discounted rate.

Real World Example: Fizzler Tom Ross made $ 100K in four months (!) after launching Design Cuts, a business offering deals on digital design tools and resources.

14. Web Conversion Specialist

When website visitors aren’t taking the desired action on a page, webmasters turn to conversion rate specialists for help.

Real World Example: Fizzler John Muldoon built a business improving website conversion rates.

Learn how one of our Fizzle members increased his conversion rate by 3000% in this article.

15. Selling with Amazon FBA

Think Amazon only sells books? Think again! Using the Fullfillment by Amazon (FBA) service, indie businesses are able to store products in Amazon’s warehouses, and when sales are made, Amazon will pick, pack, ship, and provide customer service for your products.

Real World Example: Fizzle member Dave Stewart launched Crystal Creek Gear this year and has several popular products selling through the Fulfillment by Amazon program.

16. Personal Trainer

Whether it’s in-person or online, people are always looking for expert advice on the way to get healthier, leaner, and stronger. If you know your way around a gym, this might be for you.

Real World Example: Fizzler and personal trainer Darren Stehle helps folks get in shape over at Eat, Move, Be.

17. App Developer

Mobile app development, especially for iOS, is a great opportunity for a business.

Real World Example: In one of our Fizzle Founder Stories, Nathan Barry describe how, prior to creating the popular email service ConvertKit, he got his begin in business by developing iPhone apps.

18. Researcher

As is the case with many time-intensive and skill-dependent activities, business owners, authors, and journalists alike often look to outsource the research portion of their work.

Real World Example: Fizzler Jolene Davies runs a effective research and consulting business called In the Know with Jo.

19. WordPress Plugin Maker

One of the great things about the WordPress platform is that it allows independent businesses to develop and sell plug-ins that extend and expand website functionality.

Real World Example: Fizzler Anne Dorko developed the popular WordPress Dictionary plug-in.

20. Freelance Animator

Animated videos are good for longer than just Saturday morning entertainment. They can be used for product demos, sales videos, explainer videos and more.

Real World Example: Fizzler Christina Mayes’ business Yon and Yonder Studies provides a slew of visual communication solutions.

21. Social Media Consultant

Let’s face it, every business needs a social media presence, but few have the time and skill-set to do it right, especially in the always changing social media environment. That’s why social media experts will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

Real World Examples: Fizzler Tony Rulli helps businesses do social media the right way.

Amy Porterfield describes doing social media strategy for the one and only Tony Robbins in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories.

22. Youtube

Youtubers create videos (or vlogs) and build an audience through subscriptions to their Youtube channel. Revenue can then be generated from Youtube’s advertising program, product placements, the selling of products and services, and more.

Real World Examples: Fizzler Matt Giovanisci the latestly used his Youtube channel Money Lab to help promote his 30-day challenge product, Entrepreneur: The Rap Album.

Fizzler Thomas Frank runs the incredibly popular College Info Geek, a YouTube channel with over 300,000 subscribers.

Listen to Former Fizzle team member Caleb Wojcik’s interview with Youtuber Amy Schmittauer about the way to Vlog on Youtube here.

23. Affiliate Marketer

Affiliate businesses create income by marketing author people’s products through joint ventures or affiliate agreements.

Real World Example: Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income is an affiliate marketing expert who teaches our Fizzle course “Affiliate Marketing the Smart Way”.   

24. Exam Prep Educator

People want to pass exams, and you can build a business by helping them do just that.

Real World Example: Fizzler Mike Grossman’s business Professional Practice Exams Headquarters provides technical exam preparation support for professionals.

25. Small Business Coach

Small business coaches help founders improve their business practices and get better results.

Real World Examples: Jason Billows, host of Fizzle’s Essentials of Book Yourself Solid course, helps service professionals take their small businesses to the next level.

Fizzler Bree Brouwer is doing the same via her business Geek & Prosper, as is Greg Faxon.

26. Launch Consultant

A strong launch can help set a book, business, or product up for long-term success.

Real World Example: Fizzler Tom Morkes is a book launch expert whose consulting services have helped send books by folks like Dan Norris and Jeff Goins to bestseller status.

27. Life Coach

Life coaches work with their clients to help address personal challenges, make better decisions, and increase confidence and happiness.

Real World Example: Fizzler James Mondry is a life coach who specializes in working with corporate managers.

28. Facebook Ads Consultant

Facebook advertising can be extremely effective if a proper campaign is designed and implemented, but Facebook constantly shifts technology and advertising rules create a barrier for many business owners and marketers. That’s why developing expertise in Facebook advertising and then selling your services as a consultant can be an excellent business opportunity.

Real World Example: Fizzler Claire Pelletreau’s Facebook Ad consulting business was so effective that she launched a training program to scale her business.

29. Ebook Creator

This business idea involves creating and selling digital books that provide people with vital information they’re willing to pay for.

Real World Example: Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials ebook was so effective that Evernote eventually hired him. We spoke with Brett in episode 38 of the Fizzle Show as part of our First Product Series and featured him in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories.   

30. Productivity Consulting

Productivity experts help busy people gain greater control of their lives by teaching them basic productivity principals and a better understanding of technological tools.

Real World Example: That’s what Fizzler Lili Weisz does with her business, Simplified Life.  

31. SEO consultant

Most website traffic is still driven by Google, which is why, despite constant algorithm changes, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains an in-demand skill-set.

Real World Example: Liz Lockard is a small business marketing consultant who uses many tools including SEO to help her clients find more business online.

32. Coloring Book/Poster Maker

Colouring books (for children and adults alike) are huge right now. If you have the illustration chops, this might be for you.

Real World Examples: The instant success of Fizzler Walker Cleaveland’s business, Illustrated Children’s Ministry, inspired episode #141 of the Fizzle show: $ 25K in 3 Weeks, How to Handle the Overwhelm of a Hit Product.

Fizzler Mary J. Winters-Meyers has tackled the adult colouring side of things with her site Coloring Books for Adults.

33. Website Flipper

Think flipping houses is the only way to make money flipping something? Think again! Purchasing websites, redesigning, and then selling them can bring in big bucks.

Real World Example: Chris Guthrie of UpFuel tells the story of how he made $ 50k in 20 months from one website flip.

34. Event Planner

Putting on a conference, fashion show, or industry event is a lot of work. That’s why event planning can be a lucrative business for those with the know-how (and Buddha-like calmness in high stress situations).

Check out this article on How to Be a Freelance Event Planner from Careerlancer.

35. Tour Guide

Are you a people person who enjoys the outdoors, leading groups, and travel the world or visiting popular spots in your city? Indie tour guide might be the business for you.

Real World Example: World-traveler Jodi Ettenberg leads “food walks” around Saigon, exposing her readers to her favorite bites from the streets of Vietnam.

36. Art Teacher

Art is a big part of all of our lives, and many people are interested and willing to pay to learn the way to become better artists.

Real World Examples: Fizzler Elaine Luther helps people reconnect with their creativity through online and in-person art courses.

Fizzler Paul Foxton helps realist artists improve their painting and illustration at Learning to See.

37. Public Speaker

Getting paid to speak at events, conferences, and seminars can be a fantastic business opportunity, if you don’t mind travel and have already developed authority and expertise on a topic.

Real World Example: Josh Shipp, a professional speaker featured in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories, runs a seven-figure business as a youths speaker.

38. Personal/Virtual Assistant

Email/calendar management, social media/blog posting, and travel arrangement are just some of the many tasks people are willing to outsource to a capable virtual assistant.

Real World Example: Fizzle member Hannah O’Brien runs a effective virtual assistant and operational support business based out of Australia.

39. Ghostwriter

Ghostwriters produce writing that’s published under someone else’s by-line. This can include blog posts, articles, books, and more.

Real World Example: Fizzler Kevin T. Johns (that’s me, this post’s author!) runs a ghostwriting business where he writes books and articles for other people’s by-line.

40. Digital Scrapbooking Teacher

This business idea involves teaching people the way to capture and share special memories creatively through digital scrapbooking.

Real World Example: Fizzler Cassel has live classes, online resources, and forums for digital scrapbooking students at Scrapbook Campus.

41. Food Product Creator

People need to eat and drink. You can make a living feeding them!

Real World Examples: Fizzler Marianne Sundquist’s Mess Hall Cocktail Co. sells preserved cherries.

Andy Purdue has got the drinks covered over at Great Northwest Wine.

42. Personal Care/ Beauty Product

This business idea is a unique opportunity for you to help people look and feel their best, and make a living doing it.

Real World Example: Fizzler Kelsey Hunt’s Clean Pits Co. sells hand-churned natural deodorant for folks who want to smell wonderful without poisoning their bodies or the environment.

43. Health and Wellness Support

This business idea involves moving your clients towards happier, healthier lives.

Real World Example: Fizzler Aimee Pasek’s Be. Strong. Peaceful. comes with yoga and mindfulness resources, a brick and mortar studio, and an online studio launching this fall.

44. Apparel Producer

If clothes are your thing, an apparel business may be the way to go.

Real World Examples: Fizzler Brendan Hufford runs Ok! Kimonos, where parents can get all the best gear for the little Brazillian Jiu Jitsu fighter in their life.

Serial entrepreneur Andreea Ayers is featured in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories and she got her begin with an eco-friendly t-shirt company.  

45. Career Coach

Finding and landing a career that fits perfectly isn’t easy, which is why so many people turn to a career coach for help.

Real World Examples: Fizzler Kate Ostrem runs 9 Open Doors, where she uses her expertise in Ennegram personality profiles to help teams and leaders thrive in their careers.

Expert career coach Jenny Blake is featured in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories.

46. Property Investment Services

Finding, purchasing, and caretaking investment properties isn’t easy, and many people are willing to pay for help.

Real World Example: Nick is the #1 all time nearly all prolific poster in the Fizzle forums, and his company iFind Property helps connect real estate investors in New Zealand with the right property, walks them through the purchasing process, and puts them in touch with the real estate professionals needed to build and maintain an investment portfolio.

47. Marketing Consultant

Building a great product or delivering a top notch service is only half the battle to creating a effective business, which is why many businesses hire expert consultants to supercharge their marketing campaigns.

Real World Example: Marketing consultant and bestselling author John Jantsch is featured in one of our Fizzle Founder Stories.  

48. Freelance Software Engineer

Just because you’re a software engineer doesn’t mean you have to work for The Man. As a freelancer, you can designer, analyze, test, and upgrade software on your own terms.

Real World Example: Nicky Hajal has built several web apps, including Action Ally. When he isn’t building his own businesses, he helps others including the World Domination Summit and Fizzle as a freelance software engineer.

49. Reviewer Business

Running a webblog doesn’t necessarily mean having to come up with brilliant new content on a regular basis. Many effective blogs have built audiences simply by reviewing existing products. This is a great business idea if you are an enthusiast in some particular area.

Real World Examples: Darren Rouse of Problogger got his begin as a professional blogger by reviewing digital cameras.

Our very own Chase Reeves has a side-hustle reviewing bags.

50. Online Music Teacher

If you know the way to shred the guitar like Hendrix or smash those drums like Dave Grohl, a business offering online music training might be for you.

Real World Example: Fizzle member Geoff Chalmers turned a effective career as a freelance bassist and bass teacher into a full featured online training community called Discover Double Bass.


Still need help choosing a business idea? We’ve got you covered!

One of the foundational courses in Phase 1 of our 9-Stage Small Business Roadmap is our “Choosing a Topic” course.

Our Choosing a Topic, taught by Fizzle Co-founder Corbett Barr will walk you through EVERYTHING you need to know about choosing a business idea that works. By the time you’ve completed the course, you’ll have erased the uncertainty surrounding your business idea and confidently chosen an idea that isn’t just planning to be a profitable business, but one that’s planning to feel right for you and your unique situation in life.

Start your two week free trial of Fizzle today to get access to all the founder stories and courses mentioned in this article, including our Choosing a Topic course.

Listen to the podcast:

Get a bit more in-depth on several of these business ideas. Also, hear what we’ve learned, personally, about what makes a business idea work.

Show Notes

  • Choosing a Business Idea? Avoid These 10 Mistakes
  • Transcript: Seth Godin on the Art of Noticing, and Then Creating (Jan 24, 2013) | On Being


Fizzle

How to Make Yourself Write an Entire Blog Article Every Single Day

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Blogging is an essential part of my business, and I can tell you firsthand how difficult it can be.

Believe me. I’ve been doing it for more than 10 years.

Everyone recommends a blog to gain traffic, but maintaining consistent blogging is difficult.

Here’s what happens.

You get all jazzed up about starting a blog. You rush out the gates with reckless abandon, writing on familiar to you topics with energy and verve.

A few weeks go by, and nice things happen to your website traffic and conversions.

And then you start to realize that writing is hard work.

Wow. It’s freaking hard work.

And so you skip a day.

And a week.

And then you struggle to come up with topics, so you skip a few more days.

You kind of “forget” about blogging and feel guilty about it.

Your blog goes dormant, and you curse yourself every day for it.

Sound familiar? It happens to a lot of people. For all the craze over content marketing, there sure are a lot of people who fell off the wagon a long time ago.

I get that. I understand. It’s tough work. It’s grueling at times. It’s thankless. It’s challenging.

And to write an article every single day, day in and day out, year after year? Sounds impossible.

It’s not. And I’m going to tell you how and why.

Here’s what you need to know about what it takes to write a blog post every day. 

1. Read more than you write

Yep. I mean that.

I know that reading takes time (and writing does too), but I have a good reason telling you to do this.

The key to writing is reading. The more you read, the more prepared you are to write. Just to write this post, I read over a dozen articles about blogging to make sure I cover every angle and gather supporting data.

For example, most blog articles are shared without even being read, especially on social media. Even when we do read them, we mostly do a quick scan.

Download this cheat sheet to learn how to make yourself write an entire blog article every single day.

Here’s a graph of how time spent reading an article correlates to its social activity.

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Sometimes a headline and a snippet are enough to satisfy a reader, which is why these elements are so important for SEO purposes.

The content itself can make a difference in whether or not an article is read, especially with branded content. Brands that blog with a purpose have consistently higher ROIs and perform better in every KPI.

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To be sure you’re creating valuable content instead of just parroting what everyone else is saying, it’s important to continue reading.

I’m an expert in content marketing and SEO, but I still read Search Engine Journal, SEOMoz, and other industry publications because even I can’t keep up with everything on my own.

Blogging is a community, and contributing as part of it means you’ll need to read other blogs.

2. Look for inspiration from other bloggers

Since you’re already reading, take inspiration from what other bloggers are doing. Crowdsourcing ideas is a great way to brainstorm. Starbucks, for example, recently found success with its My Starbucks Ideas program.

There are tons of blogs on every topic, and here’s a list of 50 top blogs for every topic imaginable.

See what the greats are writing about. Follow a successful blogger like Chris Brogan to find trends in his writing style. You can even research his site on SEMRush to learn what keywords and landing pages are successful.

By looking externally for ideas, you’ll broaden your blogging horizons, and brainstorming blog topics for yourself will become much easier.

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3. Get out and experience life

Like any other business, your blogs will only be successful if they satisfy a need.

The only way to know what people need is to be a person yourself and go out to experience life like everyone else.

For most businesses, content marketing is a relatively new, experimental concept. In a recent survey, only 8% of B2B companies stated they had a sophisticated content marketing program.

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Until you find your sweet spot, you’ll need to experiment a bit to see what your niche truly is. Tackling the same topic from different perspectives makes content creation much easier and more streamlined.

4. Aim for two a day

About one blog post every other day is the bare minimum to attract a decent, sustainable traffic flow to your blog.

One blog post per day is a great start, but ideally, you’d want to publish multiple posts per day.

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If you can write two blog posts a day, you can quickly build a one-month editorial calendar and schedule enough posts in advance to take a few days off while still publishing that pre-written content on your blog.

The more content on your site, the lower your bounce rates will be, as people will be able to navigate your archives instead of just reading one post and leaving.

5. Make everything else routine

Like I said, there’s a lot more involved in blogging than just writing posts.

Here are a few common problems faced by B2B marketers when generating leads, which blogging is a component of.

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Understanding, analyzing, and running all these operational components is vital to maintaining any successful business, and it has to be routine in a blogger’s life.

When you’re routinely pitching stories, creating outlines, and researching, the actual act of writing for your blog becomes much easier.

And as I explain exhaustively in my blogging guides, quantifying the success of a blogging initiative requires quantifiable metrics and KPIs that allow you to set and measure goals.

It’s much easier to write when everything is running like clockwork and you are not running around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to put out fires.

6. Create an editorial calendar

Most major publications, like Rolling Stone or People, use editorial calendars to determine what content to publish.

An editorial calendar is great for your blogging efforts too.

Like a director’s storyboard, an editorial calendar gives you an outline to work with and the ability to know at a glance where you’re at and what’s publishing soon.

Here’s an example of a basic editorial calendar:

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With an editorial calendar in place, instead of being in a constant race to come up with new ideas, you’ll be working ahead, making your blog run much more smoothly and giving you time to correct any issues or changes that may come up along the way.

7. Solicit pitches

You don’t have to do all the blogging yourself. Sometimes it’s nice to offer a different perspective, whether from internal team members or external bloggers.

Many bloggers are happy to guest-post on someone else’s site in exchange for a backlink to their site. By collecting posts from a variety of other bloggers, you’ll greatly amplify the reach of your blog through the power of their networks.

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Every post published on your blog is extra content, even if it’s not written by you.

If you prefer to keep your name on every post, there’s always the option of hiring a ghostwriter, who can be found through a simple Google search or Craigslist ad.

8. Respond to client/reader questions

A simple way to produce more content is to write long-form answers to reader questions in a Dear Abby advice columnist format.

Quora, Yahoo Answers, Ask Jeeves, and Siri all became popular because of the ability of users to ask and receive answers.

Recent research from Twitter shows customers prefer companies that actually respond quickly to their concerns on the microblogging site.

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If you think of your readers as customers (which you should if blogging is part of your business), you should be catering to their needs, personalizing their experience, and responding to complaints and questions.

If you’ve established yourself as an expert on a certain subject matter, which will be clear from your previous content, people will see you as a trusted resource and ask questions in the comment section.

You can answer in the comments or, if a longer response is required, create a whole new blog post to respond, backlinking to the original question as a resource.

9. Make it a habit

People are creatures of habit, and we appreciate when things are kept consistent. When you make blogging a habit, keeping it up won’t be a problem.

How do you build a habit?

It’s pretty simple, actually.

  • Start with a reminder of the task you need to do. An editorial calendar works great for this.
  • Follow a routine to complete that task.
  • Give yourself a reward.
  • Rinse and repeat.

It looks like this:

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Why does this habit-building process matter?

It matters because blogging matters.

The biggest revenue-generating tactic in blogging is marketing and advertising, which is seeing steady spending from last year to this year:

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If you can provide a steady stream of content, you’ll earn a sustainable income through blogging, but it has to be a habit.

The idea of Ernest Hemingway spending his days drinking and being a playboy while putting out awesome writing is nothing more than a fantasy and a caricature of the great writer.

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Hemingway was good. He made it look easy.

But writing a post a day isn’t about lolling around and waiting for your muse to strike.

Working writers are working writers because they work. They force themselves to work. And then that force develops into a habit, which makes them writing machines.

Once blogging becomes a habit, you’ll often find yourself writing four or five posts a day instead of just one. You get faster over time, and things get easier as you go along.

Conclusion

The fear of not being able to come up with topics to blog about is a mental wall that exists only in your head.

Thousands of people earn a steady first or second income through blogging despite the fact that coming up with relevant things to say about relevant topics on a consistent basis is a challenge.

More content equals more opportunity for backlinks, high SEO rankings, and more sustained organic traffic.

By involving external resources, continuously researching, and employing solid business practices, you can turn your blog into a daily content mill that generates revenue.

What tactics do you use to overcome writer’s block and continue creating every day?


Quick Sprout

How to Get 30% Off Our Most Popular Premium WordPress Themes

How to Get 30% Off Our Most Popular Premium WordPress Themes

Only a few days left before this offer expires …

On Tuesday, I alerted you to the massive StudioPress blowout sale going on this week.

Basically, it’s our big annual Black Monday discount delivered three months in advance.

The details couldn’t be simpler: Until the offer expires on Tuesday, August 30 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, you get 30 percent off everything we sell at StudioPress.

Everything.

Want any individual theme? Click this link, and browse all 39 StudioPress themes and all 15 third-party themes — you get 30 percent off as many individual themes as you want.

Want all of our themes? Click this link, and then find the blue box:

Click here to get 30% off the Pro Plus All-Theme Package

Click it, and you’ll be able to get 30 percent off our Pro Plus All-Theme Package — plus you lock in your Pro Plus account without the usual recurring annual payment of $ 99.99.

It’s just a one-time payment … and at a big, big discount.

Decisions, decisions …

So … which theme should you choose?

You don’t need me to spend any more time stressing the value of the discount. Forty-five percent off anything is pretty darn good.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for which themes you might want to consider trying on your site.

I’ll reveal the three most popular StudioPress themes of 2016. So many customers can’t be wrong, right?

And I’ll also reveal my own personal favorite, which has received rave reviews ever since I put it on my own website.

The 3 Most Popular StudioPress Themes of 2016

We’ll begin the countdown at number three …

3. Digital Pro

This is one of the newest StudioPress themes, and it’s wasted no time carving out a niche of popularity.

Why? Because if you’re building a business around digital goods, you need a theme that will support your efforts and won’t get in the way when you’re marketing your digital products.

Digital Pro builds trust with a friendly, open feel and clean, easy-to-read typography.

Here’s how it looks:

Click here to get 30% off Digital Pro

To get Digital Pro:

  • Click your special coupon link
  • Scroll down just a bit
  • You’ll find Digital Pro near the Smart Passive Income theme

We might mention Digital Pro again later. Stay tuned.

For now, let’s move on to the second-most popular theme of 2016 …

2. Altitude Pro

Altitude Pro is another relatively new theme, which I’ve used on one of my personal sites.

It’s a visually stunning theme — but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s style over substance. The parallax effects will grab your eye, but it’s the features and flexibility that will move your mind.

Altitude Pro is a theme with a purpose, and that purpose is to take you and your online business higher.

Click here to get 30% off Altitude Pro

To get Altitude Pro:

  • Click your special coupon link
  • Scroll down past about five themes
  • You’ll find Altitude Pro near Atmosphere Pro and Parallax Pro

And the #1 best-selling theme so far in 2016 is … well, it’s the #1 best-selling of all time at StudioPress.

Still the undisputed champion of the StudioPress world, it’s …

1. Foodie Pro

Foodie Pro is one of the 15 third-party themes currently available at StudioPress — and yes, as mentioned above, third-party themes are eligible for the 30 percent discount.

Customers fell in love with Foodie Pro from the day she was released, and the love affair has not subsided.

Foodie Pro is sleek and svelte with her minimalist approach and clean design, but she sure packs a punch when it comes to features. She is the most flexible Genesis theme to date — with a minimalist style and plenty of color and typography options.

Click here to get 30% off Foodie Pro

To get Foodie Pro:

  • Click your special coupon link


  • Scroll down past eight themes
  • You’ll find Foodie Pro near Showcase Pro and Maker Pro

And finally, a quick nod to my personal favorite theme …

My Personal Favorite StudioPress Theme

What do you know? My personal favorite is a theme from our top three. I didn’t intend on that happening when I had the idea for this post … but hey, when a theme is good, it’s good.

I tend to be a tinkerer with my personal sites. I’ve tried out almost every StudioPress theme at one time or another.

For my Assembly Call website, I’ve never been happier with the look, feel, and function of the design as I am right now.

And the theme I’m using is Digital Pro.

Compare the demo image of Digital Pro with how my site looks:

Click here to get 30% off Digital Pro

Image of AssemblyCall.com, which uses Digital Pro

I love the hero image area, which I easily customized with my own image to fit my own brand.

I also love the setup of the widgets on the homepage. (Click here to check out how I have mine set up.)

And the individual category pages are striking in their simplicity.

I could go on and on.

Suffice it to say, I’m enamored with Digital Pro. Can you tell? :-)

Definitely give it a look as you are deciding which themes you’re going to get for 30 percent off.

Have fun browsing and deciding!

It’s always fun looking through new themes and envisioning what your site will look and feel like with them installed.

It’s even better when you can get your favorites for close to half off. :-)

Take some time today or this weekend and see which StudioPress theme will help you usher in the next evolution of your site.

Remember: Make sure you click this coupon link so you get your 30 percent off discount.

And don’t wait too long, because the big discount expires this upcoming Tuesday, August 30, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

The post How to Get 30% Off Our Most Popular Premium WordPress Themes appeared first on Copyblogger.


Copyblogger

Summer Reading for B2B Marketers: 10 Must-Read Blogs to Get Back in the Zone

Summer Reading for B2B Marketers- 10 Must-Read Blogs to Get Back in the Zone

Author: Graham Gallivan

As we move towards the end of the dog days of summer, your marketing strategy shouldn’t cool down with the weather.

While your prospects may have been out on vacation throughout the summer, they’ll be back at their desks in no time. Or maybe you took some vacation days of your own and need a pick-me-up to get back in the zone. With summer coming to an end, you need to be on your A-game.

Here are a few of the top B2B marketing reads you may have missed from our blog this year. Read on for some of the hottest topics and trends you should be aware of to keep your marketing tactics fresh and on the mark:

1. SEO for B2B: 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Avoid It Anymore

SEO for B2B- 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Avoid It Anymore

SEO for B2B: 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Avoid It Anymore

Are you leveraging SEO to its greatest potential? If not, you’re not alone. But the hesitation that some B2B marketers face when it comes to SEO is the very reason that the brands that do use it have a strategic advantage (vs. the consumer marketing space where SEO competition is at its height). To get ahead of the competition, learn why SEO is one of your greatest strengths and how it can yield low hanging fruit you may be overlooking: 61% of B2B decision-makers start the decision-making process with a web search.

2. Dynamic Duo: Close More Deals with Sales and Marketing Alignment

Dynamic Duo - Closing More Deals with Sales and Marketing Alignment

Dynamic Duo: Close More Deals with Sales and Marketing Alignment

Do you have what it takes to align with sales to close more deals? Businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing are operating in lockstep, according to joint research by Marketo and Reachforce. One of the key strategies B2B marketers should leverage to increase productivity is lead scoring–ranking leads for their sales-readiness, sanctioned by service level agreements (SLAs) that are agreed upon by both sales and marketing. Read on for more on lead scoring and other tips to improve sales and marketing alignment.

3. 4 Account-Based Marketing Lessons from the Field

iStock_000071357761_Small

4 Account-Based Marketing Lessons from the Field

While it’s not a new concept, one of the hottest trends in B2B marketing this year is account-based marketing (ABM). ABM is a strategic approach to lead generation in which your time and resources go into targeting a key group of specific accounts. Gone are the days of the broad-based marketing strategy as an end in and of itself.

While the traditional demand generation approach is great for generating and engaging a large number of qualified leads based on their attributes to move them further down the funnel and eventually close them, ABM is becomingly more critical for B2B marketers who want to win and retain certain key accounts. In fact, research shows that less than 1% of leads turn into revenue generating customers. Because of this, it’s time to evaluate the status quo and determine whether your time, budget, and resources should go into quality or quantity.

4. How to Unlock the Full Potential of Your Customer Base

How to Unlock the Full Potential of Your Customer Base

How to Unlock the Full Potential of Your Customer Base

Another key strategy for B2B marketers is customer base marketing. This all comes down to the math and two key stats. The first, also known as Pareto’s 80/20 rule, is that 80% of your business wealth will come from 20% of your customer base. The second is that it costs at least 10 times more to acquire new customers than to sell to the ones you already have, according to eMarketer.

With these stats in mind, the key is to think beyond acquisition and focus on increasing the customer lifetime value by marketing additional cross-sell products or services to an existing customer, working to keep them happy and keep them as a customer, and developing current customers into loyal brand advocates.

5. Get Scrappy: 7 Tips for Smarter Digital Marketing

Get Scrappy- 7 Tips for Smarter Digital Marketing

Get Scrappy: 7 Tips for Smarter Digital Marketing

With the array of tactics and new technologies in the marketplace, it can be challenging to identify what strategy will work best for you. They key? Get scrappy! Regardless of your organization’s size, most digital marketing teams feel that they could use more budget and resources. The key to succeeding in this digital age is to learn how to do more with less, using key tactics like putting brains before your budget, being efficient and effective, and seeing ideas everywhere.

6. Power to the Publishers: Content Is Going Full Throttle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Power to the Publishers: Content Is Going Full Throttle

Chances are you’re probably using content in your B2B marketing efforts, but are you leveraging all the available channels to get the most out of your content? The fact is that buyers today are more informed than ever, self-directing the majority of their journey before they ever interact with you, so hitting them with the right content at the right time is key. At the same time, technology advancements are driving our content marketing efforts further, allowing us to distribute on more channels and measure our results. Take advantage of what’s available so your content can rise to the top.

7. 5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

As a B2B marketer, you’re likely constantly looking for ways to arm your sales team to close more business. While your sales team may already be using LinkedIn to reach their prospects, there’s probably more they could be doing to take full advantage of the platform. In fact, LinkedIn even offers a Social Selling Index (SSI) to measure how effective your sales team is at tapping their network–factoring in the amount of content they share, their level of interaction, and the number of connections they have with your target audience.

8. Demystifying Social ROI in B2B Marketing

Attribution Matters- Demystifying Social ROI in B2B Marketing

Demystifying Social ROI in B2B Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, you can attribute revenue dollars to your social media campaigns. But because they’re more likely to serve as a point of initial or incremental engagement than as a deal closer, your social campaigns require tangible metrics. Learn how to use (and integrate) the latest tools and tactics to calculate your social ROI.

9. More is Not Always More: Be Wary of the Volume Game in B2B Demand Generation

More is Not Always More- Be Wary of the Volume Game in Demand Generation

More is Not Always More: Be Wary of the Volume Game in B2B Demand Generation

In demand generation, it’s not always a numbers game. Your organization needs to have a defined revenue model and business rules in place to ensure the best possible outcome. While it can be alluring to pump as many names into your database as possible, it’s even more important to make sure they’re vetted, giving your sales team the best chance for success. And once those leads become closed-won deals, make sure you’re analyzing your customer base to retain your customers and identify opportunities for growth–cross-selling and upselling them.

10. If Marketing Metrics Are Driving You Crazy, Read This

businessman destroying his computer

If Marketing Metrics Are Driving You Crazy, Read This

If there’s one topic that’s always top-of-mind for B2B marketers, it’s metrics. While there are a number of possible metrics you could track, the key to success for your business (and sanity), is focusing on the right set of metrics that indicate performance. Read on for a few tips on honing in on the right metrics that will serve you and your business well in the long run.

There you have it–10 B2B blogs to wrap up the summer with that will help you get back in the zone. Check out our other blogs and let us know your favorite ones in the comments below!


Summer Reading for B2B Marketers: 10 Must-Read Blogs to Get Back in the Zone was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post Summer Reading for B2B Marketers: 10 Must-Read Blogs to Get Back in the Zone appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.


Marketo Marketing Blog

10 Steps to Start a Business (and Why The SBA’s List is Tragically Flawed)

10 Steps to Start a Business (and Why The SBA’s List is Tragically Flawed)

Earlier this week I stumbled on an example of absolutely terrible advice from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

This advice made me angry and sad at the same time. Angry at the SBA and sad for anyone who follows the advice.

I was googling some common phrases about building a business as research for an upcoming podcast episode. One of the phrases I typed was: “How to Start a Business”

Google now includes some list content from articles directly in search results, and for this search I found this special box as the first non-advertising result:

Screenshot 2016-05-24 19.07.37

This partial list is from the U.S. Small Business Administration (a government agency) from an article titled 10 Steps to Starting a Business.

Here’s the whole list:

Step 1: Write a Business Plan
Step 2: Get Business Assistance and Training
Step 3: Choose a Business Location
Step 4: Finance Your Business
Step 5: Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business
Step 6: Register a Business Name ("Doing Business As")
Step 7: Register for State and Local Taxes
Step 8: Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
Step 9: Understand Employer Responsibilities
Step 10: Find Local Assistance

They introduced the list by saying “Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities.”

What? Are you serious? Is this a joke?

This list is tragically flawed. I wouldn’t be surprised if following these steps made you less likely to succeed than if you didn’t follow any advice at all.

Here’s the simple truth the Small Business Administration is completely missing: a business can’t succeed unless it creates something people will pay for. Registering for a business name, choosing your legal structure, registering for taxes, permits, blah, blah, blah, all do nothing to help you get closer to making something people will pay for.

Filling out paperwork doesn’t make you an entrepreneur any more than buying a fancy guitar makes you a rock star. These are the steps you’d follow if you were just “playing business.”

Filling out paperwork doesn’t make you an entrepreneur any more than buying a fancy guitar makes you a rock star.
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If you were serious about making something people will pay for (i.e., building a successful business), you’d know that the two most important aspects of starting a business are shockingly absent from the SBA’s list.

The two most important parts of starting a business are: 1) your customers, and 2) your product. Without customers and a product (or service), a business isn’t a real business, it’s just a shell of paperwork and legal filings.

Yet there is zero mention of customers or product in this supposed list of 10 steps to start a business. These 10 steps are utterly insignificant compared with knowing your customer and building your product.

Seriously, this oversight is incredible. Whoever is in charge of the SBA should be fired for perpetuating this tired and dangerous advice about starting a business.

Just so you don’t think I’m being unfair to the SBA by criticizing one article from their site, you should know that nowhere within the entire outline of curriculum on the SBA site about starting and managing a business do they mention a market, customers or building a product. Here’s a screenshot of the whole curriculum:

Screenshot 2016-05-24 21.04.48

No section on making a product or connecting with customers? WTF?

Luckily this probably doesn’t affect you. I doubt you take the SBA seriously anyway. I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who credits the SBA for any part of his or her success, with the exception of a couple of SBA loans I’ve heard of people raising. Maybe they should stick to loans and stay out of the advice business.

Anyway, enough about the SBA.

Let me offer a better list of steps for starting a business. If you asked me how to start a business, here is what I would say.

10 Steps to Starting a Business:

  1. Follow a roadmap
  2. There are many solid training programs and incubators available to entrepreneurs these days. Find and follow a system like Fizzle’s small business roadmap to avoid wasting time on things that don’t matter. You can build a business without following a proven system, but why would you want to take on so much unnecessary risk?

  3. Choose an opportunity
  4. What opportunity will your business address? You likely have many ideas floating around, but you have to pick one. An ideal business opportunity will be a combination of something you’re interested in, something you’re good at, something the world needs and something people will pay for.

  5. Define your customer
  6. Who will your business serve? What do you know about them? What is their life like? What do they value? What problems do they face and how are they currently solving those problems? Defining your customer is an essential part of your foundation.

  7. Connect with other entrepreneurs for support
  8. Being an entrepreneur is incredibly difficult, sometimes lonely and you’ll often feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster. The most effective way to maintain a healthy perspective while also improving your odds of success is to spend time with other entrepreneurs.

  9. Talk to customers
  10. The biggest risk you face as an entrepreneur is building something nobody wants. The best way to reduce this risk is by talking directly to the potential customers you’re trying to serve, so you can learn intimately about the problems, needs or desires you aim to address.

  11. Create a 1-page business plan
  12. Business plans are full of guesses and often give a false sense of security to entrepreneurs. A simple 1-page business plan (like Fizzle’s Business Sketch Template) will give you the benefits of a business plan without page after page of unreliable guesses. This plan will primarily describe your customers, the problem, your solution and how you’ll reach those customers.

  13. Set up your business (name, legal structure, permits, taxes, etc.)
  14. Now that you know who your customers are and what you’ll be building for them, it’s time to name your business and get your legal ducks in a row.

  15. Build a minimum viable audience
  16. If you build it they will come. If only. Smart businesses today know that you have to connect with your customers to succeed, by meeting them in the channels they already use. The best time to do this is before your product launches, to build buzz and use their feedback to make your product even better.

  17. Build a minimum viable product
  18. Your business idea is nothing more than a hypothesis. You believe there is a group of people with a problem that you can solve in a way they’ll be willing to pay you for. The first step in testing this hypothesis is by building a minimum viable product, a product with just enough features for you to learn from your customers and improve upon.

  19. Measure, learn, iterate, grow
  20. Once you find a group of customers and create a simple product or service for them to consider, it’s time to measure, learn, iterate and grow. Customer feedback is essential at this stage as you turn your minimal product into a full-fledged offering.

I suppose you could argue that the business is technically “started” by the end of step 7 in our list. Steps 8, 9 and 10 are about building the business. Including these building steps here is intentional, because describing the act of starting a business without covering the actual development of the most important things (customers and product) does you a huge disservice. The SBA’s list allows would-be entrepreneurs to feel like they’re doing important work, when they haven’t done any of the important work at all, towards growing a customer base and building a product.

Even if our list stopped at step 7, notice how much of the first 7 steps is dedicated to cultivating the customer, knowing who they are and talking to them to identify problems/needs/desires you can address. This is where real business opportunities come from, from knowing your customer intimately.

So many people still think of the entrepreneur as an inventor, someone who tinkers away in a garage somewhere for months or years on a big important product that they eventually unveil to the world, which responds with oooohs and aaaaahs.

The biggest risk you face as an entrepreneur is building something nobody wants. The “inventor” mythology is wrong because it ignores this risk and assumes the inventor knows everything.

But you don’t know everything. You’re just a humble entrepreneur with a belief. You believe there exists a group of people who have a problem, need or desire that you can solve in a way they’re willing to pay money for. Your job is to prove whether this is true or not, with as little risk as possible.

Our list of 10 steps to starting a business is carefully crafted with a central focus on customers, product and your journey (and needs) as an entrepreneur, because we want to help you build something people want. Unfortunately the Small Business Administration doesn’t seem to have a clue about what really matters when it comes to building a business.

You know better now. Use our list to your advantage. Stay focused on your customers and your product and you’ll have a much better shot at building a business that matters.


Fizzle

How Long Should Your Business Take to Earn Revenue? (FS164)

I heard some advice from an entrepreneur about how hopeful entrepreneurs should pursue their first business idea. (That advice is explained in the podcast below.)

It made me think about how long it can take before your business starts earning revenue.

How long is too long?

Should you be fighting for revenue right out of the gate?

Should you keep a job so you have some financial stability while you get your own business off the ground?

In this episode we share our advice about these question. We’ve been, done and seen a lot in the world of small business, and this episode brings some excellent perspective.

Enjoy!

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How Long Should Your Business Take to Earn Revenue?
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Show Notes

If I’m so Smart Why Aren’t I Successful Yet? (FS159)

How to Afford an Entrepreneurial Lifestyle: A Comprehensive Guide to Minimum Viable Income


Fizzle

Suck Your Readers In: 4 Types of Openings for “Sticky” Content

suck

The headline is the most important part of your content.

That’s a fact.

What’s the second most important part?

That would be your introduction.

Think of it this way: Your headline compels people to click on your post, but your intro draws them in to actually read the post.

And if you’re sick of not getting a high level of engagement on your posts, this is likely one of the main causes.

Here’s the simplest way to illustrate the effect of introductions on your content’s performance:

  • Bad headline – Low traffic
  • Good headline, bad intro – High traffic, high bounce rate, low time on page
  • Good headline, good intro – High traffic, low bounce rate, high time on page

Always aim for that third scenario.

The sad fact is that most bloggers put very little effort into their introductions. They either quickly say what they’re writing about, or they end up going on about things that don’t entice the reader to read on.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you fall into that category. What matters is that just about all bloggers could benefit from improving their introductions.

To help you do that, I’m going to show you 4 of the best types of openings that you can use in your content. You can always use at least one of these for any post you create. 

1. Embrace the fear of failure

A great introduction needs to connect with the reader emotionally.

As any copywriter knows, emotions drive action. In this case, the action we want is for the reader to continue down the page.

Fear is one of the strongest motivating emotions, and people are willing to go to great lengths to prevent that fear from coming true.

Let’s look at a few examples, and then I’ll show you how to come up with your own.

Example #1 – Use a common fear: Here’s one of my own introductions:

image06

The first 4 paragraphs focus on a common scenario: putting in a lot of work on a project (like a product or piece of content) and then finally releasing it.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know how terrifying this can be. Entrepreneurs have sleepless nights worrying about failing.

What if they hear “crickets” when they release their project? What if no one cares?

Anyone in, or nearing, this sort of situation is going to read the rest of the introduction at the very least.

Quickly look at that final line in the screenshot: “there is a solution…”

You use fear to grab your readers’ attention, but then you need to transition that into a solution that they will achieve by taking action.

Example #2 – Does your reader feel like a failure? This one is going to sound kind of mean, but it’s effective.

If your reader already feels like a failure, all you need to do is describe their biggest problem, evoking their fear of failure.

Here’s an example from a Smart Blogger post:

image03

Here, Carol Tice starts by calling out bloggers with low traffic and loyal subscribers.

If you’re a reader of that post in that situation, it hurts to read it.

You start thinking about your low number of readers and get a sinking feeling that you will never get many more.

But you feel that only until Tice offers a solution, which is the whole point of her post.

How to write your own fear-inspired introduction: This type of opening is not only effective but also fairly simple to write.

Create it in three steps:

  1. State the fear of failure (or cause of fear) – Do this in a straightforward manner. In my example, the fear was not knowing what would happen when a product was launched.
  2. Illustrate the fear – If you can describe the fear and make the reader picture it, do it. Sometimes it’s simple. The image of “crickets” is all I needed to do to make readers picture no customers, signups, or attention after the release of their product.
  3. Transition to a solution – The whole point of hooking in a reader with fear is to give them the incentive to read your content. Your content needs to offer a solution to their fear. Write about how your content will help them.

That’s all there is to it. You can start with a few notes for each part and then combine them together.

2. No one wants to be left behind

There are many ways to incorporate fear into your openings.

Fear of failure is a big one, but there’s another big fear you should be aware of: the fear of missing out.

It’s why many people buy lottery tickets, especially as a group. They don’t want to be the one who misses out if the group miraculously wins.

When it comes to most content, the fear of missing out can be applied in a few ways:

  • Fear of being left behind – In niches like SEO, if you don’t keep up with the latest information, you can become obsolete.
  • Fear of missing out on fun – No one wants to miss out on a fun event or product.
  • Fear of missing out on an opportunity – If something is only available or useful for a limited time (like content on certain topics), people will be more interested than they would be if it was always useful.

Here’s an example (note the two parts boxed in red):

image05

Just like in type #1, we use a similar 3-step process.

The first step is prompting the fear, which the first box begins to do. It mentions that some types of content are better than others.

In this case, marketers don’t want to miss out on the best tactics because it means they won’t get great results.

In the following two paragraphs, I amplify that fear. I explain that the content that most marketers produce isn’t as great as they think it is and that they might be closer to an average marketer.

The second box alludes to the solution—certain types of content that are guaranteed to outperform what average marketers are making. I go on to expand on my solution before starting the post.

Again, it’s the same 3-step process:

  1. State the fear (or cause of fear)
  2. Illustrate the fear
  3. Transition to your solution

3. Use AIDA to captivate visitors

You may have heard of AIDA before.

It’s one of the most famous copywriting formulas there is because it just plain works. It’s incredibly versatile, and we can apply it to our openings as well.

First, what does AIDA stand for?

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Typically, you’ll address each point in that order.

To start off, you need to grab the attention of your readers. How do you do that? Typically with a bold or surprising claim.

For example, in a post on Backlinko, Brian Dean said that he analyzed over 1 million search results. That’s a lot and pretty intriguing to most SEOs reading the post.

image00

If you can use numbers—great, but they’re not required. The only goal here is to catch the attention of your reader. It may be a sentence or two that seem unrelated at first to your topic.

Check out this intro from one of Jon Morrow’s best posts:

image01

The post is about being a better blogger, but you wouldn’t know it from that opening.

However, he grabs your attention by doing something out of the ordinary: telling you (in great detail) that he’s going to tell you something you’re not going to like.

Even though I know what’s coming (since I’ve read it before), I still have that feeling of needing to know what comes next.

Then, we move on to interest.

Interest is similar to attention, and you certainly need to maintain attention, but this is where you tie your attention-grabbing introduction to the subject of the post.

In Brian’s article about SEO ranking factors, he included two parts to accomplish this:

Which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings?

And…

With the help of Eric Van Buskirk and our data partners, we uncovered some interesting findings.

Brian knows that his readers want to know which ranking factors are most important. However, he doesn’t give away all the answers quite yet, saying instead they uncovered some “interesting findings.”

Next, it’s time to move on to desire.

This is where you make it really clear why your reader should care about your content, if they didn’t already know that.

Here’s an example from one of my posts:

image04

Here, I make it clear that if a reader follows my advice in the post, they could double their writing speed.

Remember that your reader is already interested at this point. To induce desire, all you need to do is make the benefits of your content clear.

Now, what about actionthe last part of the formula?

You can interpret and use it in two ways.

First, you could get a reader to take an action right at the end of your introduction. Maybe you want them to get a pen and paper or open a spreadsheet. Or maybe you want them to answer a question and come back to it at the end.

If this applies, go for it.

The action in this formula typically refers to the end of the content, though. So, in your conclusion, you should make it clear how a reader is supposed to apply what you just taught them.

4. Show me the money (benefit first)

Some readers just absolutely hate stories of any kind.

They want you to get to the point and do it fast.

If your audience has a lot of readers like that, consider starting off with the benefit of your content. But not just any benefit—the biggest one.

This is how you will attract attention, and if the benefit you promise is big enough, they will invest their time to read through your content.

For example, you could start an article about SEO basics by saying:

If you learn the basics of SEO, you could be making $ 3,000+ per month within 6 months.

Assuming you’ve got your audience right, they’ll be glad to dig a bit deeper to find out if your claim is true.

After that opening claim, you then want to expand on and back up your claim. To continue the example:

I know this because I’ve taught multiple students to do so. I myself am an SEO who makes over $ XXX,000 per month.

Now you have some credibility behind your solution.

Finally, you should close off your introduction by explaining how the reader will get to the solution.

In this case, something like this would work:

I’m going to show you the X SEO basics you need to know and then a step-by-step process to follow to start generating revenue.

At that point, most readers will be hooked.

To recap, the 3-step process for this type of opening is:

  1. Start with your strongest benefit.
  2. Show why your claim is credible (since the claim needs to be impressive/slightly unbelievable).
  3. Explain how you’ll help the reader achieve the benefit.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to look exactly like that as long as all the elements are covered.

Here’s an example of this type of opening from one of my posts:

image02

The sentence in the first box only implies the benefit (ranking as well as Quick Sprout). I’m counting on the reader to be familiar with my site.

Shortly after, I say that I’ll show the reader what they need to do if they want to rank like Quick Sprout. This is actually the 2nd and 3rd step all in one.

The claim is credible because I state that I’ll personally show them the solution. Of course, I’m credible in this situation since I’m the one who built the site up.

At the same time, I’ve explained that I’m going to show them what they need to do. I explain a bit more right after that part.

Don’t get hung up having a clear distinction between all parts of the opening—just make sure they are all covered in the right order.

Conclusion

Don’t put tons of hours into writing an amazing post and then just slap on a weak introduction.

If you do that, too many of your readers will never make it down to the content that has the value.

Use these 4 types of openings to craft introductions that basically force readers to give your content a chance.

From there, I hope your content delivers.

Now, I have a question for you. Have you seen any great introductions lately? If so, do you mind sharing them in a comment below?


Quick Sprout

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg speaks on husband's death in powerful commencement speech

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Just over a year after the death of her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, opened up and gave the public more insight into her family’s struggle after the death of her partner

In remarks delivered to the class of 2016 at the University of California at Berkeley on Saturday, Sandberg elaborated on how she’s coped with her husband’s death while continuing to lead one of the biggest tech companies on the planet.

SEE ALSO: Sheryl Sandberg on Dave Goldberg’s death: ‘Things will never be the same’

“I have never spoken publicly about this before. It’s hard,” said Sandberg. “One year and thirteen days ago, I lost my husband, Dave. His death was sudden and unexpected. We were at a friend’s fiftieth birthday party in Mexico. I took a nap. Dave went to work out. What followed was the unthinkable—walking into a gym to find him lying on the floor. Flying home to tell my children that their father was gone. Watching his casket being lowered into the ground.” Read more…

More about Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and Tech
Mashable

How We Run the Unbounce Blog: A Love/Hate Optimization Story

frankenstein-blog
Stitching together the blog pipeline since 2009. Image via Shutterstock.

Not long ago, blogging was something to be done in one’s spare time. A hobby to document the goings on in our lives.

But a full-time job? Aw, hells no.

shaking heads
Nope. Image via Giphy.

Times have changed, though, and blogging now falls under the umbrella called content marketing. At Unbounce, we started our blog before we even launched the first version of our product.

Today we have a library of 967 posts, 293 contributing writers, 9 internal writers and editors and ~300,000 unique page views. I’m paraphrasing here, but didn’t Notorious B.I.G. say something about more page views resulting in more problems?

The point is, Unbounce has grown fast, and like any team that grows quickly, we’ve experienced some growing pains. This is true for our blog and content production, too. Here are a few examples:

  • We spend a lot of unnecessary time hand-holding and responding to queries from people who clearly do not read our blog.
  • We run into instances where people miss their deadlines or the first draft needs way more work than what we expected.
  • There’s limited transparency into what posts are being worked on and at what stage they’re in.
  • It’s hard to know which content to prioritize, because we’re trying to achieve many objectives.
  • There is no tool to handle our workflow from pitch to publish (currently we use a jigsaw of many tools including Google Sheets, Google Docs, Trello, Word and WordPress).

While we still have a ways to go, we have taken major strides to improve our blog production process and address the pain points above. We hope insight into our fumbles and successes will help guide your content marketing forward (plus, we’ve included a free download of the pitch framework we use).

Cutting down on hand-holding

Since our ideal contributor is a marketing expert with previously published work who actually reads the Unbounce blog, there really shouldn’t be that much hand-holding.

A quick audit of our editorial process revealed that we’d often send and receive upwards of 10 emails before even getting a first draft in our hands. This is a bit obscene, not to mention time-wasting.

So based on that discovery, we cut our back-and-forths down by making sure to include all of our expectations right up front:

contributor-guideline

While it’s been a bit of a transition getting some of our more seasoned contributors to get on board (including internal contributors), we end up with a working first draft much quicker than before.


If you’re working with external contributors, include your expectations up front.
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Amping up our pitch requirements

Remember when you were first learning how to write an essay? You were instructed to craft a thesis, and then build your outline from there, mapping out important sections and highlighting concrete evidence to back up your thesis.

writing-gif
^^Pitch rejected. Image via Giphy.

This is what we like to see in a pitch, too — detailed and well thought out. There are three primary reasons for this:

  • It gives us a good understanding of the writer’s abilities and understanding of the topic they are pitching.
  • We spend less time back and forth with the writer, since a thorough and well-crafted pitch typically results in a thorough and well-crafted first draft.
  • It weeds out a lot of people — because we ask for a lot of work upfront, we deter folks who either don’t have the time commitment to write for us or who aren’t sure how they’d like to contribute. Sometimes friction is a good thing!

We recently updated our pitch document to include additional fields, such as for keyword research and creative assets required. It’s a big job filling out the pitch document, but doing so results in search engine optimized content with custom feature images and value-added CTAs, and that makes us and our readers happy.

Want better content?

Get a FREE copy of our blog pitch framework.

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By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

Adding Trello to our workflow

When I first started on the content team, we had one editor. Capable, resourceful and incredibly talented, Amanda was the blog’s lone wolf.

lone wolf
So majestic. Image via Giphy.

The problem with being an island, though, is it can sometimes lead to a lack of transparency. We’ve mentioned our Core Values before, but transparency is one we haven’t touched on yet on the blog.

unbounce core values

At Unbounce, transparency relates to how we operate both internally and externally. Internally we ensure all departmental decisions, processes and progress is easily accessible by all employees. Externally, we are honest about our intentions, our successes and our failures.

Adding Trello to our process was a huge step in moving toward a more transparent editorial process, since it lets anyone with a stake in the blog know exactly which stage each post is at.

Trello screenshot
We use color-coding to indicate which editor has been assigned to the post.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a tool to manage your editorial/content calendar, Trello is a great option to test out. It’s totally free and let’s you assign due dates (or publish dates in our case), which can be seen visually in their handy-dandy calendar view. Trello has put together a comprehensive guide on how to set this up for your team.

Prioritizing posts

We often have a dozen fully fleshed out pitches awaiting our review every two weeks — and most of them are great. The problem is, though, that it can be hard to choose which posts to move forward with and when.

To combat this, we created a Blog Post Selection Criteria spreadsheet to help apply a value to each potential post. The ones that score the highest are prioritized above the others. Below is a snippet of our ever-growing and changing criteria:

prioritization
Pro tip: Create your own prioritization spreadsheet or check out this beautiful framework by Wil Reynolds and the team at Seer Interactive for inspiration.

Finding a tool that works, from pitch to publish

Although we’ve implemented solutions (or at least improvements) to address many of the pain points we experience, we’ve yet to come across a tool that can accommodate our workflow from ideation to publication.

Yes, there are many great editorial calendar software options out there, but handling pitches from external contributors seems to be a tricky ask. And while some enterprise-level tools may offer that type of customization, they’re not cheap.

For now, we’ll stick with our Frankenstein-esque process, until we find a tool that ticks off all our must-haves. (BTW, if anyone needs a great startup idea…)

Always be optimizing

Just like everything else we do here at Unbounce, optimizing our blog is an ongoing process, especially as we grow.

If your organization has its own blog (and the struggles that go along with) we’d love to hear how you’ve optimized the process, so leave us a note in the comment section!


Unbounce