Category Archives: content marketing

Moving beyond customer profiles

Creating your ideal customer profile is an important step in developing your marketing plan. It helps you develop your strategy for finding your customers and how you are going to market to them. For planning the content that you are creating, and the medium you are going to deliver it, I am going to recommend using what you learned about your ideal customers and using it in a mental exercise.

After creating your customer profile the next step is to actually visualize your customer’s day. Here are a few questions to help you along:

  1. What emails are waiting for them in their inbox in the morning?
  2. What is their ONE Thing for the day?
  3. What do they need to learn in order to accomplish their ONE Thing?
  4. When during their day are they going to have time to learn?
  5. What obstacles stand in front of them?

If your target customer is a sales executive at a major organization then her day might start with getting ready for work, getting the kids breakfast, and dropping them off at school before she even starts her work day. She gets to the office and has a few fires waiting in her inbox that need her immediate attention. A couple of those emails lead to scheduling some calls and before she knows it it is almost lunch time and she has not got started on her ONE Thing let alone had time to read any blog articles or ebooks.

Based on all of that this busy sales executive does not have a lot of time to consume content. Maybe she can squeeze in a podcast in the car on the way to the office after dropping her kids off. Or, she could read a blog post while having lunch at her desk. If she does end up seeking out content it will like be very practical in nature and that will help her accomplish whatever her task at hand is. A short how-to guide, an implementation checklist, or some sort of template would all be things that will make her day better by saving her time and moving her closer to her goal for the day.

This comes back to the truth that you cannot spend too much time getting to know your customers. Not only does talking with your customers shapes your product but it provides you the opportunity to learn exactly what kind of content will provide value to them.

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Simple Drip Email Opt-In Forms in WordPress

There are many WordPress plugins for creating opt-in forms both free and premium. Those are great if you are going to be creating a lot of forms and inserting them in the middle of articles. If you only need a single form in your sidebar or at the end of your blog posts then those might be a bit overkill for you. I’m going to walk through creating a simple form in WordPress for connecting to your mailing list in Drip.

Inside Drip click on “Forms” in the top menu and then on “New Opt-In Form”.

Create new opt-in form in Drip

Type in the name of your form and click on “Create Form”.

Name opt-in form

Enter a headline and a description for you list.

Form content

We want to have the new subscriber’s first name so that we can use Drip’s shortcodes to automatically address each email to the subscriber ( {{ subscriber.first_name }}. We are going to do this by adding the field and making it required.

Add field to Drip form

Customarily people put the name field above the email address field on their forms so we are going to rearranging the fields by clicking on the three bars icon to the left of the fields and, by holding down the mouse button, dragging the first name field above the email address field.

Order form fields

Click on the “Enable the widget” checkbox so that it is unchecked. We are not going to use this as a popup form.

This will switch you over to the embedded form code that we are going to use later.

Now click on the “Rules” tab at the top followed by “Add an action…”

We are going to select “Apply a tag” and enter a tag of “blog_subscriber”.

Tag subscriber when form is submitted

You can click “Add an action…” again and then use Drip’s powerful automation features to lead them through a new subscriber workflow that you have set up:

Add new subscriber to workflow in Drip

Or you can subscribe them to a new subscriber drip email campaign that you have created:

Add email subscriber to drip campaign

Click on “Save Changes” and then scroll up and click on “Activate Now”.

Now log into your WordPress administration dashboard. Click on “Appearance” on the left menu followed by “Widgets”. Select the “Text” widget.

Add new sidebar widget in WordPress

The first opt-in form we are going to create is your Main Sidebar form. Select that and click on “Add Widget”. Leave the “Title” section blank and copy the following inside of the “Content” section:

<style type="text/css">
#sidebar_optin_form {
background-color: #000000;
padding: 10px;
color: #ffffff;
text-align: center;
}

#sidebar_optin_form h3 {
color: #ffffff;
font-size: 22px;
text-align: center;
margin-bottom: 10px;
}

#sidebar_optin_form label {
display: none;
}

#sidebar_optin_form br {
display: none;
}

#sidebar_optin_form input {
margin-top: 10px;
width: 100%;
box-sizing: border-box;
}

#sidebar_optin_form input[type="submit"] {
font-size: 18px;
background-color: #0274BE;
border: none;
border-radius: 3px;
padding: 12px 24px;
color: #FFF;
width: 100%;
background-image: none;
}
</style>
<div id="sidebar_optin_form">

</div>

Now go back into Drip and under the “Design” tab of your form select the code under “Embedded” and copy that into your form between the div tags in the above code that you pasted into WordPress.

Code for embedded form

Finally, change the following lines:

<input type="text" name="fields[first_name]" value="" />

To

<input type="text" name="fields[first_name]" value="" placeholder="First Name" />

And

<input type="email" name="fields[email]" value="" />

To:

<input type="email" name="fields[email]" value="" placeholder="Email Address" />

It should look like this when you are done:

<style type="text/css">
#sidebar_optin_form {
background-color: #000000;
padding: 10px;
color: #ffffff;
text-align: center;
}

#sidebar_optin_form h3 {
color: #ffffff;
font-size: 22px;
text-align: center;
margin-bottom: 10px;
}

#sidebar_optin_form label {
display: none;
}

#sidebar_optin_form br {
display: none;
}

#sidebar_optin_form input {
margin-top: 10px;
width: 100%;
box-sizing: border-box;
}

#sidebar_optin_form input[type="submit"] {
font-size: 18px;
background-color: #0274BE;
border: none;
border-radius: 3px;
padding: 12px 24px;
color: #FFF;
width: 100%;
background-image: none;
}
</style>
<div id="sidebar_optin_form">
<form action="https://www.getdrip.com/forms/4150534/submissions" method="post" data-drip-embedded-form="4150534">
<h3 data-drip-attribute="headline">Master Tactics Mailing List</h3>
<div data-drip-attribute="description">Get my best tactics for growing your business delivered right to your inbox!</div>
<div>
<label for="fields[first_name]">First Name</label><br />
<input type="text" name="fields[first_name]" value="" placeholder="First Name" />
</div>
<div>
<label for="fields[email]>Email Address</label><br />
<input type="email" name="fields[email]" value="" placeholder="Email Address" />
</div>
<div>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Sign Up" data-drip-attribute="sign-up-button" />
</div>
</form>
</div>

Click “Save” and then “Close”

Your new drip email opt-in form should be in your sidebar and look like this:

Simple sidebar opt-in form

As a bonus we are going to create a second style of form that you can use on your homepage (or you can use in your blog posts by using a plugin such as Widgets on Pages which, coupled with these forms, is a free alternative to the excellent Gravity Forms plugin).

For this form we want to have a small graphic that highlights what you are promising with the form. If you are using a lead magnet such as an ebook then you might have a physical book mocked up with your title. For “growing your business” an icon that shows a revenue graph going “up and to the right” would work.

I like to use Iconfinder and this icon by First Styles is a good one for business growth.

revnue graph icon

I am using the 256×256 version when I have downloaded and then uploaded it into WordPress. Once it is uploaded it will be listed. Click on “edit”.

wordpress upload image

On the right side of the screen is the file URL which we will need later. Copy that.

Wordpress image url

Now click on “Appearance” followed by “Widgets”. Select the “Text’ widget follow by “Front Page Area”. (You can move them to “Inactive Widgets” if you use the above mentioned plugin, or one like it, to add the widgets to your post.)

Wordpress front page form for mailing list

Leave the “Title” section blank and then paste the following into the “Content” section.

<style type="text/css>
#main_optin_form {
width: 600px;
border: 1px solid #d3d3d3;
display: table;
padding: 10px;
font-size: 14px;
}

.optin-form-left {
width: 50%;
float: left;
}

.optin-form-right {
width: 50%;
float: right;
text-align: center;
}

#main_optin_form h3 {
font-size: 22px;
margin-bottom: 10px;
}

#main_optin_form label {
display: none;
}

#main_optin_form br {
display: none;
}

img.main-optin-form-image {
display: block;
margin: auto !important;
float: none !important;
border-radius: 0px;
box-shadow: none;
}

#main_optin_form input {
margin-top: 10px;
width: 100%;
box-sizing: border-box;
padding: 12px;
font-size: 14px;
}

#main_optin_form input[type="submit"] {
font-size: 18px;
background-color: #0274BE;
border: none;
border-radius: 3px;
padding: 12px 24px;
color: #fff;
width: 100%;
background-image: none;
}
</style>
<div id="main_optin_form">
<div class="optin-form-left">
<img src="" class="main-optin-form-image">
</div>
<div class="optin-form-right">

</div>
</div>

Now paste the URL of your image inside of the “img” tag–specifically inside quotes here: src=””.

Paste the embedded form code from Drip inside the “optin-form-right” div.

And, like with the last form, make these two changes:

<input type="text" name="fields[first_name]" value="" />

To

<input type="text" name="fields[first_name]" value="" placeholder="First Name" />

And

<input type="email" name="fields[email]" value="" />

To:

<input type="email" name="fields[email]" value="" placeholder="Email Address" />

The final code should look like this:

<style type="text/css">
#main_optin_form {
width: 600px;
border: 1px solid #d3d3d3;
display: table;
padding: 10px;
font-size: 14px;
}

.optin-form-left {
width: 50%;
float: left;
}

.optin-form-right {
width: 50%;
float: right;
text-align: center;
}

#main_optin_form h3 {
font-size: 22px;
margin-bottom: 10px;
}

#main_optin_form label {
display: none;
}

#main_optin_form br {
display: none;
}

img.main-optin-form-image {
display: block;
margin: auto !important;
float: none !important;
border-radius: 0px;
box-shadow: none;
}

#main_optin_form input {
margin-top: 10px;
width: 100%;
box-sizing: border-box;
padding: 12px;
font-size: 14px;
}

#main_optin_form input[type="submit"] {
font-size: 18px;
background-color: #0274BE;
border: none;
border-radius: 3px;
padding: 12px 24px;
color: #FFF;
width: 100%;
background-image: none;
}
</style>
<div id="main_optin_form">
<div class="optin-form-left">
<img src="http://blog.engagetactics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/revnue-graph-icon.png" class="main-optin-form-image">
</div>
<div class="optin-form-right">
<form action="https://www.getdrip.com/forms/4150534/submissions" method="post" data-drip-embedded-form="4150534">
<h3 data-drip-attribute="headline"><Master Tactics Mailing List></h3>
<div data-drip-attribute="description">Get my best tactics for growing your business delivered right to your inbox!</div>
<div>
<label for="fields[first_name]">First Name</label><br />
<input type="text" name="fields[first_name]" value="" placeholder="First Name" />
</div>
<div>
<label for="fields[email]"><Email Address</label><br />
<input type="email" name="fields[email]" value="" placeholder="Email Address" />
</div>
<div>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Sign Up" data-drip-attribute="sign-up-button" />
</div>
</form>
</div>
</div>

And your new form will look like this:

Simple opt-in form with lead magnet image

I know it took me a decent amount of time to create my first forms in WordPress so hopefully these will help save you some time as well as increase your subscriber count!

p.s. this next form is real and you can put your name and email address in it. 🙂

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Consume less. Create more.

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month which is where thousands of people set a goal to write a novel during the month of November. How you get there is up to you but many set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day.

I fully intend to take part one day but, as an underdog, right now I’m focused on my business. This month I am going to spend less time consuming other people’s content and media, unless it is for brainstorming or immediately applicable purposes, and instead spend more time creating the marketing content that will grow my business.

The Underdog Action Plan

Underdog Action Plan

I am going to challenge myself and challenge you to create at least one good new piece of content for your business each week this month. What you will end up with are four assets that you can use to build your business going forward.

My goals for the month:

  • Finish draft of Engage
  • One authoritative Slideshare
  • One new email course
  • One marketing flier
  • One landing page and video for a new feature

The first one is not part of the action plan but me hoping to really tap into my inner-author during NaNoWriMo.

Here are some content marketing ideas for you if you’re struggling to come up with four great ideas:

Ebook

Take five or more of your highest quality blog posts and bundle them up into an ebook. Think of a subtitle that will tie them all together. This guide goes through how to pick a title, design a cover, format the content, publish, and market your ebook.

Landing Page

Create a new landing page that speaks about only one feature of your product or aspect of your service. I recommend using one of Leadpages’ free landing page template and Copyhackers for copywriting ideas for your landing page content.

SlideShare

Think of one informative blog post that you have been meaning to write and create a Slideshare of it instead. Send an email to prospective clients that mentions that they might be interested in this new presentation you created.

Email Course

Think about a topic that you recently had to research that relates to your business. While it is fresh in your mind create a five-email mini-course on it. Promote your new course on social media after you have created a landing page for it (see above).

Youtube Video

What is the question that you get asked the most by colleagues, clients, or friends? Record a short video where you answer that question.

This is your month of action for your content marketing.

See you in December

Remember that all the books you read, blog posts you skim, and podcasts you listen to do not do anything to help your business without you taking action. This is your month of action!
Come December we will all start seeing the results of the hard work we’ve been doing.

Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what your four things are!

B2B Content Marketing With Slideshare

You know who hates Powerpoint presentations? Everybody.

So it was a bit surprising that a Powerpoint presentation was what I landed on when looking for a conversation piece to use with some leads that had cooled down and fallen out of the funnel. I had seen a few really good presentations on SlideShare and finally a lightbulb went off. It is one of the most visited websites by business professionals so why am I not leveraging it?

Figuring out how to create great a Slideshare for my business was the next step. First, why do so many people hate presentations with slides? I think that is more of a consequence of delivery than design. Great slides convey the information without the need for further explanation. People would love a whole presentation of great slides that can be consumed in minutes if it wasn’t accompanied by somebody droning on for half an hour.

b2b content marketing with slideshare

A picture is worth a thousand words

People are able to consume information much more quickly visually than they are by listening or reading. Think about when you read blog posts. I’ll bet that at least half of the time you only read:

  • The headings
  • The subheadings
  • The bulleted lists
  • Bold or italicized words
  • The images

A Slideshare consists of basically only those things. It dispenses with the words and gives you the only good stuff.

Tools:

Google Presentation

If you already use Powerpoint then I would recommend sticking with the tool you know. If you don’t then I wouldn’t start with it. Google Presentation is far easier to use which is one less hurdle when you are getting started. They have some templates you can use depending on what you’re sharing as well as color/font themes to use. (Marina is my favorite.)

Google Sheets

More than any words or pictures data is what drives a point home. You can process your data in Google Sheets and then use your tables, graphs, and charts directly inside your presentation. (You can do the same with Excel and Powerpoint.)

Canva

You can create a whole presentation inside of Canva and achieve something that looks great. But the other reason I’m listing them here as a tool for content marketing is that they have templates and icons that you can use to present your data in aesthetically pleasing ways.

Canva presentation templates

Pablo

You might already be using Pablo for sharing quotes on social media (and if you’re not you should check it out). Just as a quote and a picture works on social media, it works in a presentation as well. This is probably the easiest way to create them and there is a huge library of images to choose from.

B2B Content Marketing

Your content marketing plan for your business likely involves blogging, a mailing list, and possibly infographics, YouTube, podcasting, or publishing ebooks. All excel at different things. I think a Slideshare is has two huge benefits that make it an essential part of your content marketing strategy:

It is a great way to quickly educate a business person on a topic related to your business.
They establish you as an authority on the topic.

Tips on Creating a Great Presentation

I’m just going to link to this post for some tips on creating a Slideshare presentation. For me the key points are:

  • Keep it short (10 slides or less if you can) and sweet
  • Have a great title
  • Create a template now to use going forward

Underdog Action Plan

Look at your content calendar or your list of blog post ideas. Create a presentation out of one of them instead of writing a blog post. Post to Slideshare and then promote it on your blog and social media.

Email Template Roundup

I am all about engaging people for your business through email. (Literally that is what my book is about.) Throughout your relationships with your customers, prospective customers, and industry peers there are countless opportunities to reach out to someone and to push your relationship forward.

The problem with having so many opportunities is that it takes a long time to create all of those emails. Writing (and revising) a great email sequence takes time so to get a head start you can use email templates that sales and marketing masterminds have shared with us.

I have used each of the templates in this roundup in one of my businesses.

Educational Campaign Emails

Providing value to someone upfront is one of the best ways to turn them into a prospective customer. A great way to do that is to teach them something related to the product or service you sell. For example Home Depot does a workshop where they go over a different home repair each week. You can do the same via a webinar. However, an easier, and scalable, way is to create an email course around a topic.

The email marketing software Drip comes with a couple templates already set up for that: the “5-Day Email Mini Course” and the “4-Week Email Mini Course”. I like the daily course better for teaching a specific topic with the weekly course more when you are presenting more general content about your industry.

This is the first email:

Thanks for checking out my 5-day crash course on **TOPIC OF COURSE**

I’m **NAME**, the founder of **COMPANY**. My goal for this course is to provide you with new techniques and approaches for **MAIN BENEFIT OF THE COURSE**, while keeping them as actionable and succinct as possible.

And today, we start with a look at **TOPIC OF TODAY’S EMAIL**.

** PASTE YOUR EDUCATIONAL, NON-SALES CONTENT HERE FROM YOUR BLOG POST, WHITE PAPER OR EBOOK **

This email course will provide you with actionable tips on how you can **BENEFIT OF THE COURSE**. More on that later…

Tomorrow, we’ll be delving into **TOPIC OF TOMORROW’S EMAIL**.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please hit the reply button and drop me a line. I will respond personally to every email.

And if you’re ahead of the curve and want to get started, feel free to learn more about **PRODUCT_NAME** here.
Until tomorrow,

**NAME**
**TITLE**

Other email campaign blueprints they have are:

  • Follow-up (Post-Demo)
  • Follow-up (Sample Report)
  • Follow-Up (Subscription Trial)
  • Cart Abandonment Recovery

WIth their workflow feature it is easy to guide a customer through multiple email campaigns from the time they are a prospect to when they become a customer and to later upsell them based on their usage. Great for all businesses but particularly for SaaS businesses.

Sales Emails

Steli Efti of Close.io has become something of a motivational speaker for startups. You listen to him give a talk and come out of it knowing that you can take the leap today and start selling. Key to his method are to stop procrastinating and to just start sending the emails, making the calls, and to never stop following up.

This simple cold email (his example is selling Dropbox to a law firm) can be modified for any software or service industry:

Hi [contact.fist_name],

My name is [user.first_name] with [organization.name].

We help law firms store & manage all of their client data securely in the cloud. I wanted to learn how you handle data storage at [lead.display_name] and show you what we’re working on.

Are you available for a quick call tomorrow afternoon?

A great takeaway from the follow up emails is that you offer the lead a few specific times for a possible call:

Do you have a few minutes for a quick call later this week?

Wed @ 11 am PST
Thur @ 2 pm PST
Fri @ 3 pm PST

If you ask them to make the first move in scheduling a time you’re often going to wind up waiting indefinitely. Present them with a few times they can say yes or no to. If they come back saying that none will work then try three new times. And keep following up until you get that call scheduled!

A few more templates from Close.io that I use can be found here.

Customer Onboarding Emails

I love the “You’re In” Email from Groove as the first email in an onboarding sequence. I feel this one can be modified for use whether you are selling a product or a service. You’re engaging your new customer to learn a little bit about why they choose you which is very helpful when creating your customer profiles.

I really appreciate you joining us at Groove, and I know you’ll love it when you see how easy it is to deliver awesome, personal support to every customer.

We built Groove to help small businesses grow, and I hope that we can achieve that for you.

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love it if you answered one quick question: why did you sign up for Groove?

I’m asking because knowing what made you sign up is really helpful for us in making sure that we’re delivering on what our users want. Just hit ‘reply’ and let me know’

By the way, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sending you a few more emails to help you deliver awesome support to your customers. We’ll be sharing some tips, checking in with you and showing you how some of our customers use Groove to grow their businesses.

I now use the “hit reply and let me know a little about you and/or your business” in most of my email campaigns. Not everybody responds but you learn so much when they do.

This sequence of onboarding emails from Baremetrics is great for SaaS companies to use throughout a trial period. Days 1,2,3,5, 12, and 14 specifically. Some of the other days are pretty specific to their app. I also hesitate as it is a lot of emails over a two week period of time but you can check open, click through, and response rates and find what works best for your business.

Failed Payment (Dunning) Emails

This one is for SaaS or other businesses that bill a customer’s credit card monthly.

Patrick McKenzie (Patio11 on the Internet) gave a talk at MicroConf Europe 2013 titled, “Building Things To Help Sell The Things You Build”. In it he brought up “dunning emails” which are the emails that a user receives when their credit card charge fails which usually happens when somebody gets a new card but forgets to update their billing information.

He brings up the point that when a charge fails the language in the notification email needs to be gentle. Use terms like “pausing your service” rather than “cancelling your account”. From Christoph Engelhardt’s notes on Patrick’s talk:

  • Everyone gets 3 dunning emails
  • Get to the point ASAP
  • Prominent link to capture updated CC data
  • Extend a 3 day grace period, try daily within grace
  • Don’t forget a “You didn’t update so we took the liberty of pausing your account” email

This post by Richard Felix shows what Drip itself does with their dunning emails. They use a series of three emails as Patrick recommended. You can see from the first email in the sequence that they don’t place any blame on the user (the card might have expired), use language that puts the blame on Drip (“will let you know if it’s still not working”), and don’t mention the possibility of disabling the account until the second to last sentence.

From: Rob at Drip
Subject: Uh oh, credit card fail – your emails will stop sending soon…

Hello,

It appears we’ve run into a problem charging your credit card on file at GetDrip.com. We’d love to keep sending emails to your subscribers – so let’s get you back on track!

The most common two causes of card rejections are that your card has expired, or that your bank has rejected the charge.

So first, visit your billing settings to double check that your card has not expired (and just for kicks, go ahead and update it to see if that fixes things). We will attempt to charge again in 48 hours and will let you know if it’s still not working.

If you hear from us again about this, the most likely explanation is that your credit card company is rejecting our charge. Please call the number on the back of your card and ask them to allow charges from GetDrip.com moving forward.

As of now your account is still active, but it will be disabled if we aren’t able to get your card working. So let’s get your account back on track and serving up more tasty email goodness!

The Drip Team

Networking (Influencer Outreach) Emails

A quote I love from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones (a motivational speaker) is:

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Networking is a great way to learn and grow both your business and as a person. For many people it requires stepping outside of your comfort zone and reaching out to people with more experience than you and whom you respect.

I recommend creating a plan to reach out to ten people a month that you follow on Twitter, read their blog, heard them on a podcast, or are in your network on LinkedIn (or are one removed and you can ask somebody you know for an introduction). When you have a list of ten people for the month then drop them an email.

Number two and three of Groove’s email templates (they really do share a lot of great content) are emails you can use to reach out to influencers in your industry or people in your network (look at their profile for articles they have written, organizations they are a part of, and charities they support):

Hi [firstname],

I loved your post about [subject + authentic reason].

I wrote a post about [compelling teaser]. I know you’re an expert on this, and I’d really appreciate your feedback.

Do you mind if I send you a link?

Thanks,
[your name]

The Underdog Action Plan

Use one of these templates to create a new campaign of at least three emails for one of these stages of the customer relationship:

  • Subscriber
  • Prospect
  • New customer
  • At-risk customer (somebody who is paying for your product/service but isn’t using it)

If you are struggling for ideas just drop me an email (will at the domain) and I’ll help you brainstorm.

Remember, at the end of the day, the more great content you have created the more you will be able to engage your audience and convert them into happy customers.

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The step-by-step guide to creating an ebook

Finishing an ebook is a very fulfilling feeling. Much more so than a blog post. (The writing for both can be brutal work.) I can only imagine the sense of relief that a novelist feels when they type their last word and the sense of accomplishment when they see a physical copy on the shelf at their local book store. With an ebook you won’t see that physical copy (though you can if you create one through Amazon’s CreateSpace) but you still will feel like you are creating something tangible that people will hopefully enjoy.

A good ebook doesn’t need to be long. If it is informative and provides value it will be something that the target audience would like to add to their Kindle, read on their phone, or follow along with on their computer. Like all great content, if you inspire your readers to take action they will come back for more.

This guide will provide a step-by-step walkthrough of the process of creating an ebook. By the end of it I hope to have shown you that it isn’t a difficult task and inspired you to create your own. (If you do please contact me on Twitter and tell me about it!)

Why Write?

From a marketing perspective there are two reasons to write a book:

Authority

You will literally be the person that wrote the book on your subject. That goes a long way to establishing credibility in your industry and with credibility comes trust. All other things being equal people are going to purchase from the person who has written a book and established themselves as an expert on the product, service, or industry.

Reference the fact that you have written a book in every bio, feature it prominently on your blog or web page, and include a link to it under your signature in every email. People will subconsciously give your words more weight.

Reach potential customers

Using ebooks to grow your customer base can happen both directly and indirectly. Indirectly is via people who have come across your book through outside channels (on Amazon, Google, or through a recommendation) but don’t know you or your product or service. Through reading your book they become aware of you and what you do and will hopefully become a customer down the road.

More directly you can use an ebook as a way to gather more customers by giving it away in exchange for an action, email address, or sale. Let’s take a look at examples of each of those.

Action: Tweet about my new service and be entered to win a copy of my new book! One entry for each tweet.

Email address: Enter your email below for a free copy of my new book delivered right to your inbox.

Sale: Buy my product and get my book for free.

Giveaways are a great way to get people in the door (figuratively for an Internet business and literally for a brick-and-mortar business) and we are going to cover them more later. It is important to remember that with them often the people that enter are not truly interested customers. Rather they are interested in free.

Other actions that you might want somebody to take is to fill out a questionnaire or sit through a webinar (make sure the webinar is valuable in and of itself or else you’ll start resembling a timeshare salesman).

Getting an ebook in exchange for an email address is a good trade for a lot of people. For you it is a great way to start a relationship with a prospective customer. You have given them something that will provide them value up front and will, presumably, continue to do so with your newsletter. Continuously providing value builds trust and makes a person much more likely to give you money.

The Trust Bank

The final way to use an ebook to gather more customers is giving it away with a purchase. You see this in action with products on infomercials. “Buy our product and we’ll throw in X for free.” The idea is that you’re more likely to buy if you perceive you are getting a greater value by taking advantage of this (often limited-time) deal.

This is a great way to entice somebody who is already interested in your main product but won’t grow your potential customer base like the other two methods.

There is another reason to write a book which is for monetary considerations (money) but that is gravy if you are writing your book in order to help your business.

Brainstorming

Pat Flynn released a video about writing an ebook and what stuck out to me was his brainstorming method. He takes a pad of post-its and spends ten minutes writing down any word that pops into this mind while thinking about the topic. No filter. Everything goes on a paper.

Brainstorming in Trello

I do the same with a piece of paper and then create a card for each in Trello for later organization. For that I create a new board and add a list called “Brainstorming”.

If you don’t already have a topic and are at a loss for book ideas here are a few things your potential customers might be interested in:

  • What tools and software you use
  • Case studies of customers using your product or service (you should be having conversations with your customers anyway so why not ask them for an official interview as it can benefit their business as well)
  • Industry changes of past five years and what changes you expect in the next five
  • A step-by-step guide (like this one!) about one aspect of your business
  • Checklists

Creating an ebook does take a decent amount of effort so you want to make sure that what you are creating is something that people will read. Reach out to ten of your current customers and present them with a list of your two or three best ideas and ask which they would be most interested in reading about. Even then there is no guarantee so pick one and start the writing process.

Outlining

After I have finished brainstorming I start organizing my ideas into chapters. In Trello I create a list for each chapter and drag the ideas from the “Brainstorming” list to their respective chapters.

Outlining in Trello

Workflowy is another great piece of software to use for outlining.

Once I get that general outline done I copy it to paper and go into a little bit more detail. For me more detail in the outline makes the writing process a bit easier.

Title

You are going to need a title to put on the cover of your book. I am a fan of the short (four or less words) title followed by a longer subtitle that provides more description. Salt: A World History is a good example. A one-word title followed by a three word description. My book Engage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Your Business with Email Marketing is another example. The key is that the title and subtitle must accurately describe the content or value provided.

Copywriting formulas are a great way to craft a great subtitle. Here are some headline ideas from Joanna Wiebe who has creates some great content about copywriting for business owners–particularly for business owners who leverage the Internet like we encourage!

The only {product category} that doesn’t {objection or anxiety}.

The only accounting book that doesn’t put you to sleep.

{Do something} like {world-class example}

Build a business like the Romans built an empire.

Have a / Build a {Desirable Thing} You Can Be Proud Of

Build a restaurant that you can be proud of.

{Do Something Hard} in {Period of Time}

Lose ten pounds in ten days.

You are {comparative} than you think

You are better at business than you think.

The Ultimate Guide to {Good, Bad or Desirable Thing}

The ultimate guide to getting a raise.

What Everybody Ought to Know About {Good, Bad or Desirable Thing}

What everybody needs to know about office politics.

To the {role} who will settle for nothing less than {world-class outcome}

To the student who will settle for nothing less than straight-A’s.

Break all the rules and {world-class outcome}

Break all the rules and sell to anyone.

If you follow the link above to Joanna’s site you will find a ton more examples or you can search for “copywriting formulas” on Google and find many more. Remember the key is to capture a potential reader’s attention while also describing what your book is about.

Writing The Content

I don’t want to get too far into the writing process as everybody has their own that they developed from their years of writing high-school essays to writing business emails on the job today. In general you want to get to the point and use language that your audience understands.

As far as what tools to use to write, go with whatever you’re most comfortable with. I love using Google Docs as I can write on my desktop, laptop, and phone and always be up-to-date on each. We are going to be using Leanpub to create the book so we’re going to go over that process. If you don’t want to use their online editor you can just copy and paste your content over later.

Create an account on Leanpub if you do not have one already.

Create a new book. Enter your book title (but not subtitle as you can add that later) and select what you would like the URL to be (e.g. http://www.leanpub.com/your_book_title). Select the option to write “In my browser on Leanpub”.

New book in Leanpub

There are three style options for creating a book:

  • Fiction (size is 5.5″ x 8″)
  • Business (size is 5.5″ x 8″)
  • Technical (size is 8.5″ x 11″ – size of printer paper in the U.S.)

If you are going to be using a lot of images or screenshots then you will want to go with the technical book option. If not, select the business book option. Then click on the “Create Book” button.

You are now going to be taken to a page that has some videos about how to better use the editor but for now just click the button that says “Just take me to the write tab…”

Book chapters in Leanpub

Let’s start by adding the chapters. Click on the plus button and create a file for your first chapter. I named by “introduction.txt”. Now click create. Repeat for every chapter in your book. Then hover your cursor over “chapter1.txt” and click on the “x” to delete the file. Do that for “chapter2.txt” and “chapter3.txt”.

Now for each chapter you need to name the chapter (the filenames you just created are just to help you identify them). Click on your first chapter and then type in a number sign followed by your chapter name. For me this is “# Introduction”.

Creating chapters in Leanpub

Now comes the hard part. The writing.

This is not a word processor so there is a special way to add formatting should you want to bold or italicize something. You need to surround the word as such:

*italics*

**bold**

***bold and italic***

____underline with four underscores____

You can add links to websites:

[Google](http://www.google.com)

To add images you first need to upload them. Do that by clicking on “images” and then clicking on the “+”. Select your file from your system and hit submit. Then add your images as follows:

!(images/image_you_uploaded.png)

Writing in Leanpub

If you need to do any advanced formatting the Leanpub manual has you covered.

Cover

It is always said to never judge a book by its cover but a well-designed cover is essential for convincing people that your book is worth their time. It doesn’t matter how good your content is if nobody opens it. (This is similar to the fact that your subject line is the most important part of a marketing email as its job is to convince the recipient to open the email.)

If you have a few bucks to spend you can hire a designer on sites like 99Designs and Fiverr. Both are good options for somebody short on design skills. However screening designers does take some time and you can expect some back and forth before you arrive at the perfect cover.

If you have some design chops you can design a cover yourself in Photoshop. If you are an utter failure at colors, contrast, and fonts like myself there is still hope. Canva is a very easy to use site that helps you create all sorts of marketing materials. Many design elements are free while others cost $1. You only pay when you are happy with your design and ready to download it.

Sample ebook cover in Canva

After logging in to Canva click on “Create a design” then click on “eBook”. You will now see the premade templates on the left. I like starting with the “Turquoise Educational Ebook”.

Add your title and your name as the author. On the left you can change the background and if you click on “elements” you can add photos or icons to your cover. When you are done click on “Download” at the top and then “Image: high quality (PNG)”.

Inform cover in Canva

Bringing It All Together

Now that you have finished writing and creating a cover you can bring it all together. Click on “Book Cover”. Scroll down to “Choose File” and select the cover image that you saved from Canva. Then click on “Upload Cover Page”.

Now click on “Book Info” on the left and then “Book Details” from the dropdown menu. If you have a subtitle then enter it here.

If you would like your book listed in the Leanpub store then you are going to want to make sure it shows up in the right place when people are browsing for a book on your topic. Click on “Categories” and then “Add Category”. Find a category in the dropdown and then click “Update Book”.

Additionally if you are going to list your book on Leanpub you are going to want to set up your book’s page. Click on “Book Web Page” and then “About The Book”. The “Teaser Text” is what is shown at the top of the web page with the meat of the page being the “About The Book” section.

Now you are ready to see the fruits of your efforts. Click on “Preview” and then “Create Preview”. Congratulations!
If everything looks okay and if you are intending to publish your book on Leanpub click on “Publish Your Book”. If not, then avoid doing that.

Publishing On Amazon

Many people do not realize that anybody can publish their book on Amazon. As an author you can, and should, use Amazon’s self-publishing platforms to get your book listed on Amazon. By doing so your book will be listed just like the latest novel from Stephen King or business book by Nassim Taleb.

There are many advantages to having your book on Amazon:

Authority

We talked earlier about how being a published author (even a self-published author) establishes you as an authority in your industry. Having your book on Amazon drives that home much more than serving a PDF off your niche website. I’m not saying to abandon hosting a copy yourself but when you are referring a stranger to your book an Amazon link carries more weight.

Convenience

Once you have successfully listed your book on Amazon there is nothing more for you to do outside of promoting it. You don’t need to worry about hosting, payments, or any other issues. They handle it all.

Reach

Last year a study revealed that 44% of consumers started their searches directly on Amazon compared with the 34% that started their searches on a search engine (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!). That indicates that if somebody is looking to read a book about your topic they are going to Amazon first. If you aren’t there they might never find you.

There are two ways to get your book published on Amazon and those are CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. As the name suggest the Kindle option is for publishing an ebook while CreateSpace allows you to publish a physical copy as well as publish to the Kindle. I like having physical copies of my books on my bookshelf but for anything less than 50 or 60 pages it really is too small to be worth the effort.

CreateSpace

What CreateSpace does is create paperbacks, CDs, and DVDs on demand so that when somebody orders one off of the CreateSpace site or Amazon the product will be physically made and shipped to them. In this case if you want to give people the options to get a paperback version of your ebook you can upload your ebook and then when it is ordered CreateSpace will print and bind a paperback and then ship it to the customer. After the initial setup you don’t have to do anything except sit back and watch the royalties be direct deposited into your account. (Obviously a lot of promotion is helpful to make those royalties happen.)

Before starting this process you need to create a second copy of your PDF that you downloaded from Leanpub. Create a copy (e.g. “book_for_amazon.pdf”) and open it. Export the cover to a third PDF (e.g. “book_cover.pdf”) and delete it from the copy you are going to upload to Amazon.

If you don’t already have an account go to the CreateSpace homepage and click on “Sign Up”. After setting up your account you will be directed to the member dashboard. Click on “Add New Title”.

Enter your title, click on the Paperback radio button, and then click the “Get Started” button for the Guided option. On the next screen enter in your subtitle if you have one, your name, and select the language your book is in. Click “Save & Continue”.

Creating a book in CreateSpace

The next step is the ISBN number. If the only way you are going to distribute physical copies of your book then the first option (Free CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN) is fine for you. If you plan on creating or selling physical copies elsewhere then getting a universal ISBN is the way to go.

I’m only going to sell physical copies on Amazon so I’m picking “Free CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN” and then clicking Assign Free ISBN. The next screen will show the ISBN numbers you have been assigned. Click “Continue”.

On this screen you select whether the pages of your book are black and white or color as well as paper color. If you are using screenshots or colored graphics then select the “Full Color” option. If not, select Black & White. I personally prefer a white paper color for business and technical books and a cream paper color for fiction so I keep “White” as my paper color.

Now you are going to select the size of the book you want printed. Click on “Choose a Different Size”. If you recall on Leanpub you selected either 5.5″ x 8″ or 8.5″ x 11″. If you selected the former then you’ll find that size isn’t available for physical printing. Instead choose 5.25″ x 8″. If you selected 8.5″ by 11″ on Leanpub you can select the same here.

After choosing your Interior Type, Paper Color, and Trim Size click on the circle next to “Upload your Book File”. Click Browse and select the PDF that you removed the cover page from (e.g. “book_for_amazon.pdf”).

You are going to be asked about bleed which you can safely ignore if you do not have any images in your book. If you do you can try the first option “Ends after the edge of the page” and then see how the images look in the preview. If an image ends up being cut off you can go back and select “Ends before the edge of the page”.

Book interior in CreateSpace

After clicking “Save” CreateSpace is going to run the “Automated Print Check” which checks for any potential issues with the file you uploaded and what the book will look like when it is done.

If you are notified of any issues then now is the time to fix them by making the changes and then clicking on “Interior” and uploading your new file. If there are no issues click “Continue”.

On to the cover. You have the choice between “Matte” and “Glossy”. If you have bright colors in your cover then I would choose glossy otherwise I would choose matte. Now click on the circle button next to “Upload a Print-Ready PDF Cover”. Click on “Browse” and select your book cover PDF (e.g. “book_cover.pdf”). Click on “Save”.

Then next page should show two green check marks that indicate the upload was successful. Click “Continue”. If everything looks good then click on “Submit Files for Review”.

While you are waiting for CreateSpace to review your book you can set up your distribution channels (which Amazon websites you want your book listed on). I recommend doing all three listed (Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, and CreateSpace eStore) so that your book will return in searches on each site.

There are also options to distribute your book to libraries and other online bookstores. If your book is academic in nature then the library option might be a good one and if you think it might have mass market appeal then the “CreateSpace Direct” and “Bookstores and Online Retailers” might be a good option. We’re not going to cover those here however.

When you have finished selecting your distribution channels click “Save & Continue”.

The next section is the price that a reader will see on Amazon. There are two schools of thought for pricing:

  • A lower price can lead to more sales (basic supply and demand)
  • A higher price indicates higher quality

I think a good balance between both is the way to go. I often see ebooks listed for $2.99 or so on Amazon and never buy them because they I assume they are really low quality. An ebook priced from $7.99 to $14.99 indicates to me that there is some quality content in there. Higher than that indicates that it is definitely some quality content but it no longer is an impulse purchase and must have business value.

Ebook pricing in CreateSpace

If your book is a marketing tool then I would keep the price lower in hopes of more buyers. Once you set the list price for Amazon.com it automatically suggests a price based on conversion rates to other markets. Click “Save & Continue”.

Click on “Description” on the left. This is important as this is the sales copy that customers are going to see on Amazon.com. I would start with the “About the Book” text you entered on Leanpub. A bullet point list of topics, reader testimonials, and some frequently asked questions and answers are all good ways to help a potential reader overcome their objections to buying a book that was not specifically recommended to them.

The other important information to add on this page is your bio as the author and search keywords which are words a reader might use to search for your book. Also, you are required to select a “BISAC Category” which is basically the section of the bookstore your book would be found in.

Click “Save & Continue”.

Finally, once your book is complete you can select the “Publish on Kindle” option which sends your book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform.

Kindle Direct Publishing

The Kindle is the most popular ebook reader and many people use the Kindle app to read books on their phones or tablets. Getting your book in the Kindle store is the best way to reach those millions of readers.

Go to the Kindle Direct Publishing site and sign in. If you previously created your book through CreateSpace and selected the option to publish on Kindle then you should see your book listed. We are going to assume that was not the case and will create a new book.

New ebook in Kindle Direct Publishing

Click on the “Create new title” button.

The first thing you are prompted about is “KDP Select”. If your book is available on your website or blog (which should be the case if you are using it to as a marketing piece to grow your email list), or if you listed it on the Leanpub site, then you are not eligible for this program. We are going to skip going over it.

You now need to enter your book details which is the same information you entered on Leanpub. Enter your title, subtitle, and description. Click on “Add contributors” to add yourself as the author. Click on the circle button next to “This is not a public domain work and I hold the necessary publishing rights.”

Click on “Add Categories” to select two categories your book will be listed under. Follow that up with adding some “search keywords” which are words that a potential reader might enter into Google or Amazon in order to search for information about the topic you wrote your book about.

You are going to need to convert the cover image file you downloaded from Canva from .png to .jpg. You can do that with almost any image or photo editor on your computer and there are also online tools to do so. Click “Browse for image” and select the file.

The second thing you need to do to is to download the .mobi version of your book from Leanpub if you haven’t already.

Under “Book content file:” click the “Browse” button and select the .mobi file that you downloaded from Leanpub. Once it has uploaded you will see the message “Upload and conversion successful!” Click on “Preview Book”. That launches the Online Previewer where you can see exactly what your book will look like on the a Kindle.

After reviewing click on “Book Details” in the upper-left. Scroll down and click “Save and Continue”.

On the next page leave the “Verify Your Publishing Territories” on the default as you own all the rights–you wrote it!

The next section regarding pricing is kind of confusing. It asks if you would like the 35% or 70% royalty option. Why would anyone choose the first option? The reason is that your book has to be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 to be eligible for the 70% option. So if you price it below or above that range then you are required to do the 70% option. The other reason you might select the 35% option is that with the 70% option you pay for bandwidth. Therefore if you have a lot of images in your book, and the price is low, you might end up paying more than the difference in delivery costs.

Luckily KDP has a new service that recommends a price to you as well as the royalty option that they think will net you the most money. Click on “View Service” to run that.

Kindle Direct Publishing Pricing Support

If you agree with their suggested pricing click “Yes” and you will be taken to the previous screen with prices automatically created for each territory. If not, click “No” and set them yourself.

If you have created a print version of your book through CreateSpace then you might want to enroll your ebook in the Kindle MatchBook program. This gives somebody who has purchased a physical copy of your book the option to purchase an ebook version for a reduced price.

Many people are not aware that buyers of ebooks have the options of lending them to their friends and family for a limited period of time. If you would like your readers to be able to do so (it helps increase word-of-mouth) then keep the “Kindle Book Lending” option checked.

Click “Save and Publish”.

Promoting It

Mailing List

If you have a mailing list already then they will be some of the first people that you reach out to. If you don’t have a mailing list then you should start one right now. I really like using Drip for my business mailing lists but the tool you choose is less important than the fact that you are actively collecting email addresses (either through a form on your website or a signup sheet in your place of business).

Earlier we discussed using a free ebook as a tactic to grow your mailing list. That method might not convert as well as it used to but is still a great place to start. This article should hopefully get you to that point.

My next book Engage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Your Business With Email Marketing is going to dive in depth into how to leverage a mailing list for your business.

Twitter

Twitter is both a very easy and very hard platform to promote on. Anybody can do it but, because of that fact, 99% of tweets gets ignored. The best way to promote on Twitter is to reach out to people influential in your industry (they are called influencers) or target market and see if they might be willing to tweet about your book to their followers. You’re asking them to put their reputation, that they have spent a lot of time building, on the line so your product must both be good as well as very relevant to their audience. If it is neither of those then don’t bother.

Short of influencers you can try tweeting about your book with topical hashtags but those are typically lost in a lot of noise. Normal people do not follow hashtags–other marketers do.

When linking to your book on Twitter always try to include the cover as people are much more likely to click on a link in a tweet that contains an image.

Facebook

The way Facebook operates makes it a bit tougher to leverage as a promotional platform. Obviously you can use it to tell your family and friends about your book and ask them to refer anybody they know that might be interested in your topic.

You can also join Facebook groups that are related to your topic but it is best to work your book into an answer for a question rather than directly promote it.

Reddit

The best thing about Reddit is that there is a community for every niche. However part of what makes Reddit a great site for the users is a downside for marketers. They don’t like being sold to. Therefore if you are going to post your book on a subreddit it would be better if you are already active in the sub and regularly posting and providing value. People like helping other members of their community but will actively punish those attempting to take advantage of it.

There are a couple of subreddits where it is acceptable to promote your ebook and that is on /r/KindleFreebies and /r/ebooks (they ask that you contact the mods first).

Giveaway

We talked earlier about giveaways being a good way to promote your business. With your book on Amazon it is easy to setup a giveaway with their Amazon Giveaway program. Simply search for your book on Amazon and scroll down the page until you see “Set up an Amazon Giveaway”.

This is what that looks like for my book Passions and Other Lessons:

Amazon Giveaway Program

With Amazon you can require that entrants follow you on Twitter or watch a YouTube video in order to be eligible.

In a traditional giveaway people are incentivized to not tell anybody else about it as more entrants means they are less likely to win. That is detrimental to you as you are looking to reach as many people as possible.

If you are really looking for your giveaway to go viral then you want to encourage people to invite their friends and you can do so by giving them an additional entry for each friend they referrer. So Tom signs up himself and then posts a link about it on his Facebook wall. Ten of his friends sign up and he now has eleven chances to win. Rafflecopter’s premium tier has this option.

Goodreads

Enthusiastic fans of literature congregate on a site called Goodreads. It is basically IMDB for books. While your ebook isn’t Shakespeare it still has a place on the site.

They have an author program where you can add your book to their database. They list a preference for published books though they accept self-published books as well. They specifically mention Amazon as a publisher and, as we talked about earlier, you should publish on there.

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