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:


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.


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.


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.)


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


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.

Lost Deal Drip Email Campaigns

Sales is a challenge for many of us. It is the lifeblood of our business so we spend a lot time and resources on it. But the unfortunate reality is that most leads do not turn into customers. There are many reasons for this including they might be just window shopping and gathering information, they aren’t ready to buy, they use one of our competitors, or our product or service is not a good fit.

Behind all of those is a time component. Those all might be true right now but might not be true in the future after you have improved their product, your competitor has stumbled or not lived up to expectations, or they have moved forward in the buying process. A “no” now can turn into a “yes” later.

I saw this post from Jason Lemkin of SaaStr about drip marketing campaigns for lost deals and thought I would create a few email templates for you to use based on his suggestions.

10 months out (Renewal #1). If your competitor really screwed it up.

You’re hopefully rolling out new features or services at least every ten months and this email will bring attention to that. At the same time ten months is too soon to do another hard sell so this email just tries to sell the lead on a quick chat to catch up and find out how things are going.

{{ subscriber.first_name }},

I wanted to check in and see how things are going. We talked almost a year ago about <the problem> and you mentioned that you are using {{ subscriber.current_provider }}. How is that going?

We’ve rolled out some new features <or services> but are also continually looking to improve so learning a bit about what is working with {{ subscriber.current_provider }} and what, if any, difficulties you might be having would be very helpful for me.

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

Wed @ 9 am {{ subscriber.friendly_time_zone }}
Thur @ 2:30 pm {{ subscriber.friendly_time_zone }}
Fri @ 9:30 am {{ subscriber.friendly_time_zone }}


{{ from_name }}

20 months out (Renewal #2). If your competitor doesn’t remain competitive and deliver enough value.

At this point your business has hopefully matured and your product or service has improved significantly while at the same time your competitors might be big enough that they are not innovating at a quick pace or are slow to respond to customer concerns.

{{ subscriber.first_name }},

I hope you are having a great week.

You have been using {{ subscriber.current_provider }} for a while now and I wanted to check to make sure that is still going well for you. We have been aggressively adding new features <or services> that have been providing a lot of value to our customers and I think we’re very competitive with {{ subscriber.current_provider }}.

I would love to have a quick chat with you to see if we can deliver a higher value to you today than when we last talked and make <the problem> a thing of the past.

I hope business is going well and look forward with connecting with you soon.

Have a great day,

{{ from_name }}

30 months out (Renewal #3). If your competitor did an OK job but isn’t loved and you now are doing something much better (one thing) than them.

As a business grows its needs change and the reasons for picking a solution in the past might no longer be valid. While your competitor might have been a better solution three years ago you might better address the pain points the customer is having now.

{{ subscriber.first_name }},

I wanted to check in and see how {{ subscriber.current_provider }} is working out for you. Since we first spoke a few years ago we have been investing a lot in improving our service and, due to those improvements, a lot of businesses are finding that we are a better fit for them now.

If you’re really happy with {{ subscriber.current_provider }} then great. If not, I would love to talk with you for a few minutes to see if we might be a better solution for you today.


{{ from_name }}

Implementation in Drip

Create the “Lost Deal Campaign” with these three emails.

Lost deal drip email campaign

(If you use a CRM system to track emails you have sent to your leads set the campaign up to automatically BCC yourself on each email so that it will be picked up by your CRM.)

Create a new workflow:

Lost deal workflow in Drip

  • Start workflow then the tag “not_interested” is applied.
  • If the subscriber has a custom field set with the current provider (the emails you created reference that so you don’t want to send them without that information) then send campaign otherwise exit workflow.
  • Wait ten months to start the email campaign
  • Create a goal (“customer” tag applied) so that if that happens the subscriber is pulled from the “Lost Deal Campaign” and not sent anymore of those emails.
  • I have a separate workflow (“Customer Onboarding”) which is triggered when the “customer” tag is applied.

One obvious improvement is to add a campaign that doesn’t reference the current provider so that all lost deals get follow up even if you didn’t get the information about which of your competitors they use.

When creating a subscriber in Drip (Import/Bulk Ops -> New Bulk Operation -> Enter a list of email addresses) you have to create them using an email address and then you can go in and update their fields. Be sure to set the “current_provider” customer field prior to adding the “not_interested” tag. to Drip

If you’re using CRM software then you probably would prefer to automate this whole process–more time for sales! You can do that using Zapier so that when you mark a lead as “Not Interested” in your CRM (or opportunity as ‘Closed: Lost’) it will automatically create a subscriber in Drip, set their current provider, apply the ‘not_interested’ tag, and start sending them the email campaign in 300 days.

I use and this is the zap I created for this:

Lost deal email Zap with and Drip

The trigger: trigger in Zapier

The filter for only status changes to ‘Not Interested’:

Zapier filter for lost deals

Setting up the contact in Drip:

Adding contact to Drip in Zapier

(edit: If you use Zapier to create subscribers from contacts then you don’t currently get separate fields for first and last name but rather a full name field. You can use the following in your Drip emails in order to address your emails to someone’s first name: “{{ | split: ‘ ‘ | first | capitalize }}”. Thanks to Andy at Drip for that.)

“No” means “not right now”

You put a lot of work into turning leads into customers. Don’t let the “no” be the end of your relationship. By using this lost deal drip email campaign you turn that “no” into just one step of a much longer relationship. One that hopefully includes them becoming a customer at a later date.

Announcing the Engage Giveaways Plugin for WordPress


I’m pleased to announce the first software from Engage Tactics! I’m developing a premium WordPress plugin that will help you grow your mailing list through giveaways. With the “refer-a-friend” option your giveaways will go viral and subscriptions will skyrocket.

A big reason why this plugin will help you engage your website visitors is that each entry will flow directly into your email marketing software (currently supporting Drip and Mailchimp) so that you can drop them into your workflows and start building a relationship with them immediately.

There is a limited number of lifetime licenses available for pre-order at an extremely low cost. The hope is that the first adopters help drive improvements by providing feedback so if you fit that description I’m looking to give you a deal.

Check out the Engage Giveaways Plugin for WordPress and click that buy button!

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**.


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,


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 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 [].

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 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…


It appears we’ve run into a problem charging your credit card on file at 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 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?

[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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Guide to creating customer profiles

People respond much better to targeted marketing than they do to general marketing. Imagine being able to talk to each potential customer directly! We’re a little ways from that but with a combination of tracking, big data, and A.I. improvements I think the future is hyper-targeted marketing.


Until that utopian future (if you are a marketer) or dystopian future (if you don’t like being marketed to) we will have to settle for other methods to target our marketing messages and customer onboarding processes. In order to do that you need to be able to effectively segment your customers in order to tailor your message.

The upside to creating a series of customer profiles (also known as buyer personas) is that your blog content, mailing list emails, and ads will convert better. This is particularly helpful if you place ads on Facebook. The downside is that creating separate content for each segment is a lot more work. But it is work that will pay off in the end.

Customer profile details

For creating profiles I like this character development outline that I used in my college playwriting class. It is called Character Bone Structure and is from Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing. I’ve used it not just for creative writing but for creating buyer personas for my marketing efforts.


  1. Sex
  2. Age
  3. Height and weight
  4. Color of hair, eyes, skin
  5. Posture
  6. Appearance: good-looking, over- or underweight, clean, neat,
    pleasant, untidy. Shape of head, face, limbs.
  7. Defects: deformities, abnormalities, birthmarks. Diseases.
  8. Heredity


  1. Class: lower, middle, upper.
  2. Occupation: type of work, hours of work, income, condition of
    work, union or nonunion, attitude toward organization,
    suitability for work.
  3. Education: amount, kind of schools, marks, favorite subjects,
    poorest subjects, aptitudes.
  4. Home life: parents living, earning power, orphan, parents
    separated or divorced, parents’ habits, parents’ mental
    development, parents’ vices, neglect. Character’s marital
  5. Religion
  6. Race, nationality
  7. Place in community: leader among friends, clubs, sports.
  8. Political affiliations
  9. Amusements, hobbies: books, newspapers, magazines he reads.


  1. Sex life, moral standards
  2. Personal premise, ambition
  3. Frustrations, chief disappointments
  4. Temperament: choleric, easygoing, pessimistic, optimistic
  5. Attitude toward life: resigned, militant, defeatist.
  6. Complexes: obsessions, inhibitions, superstitions, phobias.
  7. Extrovert, introvert, ambivert
  8. Abilities: languages, talents.
  9. Qualities: imagination, judgment, taste, poise.
  10. I.Q.

(You can bet the door-to-door salesmen of yesteryear would attempt to learn these about a customer within moments of the door opening.)

Obviously this goes into a great deal of detail and some of it you definitely don’t need (but let the data tell you what you need and don’t!). You can probably make things a bit simpler to start with. If you are targeting consumers you can start by using the following four variables or even less:

  • Gender
  • Age (brackets of ten years)
  • Marital status
  • Income

2 options for gender * 5 options for age (20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, over 60) * 2 options for marital status * 2 options for income (keep it simple with over/under an income figures such as $50,000) = 40 different possible customer profiles.

You can see that the more variables you use vastly increase the number of profiles. So, start with just a few variables that you deem important and work from there. And don’t be afraid to repurpose content or create content that spans profiles. Depending on your product somebody married in their 30s is not going to be all that different from somebody married in their 40s.

When selling to small businesses a few simple variables to start with might be:

  • Industry
  • Role (owner or employee)
  • Revenue

This is not a substitution for picking up the phone and talking to customers. The more you talk to and engage your potential customers the more you will learn about them. Whenever you are in doubt about something in your business talking to customers will go a long way towards helping you find an answer

Creating customer profiles

Here are a few steps to help you being filling in your customer profiles:

1. Identify the data you already have

You might already have some data on your customers but might not know it. If you use a CRM system for sales it likely has some data in there about your customers. (If it doesn’t you should definitely add some custom fields in order to start recording things such as company size, industry, current solutions they use, and any personal details about your contact that they mention.)

Where you definitely have some hidden data is in your email. Most business people use email signatures which typically contain a few good pieces of information you can use. Here are a few things you can probably glean from a signature and then supplement by looking them up on LinkedIn (a great task for a virtual assistant):

Creating customer profiles from email signatures

2. Go to where your customers hangout

Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter are all places you can look at to find people talking about the problem that your product or service solves. Look at the discussions they are having and the people that are having them. You should be able to fairly quickly identify a few buckets that your potential customers fall into.

As an experiment (the Underdog Action Plan for the week) create and write down three basic profiles and then try to put twenty people into the bucket that you think best fits them. You’ll probably get most of them, particularly if you did early customer development, but you also might find that the most vocal people online are not potential customers but just people with too much time on their hands. Reach out to the twenty people you assigned to a bucket and see if you can ask them a few questions.

Pro tip: 44% of U.S. consumers go straight to Amazon to search about products. Read the reviews people leave on books and products related to your industry to learn about your potential customers.

3. Ask your customers directly

It is always best to pick up the phone and talk with a customer directly. However you can also leverage technology to get their feedback at various points throughout your relationship such as when they visit your website (I’m sure you have been asked to fill out a survey on a website), when they become a customer, and later after they have used your product or service. This is an example for a questionaire for a new customer.

Using Google Forms you can easily create a customer feedback form and ask them to fill it out. From “Start a New Form” select the “Customer Feedback” form. You might need to click on “More” in which case you will find it listed under the “Work” forms.

Click on the “Feedback Type” question and then click on the trashcan to delete it. Now click on the “Name” field followed by the plus icon on the right. Add in questions about the customer that you can use to create profiles:

Google Forms Customer Profile
Don’t add too many or you risk people not responding. Ideally it should take somebody just a minute or two to answer all of the questions.

After you have finished click on “Send” in the upper right and then click on the paperclip icon to get a link to send to your new customers. As the results come in you can view them from inside forms or, even better, view the data in Google Sheets so that you can analyze it.

Customize and convert

Knowing somebody’s background and ambitions can really change the language you use when describing your value proposition. Appealing to your customer’s interests is imperative to generating sales. It is going to require experimentation and learning to do so will be the key to your growth engine.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Network up. Niche down.

I love podcasts and one of my three favorites is the Tropical MBA podcast. (In case you were wondering my other two favorites are Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and Startups for the Rest of Us.) In one of their episodes they said something that has stuck with me for years:

Network up. Niche down.

I love that volumes worth of business advice can be simplified down to four words. If you understand that then you can stop reading this blog post now. If not then keep reading.

Here is a slightly longer explanation from the episode:

“Look at what successful people are doing. Talk to them. Learn from them. Apply those lessons to a niche. Your original niche is likely too broad. Look for a niche of a niche.”

Learn (from the people you are networking with) and teach (the people in your niche). The lessons you learn from your network will help you reach more potential customers and provide them more value.

Lean & Teach

Network Up

Networking provides opportunities to learn as well as potential help, introductions, partnerships, and investment. Be selective about who you reach out to and what professional or entrepreneurial groups you join. (This should even be extended to what websites you visit, podcasts you listen to, and books you read.)

People who are going to be able to provide those types of opportunities are people who have already been where you want to be. Those might be people higher up the corporate ladder at your, or another, company, people that have started successful businesses in your industry, or people who started a similar business in another industry.

At the end of the day:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

You can raise yourself up by that principle just as you can lower yourself down.

We are going to go deeper into networking in future posts but when you do reach out don’t do so blindly. Make sure they are a good fit for you and the advice or help you are looking to receive. Don’t send the same email to everyone. Learn a bit about them and show it when you first email or talk to them. Provide value before asking for value in return. Be specific with your question or ask.

Niche Down

Be the absolute best and one thing that people care about.It is easier to engage a small group of people than it is a larger one. There is a distinct difference in talking with friends and colleagues over a meal compared to speaking to a crowd in an auditorium. The extension of this is that it is easier to market to a niche (or a niche of a niche) than it is to every possible user of your product or service.

We have discussed how people respond better to messages that are personalized to them. In order to do that for a large niche you are going to end up creating many, many customer segments and will need a team of marketers to create content for them all.

As an underdog you don’t have enough hours in your day for all of that.

When your business is at an early stage try to totally own something. Be the absolute best at one thing that people care about. For a certain group of people the thing you are best at is the thing they value the most when choosing a product or service. Once you capture those people you can expand to a second group. Rinse and repeat your way to world domination.

The Underdog Action Plan

  1. Write down the names of ten people you admire in your industry. Send each of them an email.
  2. Name the one thing that you do better than anybody else. Write copy for a landing page that highlights that one thing.
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Selling to a Cold Lead

Selling to a cold lead

At some point many businesses, and most professional service businesses, will go through a phase where they try cold outreach to generate new business. Traditionally that was cold calls and direct mailings but now often takes the form of cold emails (not to mention the blind Twitter follow). It is a law of the universe that these methods don’t convert as well as warm, inbound leads but when you’re looking to grow sales you will try anything.

There are methods for increasing the odds so that your outbound sales efforts go from feeling futile to being a repeatable source of new business.

Identifying customers to target

Obviously the first step towards cold leads becoming a viable sales channel for you is finding a good source for them. The easiest, but lowest quality, source would be to buy a list of leads. Those tend to be sold many times so the people on them receive a lot of sales calls already and are even more predisposed to ignoring you. They also come with none of the background information that is helpful in making a sale.

A better, but much more time-consuming, avenue is to manually source the leads yourself. My main method of doing so is Google searches. Every month I spend about four hours on a weekend watching movies and adding to my list of people to contact. “CPA Chicago”, “CPA Memphis”, etc. I go through about ten pages of results and manually copy the contact information into a Google Sheet. It is a lot of work but I end up with a list of people actively practicing their profession and can also make note of items of interest on their website or in their bio that I can include when emailing them. Those can be:

  • Blog posts they have written
  • Newspaper articles that have quoted them
  • Conferences they have spoken at
  • Whitepapers
  • Industry accolades
  • Where they went to school
  • Interests

Including one of those in your email shows that you spent a little time researching them, that your email is personalized and not just spam, and that you appreciate them as an authority (they have worked hard to get where they are and like that to be acknowledged).

Even better than Google searches is going to where your potential customers hang out online (forums, Reddit, industry publications) and identifying them there.

You don’t want to target just any person at a company. You want to target the person who is most acutely aware of the problem that your product or service solves. If you sell time-off management software you would want to target HR. Expense reporting software you want to target accounting. When in doubt, and you’ve qualified the company as a good candidate, target the owner.

You want to target the person who is most acutely aware of the problem that your product or service solves.

Before every cold call write a cold email

My favorite tactic to warm up a lead before cold calling them is to send them an email. It doesn’t turn them into a warm lead but makes them a slightly warmer lead. When you get then on the phone, or you leave them a voicemail, you are able to reference a previous communication. Instead of just saying, “not interested” they are more likely to say, “oh yeah, I saw that email.” They will be more likely to let you start a conversation with them.

One of my templates:

Hi <first name>,

I’m reaching out to you because you are the <job title> of <company name> and think you might be the person to talk to about <the problem your product or service solves>. I would love to ask you a couple of questions about how you currently <deal with the problem> to see if it is something we might be able to help with.

Do you have a few minutes for a quick chat?

Monday at 10:30 am EST
Tuesday at 2 pm EST

Thank you for your time and I look forward to talking with you.


Sometimes you might want to give an extra push with your cold emails. For small businesses one tactic is to appeal to the owner’s growth goals while recognizing their cash flow fears (every small business owner has them).

When you are growing your business every dollar counts so it is good to get <some software or service> to handle <the problem> before you have to hire for it. This way you can keep dedicating resources to your core business while keeping <people from having the problem>.

End your cold email with the assumption that you are going to talk with your lead at some point. “Looking forward to connecting with you” subtly pushes them a nudge further down the funnel as more correspondence, and a phone call, is now a forgone conclusion. “I can’t wait to talk with you and see if we might be able to help <with your problem>.”

Tracking email opens

Knowing whether or not a lead has opened an email influences my follow up course of action. If I have sent somebody an email but it wasn’t opened then I might try again a week or two later with a slightly different email and different subject line. (Some people disable read receipts so you don’t want to send the exact same email.) If they don’t open the second email, but I really think they would be a great customer, then I try a phone call. If I have no reason to believe they are any different that any other prospect then I assume they aren’t interested right now and mark them for another follow up six months out.

If somebody has opened my email, but hasn’t responded, I call them a few days later. This way my email is still fresh enough in their mind that they remember receiving it and have maybe given a few moments of thought to possibly doing something about the problem that I can solve for them.

If you are sending your email through a CRM then it should have built-in open tracking. If you are using Outlook it has read receipts built in (though a lot of people don’t respond to them). Boomerang for Gmail also offers them among many other power email features.

The sales call

Every business believes it is unique

If you get your lead on the phone when you call start by introducing yourself and mention that you are following up on the email. My two biggest tips for the rest of the phone call are:

  • Make the conversation about them
  • Use the language they use

The best way to make the conversation about your customer is to ask questions:

  • How do you currently handle <the problem>?
  • What is one aspect of that process that works the best?
  • What is one thing you would change if you could?
  • Are you using any products or services <for this problem> currently?

These questions get them talking. Shut up and listen. When they stop talking ask another question. What you learn now helps you frame your solution as the answer to their specific problem. Use the word “you” instead of “I” or “we”.

Learning the language of your customers and the industry jargon helps to show that you understand the unique problems their business faces. Every business believes it is unique but you greatly increase your chances of making a sale if you make them believe that you have a background in their industry or have more than a casual understanding of it.

After you have asked them some initial questions you are then prepared to address them mentioning an aspect of how your product or service can help them. You are not giving an elevator pitch. You are learning about their problems and brainstorming ways to help them.

How and when to ask for a close depends a lot on what your product or service is and the price point. If it is low-priced and it easy to implement then you can ask if they are interested and immediately follow it by asking what it will take to make the sale. On the other hand, if you product is high-priced, complicated or time-consuming to implement, or would be part of one of their vital business functions then this is likely one of many phone calls, demos, and proposals you make. Your goal of this call is to schedule a second call.

If you initially only asked for a few minutes of their time then it is okay to ask if they have a few more minutes or if they would like you to send them some more information. Schedule a follow up call with them right then.

Things to not do on the sales call

The first thing to not do on a sales call is to be unprepared. It is important to be prepared and be in the right state of mind before picking up the phone:

  • Be able to pronounce the lead’s name and look up their company on Google or LinkedIn so that you aren’t totally oblivious about their company (they spend at least eight hours a day working towards something and you can do them the courtesy of knowing what that is).
  • Have an answer for each of the most common objections you hear.
  • Do whatever is needed in order to get your mind and emotions ready for sales. It is often advised to put on a song that pumps you up or do some pushups. If you are having a bad day then skip the sales calls entirely. Work on something else (maybe building the lead list) and come back to the calls tomorrow.

Don’t be too direct with the qualifying questions on the initial call. When I receive a sales call and somebody asks me “how many employees do you have?” or “what is your annual revenue?” then my initial reaction is “that is none of your business”. That also suggests that they haven’t done any homework and that I am no more than a line on a spreadsheet for them.

The question that really gets to me the most is when somebody asks, “What is your budget?”. No! My thought is, “Tell me your price and let me decide if it is worth discussing further. You’re the one who called me! I know that the first one to name a number loses.”

Those are all alright questions for a second call but for the the first call they evoke the feeling of browsing on a car lot and being approached by the salesman.

Finally, throughout your life you have heard the advice, “don’t take no for an answer.” However when you are selling a definitive “no” is the second best thing you can hear after a “yes”. Embrace the no and move on to another lead.

The voicemail message

Often you don’t get the person on the phone and have to leave a voicemail. Always start and end by saying the person’s name:

“Hi <first name>”

Following the greeting I introduce myself:

“This is Will from Engage Tactics”

And remind them about the email I sent them:

“I’m following up on an email I sent you on <day of week>”

Then the meat of the call in no more than two or three sentences:

“As I said in the email, I’m hoping to ask you a couple of questions about <the problem> and how you are currently dealing with it. We <have the solution> and I would love to talk with you for just a few minutes to see if it might be a good fit.”

Your information so they can call you back (say this slowly so that they have time to write it down):

I look forward to talking with you. My number is (555) 555-5555. Again this is Will from Engage Tactics and my number is (555) 555-5555.”

And then follow that up with my ending where I again use their name:

“Thanks <first name>. Have a great day.”

Follow up

The follow up is one of the most critical parts of the sales process. People have a lot on their plate and they are always going to address the fires in front of them before investing time with you in order to keep those fires from starting in the first place. Short term needs trump long term goals. It is up to you to remind them that your product or service can start helping them (nearly) immediately.

Every phone call you have, even the ones where they say no, should have a follow up email. Go over what you talked about and what the outcome of the conversation was. Thank them again for their time. Mention that you look forward to talking with them again. Send a calendar invite if you scheduled a follow up call.

If they say no then still send a follow up email that thanks them for taking the time to talk with you and say, “if you change your mind and would like to talk again about <problem> and <your solution> my contact information is below.”

Emails also need to be followed up on. If you sent an email request for a phone call and didn’t get a response then wait a week and send another request. Then do that again. Every lead should be contacted a minimum of three times before you move on. I would estimate that a third to half of my leads that have responded did not respond to the first email.

Document everything

Cold calling is hard work but builds character.

The key to getting a cold lead sales process to work is to make a record of each communication. You can use one of the many CRMs out there to track all of this (I particularly like for outbound sales) or even use a free tool like Trello with a card for each prospect. Just make sure that you can always look up where in the funnel each lead is, when you called or emailed them, and what the outcome of any conversation was.

Secondly, when you find that you are getting some traction with your sales process then document it. In a Google sheet, an Asana project, or somewhere else, list each step of the process with extreme detail. By doing this you will be able to hire people to handle different parts of the process for you. If you know you can turn x leads into y dollars and that paying somebody to find you x leads (with your documented process) costs less than $y then you have created a sustainable sales channel.

Cold selling is hard work but builds character and is one of the best ways to learn more about your customers and how you should frame your solution to them across all of your sales channels.

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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:


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.


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.


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.


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. 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:



***bold and italic***

____underline with four underscores____

You can add links to websites:


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:


Writing in Leanpub

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


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:


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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 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.


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.


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).


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.


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.

    • Inform: The Step-By-Step Guide to Creating an Ebook
    • Free ebook creation guide

      Get the the step-by-step guide to writing, publishing, and promoting ebooks and how to use them to grow your business.

Marketing 101

When you have a good (marketing) line you repeat it over and over again. Somebody might be hearing it for the first time.

    • Inform: The Step-By-Step Guide to Creating an Ebook
    • Free ebook creation guide

      Get the the step-by-step guide to writing, publishing, and promoting ebooks and how to use them to grow your business.