I was doing my books this week, and I stumbled across a startling figure (startling for me anyway):
My content has earned my business more than $23,000 in the first half of 2016.
To me, that’s an amazing figure. That’s more than this business earned in the first year of its inception. If this rate continues apace, I’ll earn more from content this year than I made at my last full-time job.
(To be clear: this is what I’ve earned apart from my 1:1 work, because I don’t really use content to drive sales of that work.)
My blog has become my best sales tool.
Oh, I can hear what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Sure Lacy, but you’re a professional blogger. OF COURSE your blog is turning big dividends for you.”
Let me stop you right there, because this is the system I’m teaching with Content Intelligence Academy, and it’s the system that’s getting other people results:
Jessica had a post that went viral — 35,000+ views and 1,000 new opt-ins in a week! — after she planned out her launch content strategy with the system taught in CIA.
Over the course of a couple of years working with me, Jen went from a list of hundreds to a list of tens of thousands by producing a constant stream of valuable, strategic content.
Lora and Kate doubled and tripled their lists in just a few weeks.
James launched and sold his first paid program — starting with a list of ZERO.
Priscilla got invited to be a regular guest contributor for an important site in her niche.
I hope you can see, I’m not just whistling dixie here! These are real results from real students with businesses that range across the spectrum from coaching to physical products and financial services.
But how did they do it?
You must have a plan to make content work.
It seems counterintuitive.
When I ask you to sit down intentionally and plan out your next three to six months of content ideas, you probably immediately think that it will take more time. You already spend hours each week creating content for your blog, and it’s tough enough to find that time. Why would you want to spend more time writing out a plan?
Brian Tracy, an international time management guru, says that spending every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution. So even 10–12 minutes planning can save you up to 120 minutes of work. WOAH! That’s a 10x return on your time investment.
Where else in your business can you see a ten fold return? And the only investment you have to make is your time.
I can also attest to the fact that you will see financial returns on your investment as well; my income numbers for this year bear that out.
That’s because having a strategic plan solves three of the biggest problems bloggers report, as shown in a survey by CoSchedule:
- 20 percent of bloggers report that planning their content is their biggest challenge
- 22 percent of bloggers say that finding the time to create content is their biggest challenge
- 16 percent of bloggers say that creating content consistently is their biggest challenge.
A strategic content plan can help you overcome all three of those challenges. In fact, having a content plan, like the one I teach in Content Intelligence Academy, can help you:
- Support your priorities. If you not only know what you want to write, but also which posts will be the most important to your overall business goals, you can ensure that you have time and spend time on the posts that will generate the most impact. To me, time spent writing a post that doesn’t support your business goals is wasted time.
- Avoid unpleasant surprises. A problem I hear all too often is that people forget to start promoting their sales and launches until the last minute. They get so caught up in the OTHER tasks of selling that they forget how powerful content can be to support the process. A calendar helps you plan ahead so you aren’t in a panic to create content at the last minute. This could mean promoting your own products and launches, or it could mean content you owe to others. Either way you’ll never again forget that important post you were supposed to write.
- Eliminate writer’s block. Think about all the time you’ve wasted having writer’s block. Hey, it happens to the best of us, but by starting and using an idea bank and an editorial calendar, you can avoid those wasted hours, days, weeks and put them to better use.
- Avoid mistakes and typos. If you plan ahead, you can build in time to edit, rewrite, and proofread — a step in the writing process that all too few people take advantage of.
- Find opportunities to outsource. If you’re not organized and working ahead, it’s almost impossible to outsource any of your content marketing tasks. If, on the other hand, you have a plan and you work it, there are lots of those little niggling tasks that go along with good content marketing that you can easily outsource and save yourself hours of time each week. I estimate I save as much as 4 or 5 hours a week by outsourcing tasks my team can do.
I teach how to accomplish all this (and more) inside Content Intelligence Academy.
I want you to imagine what your blogging life will look like once you have a strategic framework to follow that shows you not only what to write about, but when to post it and most importantly why.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there are a lot of programs out there that tell you what you “should” do — but that don’t seem to line up with what the author of the program actually does.
But I actually went the other way when I created Content Intelligence Academy. I created the system first for myself. My editorial calendar system is what I use for my own content marketing as well as the marketing strategies of most of my high-profile ghostblogging clients.
“I’m not just the president of CIA, I’m also a customer…”
When I created the CIA system, I created the tool I needed to get a handle on all the moving parts of my content marketing plan. And I use it every single week.
I also use it to create content calendars for many of my clients — some of whom are using their content to drive six- and seven-figure online business empires!
Here’s what your process could look like:
1. Start with the calendar — Before you brainstorm
The first step in content planning for me is always looking at my calendar and seeing what I have coming up. This is vital whether you work on a launch model or have evergreen products and services.
When I’m launching something, I know I want my blog content to get people thinking about that topic. But even when I’m not technically launching anything, I can use my blog topics to drive people’s interest towards a particular product or service I want to sell.
For Q4 of 2015, for example, I knew that I wanted to start getting my readers thinking about editorial calendars about 6–8 weeks before January. By plotting that out in my calendar, I could easily see that I needed at least that many topics around editorial calendars, as well as other topics to fill out the rest of the quarter.
I also always fill in big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas for two reasons. First, I might want to tailor my content to talk about something to do with the holiday (gratitude, giving back, etc.). And second, because I want to remember that I probably need to write that content ahead of time if I want to spend any time relaxing with my family!!
Once I’ve got my launch date filled in, I work backwards to fill in my “why” column — in other words, the goal of why I’m writing each post. For example, I know I want an action post right at launch time, some desire posts before that, etc. (based on my AIDA formula, which is explained in more detail in the course).
2. Brainstorm like crazy
NOW it’s time to brainstorm, because I have some general direction to start in.
In the CIA curriculum, I give a BUNCH of ideas of how to brainstorm to fill up your idea bank, but this time around, I used one of my personal favorite techniques: eavesdropping.
I took some of my topics (like “blog editorial calendar”) and plugged them into Google to see what came up. Then, I would skim each article, but mainly head directly to the comments. What I’m really looking for are the questions people ask in the comments that the original author didn’t address. Those are blogging GOLD!
Using this technique, I was able to come up with more than 50 ideas — just around editorial calendars — in less than an hour.
3. Sort, filter, and analyze
Fifty ideas sounds awesome, but I really only needed six or seven — and they had to be the right six or seven to help me sell my program.
So, my next step was to go through and categorize each post based on my AIDA formula for blog posts, which is the core of the Content Intelligence Academy system.
Once I have them categorized and sorted this way, I can instantly see if I have any holes in my sequence. For example, if I only have one “attention” post, I need to brainstorm some more ideas that would fall into that category. This is all taught in module 4 of Content Intelligence Academy.
Now I needed to narrow down the contenders. Because was supporting a launch, I decided to do a quick poll. I took my top favorite “attention” posts — the ones meant to grab eyeballs and get clicks — and asked a couple of communities I’m in to pick their favorites.
Once I had some clear winners, I built the rest of the sequence based on what people seemed to be most interested in.
Finally, I ran my headline ideas through the Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer to make sure they have as much zing as possible, and VOILA! I’m ready to rock and roll.
In just a couple of hours (not counting the time it took to run the polls), I had planned out three months of blog content — including a content sequence to support my launch.
Ask yourself: What could that kind of content planning system do for your business?
SAVE TIME AND INCREASE REVENUE
Planning my content ahead of time in this way makes so much else possible in my business:
- I can outsource the graphic design of the images for my posts (see above!) because I know the titles and what they’ll be about before I write them.
- I can plan ahead to create any extra content — like worksheets or checklists — that I want to offer to go along with my blog posts (to get extra sign-ups).
- I can pre-write and pre-schedule social media posts that go along with my blog content or write Facebook ad copy ahead of time.
I would also say that this content planning system is my secret weapon to using content marketing to drive business.
I was chatting with a biz friend recently, and she admitted that she often forgets to create content around her launches until it’s almost too late. This is a woman who regularly has five-figure launches — imagine what she could do if she were priming the pump with her content ahead of time!
The last time I offered Content Intelligence Academy live, I used this exact system to generate more than $4,000 in sales in one day. That works for me!
YOUR CHANCE TO MAKE YOUR CONTENT PLAN WORK
If you’d like to learn exactly how to put my content planning system to work for your business, click here to learn more about Content Intelligence Academy.