Friday, October 30, 2015
“Choosy moms choose Jif” is one of my favorite taglines, for peanut butter or otherwise.
The product’s message stands for more than just peanut butter.
Jif paints a subtle picture of an elite group: choosy moms. Choosy moms only buy the best food for their children.
Any mom who aspires to be part of a group of selective moms would value what Jif represents and feel good about purchasing the brand of peanut butter.
When you turn your educational content into an online course or membership site, how can you communicate to your potential students or members that you have the knowledge that will help them become the people they want to be?
This week’s Copyblogger Collection is a series of three handpicked articles that will show you:
- How to structure and sell your natural expertise
- How to attract students who want to learn from you
- How to create a valuable lesson plan that sells your online course and motivates your students
Chances are, you’re extremely knowledgeable about a certain topic.
Whether you know a ton about an industry you’ve worked in for years or a fun hobby you’ve mastered, at some point you might want to document your expertise and teach others.
But how do you organize your ideas and find the right technology solutions that help you distribute your lessons to students?
In How to Structure and Sell Your Natural Expertise, Pamela Wilson shares the first steps you need to take, so you realize that building an online course isn’t just a lofty dream — it can easily become a reality.
If you’re still not convinced about the benefits of teaching an online course, Amy Harrison is here to guide you with 5 Reasons Why It’s Practical and Profitable to Share Your Expertise Online.
Amy tells a juicy story about her own experiences teaching in-person classes and teaching online.
I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s a snippet of her wisdom:
Until they master cloning, you can’t scale your live workshops and profit.
I’ve had the pleasure of running many workshops that I absolutely loved. Even so, I was capped at the number of training days I could physically do each month.
Anyone who trades time for money has this limit, and in addition to limiting your revenue, it can also make you susceptible to the small business ‘feast or famine’ cycle.
It’s time to get down to business.
Fortunately for you, Henneke has outlined How to Create a Valuable Lesson Plan that Sells Your Online Course and Motivates Your Students.
If your lesson plan describes unparalleled value for your students, it naturally sells your course for you.
Thought-provoking stuff here.
Check out Henneke’s article to find out exactly how to craft a remarkable lesson plan.
Smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital products and services
Ready to create your own online course or membership site, but you need more educational resources?
Our brand-new Digital Commerce Institute is designed to give you the in-depth education you need to build a profitable digital company.
Stefanie Flaxman is Rainmaker Digital's Editor-in-Chief.
The post 3 Resources to Help You Build Outstanding Online Courses appeared first on Copyblogger.
But the next step is often harder to grasp.
How do you turn those readers and subscribers into customers?
I’ve seen many online business owners work hard for several years to build a solid audience and not know how to profit from it.
And without any profit, how will you be able to keep producing free valuable content for your audience?
So, how do you convert those audience members into customers?
You can employ many effective tactics.
But there is one tactic with which I’ve had an incredible amount of success, and I know that many other businesses have as well.
That tactic is using webinars.
Webinars are essentially one- or two-hour live video streams, usually like mini-courses.
Anyone viewing the webinar can type in questions and comments throughout the presentation.
Webinars can be incredibly effective, on average converting around 20% of viewers into customers buying products. And these aren’t just cheap products—they are premium products.
Although I won’t go into the technical details of creating a webinar here (e.g., creating a slideshow, using webinar software), I’ll teach you a step-by-step procedure you can use to create webinars that convert.
Some businesses use only webinars in order to sell their products, and they do very well…I am talking about webinars just like this one I created.
Why webinars might be the best form of content for any business
At their core, webinars are just another type of content.
However, webinars are a type of content that is optimized for selling. Why?
First, viewers typically place a higher value on webinars than other forms of free content, which means that they pay closer attention to what you’re showing them.
In addition, since the webinar is done live, they are forced to pay attention so they don’t miss anything.
Put those two things together, and you will have a captive audience when you deliver webinars the right way.
With webinars, you get to deliver your full message to your audience, whereas with blog posts, you never know how much of the content your website visitors read.
Finally, webinars allow you to connect with audience members in a real way. Other than creating a conference and trying to convince your audience to attend it, webinars are the best way to talk to hundreds, even thousands, of people at once.
And unlike with a blog post, you can actually answer the questions your audience has in real time during a webinar.
The conversion rate of webinars is insane: Say, you create a fantastic email sequence for a product you’re selling.
If you did a great job, you’ll get a conversion rate that is somewhere between 1-5%, depending on the price and a few other factors.
I would say that 5% is the low end of even a mediocre webinar.
Back at KISSmetrics, we used webinars a lot and had great results.
Our first 77 webinars had a total of 155,386 people who signed up to attend a webinar. Of those, about half (74,381) actually attended, and a solid 16,394 turned into high quality leads.
That’s a conversion rate of 22% (of the people attending).
A few other businesses have published results of their webinars.
Adobe claims a solid 19% conversion rate, while Buzzsumo says that 20% of webinar attendees turn into paid customers.
Depending on what you sell, a single lead can be worth upwards of $50. It doesn’t take much math to figure out how incredibly lucrative webinars can be (even with small audiences).
But a difference in conversion rate of just a few percent can be the difference between thousands of dollars in profit.
If you’re going to incorporate webinars into your content strategy, you want to make sure that you’re at the upper end of conversion rate (20%) rather than the low end (5%).
If you want to make a high converting webinar, follow these six steps.
Step #1: Learn how to warm up the crowd
Despite being a great sales tool, a good webinar isn’t a sales pitch at all.
A good webinar is a lot like a blog post. It actually provides value to the audience without asking for anything in return.
And just like with a blog post, you shouldn’t start off by digging right into the meat of your topic.
Instead, you want to build a bit of anticipation and excitement as well as take advantage of the opportunity to engage with your audience members.
The point of engaging here is two-fold: first, you start to loosen up, which will make your presentation better, and second, you get your audience into an engagement mode.
Since you’re interacting with them now, they are more likely to interact throughout the webinar.
There are a few different options at your disposal, and I recommend trying different combinations of them.
Option #1 – Have a quick chat: You should always arrive 10-15 minutes early to make sure that you don’t have any technical difficulties, which do happen from time to time.
Assuming everything goes smoothly, you will likely have a few minutes before you can start the webinar.
There are always a few people that come to the webinar early.
This is a great time to start talking with them about anything in the chat box.
Simply getting to know them a bit and learning about why they’re at the webinar (and why they’re so eager to get started) will improve your conversion rate down the line.
At the same time, you might learn some interesting things about your audience.
Option #2 – Ask a few questions: It’s always good to ask questions during the webinar, but it’s especially good to do at the start.
Basically, when you get your viewers responding in the chat box, they get used to it. And that makes them more likely to respond to you and ask more questions in the future.
Ideally, you want to get them in this habit early.
That’s because once they realize they can actually talk to you, they are more likely to pay attention throughout the webinar so they can ask questions about something they didn’t understand.
Option #3 – Ask attendees to fill out poll or survey: Instead of asking questions and getting responses in the chat box, you can have your viewers fill out a poll or survey.
These have to be prepared in advance, so it’s best to use them for questions that reveal something useful about your audience.
Here are a few sample questions you could use:
- “How many webinars have you attended?” - So you know if you need to explain webinars at the beginning.
- “How familiar are you with [your brand]?” - The less your audience knows you, the more important personal details and an introduction become.
- “How important is [webinar topic] to you?” - Over time, you will see that your customers care more about certain topics than others. Do more webinars about those important topics.
- “How much experience do you have with [topic]? - If your audience is more advanced than you thought, you don’t want to spend too much time on the basics. The opposite is also true.
Just about every leading webinar software (e.g., GoToWebinar) comes with built-in survey and polling tools. You can see the results as people answer your questions.
Or start the webinar with an introduction: It’s a good practice to introduce yourself near the start of a webinar.
Yes, you’ll have some long-time readers in the audience, but you’ll also have some brand new readers watching. Introducing yourself will allow you to start building trust with your new viewers, which will lead to them becoming customers (if not today, in the future).
A good introduction should be fairly brief, but don’t be afraid to show some personality and put in a joke or two.
Step #2: Without intrigue, you will fail
Webinars can provide a ton of value for your visitors.
But you are also asking for a lot.
They basically have to agree to spend 45 minutes (minimum) focused only on your presentation.
That’s a lot of time for many people.
You also need to consider that if at any point a viewer doesn’t like how the webinar is going, they can just click the “exit” button.
This is why your number one priority should be to keep them interested in your material.
There are a few things that go into this.
Without an intriguing topic, no one will show up: Interest starts with your topic. If you have a seemingly boring topic, no one will want to attend the webinar, no matter how good your actual presentation is.
The most important part of drawing attention is the title of the webinar. It functions exactly like a blog post headline.
Most of the same rules of writing a powerful headline apply here too.
You want to include specific results that your reader is looking for while not giving away the answer.
Here’s a bad headline:
Social media marketing efficiency
It’s boring, vague, and not provoking curiosity.
But how about:
How to plan your weekly social media marketing schedule in 60 minutes or less
That takes care of a specific problem (wasting time on social media) that a visitor might have. But it also makes the reader want to watch the webinar to find out the answer.
On top of the headline, you can also write a few high-impact bullet points on the landing page.
Those bullet points should contain the most important benefits from your viewer’s perspective.
In addition to putting them on the landing page, it’s always a good idea to put them on one of your beginning slides:
It’s easy for viewers to forget the specific reason why they signed up for the webinar, and this can jog their memory and get them to stick around.
Here’s one important aspect of picking a topic: The most intriguing topics for a webinar are the ones that act as mini-courses.
They take one specific important problem and solve it in those 45-120 minutes.
If you look at past KISSmetrics webinars, you’ll see that most of them involve the word “How”. Many headlines are “How to…” headlines.
Not only are these topics the most intriguing, but they are also the easiest ones to create a great presentation around.
Your presentation becomes a walk-through of the solution.
How do you get people to stay on the webinar? After you get your audience to register and attend the webinar, you still need to keep them intrigued by your material.
While some attendees will be entranced by the presentation, you’ll always have a large chunk on the edge of leaving.
They’re either not sure if this topic is really important to them, or they already know a lot of the things you’re covering but just want to see what you say about a few key aspects.
There are two things you should do.
First, don’t reveal everything about your solution at the start of the webinar.
It’s fine to give some details, like “our solution is to use batching along with a social media calendar.” Just don’t give out too much, like how you’re going to accomplish it.
If you pick your topic right (a how-to topic), your valuable content will be automatically spread out through the steps you present, so you don’t need to worry about this much.
But if your webinar is something like “7 secrets of…”, start with a really good one, and then mention that your last one will be the best one.
Another option is to provide an incentive to viewers who watch the entire webinar.
The bonus might be:
- a recording of the webinar
- a related bonus e-book
- a transcript of the webinar (or a PDF of it)
- free coaching
- or a special offer
For example, when guest presenters help out on KISSmetric webinars, they often include a related bonus book that a huge percentage of viewers will stick around to get:
Step #3: Every part you teach needs to accomplish one thing
A webinar is all about giving value, but it’s about giving the right kind of value.
It should educate your audience about their problems as well as potential solutions to those problems. This is valuable to any viewer.
At the same time, one of the solutions you show them will likely be a product or service you sell.
Assuming it’s legitimately a great product that solves the problem or makes the solution as easy as possible, all you have to do is present the product honestly when the time comes.
Until that time, everything in your presentation should have two purposes.
Phase #1 – Make the pain worse or the benefit better: Viewers sign up for webinars for two main reasons.
Either they have a problem that is causing them or their business pain and they want to solve it, or you’ve made a great promise that they’d like to get.
Here’s some examples:
- Pain: “I’m not getting any organic search traffic.”
- Webinar: “7 steps to ranking #1 for long tail search terms”
- Benefit: “I wouldn’t mind making more money even if I’m doing okay now”
- Webinar: “6 ways you can make an extra $1,000 per month”
Whatever the reason, you need to mention it early on. Remind them why they are there and what they will get out of the webinar if they stay for the whole thing.
When you do this, your viewers will pay closer attention to your presentation, and that’s when you jump into phase #2…
Phase #2 – Educate viewers about a solution: Don’t just educate them in general—educate them about specific solutions.
This will be the meat of your presentation, where you break down solutions, step by step:
Most viewers don’t care about the technical stuff going on in the background. They just want solutions that they can apply.
Among the solutions, you can include your product.
Or you might pitch your services at the end, offering to solve this problem for them.
Step #4: A buying audience is an engaged one
I’ve mentioned a few times so far how important an engaged audience is.
Let me clarify what I mean by that. Engagement is a measure of how much focus your audience is giving your webinar.
If you have low engagement, it means that people aren’t paying attention, despite watching the webinar.
It could mean that they’re zoning out maybe because the presentation is boring, or it could mean they’re distracted by email or social media.
A small percentage will just keep the webinar on to see if you offer a free bonus at the end, but don’t worry about those viewers.
A highly engaged audience will watch everything, and a decent portion of those viewers will jump at the chance to interact with you.
The more involved viewers are with you, the more invested they will be in the solutions you’re presenting.
The people who are talking to you the most during the webinar are your best leads for sales.
It’s obvious that getting your audience engaged is a good thing.
Here are a few different ways you can encourage engagement.
Idea #1 – Launch a poll: Every once in awhile, it makes sense to see if viewers are actually understanding what you’re saying and getting value from it.
If you’d like to do it informally, just ask a question and get responses in the chat box.
But if you also want to know if you’re presenting effectively, a poll is a good idea because you’ll get concrete feedback.
It’s a good idea to launch a poll or quiz immediately following a particular section. Ask the viewers about the main takeaway, for example.
Not only will it give you good information, but it will also make your viewers solidify their learning.
Idea #2 – Don’t read from your slides: One way to bore your viewers quickly is to create slides with a ton of words on them and just read them out loud.
If you’re going to do that, why do they need you?
Instead, put a few words on a slide, which attract attention, but fill in the blanks yourself.
Idea #3 – Mention viewers by name: This tactic is great at making your viewers feel more involved.
Instead of just being a screen name typing into a chat box, your viewers can feel like they are part of the webinar if you address them by their names along with saying something positive:
That’s a really good question, Neil! …
If you, as a viewer, get a personal compliment from an expert teaching a large audience, you’ll feel good about it. And chances are, you’re going to look for more opportunities to contribute and stand out from the passive viewers.
Idea #4 – Small webinars can be better than large ones: The default tactic is to try to get as many people to register for your webinar as possible. It’s not a bad one.
However, if you have a particularly complex product, you’ll need to be able to explain whether your product works for all specific situations that your viewers might have.
This is impossible if you have hundreds of viewers on the webinar.
But if you only had 25-50, you could cover quite a few scenarios and make a few big sales.
First, you should make it clear on the landing page that only 50-100 seats are open for the webinar (about half to two-thirds will show up).
Then, note the audience size right away at the start of the webinar. Say something like this:
I’ve kept the webinar really small on purpose; there are only 50 people here. I did that so I could talk with more of you one-on-one to find a solution that works for you. In order to do that, I need you to type in any questions or comments you might have along the way in the chat box.
Step #5: It’s closing time
If you’ve done everything up until this point right, making your pitch is actually really easy.
You’ve given away most of the value you promised, so at this point, it’s just a matter of giving away your bonuses (if you have any) and tying in your product or service with the solutions you just provided.
First, transition into your offer smoothly: The only way to really mess up at this point is to say, “Well, that’s all I have for you today. Now I want to show you a product to buy.”
As soon as you say something like that, the viewers will feel like they are being sold to, and no one likes that.
With a webinar, there’s an understanding that at the end you might make an offer, but it should flow naturally from the topic of the webinar.
The offer should have two qualities: it should be unique and valuable.
For example, if the webinar is about conversion optimization, I could offer a discount on Crazy Egg software.
First, that’s unique because they wouldn’t be able to get that discount anywhere else.
Secondly, it’s valuable because people who are learning about conversion optimization will need heatmap software, and Crazy Egg is among the best options.
It’s crucial that you tie your offer into how it will benefit the viewer in the context of the webinar topic.
Hold a Q&A session after the pitch: Before you even mention your product, tell the viewers that you will answer any questions they have in just a minute.
Although a large percentage of viewers will drop off here, the ones that stay are the ones that are really interested in your solutions.
By doing the Q&A after the pitch, you are forcing your viewers to at least listen to the pitch if they don’t want to miss the Q&A session.
Plus, making the pitch before your Q&A will allow you to answer questions about both the webinar material and your offer.
Once you’re done with the questions, you can finish the webinar with one last mention of your offer.
Step #6: You’ll miss out on a large amount of sales if you don’t do this
If you’re selling a particularly expensive product, you can’t expect all your viewers to be ready to buy right away even if you give them a great offer that they are interested in.
Some people will want to think about it a bit more, while others will need to get an approval of a boss or their significant other.
That doesn’t mean that they won’t take you up on your offer; it just might not be the second you give it to them.
Additionally, depending on the time of your webinar, some attendees may just want to go to sleep or have to go somewhere.
Neither of these scenarios allow time to carefully consider a major purchase.
So, what should you do to maximize your conversion rate? Follow up with them within 24-48 hours.
Assuming you’re using software like GoToWebinar, you will have access to all of your registrants’ email addresses.
This is your chance to provide even more value (which will help get a high email open rate) while also getting your offer in front of viewers one last time.
Here’s what a good follow up might look like:
Subject: Recording of last night’s webinar on [topic]
I know that we covered a lot in the webinar yesterday, and it’s easy to miss things. That’s why I’ve put up a recording of the webinar that you can stream or download. Here’s the URL:
[URL of the webinar]
If you still have any questions about what we covered, just reply to this email, and let me know what they are.
Additionally, you still have 48 hours to take advantage of the 20% discount.
This is a pretty special offer that doesn’t come around very often, and I feel you could really benefit from [product] in 3 ways:
- (benefit #1)
- (benefit #2)
- (benefit #3)
If you want to take advantage of the offer or want more information, click here:
[URL of the landing page]
No hard sell—just the last chance to get your offer in front of your viewers. If they are ready to become customers, they will do so now.
If not, don’t worry about it. If they enjoyed this webinar, they’ll likely sign up for a future one and might buy from you later.
That’s the beauty of webinars. They’re still part of your content marketing plan, and even if they don’t directly lead to a sale, they will help build your brand in the eyes of your attendees.
Finally, make your past webinars publicly available. This is something that KISSmetrics does.
At this point, there are over 100 webinars that anyone can access if they provide some basic contact information.
In my time at KISSmetrics, the old webinars provided about 20% of our overall webinar leads, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Webinars might be the single best tactic to not only attract visitors but also convert those visitors into leads or customers.
They offer a unique opportunity to engage with your potential customers, which no other form of content can match.
They also have a high perceived value, which means that attendees typically focus on the webinar the entire time, assuming that it’s interesting.
When you’re creating your next webinar, whether it’s your first or hundredth, make sure that you follow all six steps of this post.
If you do, you will have a webinar that can convert viewers at about 20% as long as your offer is enticing.
If you have any questions about the six steps in this post, let me know below, and I’ll see if I can’t clear things up.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
I was sent this nifty infographic about ways to name your business from the folks at Namergy. I get sent infographics all the time and I usually just delete the emails, but this one was fun. I really liked how it was at once simple, and yet pointed to the myriad ways one can arrive at a name.
What happens when we become so focused on new social media tactics that we lose sight of our goals?
We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Every moment that we spend on social media is a moment that we aren’t spending producing our shows.
Should we be spending all of our time on our shows or are we better off using Pareto’s 80/20 Principle, which states that 20 percent of our efforts gives us 80 percent of our results? Of course, it depends.
Today on The Showrunner, hosts Jerod Morris and Jonny Nastor go further than that and help you define a strategy for social media, rather than tactics that could distract you from your larger mission.
In this episode of The Showrunner, Jerod and Jonny discuss:
- Jerod’s success with posting his Primility Primer videos to Facebook
- The difference between strategy and tactics
- Why Chris Ducker is going all-in on Periscope (and Michael Hyatt is stopping his daily scopes)
- Why you need a North Star to guide your work
The Showrunner on iTunes
Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand digital business and marketing advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.
The post Jonny Rants His Sinuses Clear About Social Media Strategy appeared first on Copyblogger.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
What does it truly take to achieve greatness? In this episode of Youpreneur.FM, host Chris Ducker and the School of Greatness founder, Lewis Howes, discuss the launch of Lewis’s new book, relationships, and why you become what you envision yourself being.
Being a student of great leaders is the best way to become one yourself, and here to share how he’s done that is Lewis Howes.
Lewis is the founder of School of Greatness, a brand that has created a movement with millions of fans around the globe, one of the top-rated podcasts on iTunes, and now a soon-to-be best-selling book with the same name.
On this episode, Lewis and Chris talk about how to be great no matter what you’re doing, how Lewis makes time for his health and well-being, how he’s approached building relationships with influencers, and his upcoming book tour for his first book, School of Greatness.
In this 41-minute episode of Youpreneur.FM, host Chris Ducker and Lewis Howes discuss:
- What does greatness mean to Lewis?
- To be better, you’ve got to be what?
- Why giving first has been Lewis’s philosophy, and how it’s paying off
- Who are some of Lewis’s biggest mentors?
- Why Chris thinks the word “hustle” is overused
- Much, much, more!
Youpreneur.FM with Chris Ducker on iTunes
Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand digital business and marketing advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.
The post Becoming a Student of the ‘School of Greatness,’ with Lewis Howes appeared first on Copyblogger.
Solar energy is the light and the heat from the Sun. This energy is free, unlimited and, it doesn’t cause any pollution, which makes it the perfect source of power. With the availability of very low priced easy to install DIY solar systems, certainly, there has never been a better time to take advantage of this remarkable, infinite energy source.
There are lots of ways in which we are able to harness the power of the sun. In warm countries for example, solar furnaces are able to be used as means for cooking food. A solar furnace is merely a huge array of mirrors used to concentrate the Sun’s power into a small area and produce quite high temperatures. They are generally referred to as solar cookers.
The movie ‘Race the Sun’ was a story concerning low- income and under achieving Hawaiian students, advised by their teacher to join the Solar Car Race. In the movie, an automobile the same shape as a cockroach and covered with solar panels utilised the Sun’s rays as an alternative source of energy to run the vehicle.
Since Roman times we have been using the Sun as an effective method of obtaining electric power. Nowadays nonetheless we have created solar thermal solutions which are put to use for water heating, space heating, space cooling and process heat generation. Solar technology is also used to distil water and even transform saline or brackish water into something that is drinkable. Solar water disinfection or SODIS as it’s commonly known, involves subjecting water-filled plastic polyethylene terephthalate or PET bottles to the Sun, whereby UV-radiation kills diarrhoea generating bad bacteria. The SODIS-method helps to defend against diarrhoea and and in so doing is saving lives of people. In excess of 4000 children die each and every day from the effects of diarrhoea. This technique does rely on climate conditions, but given that the most crucial demand for water is located in hot countries this is when this system is most effective. Currently, you will find in excess of two million people in developing countries who rely upon SODIS for everyday drinking water needs.
Daylight systems are also being used to optimize the power emitted by the sun. A Daylight System is used to provide interior illumination, thereby replacing the need for artificial lighting. Daylight systems include things like sawtooth roofs,, skylights, and light tubes. Where daylight systems are correctly implemented they’ll reduce lighting-related energy consumption typically by 25 percent.
One of the fastest growing areas regarding the utilisation of solar power is in the use of photovoltaic or PV panels which can be used to convert the sun’s rays directly into electricity. To start with solar energy was only utilized to power modest appliances and equipment, such as calculators that are powered by way of a single solar cell. Even though water and space heating tend to be the most commonly used applications of solar energy, the advancement of photovoltaic technology now means that a lot more families are using solar energy to supply either a significant percentage or even all of their energy needs.
One of the main concerns associated with the usage of solar energy with regard to domestic properties has been the expense of fitting such a system. Several thousand dollars were required simply to pay for installing a fairly modest system. Today however, the availability of DIY solar energy materials, and indeed complete kits, has meant that superb systems can easily be installed for mere 100’s of dollars.
If you want to be a successful online marketer, there’s one thing you must be able to do:
you must be able to write.
Writing is involved in almost every type of content creation there is.
Emails, blog posts, and books are all primarily written content.
But even for videos, podcasts, and courses, you need to write content as well as scripts.
I’ll be honest with you:
If you’re a terrible writer, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful.
It’s harsh, but it’s true.
The good news is that you probably aren’t a terrible writer. It’s pretty hard to be one.
But at the same time, it’s hard to become a great writer.
Even after years of writing, I still wouldn’t say I’m a great writer—maybe a good one.
The key thing that you need to know is that you can improve your writing skills.
By studying the works of great writers, you can learn what makes their writing great.
And with practice, you can improve the effectiveness of your own writing, which means more traffic, subscribers, and customers.
Although you could spend dozens of hours doing that research yourself, you could just let me show you which skills are the most important when it comes to writing.
I have studied a wide variety of top notch writers (who are also great marketers) over the years and noticed that they all have certain skills in common.
In this article, I’ll break down these skills, showing you examples of them in action and ways to develop them.
By the end of this post, you should have a concrete game plan of how to become a better writer for the benefit of your business.
1. Having a big vocabulary doesn’t make you a great writer
When most people picture great writers, they think of them crafting sentences full of obscure words such as aphesis and esculent.
But the people who use words like that are usually terrible writers.
The measure of a writer is not how big his or her vocabulary is. As long as you have a decent vocabulary and understand the fundamentals of grammar of the language you’re using, you can be a good writer.
Even if you’re just learning a language, don’t think that you can’t be a good writer just because you don’t know every word of it.
There are plenty of successful bloggers who write in their second language (e.g., Bamidele Onibalusi).
Is their writing perfect from a grammar and vocabulary perspective? No, of course not.
But even without an extensive vocabulary, they’re able to create content that people love to read.
There’s actually a way for us to quantify the complexity of writing. It’s called the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale.
It looks at the length of words, and a few other factors, in order to determine at what grade level people could understand your content.
By copying a few sample blog posts into this readability score calculator, I was able to create this chart:
The three other writers on this list are all great writers in my opinion, or at least very good.
Notice that Brian and Ramit both write at about 4th grade level, as do I. That means the average 10-year-old could read most of our content because it’s not very complex.
Even though Michael Hyatt writes at a more sophisticated level, it’s still only at a grade 7 level.
The big question then becomes: Why?
The reason why great writers use simple words and phrases is because they write for the reader, not themselves.
They may appreciate the intricacies of the English language, but most readers don’t care about that. They want their information in the simplest and easiest to comprehend way.
Obviously, it’s much easier to read and understand short simple words than to figure out what the heck clandestine means (if you are curious, it means “done in secret”).
Oh yeah, there’s one other benefit to writing simply: you can write much faster.
Instead of searching for the “perfect” word, you use plain language—typically the first words that come to mind. These words are usually the words that your audience understands easily as well, so they’re really the perfect choice.
How can you apply this? This is a very simple skill to develop: just write. When you’re writing something, write down the first things that come to mind instead of searching for more complicated words instead.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes; you can always fix them when you edit.
2. Do you care how your readers feel?
Poor writers do a variety of things.
Some write what they themselves would want to read.
Others write to sound as intelligent as possible.
Either way, it’s not about the reader. Instead, it’s more about “look at how smart and awesome I am.”
Very few people are interesting enough to make this strategy work for them.
When writers focus on themselves, their writing is not compelling to the reader. These kinds of writers either improve over time as they recognize their mistakes, or they blame the readers for not recognizing good content.
I have to ask you a tough question now:
When you write content, do you think of the reader first or do you think about how to make yourself look the best (as the author)?
It’s not necessarily one or the other. Your answer could be somewhere in the middle (i.e., sometimes you focus on yourself).
The simple solution: If you’ve recognized an opportunity for improvement here, it’s easy to take advantage of it, at least in theory.
The answer is to develop empathy.
Empathy basically means that you can understand your readers’ perspective: their problems, interests, personality, and other relevant aspects of their lives.
It takes time to develop empathy, and I’m not sure if you can ever master it completely.
But empathy really shows in great writing.
The best writers use empathy both to understand what readers need to hear (solve their problems) and to determine the best way to teach them.
Some audiences need to be shown direct solutions; others need step-by-step directions; while others need a gentle prod in the right direction.
Examples of empathy in action: When writers truly understand their audience and then focus all their attention on writing that will help the audience as much as possible, it shows.
Take a look at this post from Seth Godin. He mentions the word “you” or its variations 10 times in about 100 words. This post is all about the reader.
The post is about being passionate about your work.
Many bloggers write on this topic. Most would have focused on how their own corporate experience led them to the epiphany that they needed to care more.
But that would have fallen on deaf ears.
Instead, Seth focuses on the reader’s life. He explains the problem using the language that the reader would use to describe the problem in detail.
And then, he offers a simple, one-line solution.
Or how about James Clear? He’s another great writer.
His posts aren’t based on the numbers in Google’s Keyword Planner. They are based on questions that he gets from his readers.
He knows that for every person who expresses frustration or identifies a problem, there are a hundred other people in his audience with the same issue.
So James uses his readers’ language so that other readers can relate to it and feel that the content was created specifically for them.
There’s no other way to do that other than by writing solely for the reader.
The hard part – How to develop empathy: Telling you to develop empathy is easy, but actually doing it isn’t so easy: it takes a lot of conscious practice.
But it’s not all or nothing either. Just because you don’t perfectly understand your audience doesn’t mean you can’t partially understand them.
And as you get better at empathizing with your audience, your writing will improve.
To practice this skill and develop empathy, I suggest the following five-step process. Perform it every time you create content:
1. What problems (and related problems) do your readers have around [topic of choice]?
2. How significant are these problems (very serious? or just minor pains?)
3. How do you think your readers would describe these problems?
Use steps #1-3 to outline your post. Create an intro and headlines that a reader would not only understand but would see and think, “I was just wondering about that!”
4. After writing the content, look at every single sentence/paragraph and ask yourself: “Does my reader actually care about this?” If not, either rephrase it, or take it out completely.
5. Study all comments you get on your content (whether it’s a blog comment, review, email, etc.). Try to understand why a reader says they do or don’t like it.
Create a simple checklist using these five steps, and follow it every time you write.
If you do, you’ll notice that your content will start to resonate with readers more and more.
Your audience will be more excited to read your posts, and they’ll be more engaged. You’ll get readers’ comments telling you their thoughts and opinions, which will be full of great ideas for more content (I get great suggestions all the time from my readers).
Ultimately, when it comes to your business, this type of resonance is very important because it tells the reader that you understand them.
If you create a product, they know that you’ve created it just for them and that it will meet all their needs and wants. Developing empathy is a skill that will have a long-term impact on your revenue.
3. Great writers aren’t born overnight
Think of the great writers in history: Shakespeare, Hemingway,…Neil Patel (maybe one day).
Whomever you think of when you think of great writers, it’s important to realize that they were not born that way.
Although writing is more abstract than mathematics or programming, it is a skill like any other and can be developed.
At one point or another, all writing greats could barely string a sentence together.
However, they all shared one thing: a drive to be a great writer.
Right now, you need to check if your motivation to become a better writer is enough to get you to the level you want.
If you really want to be the best writer you can be, you’ll have to write many hours, every single day. That’s what it takes to be the very best.
If you want to be one of the best writers who is also a marketer, that’s still hard, but not quite as difficult. You’ll still want to practice at least 10-20 hours a week.
But the most important thing you need to determine is this: do you really want to be a better writer?
Determine your goals, and then figure out what you’ll need to do to get there.
For example, if you want to be a blogger, start by taking a look at your favorite bloggers.
If you scroll down to the bottom of Quick Sprout’s blog page, you can click on the “last” button to see my oldest posts.
And if you do, you’ll see that my first post on this blog was written in 2007:
If you wanted to reach my current level of success, are you prepared to write about 2-3 posts a week for 8 years?
And then write over 300 guest posts as well?
If you are willing to put in that work, I guarantee that you will be very successful.
How to put in your dues in a systematic way: If you simply say out loud, “I’m going to write a blog post every day for the next three years,” chances are that you won’t.
You need to develop your own system that keeps you accountable.
Step 1 is to determine what you need to do to become the writer you want to be.
Create a new document that clearly states what you think you need to do.
Step 2 is to determine a schedule that you can stick to. This is formed by your personal schedule. If you have more time to spend on writing, you have more flexibility.
Here’s what it might look like:
I will write and publish a post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, no matter what.
You have the plan, but you need to make sure you follow through with it.
Step 3 is to find a way that will hold you accountable.
It’s really easy to just not write a post because you’ll barely notice the difference in the short term. But in the long term, it can make a huge difference.
So, how will you hold yourself accountable? There’s no wrong answer, but make sure that there’s a serious consequence if you don’t follow through with your plan.
For example, you could say that if you miss a post:
- you will donate $50 to a charity
- you will do something that you don’t like
- you will email a friend or family member revealing an embarrassing secret
When you’re feeling motivated, you’ll have no problem writing. But when you’re not feeling motivated, this accountability plan will keep you on track.
Now you should have a simple but solid writing plan:
You should print this out and put it somewhere where you will see it at least once a day (at least until you develop good habits).
Finally, step 4 is to forget about the result, and focus on the process.
The reason for this is that in order to get the most out of your writing, you need to focus on writing itself as much as possible.
The whole point of this writing plan is for you to not focus on the results.
You don’t need to worry, thinking: “Am I doing enough to become a successful writer?” because you’ve already determined exactly what you need to do.
If you just focus on adhering to your plan, you’ll know with nearly 100% certainty that you will become a very good and successful writer when you are done.
So, don’t worry about traffic stats and other metrics while you write; just focus on writing well—the result will come.
4. “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time”
That quote has been attributed to many great writers, but it appears to have been first said by Blaise Pascal.
Regardless of who said it, the meaning is incredibly powerful.
When we talked about using simple words in writing, I advocated writing down the first words that came to mind.
When you do this, you’ll often end up using more words than you need to.
And the reason why this is a bad thing is because it dilutes the value in your content.
Think of it this way: your content has a message that has a certain value to your readers.
I would define the intensity—or quality—of writing using a simple formula:
Intensity = Value / Length
The longer your content is (if the value is held constant), the lower the intensity.
If you really want to inspire your readers to take action, your writing needs to blow them away.
It needs to provide value at a fast enough rate so that it feels to them as if a light bulb went off in their heads. In other words, your writing needs to be of a high intensity.
The more unnecessary words you have, the lower the intensity of your writing will be, and the smaller the impact your content will make.
Again, we can look at Seth Godin for a perfect example of high intensity writing. He makes every single word count.
Despite writing very short posts, he delivers a ton of value to his readers, which results in significant emotional reactions from them:
As you’ve noticed, I take a very different approach with my posts.
They are very long, usually at least 4,000 words. Since they are so long, I need to pack them with value.
Where Seth’s content is more strategic (broad thinking), my posts are more on specific tactics and ways to implement them, which takes more time to explain.
But although my posts are between 4,000 and 6,000 words, they are usually much longer when I first write them. I edit them down and remove as much “fluff” as I can.
With blog posts, you have a lot of flexibility with length. In other forms of writing, you don’t.
In emails or landing pages, you typically only have a limited amount of space (often fewer than 100 words) to get as much value across to your readers as possible.
Notice in the above example that every sentence either describes a feature or a benefit of the product.
How do you cut out the “fluff”? Like with these other skills, it takes practice to become a good editor (you could hire one if you wanted).
To practice, go through your content, sentence by sentence, and ask yourself if there is a simpler way to get your message across.
For example, the sentence:
There are some marketing channels that are better than others, like email marketing.
could be reduced to:
Email marketing produces the best ROI of any marketing channel.
That simple change took the sentence from 13 words to 10 words, and made the meaning of the sentence clearer.
That’s a 23% decrease in length. If you originally wrote a 3,000-word article and decreased every sentence by that percentage, you’d end up with a 2,300 word article.
Although it’s shorter, it will make a bigger impact on your readers because of its increased intensity.
Here’s a brilliant article on specific edits that you can make to make your writing more powerful to get you started.
5. I’ve never seen a great writer that doesn’t have this
What do typical writers do to prepare for an article?
They do a bit of research on Google and then compile what they learn into an article.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a recipe for producing content that is very similar to what’s already out there.
The best writers I’ve seen can write about any topic in their niche and put some kind of unique spin—angle—on it.
Besides being unique, that additional something is also insightful and adds to the value the reader gets.
In Breakthrough Advertising, a legendary copywriting book by Eugene Schwartz, he notes that great copywriters have a wide array of experience.
You might consider them jacks of all trades.
Great writers read and practice things in all sorts of fields. If I had to boil it down to specific traits, they all possess high levels of curiosity and an open mind.
They can write an article about social media marketing and use an example of hiking up a mountain in a way that makes the point they are making clearer to the reader.
One marketer that does this really well is Bryan Harris at Video Fruit. He often shares personal stories in the introduction of his posts. But he always finds a clever, insightful way to tie it back to the point he’s making:
Another well-known marketer, Ramit Sethi, often mentions real life stories in his blog posts and emails.
For example, in an email about “unconventional ways to win,” he mentions both baseball and government officials as examples:
The great power of connections: The reason why these unexpected connections are valuable is because they can relate your thoughts using a different language.
Some points will be difficult to explain no matter what niche you are writing for.
For example, maybe you’re trying to explain to your readers how to write in a conversational tone and why it’s more interesting to their readers.
If your readers don’t understand your explanation, reading it over and over again won’t help them.
But often, when you make a point in a different context, it becomes much clearer.
With regards to writing conversationally, for example, you could tell a story of being bored at a lecture when a lecturer simply read his slides to his students instead of talking to them. That’ll illustrate your point in a way that’s recognizable to most people.
So, how do you do it? The very nature of this skill is abstract. You’re making connections that other people don’t think of naturally, and that’s what adds a unique angle to your writing.
In order to do this, you need two things:
- Experience - The more experiences you have in life, the more connections you can make.
- Practice - At first, you won’t make these connections naturally. When you write about a complex topic, force yourself to come up with five connections you could use to explain your point. Over time, you will naturally notice good opportunities.
And when I’m talking about experience, I mean different experiences.
Always be ready to try something new:
- take a cooking class
- reconnect with old acquaintances
- take an online course in a subject you’ve never studied
Basically, now you have a very good reason to learn or try anything you’ve ever wanted.
6. Want to become (and stay) a great writer? You need to have this…
The final skill that the best writers (in a marketing context) have is adaptability.
Each content medium has its own quirks. Although your writing style will be more or less the same, the best writers know how to tailor their writing for each medium.
When I say medium, I’m talking about forms of content such as:
- blog posts
- Kindle books
- social media
I could give you many examples, but let’s look at Danny Iny, founder of Firepole Marketing.
He’s written multiple courses in the past:
But he’s also written hundreds of blog posts and guest posts.
On top of that, he actively engages with his followers and customers on social media:
And if that wasn’t enough, he just released a new book, in addition to several others:
On top of knowing how to write for different formats and audiences, great writers keep up with change.
Take me as an example. If you look at older Quick Sprout posts, you will see that many are only 500-1,000 words.
But as blogging has developed, good writing practices for the topics I cover have changed.
I noticed that longer posts performed better, and now almost all my posts are 4,000+ words long. I try to make every post the definitive post on that specific topic.
How do you develop adaptability? By definition, you need to learn how to respond positively to changing circumstances. And in the marketing world, things change fast, which makes it even more important.
The first key takeaway for you is this: adaptability comes second. First, you need to hone your initial skills.
In practical terms, this means that you should pick one main format of writing and focus as much of your attention on it as possible. That’s how you’ll learn all the ins and outs of it.
For most, blogging is a great place to start.
Once you’ve put in the time and effort to fully understand how to write great blog posts, you can move on to the next format, be it email, social media, or something else.
In the initial period, you can still write emails or other content, but most of your focus will be on the first format you’ve chosen. Then, you’ll shift that focus to the second medium.
The second key takeaway is that you always need to be looking for what’s next, whether it’s a new medium or changes happening within an old format.
When you see a new type of content becoming popular (e.g., lately video content and podcasts), give it a try because you can always learn something from it to become a better writer.
You should always be testing different ways of reaching your audience.
Being a great writer will be very valuable for the foreseeable future, no matter which industry you work in.
And even if you’re not an experienced writer today, you can become one with practice: all great writers had to start from some point.
If you follow the steps I laid out in this post, I guarantee that in a few years, you will be an excellent writer.
You can use those skills however you please, whether it’s to get more followers, subscribers, a better job, or take your sales to a new level.
If you have any questions about these skills or want to share a story about writing, leave me a comment below.