2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The May Prompts

Content Excellence Challenge: May Prompts

It’s May! Holy beans, the year’s nearly half over. I’m still wondering where March went, never mind April.

Here’s our pair of community prompts for this month. Each month in 2017, we’re giving you a pair of prompts — one to make you more productive, and one to improve your creativity or writing skill.

You can jump in anytime — and let us know about your experiences in the comments!

The May Productivity Prompt

Banish “Fine”

A few years back, I helped crowdfund a documentary called “I’m Fine, Thanks” about some folks who, in the words of one of the subjects, had “climbed the ladder, then realized it was against the wrong wall.”

We all have things in life that we dismiss as being “fine” when they aren’t fine at all. Career situations, personal situations, meaning-of-life situations.

This month, think about an important problem that you’ve squished down as being “fine.” Then spend 30 days taking some kind of action to move to something better.

They could be tiny actions or medium actions. Maybe there will be some huge actions in there as well. But if you do this, even if your actions every day are truly tiny, I predict you’ll find out two things:

  1. Small actions create momentum surprisingly quickly.
  2. The energy you spend trying not to think about what’s “fine” could be much better spent making something amazing.

Here are a few little motivational shoves to get you rolling:

The May Creativity Prompt

Enhance Your Strengths

The “Fine” prompt is about working on your weaknesses, which is what we usually do when we want to get better.

But your greatest opportunities often lie in your strengths.

“Train your weaknesses. Compete your strengths.”
strength coach Mark Reifkind

What are you excellent at? Do you have a strong writing voice? Are you great at researching details? Do you have a terrific network?

This month, identify one strength you have as a content marketer. (You can always pick another one to work on next month.) And every day, do something with that strength.

If you’re a storyteller, write a one-paragraph story every day. If you’re a data genius, distill some messy numbers into a clear, focused statement. You get the idea.

For some more ideas, take a look at my post on playing to your strengths.

Let us know how you’re doing with these!

Planning on tackling one or both of these this month? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to hear more. :)

The post 2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The May Prompts appeared first on Copyblogger.

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5 Data-Driven Strategies to Earn Sales in a Saturated Market

You’re not alone.

In a saturated market, your e-commerce business is constantly competing to distinguish itself from other companies. It’s especially difficult when these businesses offer the same promotions to similar audiences.

You may sell the same types of products like your competitors. Your e-commerce store may even have identical pricing with others in the marketplace. So, it’s a challenge for your business to attract visitors and clinch the sale.

However, despite all these obstacles, there’s an opportunity for your company to stand out from the crowd of retailers. Whether it’s offering more value or finding new marketing channels, your team can still earn sales in a saturated market.

To generate more sales, start with what you know: the data. Here are five strategies to optimize your growth strategy.

1. Compete on Value, Not Price

By now, it may sound like a broken record: compete on value, not price. But it still rings true for most companies.

It’s hard to remain profitable if your team is constantly changing prices. You’re also training your customers to expect lower prices from your products. As a result, you earn less revenue and your store’s brand perception declines.

With a focus on value, you can offer customers a worthwhile experience, like one-click ordering, free shipping, or surprise bonuses. It’s all about what matters to them.

“Customers are getting used to advanced technology and expect a seamless shopping experience from online retailers. They want more options to pay for their order and expect more automation in the process. By working on these areas, you can certainly attract customers to your online store,” writes Manish Bhalla, founder and CEO of FATbit Technologies.

You can learn what to offer your audience through customer conversations. This qualitative data provides unique insight on what attracts people and keeps loyal consumers sticking with your brand.

For Target, their customers value multiple shipping choices. In the image below, you’ll notice a standard option and a ship to store option.


Differentiation doesn’t start with price. Instead, discover how to offer your audience value in other ways.

2. Carve Out a New Submarket

For some e-commerce stores, creating more value won’t be enough to gain buyers. Your business may decide to etch out a new submarket.

Tackling another audience segment doesn’t mean selling new products or changing your brand image to fit a different consumer base. Sometimes, it’s just tweaking who you sell to.

For instance, your online store currently sells high-end, scented candles to middle-aged women who enjoy your product during bath time. But based on customer inquiries and social media data, your team members learn that a few event planners are using your candles as decorative centerpieces.

With that information, your team might decide to add a new candle section dedicated to event planners. You also can develop content that shows them how others are using your product.

Yes, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It will take lots of ingenuity from your team. Angela Stringfellow, chief ideation officer at CODA Concepts, LLC., offers her thoughts:

“Whether that means reinventing industry standards, taking a new approach to the business model or offering something customers can’t refuse, carving a niche in the most saturated market is possible with commitment and creativity.”

The goal is to niche down and serve new populations. You want new audiences to start buying your products.

3. Connect Content Marketing to the Sales Pipeline

Businesses continue to use content marketing to attract and engage their consumers. It’s a chance to share information about monthly updates, new products, and highlight customers.

Yet, it’s common for most e-commerce brands to not associate content marketing with sales. Teams aren’t using their content to directly generate revenue. What they normally do is blast messages that only bring brand awareness.

If earning more revenue is important to you, it’s time to integrate your sales and content marketing strategies. You want to find ways to streamline the path from content to the checkout process.

Start by tracking your website activity to learn where your best customers come from. Is it from social? Referral sites? Your analytics dashboard can give you these details.

Then, create compelling content that entices the reader to purchase your products. And don’t limit yourself to a long-form blog post. You want to experiment with all types of content, including images, GIFS, and video.

The next step is to remove friction in the checkout process. What will turn potential buyers away? What can you do to stop them from abandoning their cart?

Pura Vida Bracelets promotes their content on Facebook. To get engaged fans to purchase, they offer an exclusive, time-sensitive discount on their fan page.


Content marketing isn’t always about branding. You can use it as a tool to move people down the sales funnel, too.

4. Explore Alternative Marketing Channels

While your market may be saturated, it’s possible that your business isn’t reaching all your ideal customers. You want to know where your audience eats, lives, and breathes.

A misconception amongst e-commerce store owners is that setting up a website and driving traffic through social media can sustain their business. But like everything in life, you can’t expect one channel to be your only source of revenue.

To help market your products, you can build strategic partnerships with other brands. Of course, this strategy takes many shapes and forms.

For example, you may try co-marketing opportunities with businesses with dissimilar products. Or you may begin an affiliate program where your best customers spread the word about your brand in exchange for a percentage of the sale.

By analyzing the psychographics of current customers, you’ll understand where to find alternative marketing channels. You can require customers to tell you their interests, favorite brands, and popular hangouts via a short survey. Then, use that data to find out how to connect with more potential customers.

Relying on one or even two ways to get buyers to your website isn’t sufficient. You can expand your reach by learning more about your customers and collaborating with partners.

5. Reward Existing Customers for Their Loyalty

When it comes to earning more sales, online stores are quick to devise plans to acquire new customers. You already know that customer acquisition can be costly. It takes money and your team’s time to bring in new buyers.

The other alternative is to build loyalty within your brand and sell to your existing customers. They’ve already purchased from your business and feel comfortable with your sales process.

You can start with a simple seasonal promotion or even prompt your customers to take action before receiving a cool bonus.

“Offer a referral bonus or reward for recruiting new customers. You don’t have to give a huge bonus to make a positive impact and increase referrals. Try providing a small discount or some company swag to show your appreciation,” states Ali Hyatt, marketing and product for Upward Labs.

Segment your audience to offer discounts to your most loyal consumers, like people who purchase two times per month. Also, be strategic about when you offer promotions; every reward doesn’t warrant a coupon.

Canada’s leading bookstore Indigo has built customer loyalty into their business. Their audience receives rewards through a point system. Participants can access all upcoming promotions and product launches via a mobile app.


Avoid neglecting your core customer base in a saturated market. They can bring in recurring revenue for your business.

More Sales Despite Saturation

A saturated market isn’t an excuse to abandon your e-commerce business. Opportunity still exists despite a sea of competitors in your industry.

Your team can develop a strategy to focus on value, rather than lowering your prices. You also can streamline the process from relevant content to sales. And of course, rewarding loyal customers can help boost your revenue.

Don’t get lost in the crowd. Earn more sales in a saturated market.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

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How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

"Knowing the business of writing and content marketing gives you an advantage over other (directionless) writers." – Stefanie Flaxman

You may love to write.

You may get a lot of positive feedback on your writing.

And you may have even picked up many great writing gigs over the years, solidifying your status as a professional writer.

But something is missing.

It’s difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income varies at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.

TET: the backbone of a sustainable writing business

Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, I have 15 tips that support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.

To make the advice manageable, I’ll list five tips under three important categories for anyone working for themselves: Technology, Education, Tools (TET).

The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.

Educating yourself on the business of writing and content marketing gives you a huge advantage over other (directionless) writers.

My TET Talk below — not to be confused with a TED Talk 😉 — will show you how the right knowledge combined with the unique value you offer clients can create a powerhouse business that allows you the freedom to be yourself and do work you care about.


Technology makes most modern writing businesses possible.

And getting set up with the right digital services doesn’t require a ton of technical knowledge. Instead, this section will focus on core business logistics that depend on some sort of technology.

My goal is to help you feel thankful for easy access to these solutions, rather than overwhelmed by a bunch of new things to learn.

As you’ll see, the main components you need are pretty simple.

1. Set up your internet, email, and phone accounts

We’re really starting at the beginning here, but I don’t want to skip the basics.

Intermittent, possibly not secure, internet access at a coffee shop just doesn’t cut it when you’re ready to get serious about your writing business.

Having a reliable internet connection at a place where you can always work — whether that’s at home or an office space — will give you peace of mind that you can communicate with your clients whenever you need to.

I also suggest having an email address and phone number for your business.

While you’re passionate about your work, separating business from personal communications is one step that can help prevent burnout.

Rather than having your entire day be one mix of business and personal tasks, you can get in the habit of managing business and personal items at different times.

2. Invest in hardware and software

This one is all about asking yourself questions to find out what you need to do your job well.

You can have a first-priority list with absolute necessities and a second-priority list for possible additions in the future.

To create your first-priority list, you may ask yourself:

  • Is my computer able to perform every function needed for my business?
  • Does the camera still work if a client requests a video call? What about my microphone and speakers?
  • Is the writing software I use sufficient? How about my accounting software?

To create your second-priority list, you may ask yourself:

3. Build a beautiful, secure website

If you were setting up a brick-and-mortar business, you’d be checking out real estate at different locations.

One of the perks of a digital writing business is that you don’t necessarily need to rent or buy a physical space in order for you to do your work.

What you do need, however, is a beautiful, secure website that’s fast and easy to use. Then you’ll have a professional place to welcome prospects.

4. Prioritize your social media accounts

To complement your digital home, you’ll have social media accounts.

But attempting to have a presence on every site can be time-consuming and distracting.

Find out where your prospects hang out online and focus your social media efforts on those sites. Ultimately, you’ll share content on those platforms that will bring visitors back to your website.

5. Select a payment processor

What’s the best way for clients to send you money?

You don’t want to use a system that’s super easy for you but a pain for your clients, or vice versa.

Envision how your ideal scenario would play out once someone wants to hire you and consider using digital payment processors like PayPal, Braintree, or Stripe to make that your standard procedure.

More on outlining your terms of service and payment policy below.


Yesterday, Sonia announced that we’ll be reopening our Certified Content Marketer training program to new students soon.

"Apply to join Copyblogger's list of recommended writers." – Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer

She wrote:

“Making a living as a writer isn’t easy. Finding new clients, managing your business as a business, positioning yourself to rise above the pennies-per-word freelance treadmill.

The Certification program exists to reward good writers with more clients, more revenue, more stability, and more respect.

We also, of course, reap the benefits of having a highly qualified group of professional writers we can point to when businesses tell us, ‘We’re sold on content strategy, but we can’t find anyone who can implement it well.’”

If you want to apply to become Copyblogger Certified, don’t forget to sign up at the end of this post to be the first to find out when you can get in the program.

A dedication to ongoing education is crucial for professional writers who are business owners. Let’s look at entrepreneurial actions you’ll need to learn about and perform.

1. Draft a budget

This is another one that helps you separate business activities from your personal life.

How much money do you need to run your business?

When you set aside funds for business expenses, you’ll have a realistic picture of what you can spend money on now and what you might need to hold off on until a later time. Then you’ll have an idea of how much money you need to save for certain items you eventually want to invest in.

Review your budget on a regular basis, since you may need to adjust how much money you spend on certain things.

For example, if an emergency expense comes up, you may have to borrow money from the amount you typically spend on social media ads, and pause those ads until you’re able to replenish the social media ads portion of your budget.

2. Determine your prices

Every project you work on will have different factors that affect how much you charge for your work, but the right type of preparation makes negotiating fees with clients much easier.

Check out our article 5 Stress-Free Steps for Pricing Your Services by Beth Hayden.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Perform research and determine your hourly rate
  • Estimate how many hours the project will take
  • Add some margin to cover additional expenses, overhead, and surprises
  • Communicate the price clearly to your client
  • Track your hours and adjust future pricing accordingly

3. Outline your terms of service and payment policy

While “terms of service and payment policy” may sound like boring business details, I consider them a fun opportunity for you to stand out.

If you want to have an exceptional service business, you cannot casually respond to any form of business communication or informally agree to any business transaction.

Check out my article How to Craft Winning Pitches for Your Service Business.

You’ll learn:

  • How to become a master of assessing, communicating, and managing expectations
  • The “service business as go-to collaborator” model
  • How to present terms of service that help you convert prospects

4. Become the Editor-in-Chief of your website

You knew this one was going to be here.

Remember that beautiful, secure website that you built? That’s your publishing company, so make sure you manage it like an Editor-in-Chief.

My article Why Content Marketers Need Editors will show you how to become your own content editor and you can pick up blog editing essentials in 10 Modern Editing Tips for Meticulous Bloggers.

5. Avoid this common marketing mistake

I’m especially enthused about sharing this one with you because it will save you a lot of time.

Many new service providers (myself included, back in the day) create marketing materials that try to convince someone that they need a certain service.

For example, writers would speak to someone “who doesn’t know they need a professional writer” and try to persuade that person into thinking that hiring a professional writer is better than writing your own content and copy.

It’s a reasonable starting place for business newbies, and not a terrible mistake, but think about creating marketing materials for those who are already looking for a professional writer.

Prospects who already value professional writers are much easier to convert to clients.

Your job is convincing them that you’re the right person to hire. You don’t have to first convince them that they need someone like you.


Our final section will help you with day-to-day activities.

These are practices that help you become more creative, productive, and confident.

Small changes to your routine can make a big difference when something unexpected happens and you have to roll with the punches.

Let’s roll …

1. Have an idea notebook

You’ll write down way more ideas than you’ll actually use, but get in the habit of documenting your thoughts about:

  • Content topics
  • Marketing experiments
  • Potential business partners
  • Social media communities
  • Books you want to read
  • Your ideal clients
  • Extra value you can provide

The pages can look messy and only make sense to you, but the notebook is a resource you can open if you ever feel stuck and don’t know where you should put your effort next.

2. Break down tasks into lists

I wish I could sell lists as my own product called “Overwhelm Begone!”

There are often many different parts to a project or many different steps you need to complete before you can finish a task or achieve a goal.

My simple method to immediately avoid overwhelm is listing out every step that needs to happen. If you need to delegate tasks to other people, map out their roles in a sublist.

I include even the tiniest tasks because once they’re written down, they’re out of my mind and I can use that portion of brainpower for something else.

If you only had one thing to do at all times, I understand that breaking down that one thing into a list would be unnecessary, but when you have a lot going on, lists help ensure that everything gets done properly.

3. Use systems and processes

Like lists, systems and processes help you swiftly take care of business.

Here are some examples:

  • A spreadsheet can help you monitor the stages of every project you have or organize your content marketing ideas.
  • Your email policy can inform clients upfront about how quickly you respond to emails, so you can prioritize your workload.
  • If you have trouble remembering to do a weekly task, assign it to a certain day of the week and stick to that routine.

4. Create a sample workday

Working for yourself gives you a lot of freedom, but it’s also stressful if you don’t manage your time properly. It will feel like you’re working all the time, and you’ll lack that balance I mentioned earlier.

So, if you keep the items you need to tackle on any given workday in mind, it’s a reminder that there’s a time to hustle and a time for leisure later in the day.

Your sample workday may include:

  • Responding to work emails
  • Writing for practice
  • Writing for clients
  • Meeting with clients
  • Reading blogs about writing, content marketing, and your industry (if you write for a specific niche)

5. Filter out unsolicited criticism

They mean well, but sometimes they’re just mean.

I’m talking about the people you interact with who will make negative comments about your professional writing services. You know, the ones who know nothing about your industry or actually being a professional writer.

I don’t want to get too snarky, because a lot of them likely just want to protect you.

It’s difficult for many people to understand how writers make a living, so it’s a lot easier to discourage a writer from going down a path of uncertainty.

But you’re smarter than that. You know you don’t have to do this alone, and you don’t have to go down a path of uncertainty. You can learn how to establish the writing business you want by learning how to implement content strategy.

Now’s the time: get in line to sign up for our Certified Content Marketer training.

Are you a writer who wants to become a Certified Content Marketer?

Our Certified Content Marketer training helps you take your writing business to the next level. Add your email address to our waiting list below to be the first to hear about when we reopen the program to new students.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

The post How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You) appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Buyer’s Guide: Content marketing tools

Managing the volume of marketing content that needs to be created, distributed, analyzed, and managed has become complicated, time consuming and costly for many marketing organizations. Automating these processes – or partnering with a content marketing vendor that provides content creation...

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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