Who’s heard the phrase, “content is king.”

If so, you might be seriously misguided.

Really.

That phrase alone leaves out key components of content marketing that will actionably make you successful. Don’t take my word for it, trust Nick Stephenson.

Nick is the founder of Your First 10K Readers, a Teachable course, author of the Leopold Blake Thrillers and generating a six-figure income selling books online...all while skydiving and hanging out with his family.

If that sounds a lot different than your picture of a poor starving artist penning personal essays, it is. If this sounds a lot different than slogging at a blog that’s slow to grow and monetize, it is. If that sounds different than writing ebooks, and posts and tweets and slowly crawling to a larger audience to promote your online product, it definitely is.

In Nick’s words: Content is meaningless UNLESS it measurably builds your audience.

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In this post, we’re going to walk through what has made Nick successful, namely an engaged (not huge) email list and how to painlessly build one.

You can also listen to a replay of the webinar by click on the orange button below:

Get the Webinar Replay

 

We all know that if we want to sell products online, courses, services, SaaS software or consulting, we need an audience.

The best product in the world (pet rocks) doesn’t matter if no one knows about it. Sure you can create a sales page, but this page alone will convert around 5%, which means you lose 95% of potential sales. What happens to those people who were considering your product, but the timing just wasn’t right?

Rather than sending a one time interested customer to a sales page and losing them into the Internet abyss, if you can add them into your email list you can continue to engage and convert those people who didn’t buy the first time around.

So the key, really, to successfully selling a product is building an email list aka. an audience.

Now, there’s an important qualifier. A list of random people isn’t helpful. You want a list of people from your target audience. 

But how? 

Here’s Nick’s formula: 

Strategic Content + High-Converting Opt-in Page x TRAFFIC = GROWTH

 

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Or, in other words, you’ll want to produce limited, high quality strategic content designed to grab the right people’s attention. In this way, you can make and choose content that is going to work for you.

We’re also going to host the content in a way that converts.

STEP ONE: Create Effective, Strategic Content That You Can Repurpose 

The first thing you must do is create content that your target audience is desparate read and has the potential to drive sign ups to your email list. 

The qualifier is that this content probably won’t have a mass appeal. This isn’t Buzzfeed. Rather, it is targeted and poignant insights into the very specific industry you’re working in.

For example: For online course creators, a sequence of launch emails specific to online courses is incredibly impactful, which is why it is one of our top viewed posts. 

These content pieces will provide something so valuable that someone is willing to give an email address for it.

Nick breaks strategic content down into two types of content (that can be a blog post, podcast or video).

  1. Tell-Me-More Content Piece: A type of content that delivers “insane” value to an audience and encourages them to get more
  2. Controversy Piece: A type of content that takes a commonly held belief and refutes it, tears it to shreds. This type of content is bound to get shared.

Nick leverages the power of this content by including it in a welcome email, or the email sent to new subscribers to his email list. These juicy pieces of content engage readers and they have the potential to share it with other like minded individuals. Thus, you’re engaging the people interested in your topic and reaching people interested in your topic. (For advice, check out this post on writing an awesome welcome email)

 “The more compelling the content and more relevant, the more chances we have to amp up the promotion and scale it up even more.”

While Nick is a published author and writes blog posts often, there’s no reason why you can link to already existing content you’ve created like YouTube videos, videos in general, a podcast or a lecture from your course that you’ve published elsewhere.

Simplify your life by repurposing and reusing content you’ve created that’s performing well.

On the other hand, this is also a way to test what kind of content your audience likes. If you’re just starting to create your course, writing a blog post on a related topic to test your interest can be a good idea. 

STEP TWO: Use High-Converting Webpages to Host Your Content 

When people read your content, we don’t want them to leave without giving you their email. We can facilitate this process by hosting the content on a highly converting web page aka a “landing page.”

 Generally, these take on two forms:

  1. Squeeze Page (or opt-in page) - Idea is this: Give me your email address and I’ll give you content
  2. Tell Me More Page - Idea is this: Here's awesome content, give me your email and I’ll give you more juicy bonus content

Look below for an example of a Squeeze Page. It’s Nick’s landing page:

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Look below for an example of a Tell Me More Page. It’s one of our blog posts that all contain CTA buttons to high-value content upgrades. 

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Remember, when you’re creating your landing page, you should very clearly convey:

  1. Who the product is for
  2. What your audience is going to get
  3. A strong call-to-action to give an email address

Our Teachable designer put together a blog series on creating beautiful landing pages. For details, check out: Best Practices for Great Landing Page Design. 

A Squeeze Page is known for a high conversion rate and a Tell Me More Page is known for increasing engaged subscribers - you’ll get fewer subscribers, but they’re more likely to buy. 

Because these juicy pieces of content are authentically beneficial and interesting to your audience, they get shared and spread much more than a simple sales page AND this strategy is free, unlike Facebook Ads.

Here’s the hack: Nick hasn’t created new content in months. Rather, he’s written only a handful of articles, on evergreen topics, to create results.

A retrospective of Nick Stephenson's webinar on exploding your email list, we dig into what has made Nick successful, namely an engaged (not huge) email list and how to painlessly build one.

STEP THREE: Generate Endless Traffic Through 3 Tested Strategies

1 . AMAZON

Now, here’s the unique market that Nick taps for traffic: Amazon.

Yup, that’s right. Nick forgoes optimizing for Google for Amazon. With his blog posts, Nick creates evergreen traffic via ebooks. 

This is as much a surprise to me as it probably is to you, and I’ve vastly underestimated the power of the ebook.

Amazon is one of the largest search engines online topped only by Google and Youtube. On top of this, Amazon is optimized for activating people to buy.   

Let me repeat that: Amazon is a top-three search engine on the internet optimized to drive purchases. Get. in. on. that.

Nick points out that Amazon also has much lower competition. Articles can be read on kindle or online. Since Amazon is wildly popular, your customers are probably already on it buying books, movies and toilet paper.

Now, maybe you’re thinking: I gotta write a book?!?

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Stick with me. Look at your strategic content. You can repurpose this into a super short focused book. Nick's are around just 50 pages, and they’re short small pages. Check out his book here: Reader Magnet: Get Reader to Come to You.  

Once this is created, no combined, from old posts and content, you’ve got an ebook. It can be uploaded to kindle, nook, scribe; there is a marketplace just for ebooks.

Set the price to free BUT be sure to include a strong CTA to your landing page for your online product.

In the live webinar, one of our customers asked if Amazon rejects books with advertisements in the front and back. This is a great point since you don’t want all of your hard work to become moot. 

Our best advice is that Amazon won’t flag your book unless you’re overly promotional. However, red flags around iTunes, which tends to be strict.

Here’s Nick’s CTA on the 3rd page of his book. It also appears on the 2nd to last page.

Screenshot_2015-12-02_10.47.20.pngIf you have an ebook on Amazon, we want to share it (and co-promote you!). Tweet us a link through this easy click-to-tweet and we’ll include you in the post.

Ok, back to Nick’s process. Nick took about 2 weeks to put together his ebook. While it made zero dollars, it has 1,500 downloads and drives around 10K in sales each month! 

Here are his stats:

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2 . Get Famous

Ok, so maybe that heading is a little over the top, but it highlights one common misperception. You don’t have to be written about in Forbes, Business Insider or TechCrunch to generate proper social proof or tap a larger audience.

You don’t need thousands of Twitter followers. You don’t even have to convince an influencer to let you guest post (phew!).

The alternative is to narrow down your target influencers (bloggers or podcasters) to three key people. Email them and offer to improve their business in a specific way.

Say generally that you’ve been working on and investigating a certain growth strategy, that it’s going well and they you’ll do it for this person for free if they’ll just tell people about it.

For example, Nick reached out to Joanna Penn saying “if you change these five things on your website, and put this in your book and tweak this, you’ll see some major results. I’ll do it for you for free and in return if the results are good, just tell people about it.”

Nick reached out to three people, all of them agreed. He spent a few weeks doing the work, but he got great results. Joanna is tweeting about him, they started talking, he’s even going to her wedding (Joanna also uses Teachable, we’ll sponsor the rice!).

The philosophy behind this tactic is that you’re not asking for anything. You’re giving. This inspires reciprocity.

3 . Giveaways

Nick’s third traffic-driving strategy is simple: giveaway.

While giveaways have a bad rap for attracting the wrong people, you can negate this effect by offering a prize only your target audience would want.

James Altucher offers bundles of industry related books for instance.

Offer a prize your audience is going to go crazy for and is specific to your course that other people aren’t interested in.

Make life easy and run the giveaway with software. Nick uses KingSumo, and so do we, but there are other options out there.

The key to using this technology is that the thank you page has easy buttons to Tweet out or Facebook share the giveaway. For every share, you get another entry. You’re essentially incentivizing people to do the PR on your giveaway.

Plus, no work for you. Bada bing. Bada boom.

Here the next step we suggest. When the giveaway ends, offer everybody your strategic content via email.

Pay attention to who clicks that link. These people are more engaged and are your target customer. You can also delete the people who don’t click on your content. These people are probably less engaged and not your ideal customer. Cut the slack!

Here’s an example of the Teachable Giveaway we ran earlier this year for reference on how to set it up. I also wrote on that here: 21 Ways to Make Your First Online Sale Explained.

Screenshot_2015-12-03_10.33.29.pngPrize examples:

  • bundles of books
  • a higher value but specific item (Kindle, microphone, Teachable Pro Plan)
  • SaaS services for content marketers (subscription to Grammarly, KingSumo)

Whatever you choose, remember that the key is to the small fish, the unengaged people go. Find the right people and build a connection instead of spamming and fostering ill will with a mass uninterested audience who miiiggghhtt Tweet about how much they hate your emails.

By combining strategic content pieces with effective landing pages and driving qualified traffic to them through Nick's three methods, you're going to see rapid growth in your list. 

For a more extensive breakdown, or to witness Nick's charming English accent, check out the webinar replay by click on the orange button below.

Get the Webinar Replay

Please let me know if you have quesitons or comments in the board below. And, as a reminder, link us to your ebook and we'll happily promote you in this post! 

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Ashley Hockney

Written by Ashley Hockney

Ashley Hockney is the Content Marketer & Writer at Teachable (Create & Sell Online Courses). Her knowledge spans both the marketing and literary fields. Her background is in food & beverage PR i.e. she wants to talk to you about single malts.