Today I'd like to share my process on how I systematically come up with content ideas and maximise the likelihood that my free content will turn readers into paid customers.
"How can I find interesting topics to talk about in my newsletter that my subscribers would find fun and helpful?" –Martina
Stick around long enough, and you'll hear me say again, and again, and again that the single best method I've found to come up with articles, courses, template packs, sales page copy, and so on is to simply keep your ear to the ground and listen to what people are saying.
Ask your readers what you should write about next
When new subscribers join Create & Sell, I send an email a few hours later with a link to a Reform that asks two open-ended questions:
If I were to dedicate the next issue of C&S to you and the email marketing challenge you're currently facing... what would that issue be about?
Where'd you hear about me / this newsletter?
When someone subscribes to your newsletter, they're opting in to learn from you. They want you to share with them more of the good stuff that benefits their business and/or their lives.
By asking someone "hey, if I could write an email that's dedicated to YOU, what would that email be about", the hard work of figuring out what to write is taken care of for you by your readers.
You're simply reacting to what people ask of you, rather than attempting to create in a vacuum.
Chances are, subscribers occasionally send you a unprompted emails that have a question or two inside (these emails are often accompanied by a life story, but that's another topic entirely!)
This is also a more reactive way of listening. Why? Because you can reply to those emails with, "This is such a great question, Brennan. Would you mind if I reply to this as a dedicated email to my list?"
This becomes a win for them (a much more thorough reply than they'd get if you were sending something 1:1), and a win for you – another piece of shareable content that reacts to an actual need someone has.
Over time, the answer to "what's challenging you TODAY" can change, so you can re-ask this question again and again throughout the lifecycle of a relationship with a subscriber – linked at the bottom of regular newsletters, sending quarterly nudges ("what's new?") using automated campaigns, and so on.
Capture content ideas in a database or spreadsheet
Once you start systematising the collection of content ideas, you'll want some place where you can see them all.
I find it helpful to pull in any segmentation data you have about subscribers alongside their responses to my "Current challenge" question. Because I'm storing all open-ended feedback in a Notion database, I can splice-and-dice things however I want:
"For people who are primarily looking for help with building an audience, what are they hoping I help them with soon-ish?"
"Where are people who use ConvertKit coming from?"
"Is there any sort of common thread that those with no email marketing experience are telling me? And if there is, what's the best way to help them today?"
When someone submits a reply from Reform, their form responses get merged with the data I already have about them in ConvertKit for easy future filtering.
They're also segmented in ConvertKit as having replied, which I'm using to automate "...3 months ago, you told me you're struggling with 'XYZ'. Has this changed? If so, click here..." campaigns.
Making money with reader-generated ideas
I'll share more about this soon, but I'm planning on creating and shipping one small mini-course a month.
Each of these courses will focus on a desired outcome: a profitable Black Friday / Cyber Monday promotion, getting great testimonials that drive sales, growing a list from scratch, and so on.
Of the hundreds of reader questions I've received, a solid chunk of them overlap with the course launches I'm planning.
So it makes sense to create a content plan that not only keeps me consistently sending out high-quality content that directly responds to the needs of my readers, but a content plan that helps makes future launches more successful.
I use ClickUp to house the article ideas that come from the raw reader questions / pains I'm collecting.
Each article is scheduled, and – most importantly – the order of future editions of this newsletter align with the associated product launch I'm planning that month.
Here's a little preview of what's to come with Create & Sell:
Reverse-engineer pretty much any product launch from a big name creator, and you'll see that they've dedicated weeks (and sometimes months) to sending educational content that sets the stage for their upcoming product promotion.
And that's exactly what I'm doing here.
What you want to avoid is needing to both educate AND sell simultaneously.
You want the hard part – establishing the need & "setting the stage" that compels someone to buy your product – to be done long before you ever pitch anything.
This way, when you do have something to offer, the reader's thought process is around how what you're offering will help them get what they need vs. the reader questioning why they should even be interested in the first place!
With next month's course on Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM) promotions, a few weeks before the launch I'm going to focus my newsletter with content that will help subscribers decide whether or not they should even be thinking about BFCM...
Will it cheapen my brand?
Is my list big enough?
Can I do it with a 'premium' product?
This way when I actually have the course ready for sale, hopefully those pre-emptive objections and self-doubts are out of the way, and the decision is then focused exclusively on whether what I'm offering is worth the money and time.
And, best of all, much of what I'll be focusing on writing about in these emails are 100% locally sourced from "what are you struggling with?" questions from readers like you 😀