You’ve got a product or service and you want people to buy it, right?

First things first. Have you done your homework (e.g., written a plan)? Does your plan include a content strategy? If you’re like 90% of those I talk to, the answer is no. And guess what? I’ve got the skillz to talk you down off the ledge help you have fun with planning. 🙂

WHY You Need a Plan

You may think people will buy your thing because you just know they need it. But until they actually give you money, your idea is just a hypothesis (an educated guess, based on your observations). Let’s move that hypothesis into the theory stage by testing it! And how do we test?

By outlining the parameters of our experiment in a (wait for it)…PLAN! That’s right. Your marketing and business plan is the outline for testing your hypothesis. It delineates what your experiment is about and what methods you’ll be using to see if you’re right. It’s an organized way of saying, this is what I’m pretty sure I can sell and this is how I’m going to test that idea. (It’s also why our plans are living documents that must be revisited often, tweaked and adjusted to include new information.)

And a good marketing plan also includes a content strategy — a way of creating particular kinds of conversations with your potential customers that will serve your business goals.

Content Strategies ARE For Everyone

They just have different tactics depending on where you are in your business. For example, if your business isn’t currently pay the bills, it’s better to focus more energy on sales than blogging. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a content strategy. You do. Especially if the only question you have is will anyone pay me money for this thing I want to do? At this stage, your content strategy needs to center around conversations of credibility and authority:

  • Your About Page
  • Your Hire Me or Products/Services Page (e.g., Sales Page)
  • Your Portfolio or Writing Samples page
  • And let’s not forget some basic blog posts that address the needs of your potential clients (so you can help them better understand how to work with you or your products)

While you’re in the process of building those pieces, you can still work on sales. But when you finish those basics, it’s time to give ALL your focus to SALES — not more marketing.

Please don’t sign up for one more class — even if it promises to get you to 6 figures in 30 days! No more bright shiny objects. No writing of eBooks. Or rebranding. Or waiting until your website is sweetly perfect. Just focus on making your business profitable.

From Hypothesis to Theory

When folks leave a comment on your blog, reply to your newsletter or share your Facebook posts, that’s good evidence that you might be onto something. But until they plunk down some cabbage for that wonderful gadget, you’re still in Hypothetical Land.

So how do you move from hypothesis to theory (e.g. make a sale)? It helps if you have proof.

If you haven’t made a sale tho’, how do you get proof to make a sale? (The true origin of our chicken-egg debate!)

The way to the Land of Milk and Honey is paved with pilot programs, beta tests, scholarship offerings and/or strategic giveaways to people who fit your ideal client profile. You allow people to sample your offering, give you feedback and hopefully — provide you with case studies and testimonials (more content!) you can use to market yourself going forward.

But document all of this work. Create a plan first, implement and measure, and then create a new plan based on how well you were able to prove your hypothesis.

Content Strategy for the Intermediate to Advanced Crowd

If you’re generating enough sales that you’re breaking even and able to pay your bills (or even better, save!), it may be time to think about developing your next product or service. In this stage, you’ll definitely want a content strategy that springs from a “soap box” or rallying cry.

What’s broken with the way things work? What needs to change in your industry? This is part of what your next product helps to fix. And the focus of your next experiment(s).

In my own business, the Test Kitchen was an experiment (twice!). Prosperity’s Kitchen was an experiment. And let’s not forget the Zeus Experiment. The content that came from those experiments (e.g., blog posts, videos and social media conversations) was also supported and driven by a content strategy of its own.

Before they happened tho’, I blogged about the need to “blow things up” and “throw out the instruction manual,” remember? Those were conscious, strategic choices to share my “soap box” and see if it resonated with anyone else before I made further investments in my ideas.

My eventual goal was to create a solid group coaching/learning program (aka The Digital Dining Room). So I had to develop and test my ideas over time. Each time I experimented, I proved some things and not others. I learned what worked and what didn’t. And I got a lot closer to knowing that what I’m doing as a coach, teacher and mentor is making a difference.

But I don’t stop having those conversations.

Your content strategy should help develop conversations related to your offer and continue them through and past your launch.

For example, conversations I’m having right now revolve around planning. (It’s one of the things I help people do in the Digital Dining Room.) And my business goal for this final quarter is to fill the last 8 seats in the DDR.

So my content at this particular point in time (blog posts, social media updates, emails) is all meant to help people think and talk about marketing plans.

Questions I ask in order to get conversations started:

  • Do you have a marketing plan? If not, why not?
  • What scares you about writing a marketing plan?
  • Why don’t you follow your marketing plan?
  • When was the last time you updated your marketing plan?
  • What pieces of your marketing plan are you struggling with?

See what I mean? If these conversations lead to people saying, “I don’t know where to start,” then I give them a free outline as a way to get started. And I let them know that if they get stuck or have questions, I’m here for them.

Some of those people will take me up on my offer and our continued conversations may develop them into paying clients. And in the end, that’s the reason I take the time to capture my ideas (my hypotheses) in a plan. That’s the reason I create strategies. So I can focus my energy where it matters most (and not fly by the seat of my pants). So I can make real progress.

How about you? Are you planning your next experiment? Share your questions in a comment below and let’s continue the conversation.