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Finally finished my ebook on content strategy for startups


#1

Really pleased that I’ve finally finished my ebook on content strategy for startups, solopreneurs and growing businesses. I started writing the book on maternity leave with my first child in early 2016 and have finished it on maternity leave with my second.

So got there in the end, with lots of help from founders, solopreneurs and fellow content strategists. I’d have struggled without all their support.

I’m happy to give away 3 copies of the (PDF) ebook to the first people who ask in the comments section below (in exchange for feedback – you can always make something better). Everyone else is welcome to a 20% discount with this coupon: launchdiscount. The cover price is $15.

I use the book to address 12 common business challenges including:

  • Audience: Reach your customers and make sure they understand what you’re offering
  • Strategy: Use content to drive growth
  • Persuasion: Show people why they should buy from you
  • Engagement: Give your content a MOT to improve user engagement
  • Cross-border content: Plan content that works in different countries
    … and more!

Cheers!
Hannah


#2

Congrats on getting this finished, Hannah.

Most of us on this forum are software developers, I think. I suspect most of us know the importance of good content for our products, but tend to avoid working on content as much as we’d like to because we feel more comfortable working on coding problems.

One possible reason for this is that it is easy to check if code works, but it is really hard for us to be sure that our content works. Often the best we can do is wait and see.

Do you have any tips as to:

  1. how us software developers can motivate ourselves to actually add good content to our sites?
  2. what makes good content for software products?
  3. how we best tell if our content is working effectively?

(BTW: Love the site name!)


#3

My few impressions on your site:

  1. As a first-time visitor, I felt there was not enough of proof of your qualifications. You just say “… specialises in helping startups and quick-moving companies” but no name dropping. That raised a warning flag in my head.

Later I’ve noticed you’ve put all the names into the Portfolio tab, but it is not that easy to spot while scanning the page, and I would normally be left before I notice it.

I’d add “… such as X, Y and Z” into your signature, where the company names lead to testimonials from those very companies (which you have sprinkled around the site, but they are not highlighted enough, IMHO).

  1. Some wording seems redundant, making the wording longer and harder to read:

Strategic, quality content has a high search engine optimisation (SEO) value as search engines reward quality content

Why not just “Strategic, quality content has a high search engine optimisation (SEO) value” or even “Search engines reward quality content”? The second option reads faster and easier.

  1. Testimonials for your own work under “Why buy this book?” title is confusing. There should be wording about the book, not you. With all due respect, not everyone can write about a thing just as well as doing that thing. You testimonials prove that you can do, but can your book deliver?

  2. I think the “12 common business challenges” part is more important than “Who is this book for?”. The “is it for me?” question should be answered by reading the rest of the copy, so the “Who is this book for?” arguably is redundant and not needed at all; currently however it pulls much more attention than “12 challenges”. It should be opposite IMHO.

  3. Again, too many words: “Isn’t content just copywriting and a few images? No – it’s much more than that!”. I’d just made a title “Content is much more than just copywriting”.


#4

Hi Hannah,

congratulations on publishing your book!
This has been a lot of hard work, but hopefully also fun. I’m super impressed you wrote it during maternity leave (how long was each?).

Steve and Vlad both offered solid advice, so I’m not going to elaborate on their findings again.

Here are a few things I noticed. Please keep in mind that any criticism herein is not against you as a person or even just your product. I do it, because I want you to kick ass with your business and know how valuable feedback can be for that.

Okay, here it goes:

  • The price is low - like really low. The value a business receives from implementing your strategy is 100x what you’re charging.
  • Pricing: IIRC Gumroad did some research a while back and products with 3 tiers sold best. Suggested pricing was 1x / 2.2x / 5x
  • Your landing page has one clear focus: Making me buy the book right away. That might work given the low price, but I think your copy can do a lot better job of convincing me:
    • Copy liberally from high-converting websites
    • The testimonials are a bit long for my liking. I’d shorten them or highlight the important parts. I’d also give more context on who the people are. Charlie’s description is super-vague

#5

Thanks!

Yes, I work a lot with tech companies who are strong on development but less strong on content. I actually love these companies because they often have a great product that just needs to be better communicated. Much better than the opposite.

In answer to your questions:

How us software developers can motivate ourselves to actually add good content to our sites?

Your product can be an absolute ‘must have’ but if you don’t communicate this effectively to your audience you’ll struggle to get traction.

Just look at the recent discussion about Ember: that it has strong advantages over competitors but is failing to communicate these effectively. And unless they do something about this, Ember will continue to lose ground.

“As we discuss the future of Ember we need to recognize that without learning how to talk about Ember to the rest of the Javascript world, having any future becomes less and less of a guarantee.”
Chris Freeman

Just today I’ve been looking at an app that has a great USP, but it took me about 5 minutes browsing the site to find it. The hero section was far too general and didn’t really explain the product. The copy chunks after that were meandering with an uneven tone. Unsurprisingly, the company is struggling with traction. But they have a content problem, not a product problem, so adding new features is unlikely to help.

What makes good content for software products?

It’s important that people find value in your product really quickly. Many companies do this by offering a free trial (making an initial conversion easier) and then relying on onboarding to get people to hand over money.

However, for this approach to work you need your onboarding content to be really good. You may know exactly how to use your product so it sings, but unless you communicate this effectively to strangers then you’ll struggle to convert trial users to paying customers.

You need to work out what value users need to get from your product that makes it a ‘must have’. If you have an audience already, look at the behaviour of your power users. What features do they use most? That could be a clue. If you don’t have much of an active audience, reach out to people via social media, meetup groups, wherever you can find them, and get them to test out your MVP. See what they find value in and what they don’t. Be open to the idea that your product’s value might be different to what you expect. Or that your customers might be different to what you expect as well.

Once you know what action you want people to take on a free trial, so they quickly get value from your product, get them to take it. Strip out unnecessary content or calls to action. Concentrate all your efforts on getting them to do that one thing.

If you don’t offer a free trial, try something like a demo or free limited access. Again, make sure your content is prioritised to support these calls to action. Don’t suddenly activate a chat window when someone is about to select ‘demo this product’. Or ask them to sign up to your newsletter.

If you’re working on a subscription model don’t forget content aimed at existing or upgrading customers. You can increase revenue nicely if you extend average customer lifetime, increase lifetime value and decrease churn rate. Content isn’t just about attracting and converting new customers.

How we best tell if our content is working effectively?

I know many developers avoid/dislike content because it doesn’t offer such clear cut results as code (and I can empathise – I’m a very amateur coder but at least when I get it right it usually works, which is pretty satisfying).

However, you can and should be logical about testing and improving your content.

I’d start by writing down the pain points in your business based on your KPIs: poor conversion rate of free to paid users, inadequate traffic, high churn rate, and so on. Now instead of adding a new feature (and another one, ad infinitum) consider whether you have a content rather than a product problem.

You might need to dive into your metrics in greater detail, trawl through your customer support, or reach out via a survey to uncover the full story.

Once you have a working hypothesis (say you’re getting lots of customer support questions asking what you do + people spend very little time on site = potentially you’re doing a poor job communicating at a high level your product) then test this. Change the offending content and see what happens to the relevant KPIs. If they improve then it’s likely that your previous content was performing badly and your revised content is definitely better.

If you have more time, I also favour giving all your content an MOT, like you would your car (known as a content audit or inventory in content strategy land). This process can be partly automated using various tools but does involve a degree of legwork as you go through all your content and grade it based on qualities such as whether it supports your current business direction, up-to-date, actionable, and so on. You’d also collect metrics on each page so you build an effective picture of how your content is performing. Then you can revise or archive poor content and do more of the good stuff.

Although time consuming, a content MOT can really give you some great insights into how your content is performing. Otherwise it’s easy to think your content is okay because it’s familiar. Or you just forget half the stuff you have on your site, even when it becomes outdated and is really off-putting to users who land on it.

Hope that helps,

Hannah


#6

Thanks for taking the time to have a look at my site. Adding more social proof is definitely on my to do list.

The ebook landing page is a work in progress and can definitely be improved. It’s converting fairly well but could be better. You’ve given me some great places to start. So thanks!


#7

Yeah. As the lowest layer I would have a PDF ($15) that contains a basic checklist “How to improve your content quality”. Or “Content evaluation procedure in 1-2-3”. Or something like that. Ideally, something nice designed and colourful so I could hang it on the wall in front of me.

The book would go for $49, maybe.

And there should be a premium layer, but I don’t know what it should have. I know tho that the consulting (if any) it should not be. Consulting is separate.

or, better yet:

Split the book into chapers - one per business goal. Then sell single chapters for $10 (maybe with 50% discount for a limited time), and the whole book for a whoppingly discounted $39. The trick is to make each chapter a self-sufficient HOW-TO guide on achieving the goal. If I believe my UI is not UX good (“UI Design: Make sure users don’t get stuck on certain tasks”) - what should I look for, what are the common mistakes, how to measure the problem, how to fix it.


#8

You should really add 2 more tiers (as said before, 15/49/99 is standard pricing).
The hard part is figure out what to add in other tier.

I often saw this pattern :

  1. Book only --> $10-$30 ($30 is better)

  2. Book + some perks (access to a private community / slack ) + interviews or code samples or PSD files if it’s a dev / design book $49-$69

  3. Book + every perks + videos --> $99

About the formula there is two actually, depending on what you want to optimize.
You can optimize it for people to buy tier 2 using these multiples: 1x / 2.2x / 5x or you can optimize it for tier 3: 1x / 3x / 4x so that the gap between tier 2 and 3 is thin, and people tend to buy tier 3 in this case.


#9

Hi,

Thanks for all your suggestions @itengelhardt @kevinsahin and @rfctr.

I’m aware of the tier pricing strategy (and the Gumroad/Nathan Barry approach to marketing).

I decided to launch with just my ebook (and a basic landing page) because otherwise I’d be looking at at least a 6 month delay, probably more, given the other demands on my time. This isn’t an ‘ideal’ approach but a pragmatic one, given the circumstances :slight_smile:

It’s great to have so many great suggestions for optimising my landing page and pricing though, and I’ll look forward to implementing. So, thanks again for taking the time to help!

Cheers,
Hannah


#10

Biggest thing for me is your site is very bleh / ugly.

I tend to like and trust pretty looking things (most people do). If this is a book about marketing, I expect to be woo’ed by your dazzling looking site which makes me want to learn your secret sauce and buy the book.

You could even just use one of the many great looking wordpress themes out there and it would help it 100%.

Just my 2 cents.