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On the most recent episode of the seanwes podcast, we talked about Backwards Building—my method for ramping up to a launch by announcing it ahead of time with a landing page (what I call a “Press Release”).
We’re continuing with that theme in this episode on content marketing.
Today, we talk about what types of content to create to market your launch. We really hone in on the difference between products that solve a problem and products that are “nice to haves”.
This episode is especially valuable for those of you who sell products that fall more into the category of art or entertainment. Because the value you provide is more intangible, you have some unique challenges when it comes to marketing.
We talk about those challenges and how to tell the story around your product using content to get people excited about it.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Look for excuses to create new pieces of teaching content that can promote your upcoming launch.
- The best time to ask for a testimonial is after you have just given something to your customer.
- There’s value in simply curating content you previously gave away for free into a cohesive collection. That’s something you can sell.
- Give away 10% of your very best content for free.
- Giving away valuable content doesn’t make people less inclined to pay for things—it builds trust that leads to them buying from you later.
- Video creates a deeper, more engaging connection with people.
- If you product is art or some other nice-to-have, own the unique value of it. Don’t try to make it a problem-solving thing.
- Diversify your media types to reach different people in different circumstances with different learning styles.
- Before selling your teaching as an artist, focus on creating something great first. Then use that as a case study to pivot to teaching the creation process.
- With content marketing for art, tell the story of how the work came to be.
- What does a world without your product look like?
- 07:53 Sean: We’re coming off the last episode, where I talked about Backwards Building. Go back to the last episode if you haven’t heard it. It’s important that you hear it. I’ll probably repeat a few things here. This is taking the next step. We talk about this Backwards Building concept. In a nutshell, Backwards Building is making sure people know and care about your thing by the time you launch it so that you don’t launch to crickets. Part of that is creating content. You are announcing the fact that you have this product coming up, creating a landing page or a “press release,” and you’re making a promise of what this will be.
- 08:43 You have this landing page for the sole purpose of telling people what’s to come, who it’s for, and what it’s going to do for them, but also, allowing them a way to sign up and get notified of the launch. This is what a lot of people don’t have if they’re not Backwards Building—they don’t have this place they can point people to to capture that interest leading up to the launch. In this Backwards Building approach, you not only want to have this landing page, but you also want to be creating content, ramping up to the launch. Each of those pieces of content will also point to the landing page. In the middle of the last episode, Ben came up with the idea of doing this next episode on creating the actual content that markets your launch.
- 09:32 Ben: The Backwards Building thing is an extremely valuable piece of information, because it becomes a huge driver behind how effective your launch is going to be, capturing people and getting them to take some action before the product is available. That’s huge. The question I hear a lot and that I ask myself is whether it’s a product that solves a problem that’s logistical in nature and has utility, or it’s something entertaining or artistic in nature, what kind of content do you share? How often and where do you share it? I want to get into the nuts and bolts of it today, because that’s a perfect follow up question to the landing page info.
Types of Content
- 10:41 Sean: Scott was asking in the chat beforehand, “What different kinds of content are there? Progress, updates, helpful tips on how to use the product, building anticipation on how your service will help your audience… What else is there?” I don’t have an exhaustive list here, but I came up with a few more ideas to give people something to think on. Obviously, there’s teaching. Teach what you know.
By teaching, you’re creating excuses for making new pieces of content that can promote your upcoming launch.
- 11:19 You don’t want to repetitively tell people, “Go to my landing page.” It’s better to provide some kind of value. To give ideas for different kinds of value, you can teach what you know and share your expertise. You could show your product in use or demonstrate the results of it. One way to do that is through testimonials. A lot of people don’t realize this. They assume they have to write 30 blog posts leading up to their launch, and they all had to be them teaching and sharing valuable information.
- 11:53 Part of that can be testimonials. Highlight people as case studies. If you’ve already had a previous version of your launch, you can get testimonials from those people, or you could also run a beta of your course/product/book. Give it to a few select people, and then get their feedback on it. Maybe you make it better, maybe they say, “This is awesome, it totally helped me,” and you asked them for a testimonial. That’s something you can use even if you haven’t had an earlier version of your product.
- 12:33 Ben: I see testimonials and case studies as two different things. The testimonial is powerful in that you get to hear directly from the person who had the experience with your product. In the case study, it’s good to let people know how the product was used, how it was useful and beneficial, but the more you can lean on the story of how that person heard about the product, what problem it solved for them, and what their life was like after they implemented the product, the better. Think of it as an expanded version of the testimonial. The customer is going into even more depth with the story, and you get to be the story teller.
- 13:23 Sean: While we’re on this topic, I want to give people some tips on getting good testimonials. A lot people start out saying, “Let me know how you like it! Can you send me a testimonial?” and that’s it. They hope it’s something good, and they’re coming back with something that doesn’t have complete sentences, that’s fragmented. Provide prompts and you can compile these into a testimonial. It doesn’t have to be perfectly written—you can’t expect people to write a perfect testimonial. They need to be an expert testimonial writer to do that, so give them prompts.
- 14:22 Ben: If you’re the one who’s providing prompts, you have an opportunity to shape the direction that the story is going to take. You get to determine what the story arc is. Depending on how you order those questions and the kind of information that you’re gathering, you can get a system down where you’re creating a really interesting story by just providing the framework. The customer gets to fill in their own details. That framework or template is something you can continue to reuse and refine.
- 15:22 In this section of the episode, we’re talking a lot about products that solve problems. We will also talk about products that are more artistic in nature. They do solve a type of problem, but it’s a different animal, so we are going to spend some time on that too.
- 15:52 Sean: The timing when you ask is also very important. You want to be aware of the Rule of Reciprocity.
The best time to ask for a testimonial is after you have just given your customer something.
- 16:13 I gave people who bought the 1.0 version of my Learn Lettering course the 2.0 version, so it’s extra value. At this point, they’re feeling very thankful, so I said, “Hey, if you’ve gotten anything out of it, would you mind leaving me a testimonial?” It’s a really good time to ask, and you’ll get some great testimonials if you time it right. Make sure you’re not asking right after you’ve asked for something else.
- 16:41 Ben: Some of the content you can source is actually from the product you’re going to be releasing. Especially if it’s a course or a book that solves a problem, a lot of people think, “I don’t want to give any of that away. If I give that to them, they won’t be as interested in getting the final product because they’ll already have received that information.” If you’re doing content marketing the right way and you’re really providing value, you’ve probably shared almost everything you’re going to be sharing in this book/course anyway in some form or another.
- 17:21 Certainly, in the book/course you can go way more in depth, but don’t be afraid to pull pieces out of that. Summarize it if you need to and shape it for whatever medium you’re going to share it in, and let that be some of the value you provide. It’s going to have the opposite affect. It’s going to wet their appetite and create more anticipation for what they’re going to be receiving from you.
- 17:50 Sean: The first question I ask is, “What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying the class?” This is good, because we’re crafting a story here. Ideally, this testimonial is going to take the potential buyer through a journey that mirrors their own. Which is, “Right now, I’m feeling hesitation to sign up. I don’t want to sign up to the Community because I don’t know if the people there are good,” or, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to invest the time. I don’t know if the time I invest will be worth it.” They have all these hesitations, so there are testimonials on the Community page that speak to that. You get that by asking these questions.
- 18:33 Normally, when you ask someone for a testimonial, they’re not thinking of saying the reasons they didn’t want to get this thing. They’re already past that point, but it’s really important. Asking them, “What would have prevented you?” lets them say, “I initially felt like this class was for someone more advanced, but as a beginner, I found that it was really helpful.” Something like that is able to relate to someone. I say, “What did you find as a result of buying the class?” This gets them to talk about the conclusion, what they got out of it. I say, “What specific feature did you like most about the class?” They highlight something that was nice about it.
- 19:17 Then I ask, “What results have you seen since applying what you’ve learned?” This is where you get some really cool stuff, like, “I’ve grown my audience 420% in the last year.” That was something Kyle Adams said as a result of going through the Learn Lettering Master Class and applying things. It’s really cool to get those results and highlight that in the testimonial. The last question says, “Would you recommend the class? If so, what would you say to someone on the fence?” I’m giving them these sub-prompts, guiding the whole thing, but it’s coming through their own words. I’m simply removing all of the questions.
- 20:10 We can put it all together at the end. I say, “Do you grant permission for seanwes to use any or all of your feedback in publicly displayed testimonies, marketing, or promotion of the course?” They say yes or no, I don’t want to. This last question, “Would you recommend the class?” is really interesting. As a testimonial, it’s really helpful. It wills say, “Oh yes, you’ll get tons out of it. It was really useful to me. I would definitely recommend it.” That’s great for someone reading the testimonial, but also, the reason you get this on surveys a lot isn’t because they care about the data, but you’ve made a micro “yes.”
When people say in a testimonial that they would recommend something, they’re much more likely to actually do that.
- 21:05 Ben: I’m trying to get where you are, Sean, with this person who’s going through the testimonial. I’m guessing the answer is yes, but are you seeing them as a potential candidate for purchasing your next thing?
- 21:21 Sean: I’m not even thinking about that, but that’s certainly a good point.
- 21:25 Ben: That micro “yes” is really powerful, and Sean has said before that one of the best times to make another sale or up-sell is when someone has just purchased something from you. In the book Influence by Robert Cialdini, there’s this whole chapter about getting people to commit to something. If they make their commitment known, they’re more likely to be consistent with that, even under terrible circumstances. It was really interesting, some of the stuff he went into. They’ve gone through this process, and now, at the end of this testimonial, they grant you permission to use it, and depending on what the testimonial is for, the page brings them to another product that would add value to what they have already received.
Give Away Your Best
- 22:25 Sean: That was all one big side track of value that wasn’t planned, but there’s your sub-plot of how to get awesome testimonials for your product. We started with the question, “What kinds of content can you put out?” One of those kinds of content is testimonials, so you can use that as your content. You can send out an email or write a blog post with it, and that’s content. Another kind of content is to answer frequently asked questions in a post. This could be all kinds of things. For instance, we’re doing a webinar for Value-Based Pricing on November 11th, 2015, and in an email I’m sending out, I’m preempting people’s questions. You could preempt people’s questions, or, if you have actual questions, use those. Things like:
- Who is this for?
- What if I’m in this situation?
- What if I’m more interested in personalized consultation?
- 23:30 I answer all of those things preemptively. Back to Ben’s note about how much you should give away, Cory Miller had a similar question, “For digital products, how much of my content marketing should be actually from the product itself? For instance, if I’m releasing a video course, should I show a few of the videos, or maybe provide a free download, and so on?” A few free samples is a really good idea.
Give away 10% of your content for free, and give away the very best.
- 24:15 Ben: But Sean, if I give away the best, they’re not going to need the product anymore!
- 24:22 Sean: There are so many layers to this. If the free content people get is good, they automatically assume that the paid content is awesome. The context of everything together and how you apply it is really where the value is. You can piece things together, but most people don’t want to do that. That’s why you can give away so much for free. Eventually, you have this crazy backlog of really valuable content, like this podcast—218 episodes of epic value. How many people are going to go through all of them? If you have, thank you. We’re glad you’re here and you’re listening. You should come to seanwes Conference.
- 25:33 Unlike you, dedicated listener, most people are not going through all 218 episodes. They can’t be bothered to. Even you, maybe you’ve been doing it over the past year or more, and you’re in a different place and context now, and we’ve had a lot of stories around the valuable content that we’ve shared. It takes time to go through that—it’s not as condensed. We give you the shownotes, but you still have to go through this big backlog to find the relevant pieces and put them together. Putting stuff all together cohesively without any fluff is very valuable.
Some of the value is simply curating your content for people into a collection even if you’ve given away the content for free here and there.
- 26:23 Ben: I wonder if I can make this relevant for something more artistic in nature. I’m thinking about a musician who’s releasing an album. Most of the time, when you purchase an album, the best songs are at the beginning. They’re within the first few tracks, because that causes you to view the entire experience through the lens of the great experience you’ve already had with something. How much more powerful would that be if you gave away the first song?
- 27:14 It’s hard, because you have to be objective about it. It can’t be your favorite song, or what you think the best song is. You might have to get some other people in on the process and say, “Which song do you feel like speaks the most to my audience and gives the greatest experience?” Let that be the one you give away. Say, “My album is coming, but I want to give this to you guys.” Then they have that experience. They think, “I have to buy the album now because if even half of the songs in the album are this good, it’s going to be great.”
- 27:52 Sean: Here’s a sample chapter tip. If you’ve got a book and you want to give away a sample chapter, this is something that’s so simple but it blew my mind that you can do this. You don’t have to think, “I can only pick one chapter, so I pick chapter three, even though it’s kind of weird without context.” You don’t have to give an exact chapter as it exists in the book as your sample. You can construct a sample chapter using material from the book. Turn that into the best 10% of the material. The people who are going to buy the book are going to get all kinds of value out of it.
There is value in the cohesiveness of everything together in application.
- 28:36 You can take that to the next level, as well. There are a lot of people who buy things, they buy courses, and they don’t apply the material. They don’t execute on it. They buy a book, and they don’t apply the principals. That does them no good, either. You can increase the value by offering consulting or coaching. If someone buys your course and they don’t apply it, they don’t get the value out of it. That’s not good. You don’t have a customer who can give you a testimonial, and they don’t have as much value as they could and should if they applied it.
- 29:11 By taking them through the material, that’s an additional layer of value, because they actually apply it because there’s some accountability there. I asked Ben last night if he would help me out with this and he broke it down into two sections—if your product solves a problem vs. if your product is for entertainment. We tend to talk a lot about products that solve a problem, so maybe we can just touch on that briefly and then switch over to the entertainment-type products.
Where & How to Market Your Product that Solves a Problem
- 30:31 First of all, give away as much as you can. No one is going to go through and try and piece it all together, and even if they can, it takes a lot of time. The people that are your candidates for buying this product are people that don’t have time. They want you to help them save time, so put it together and make it cohesive, and you can give away as much as you want. When it comes to the produced material of this thing, let’s use a course as an example, I would give away 10% of the actual produced material. Maybe you talk about the concepts in a podcast, blog post, or newsletter, you can talk about it, but of the actual produced material, I would recommend giving away about 10%—the best 10%. Ben was saying that people fear that if they give away their best content, people aren’t going to be interested in the final product, but the opposite is true.
If you give away valuable content, your customers will be more primed to buy the final product.
- 31:44 Ben: When you share the most valuable 10% of what you have to offer, you’re giving them a taste of what your product is. They’re having an experience with it that’s going to be familiar to them when they do purchase your product. You’re priming them in that way. Another way you can do this is to provide content that’s a prerequisite to the content you’re selling. It’s building a framework for what they’ll need to get the most value out of the product they’re going to purchase from you. That’s another way you can prime them. This is content you’re giving away around the specific problem that you’re solving.
- 32:32 Sean: In this section, Ben’s also got a blog post or newsletter series leading up to the launch, and I highly recommend that one. Social media—Ben said, “Don’t always point back to your platform, but when you do, offset that ask with value.” What did you mean there, Ben?
- 32:49 Ben: I like to think about social media in a way that I heard from Gary Vaynerchuck, and that is, you go where the people are and provide value there. Even if you’re providing value, if you’re constantly trying to point them back to your platform… People are on Facebook because they want to interact on Facebook and they’re on Twitter because they want to interact on Twitter, so engage with them there.
It’s ok if your social media interactions don’t point back to your platform because you’re creating a positive brand experience by engaging with them where they are.
- 33:27 Sean: If we take Gary’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook model, you could think of it as “native content, native content, native content, bring them to your platform”. At that point, people might think, “Yeah, I’ll check out your site.” You’ve given them good stuff. You aren’t constantly saying, “Come to my site, come to my site!”
- 33:45 Ben: When you ask them to come to your platform, you’re still providing tons of value there, so if they don’t come to your platform, they’ve still gotten value out of what you’ve posted.
- 33:58 Sean: The last area here is webinar, and I think a webinar is great if you have an existing product to sell.
- 34:09 Ben: A webinar is such a powerful tool for engagement, because you’re getting to spend an extended amount of time with people on video. They’re getting to see your face, they can ask questions, and there’s a great deal of interactiveness to it. It’s almost too good of a tool to use on something that’s not you selling a product at the end of it. I was telling Sean about a webinar we want to do for In the Boat With Ben in December, just focusing on a topic. It was going to be a way for us to gather more information about what people are struggling with, and Sean was telling me, “You should do one closer to when you actually have a product to sell.” Why spend something that good on just gathering intel? I get that. In this case, I would agree with Sean. The closer you can do a webinar to when you’re actually launching a product, the more powerful and meaningful it’s going to be for you.
- 35:17 Sean: I like webinars. You get that live interaction, and there’s something special about knowing that it’s happening live. You get to interact, and it’s so much more in depth. You can go 60 or 90 minutes plus on a webinar giving a presentation, so it’s powerful. You don’t even get that in a conference talk. Typically, you don’t get that in a podcast. It’s allowing you to go so much more in depth, like a miniature version of a course. That’s why I like to treat it as more precious. You’re giving so much, so you should have an ask at the end.
- 35:59 Ben: If you don’t have an ask at the end, people are like, “I feel like I should give this person something, but I have no way to do that.”
The Power of Video Content
- 36:15 Video, in my mind, sets itself apart from any other medium for sharing content because of how interactive it is. A webinar is the hyper version of that, so you not only get to see someone on camera, but you get to interact with them. Obviously, you couldn’t be doing webinars consistently. That would completely drain you. There’s no way you could provide that much value. If you’re doing video consistently, it’s the most engaging form of content marketing. You’re allowing people to see your face, the expressions and the emotions with which you communicate the thing you’re selling. Not all people enjoy consuming video, but video is, hands down, the most engaging medium.
People feel a deeper connection with you and your product when they get to engage with you through video.
- 37:27 Sean: This takes a lot of effort for us, but seanwes tv is a daily show we do, seven days a week. It’s a video show you can watch, but it’s also a podcast. If you have an iPhone, it will open right up in your podcast app. You can listen to it, and it’s just a few minutes long. You can watch it and you can also read it. I write it as a blog post to start, turn that into a transcript, we turn on multiple microphones and cameras so even when I’m switching between cameras, we’re switching microphones so it’s an even distance from my face so the audio sounds really good no matter what. When we turn it into a video show, we also take that audio and turn it into a podcast.
- 38:24 These are just a few minutes long, five to ten minutes. Almost all of them are under ten minutes. The nice thing is that even though this is a ton of work, video downgrades gracefully into really great pieces of content. It all starts with writing, but from writing, you can go to audio. Audio is very important. Having good audio in your video is a must. The visual with video is an added element on top of that. If you’re really focusing on quality audio, which you should be, it has the potential to stand alone as well.
- 39:04 Ben: We’re talking about repurposing content. Video is the most immersive experience someone can have with that content. Like Sean said, it downgrades well into these other mediums that you can also use. Some people won’t watch video. Some people won’t listen to audio. Some people won’t read blogs. Some people do a hybrid of those things. With audio, you almost don’t need to restructure. You can clean it up a little bit, but if you restructure the content just a little bit, people are going to appreciate having it in different mediums.
- 39:47 Maybe they really enjoy the video, but they want the written stuff, because they want a template for taking notes on what you said. Or, maybe, there’s something you said that they want to tweet. They want to highlight, copy, and paste it over, and hopefully give you some attribution.
- 40:04 Sean: Here are a couple of content ideas. We touched on these before. Ben had these: behind-the-scenes and process, Q&A, FAQ, content that’s valuable for framing the final product, or “prerequisite information.”
- 40:31 Ben: If there’s information that, if your audience grasped it before they purchased your product, it would make their experience with your product that much better, that kind of information is really valuable. For the seanwes platform, there are a lot of principals that we talk about through the podcast, the blog, and seanwes tv, and these principals are foundational for some of the higher level stuff that Sean will actually be selling, like Value-Based Pricing. Sean has episodes on Value-Based Pricing that really go in depth, but leading up to the launch, it would be great to recycle some of that stuff and put it out. I’m sure Sean plans to do that.
- 41:22 Sean: When people sign up at ValueBasedPricing.com, they not only get a mini-series of videos, but it also gives them the pdf for the 7 Value-Discovering Questions to Ask Your Client. It also says, “By the way, we did this in-depth three part audio series, and here’s the downloads. Here’s what it’s about, the nuts and bolts of Value-Based Pricing, attracting clients, pricing on value…” We try and make sure that the people signing up are also aware of all this other prerequisite content.
- 41:57 Ben: If your course is a 102, the sophomore level course, what information would you need to provide to give someone a freshmen level of understanding of your content so that they could make better use of your product?
- 42:30 Sean: I asked people in the chat just a moment ago, “How do you consume seanwes tv?” The most popular was video so I could say, “I guess I’ll just go all out on video,” but audio for the seanwes tv podcast was second, and the written version was the least popular. People voted by staring the options and we had eight stars on video, but seven on the podcast plus two for the written version makes nine. Really, at the time of the voting, more people are consuming seanwes tv non-video, even if any one of those is not the most popular. The moral of this story is that you need to diversify and repurpose.
People consume differently.
By diversifying media types, you’re going to reach different people in different circumstances with different consumption styles.
- 43:46 You’re also going to reach the people that watch videos, read, and listen to podcasts. It hits us in a different way.
Where & How to Market Your Product that Entertains or Inspires
- 44:08 Ben: Daniela says, “As a musician releasing a new album/EP, would talking about the songs on a previous album/EP be completely irrelevant?” At first, I thought that talking about your old stuff that you’re not releasing doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I saw a follow up comment that she had, and it seemed more like she was talking about her growth as an artist between the previous album/EP and the new one coming out. That is really interesting to me. As a person who would consider myself a fan of that artist, I would love knowing what changed for them, how they grew, and what circumstances they went through that caused them to arrive at this group of songs as opposed to where they were before.
- 45:01 I enjoyed the last album. It was a lot of fun and really interesting, and this one promises to be more inspirational and go a little bit deeper. What happened? Tell me that story. I think there is some value in that. The key word is value. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Is this valuable? How is it valuable to my audience?” We’re going to try to further define that.
- 45:34 Sean: In the first part, where we were talking about problem-solving products, Ben said, “Give away as much as you can. Give it all away for free, because it’s going to instill some trust with people and show them that you know what you’re talking about and you can help them solve this problem, and your product will take it to the next level.” For entertainment products, you’ve got things like art, humor—what are some other examples?
- 46:00 Ben: Art breaks down into a lot of different mediums, like a fictional book, music, painting, or illustration.
- 46:10 Sean: Even with t-shirts, you could say that people need to be clothed, but they don’t need to be clothed with $30 t-shirts. That’s design, that’s lifestyle.
- 46:22 Ben: Entertainment or inspiration is a fairly broad category, but is very different from products that solve a specific problem. These solve a problem, but it’s more ambiguous. Some people call these things “nice to haves.”
- 46:39 Sean: They might solve the problem of, “I feel like I need an escape from my busy life.” You could say that this solves that problem, in a way. Like Ben said, it’s more removed—it’s a “nice to have.”
- 46:54 Ben: The first place I went was giving previews of your content.
- 47:00 Sean: I immediately noticed the contrast. “Give it all away for free,” vs. in the entertainment realm, Ben says, “Give previews.” Why is that?
- 47:14 Ben: I think about my experience with Disneyworld. Rachel and I love Disneyworld. We went on our honeymoon, we went back on our first anniversary, and we’ve been back a couple of times since then. Even as a 30 something year old adult, it remains a very magical place. It’s not just because of the experiences, but it’s the place itself, the way it’s set up. Every once in a while, I’ll see an article pop up with something that’s going on with Disney in the business realm, things they’re trying to negotiate or work out, and it always bums me out a little bit, because I don’t want to know how it works. I don’t want to know all the nuts and bolts. I don’t want to know about their underground tunnel system for getting their cast members from one place to another. Some of that stuff is interesting, but you go too far into that and it starts to remove the magic of that experience. When it comes to something that’s entertainment or artistic, some behind-the-scenes is good. People do want a glimpse, they want to know a little bit about what’s going on behind the curtain.
If you show people too much about your process with art or entertainment, it takes away the magic of that experience, and the magic is really what solves the problem.
- 48:51 Sean: That escape it provides isn’t a total escape. Say I wanted to go to the beach, and I was being totally taken care of and pampered. If you see behind the scenes, that it’s not just someone with a white towel draped over their arm and everything is perfect, if you see how it’s all stressful back in the kitchen or whatever, that removes the magic and ruins the atmosphere. They could share a little bit, like, “Here’s what we do to prepare for your visit,” but I don’t really want to see everything.
- 49:33 Ben: There could be an exception where what a person or an organization produces or the way they’re producing it is ridiculously exceptional. I think about Sean’s friend, the Master Penman Jake Weeden. His behind-the-scenes stuff doesn’t take away from the magic, because his skill and the way he does what he does is so far beyond what I could imagine myself being able to produce that it still maintains that magic. I’m as in awe of the process of what he’s doing as I am with the finished product.
- 50:27 Sean: Emphasize more glimpses in your content creation leading up to some kind of launch, rather than totally deconstructing it and removing the magic. You should focus on the feeling it creates for people. An entertainment product doesn’t solve a problem, it’s a “nice to have.” It’s some kind of entertainment or intangible value. Don’t try to make your art a problem-solving thing—that’s just going to confuse things and weaken the true value that your product has. You need to own this value. Own that your comic is entertainment.
- 51:25 Ben: One of the bullets that I meant to put down and I forgot to just came back to my mind, and it might be a little nuance that could be worthwhile. Let’s take the comic thing, for example. What if your intention right now is not to be a person who teaches how to make a living doing comics? What if Sean’s intention when doing lettering was not to teach other people how to do lettering.
- 51:51 Sean: Which it wasn’t, in the beginning. It just became that.
- 51:56 Ben: As Sean shares his lettering and gives some glimpses behind the scenes and talks a little bit about his process, that is an opportunity for him to teach. People who just enjoy your art because of the beauty or because it’s inspirational or entertaining may not be interested in learning about it. It does give you some credibility as a person who is capable of producing something that they should see as valuable, and maybe there’s some value to that. I like what that person has produced, but I also see that they seem to be an expert in how to produce it. That validates my subjective assessment of the art. Not only do I feel like I like it, because they’ve demonstrated their expertise, I should like it. It connects those two pieces.
- 53:04 If you do happen to get into teaching one day, it gives you a backlog of things you can point people to. That starts to build, and you can use it or not, but it doesn’t work against you as long as you don’t go overboard with it. If you’re trying to establish yourself as an entertainment platform and a teaching platform at the same time, but you’re not delivering on both of those consistently, that can hurt you. If you really do want to be an entertainer and you get to teach a little bit through the behind-the-scenes, use that as a way of giving people a glimpse and priming a future audience. In the header of your thing, don’t say, “Comics for your enjoyment AND for people who want to learn comics!”
- 54:06 Sean: I would lean toward recommending for this person to pursue one or the other at a time.
- 54:14 Ben: The song writer, for example, really is just about sharing their music, but if they talk a little bit about the song writing process, that’s beneficial for people who might want to learn about song writing, but it’s still in service of establishing their authority and validating the subjective assessment of that person’s art for the audience member, for the fan.
Sell an Emotion & a Lifestyle
- 54:42 Sean: Let me get down to the root of what I want to get at here, that maybe I’m a little concerned about. It is easier to sell problem-solving products because the value is more immediate, apparent, obvious, and tangible. People can conceptualize a return on it. You automatically have that going for you when you’re selling a need-to-have or a problem-solving product. You have an uphill battle selling a nice-to-have. We need to acknowledge that it is harder to sell a nice-to-have, and the higher you price it, until you’ve reached some arbitrary threshold like million dollar paintings, the higher you price it the harder it is to sell this thing.
- 55:37 Acknowledging that this is an uphill battle, that’s where I get concerned about the split focus. For the problem-solving product person, when they’re marketing this thing, it’s kind of already marketing itself because it’s providing a solution to a problem. Anything you do around that is kind of gravy. If your content around your problem-solving product is entertaining, cool, because everyone likes entertainment, and it’s already marketing itself because it solves a problem. With a “nice to have,” you don’t have that problem-solving thing to fall back on. This is an uphill battle for you. I want people to win that entertainment value.
- 56:21 We’ve given the example that Gary Vaynerchuck has talked about. If you want to know the things that are valuable to you, look on your iPhone home screen. Look at the apps you have there. You’ll find things that are utilities, that solve problems, and you’ll also find entertainment. You can see the things that provide value to you, and entertainment is one of those values. I want people who have “nice to have” products to embrace that.
If you’re selling a nice-to-have, go all out on playing to the emotion—the picture of this person post-consuming your material.
- 57:07 What does that look like? You need to broaden the focus you have around this product to the immediate lifestyle around it. If you have t-shirts, you need to be marketing a lifestyle brand. Your photography needs to capture a vibe. You should be telling stories, interviewing artists and the people you want to reach in written form and video form. Tell stories in your blog and on your newsletter. Capture the lifestyle around your product. If you are a stand up comedian, capture the lifestyle around that. What is the material you go into tangentially related to? Follow that path a little bit and paint a bigger picture of what you’re about, because you need to sell a lifestyle and a context around this thing.
- 58:10 Ben: There’s an aspect of personality and celebrity involved, too, depending on what you’re trying to do with your art. Some of the value may be the connection people have to you and getting to see that they’re similar to you. Part of the lifestyle thing is talking about things that are interesting to you, things you find funny, if you’re a comedian, or making observations about life. I have enjoyed Laci’s quick little observations on Twitter.
- 58:49 Sean: That is the most pleasant way I’ve ever heard it put—”quick little observations”. On the other end of the spectrum, someone might say “snarky remarks”. That’s a really nice way of putting it. They’re funny!
- 59:08 Ben: There’s value in that. I know that we don’t need to harp on convincing people of this, but there’s this trend in advertising now where people are doing these humorous videos. I saw this one recently that was something like, “Stuff parents say.” It went through all these things, and I was smiling. I laughed a little bit, so it actually got a laugh out of me, but when I got to the end of it, it was actually a commercial for Luv’s diapers. I got to the end of it and I thought, “They gave me a laugh, so I feel like I have to listen.”
Creating vs. Teaching
- 1:00:00 Sean: I was glancing over and saw some conversations going on in the chat, and I think Ben and I were coming at this from different angles, so people in the chat are very confused right now. They’re saying, “Should I be teaching? Should I not? I’m a musician.” As a musician, let’s say, you’re reaching different audiences with teaching how to make music vs. providing entertainment. For the person wanting entertainment, think of yourself when you’re going to watch YouTube or when you turn on Netflix. Think of the mode you’re in. You might be laying on your couch with the remote, some popcorn, or dinner.
- 1:00:46 Think of the mode you’re in, this passive, amusement mode. You want to consume, be entertained, and be amused. The word “amuse” means “to not think.” That’s the mode you’re in. The value to this person is very different than for someone who’s in an active, creation type of of mindset. When you go back to comparing this with the problem-solving product, when you teach, you can build up an audience of people who want to learn from you and sell courses, training material, or whatever, but the nice thing is, the people who would buy your products or the clients who would hire you, even if they don’t want to learn how to do what you do, that teaching establishes you as an expert, which lends credence to the validity of your product.
- 1:01:41 It increases the likelihood that the product they’re going to buy from you will actually solve the problem they have. Where I don’t think this parallels to the entertainment or art world is, if you make someone laugh, they’re not questioning that. You made them laugh. All you need to do to validate yourself is make them laugh. All you need to do to give someone an experience with your art is for them to have an experience. All you need to do to entertain someone is for them to be entertained. You don’t actually need to say, “This is how I write my stand up,” in order for you to understand that it is funny and you will laugh at this.
- 1:02:32 I don’t think as an artist or an entertainer that you can afford to have split focus, at the same time. It’s not that you can’t do both. Put out something and go all out embracing the entertainment value of something, and have that stand alone, create a great experience for people, and have them love it.
If you want to teach as an artist, focus on creating something great a few times, and then pivot to teaching the creation process.
- 1:03:10 Ben: I follow and enjoy the musician John Mayer. I like his style, his song writing, and I enjoy just listening to what he does. I’m also entertained by seeing behind-the-scenes stuff where it’s him before his show, what he’s doing, and how he’s getting ready. There’s a difference between that and him walking through how he sets up the sequence on his pedals, what kind of power supply he uses, and that kind of thing. That would require a lot more of my focus and attention if that was something that I was interested in, and it takes the focus completely off of his art.
- 1:04:04 Sean: We also have the fact that Ben is a musician and he is interested in guitar pedals. He has a step ahead of anyone else in the general music audience, too, so it’s even further removed from them.
- 1:04:30 Ben: There is still a lot of value in sharing some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, but in a way that doesn’t go into the details. You’re going to exhaust people, and it’s going to feel like you’re trying to teach them what you’re doing, and they don’t get to just enjoy seeing you do what you do.
Tell a Story
- 1:04:57 Sean: We’ve given a lot to the musicians out there, and I want to make sure it’s still actionable for them. Ben, do you have any thoughts for someone who has a t-shirt brand? What would they want to do? This is a “nice to have.” People can buy cheaper shirts with less cool designs. We’re talking about creating content that markets your launch, what should they do for creating content to ramp up to the launch of some kind of t-shirt collection?
- 1:05:40 Ben: One of the things I’ve really enjoyed from Real Thread is seeing their big old printers doing their thing. It’s still a very artistic thing. It’s not somebody telling you, “Okay, so what you do is you turn this on here, this is where you put the ink…” They don’t go into all of those details. It’s a glimpse. I wanted to say that to make it practical for people making t-shirts.
For content marketing your art, tell the story of how the work came to be.
- 1:06:17 What inspired the creation of it? What’s the story of what happened to you that day, when suddenly you got the idea to make this piece of art that was going to end up on a shirt? You looked at the world, this idea came to you, and you thought, “There has to be a t-shirt with this design on it or the world is not complete.”
- 1:06:45 Sean: The story part is huge. I know Cory Miller likes to talk about highlighting you, the person reading, the audience, as the hero of the story. You’ve got to focus on that story and that context. Go off on these tangents, not rants, rabbit trails, or unrelated things, but the literal definition of a tangent—something tangential, adjacent to, touching your thing. You’ve just got to zoom that out a little bit. Don’t be just about this t-shirt, but zoom it out one or two steps. Who is the t-shirt for? What do they do, and what is their lifestyle? That is the zoom level. Let’s say you imagine, “I’m making this collection for this person.” If you don’t have a person in mind, that’s a problem. Who is this for? Who did you have in mind when you made this? What were you thinking when you designed it? Who is it for and what are they about, and how can you talk about that story in the context of your shirt?
- 08:12 Ben: For something that’s about solving a problem, you want to put as much of the focus as possible on the person for whom it is solving the problem. When it’s something that’s artistic, the person has a connection to the piece of art that you’ve created, but it’s so much a part of you that the person also feels a connection to you. I find it valuable and meaningful, as a person who follows an artist, musician, or designer, to understand and hear the story of what was going on, what their experience was when the idea for it was birthed in their mind. This is still about the other person, because you’re sharing that experience and letting them into your world. The reason they care about it isn’t because the story is about them.
People care about the story behind your art because they enjoy the art itself.
The story of how that came to be is important to them because they’ve taken ownership of it.
- 1:09:26 Sean: If we look at that at a deep level, the story isn’t about them, but they found something that relates to them, so they’ve been able to see themselves in that story. It’s not just about telling the story of the person something’s for, but also telling your story. This is more of a writing tip, but we were talking about this in the chat a few weeks ago. There are different styles of writing. There’s imperative writing and then there’s story telling writing. In one case, you’re saying, “You need to do this. Follow this step.” Boom, boom, boom. In the other version, it’s, “This is my story. This is what I did and how things happened.”
- 1:10:20 It’s better to own one or the other, instead of saying, “I went on this journey, this is what happened, and you should do this!” That’s abrupt. It’s better to own one. If you’re going to be doing an imperative style of writing or story telling, go all out on that. Own it, have some conviction, let it ride on your reputation, and say what you have to say. Otherwise, tell your story and let it be. The people who are relating to what you’re saying are going to be immersed. They’ve already substituted themselves into whatever role they’ve found in this story to relate to them.
- 1:11:03 Ben: They find a common experience. I’m going to make up a story on the spot here, we’ll see how it goes. I was walking through the quad one day on campus, and I saw a guy standing there, holding a sign for some political thing. I don’t know what it was. He looked ridiculous, and these people were poking fun at him as they walked by. My initial thought was, “Who does he think he is? He’s sitting out there with this sign, he looks ridiculous. Why can’t he be normal like everybody else?” It was a hike to my next class and I was mulling it over, and even though I can’t remember what the sign said or what it was about, I had to admire that he was willing to subject himself to the criticism of others and put himself out there because he believed so much in what he was saying.
- 1:12:22 That really hit me. To this day, I have the picture of this guy standing there. He had this messy red beard and a red, white, and blue bandana. I was going to design class and all I could do was scribble out this idea I had. It was for a shirt I’m now calling Stand Out, and it’s a bunch of diamonds, but one of them is a circle. It’s different from the rest. It’s my way of saying, “If I’m wearing this shirt, I have permission to be different and set apart from everyone else and to be okay sharing my message, even though it sets me apart from others and it might subject me to criticism.”
- 1:13:25 Sean: A lot of the Community members may get the joke you’re making, but you’re defining Cory Miller’s shirt. You’re describing a shirt Cory Miller made.
How is the World Better because Your Product Exists?
- 1:14:32 Ben: This is something Sean already talked about—the values and the lifestyle around your product. What values does your product represent? Talk about those things in the form of a blog or on a video. Say, “Something I believe is really important…” and then you go into it. Talk about how your product represents that value, and then describe the person that this product is for. Talk about what that person looks like, what their daily experience is, and how this product might inspire or entertain them. What does a world with your product in it look like? Is it a happier place? Is it a more melancholy place—are people more aware of their feelings? Do people feel inspired to go conquer the world now?
- 1:15:32 Sean: When I read that one, I immediate thought of the opposite, not to replace what you said but in addition—what does a world without your product look like? That’s a really big one. Maybe you have this great tool. Tell the story about how people have to get the job done now. Tell the story of those who will continue to live without this thing that you want to put out into the world.
- 1:16:07 Ben: That sounds kind of ambiguous and general, but the more familiar you are with your product, the values around that, and the difference it could make in the world, the more you can sit down and come up with content. This goes back to daily writing. This product you’re coming out with, whether it’s an album, a t-shirt, or whatever it is, something that’s going to not only make this product successful but future products as well, is how solid of an understanding you have of the values around it. Writing on those every day solidifies those values, and as a bonus, it could be some of what produces the content you share around this product leading up to it’s release.
- 1:17:00 Sean: You could go as elaborate on that story as you want or as simple as you want. You could say, “Drinking out of plain mugs sucks.” That depicts a picture of the world without your mug that has a cool design on it. Or, say it has a message on it, it’s inspirational, it gets you going—“What does your day look like without any remembrance of this really important message?” Follow that through and see what that story looks like.
- 1:17:34 Ben: One day, Bill woke up, and he had his regular stuff he has to do every day. It’s stuff he enjoys doing. He’s a designer and an entrepreneur, and he sits down at his computer, and he’s working, but he feels a little bit distracted. Maybe he’s not feeling it. What’s going on, Bill? What’s wrong? He hasn’t had his coffee yet. He goes downstairs, and as he walks into the kitchen, his wife turns around with a little smile on her face, as if to say, “I knew you’d forget and you’d need to come down here.” His wife kind of smiles at him, and she reaches over and hands him a mug that says, “Make things,” with the word “excuses” crossed out. He goes back upstairs, coffee in hand, looks at the mug for a moment, and then he blows his work out of the water that day.