How to monetize content, with Stephen Woessner
Today we are going to dive into how to monetize content and create a monetization strategy. Essentially — is there a process, a plan, a strategy that business owners have used in order to get paid to create content — or — to ensure that the content they are creating is driving revenue back into their core business.
I want us to cover this topic with some real depth today because with the right monetization strategy — you will be able to create the right content and drive revenue so that your marketing-related activities are no longer seen as an expense on your P&L, but instead, part of your top-line revenue.
So for today, you and I are going to focus on what your monetization strategy looks like, what type of content is even monetizable, and the key ingredients to a well thought out monetization strategy.
Okay, so let me start off by asking you this…
“What would happen if all of the marketing you produced and created to support the business development and growth activities of your company went from being a line item in the expense column of your P&L…and instead…it transformed into a revenue stream?”
Yeah, exactly…a revenue stream! That is what happens when the content you create is worthy of monetization — and it becomes possible when you get very intentional in two specific essential areas.
First, you must — without question — establish a very CLEAR point-of-view for you, your business, and your team.
A clearly defined and distinctive POV will differentiate you from your competitors, help you attract the right prospects to your business, and it will give you the ability to charge a premium price for your offering.
The right POV will be bold, maybe even provocative. Your POV serves as your flag — that super clear statement of “This is what we do here, why we do it, and for whom we do it for.”
POV will add value to your core business by attracting the attention of the audience you have decided to focus on serving.
The second area that contributes to your ability to monetize content is how consistent you are at creating high-quality cornerstone content and sharing it with your audience. And each piece of that content cements your POV into the hearts and minds of the people who are following you today — or — it will also repel the prospects you don’t want to serve. This content will also attract the attention of new people…so your audience will grow.
And above all else — your cornerstone content is helpful to your audience. It is not self-aggrandizing, or promotional, or egocentric at building your personal brand and platform. Instead, you should focus on being as helpful as possible to your listeners, to your audience, so that with each of your podcast episodes, or each of your blog posts, or in every one of your videos…they walk away with a lesson, or a nugget, of something they can implement into their business straightaway…that is what it means to truly add value to your audience.
And when you do that…consistently…your audience grows because your audience shares your content with friends and colleagues saying, “Hey, you have to watch this video on lead gen — it is awesome and we already started implementing some of the steps and they totally work.” And you earned that share…because your video was spot on and super helpful.
Okay, so what does the monetization strategy around your content look like?
Creating a Monetization Strategy
It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to have a large audience to be successful in monetizing your content. But you don’t have to wait. In fact, you can’t wait until you hit some audience number benchmark.
You don’t need a million listeners.
You don’t need 500,000 YouTube subscribers.
What you need is high-quality content…shared on a consistent basis…with a growing audience who loves you…across multiple channels. In fact…the more narrow, or the more niche your audience – the better.
For example…one of our Predictive ROI clients who is focused on a super, super niche industry is about to ink a 6-figure sponsorship of their podcast and all of the associated content around the show. Why? Because in the industry they are focused on serving — their show even though it has a small audience — is THE show and the sponsor wants access to the audience and they are willing to pay over $100,000 to gain that access.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg but that is what can happen when you begin thinking of your content as a service to your audience and you begin thinking of you and your business as a media company.
So, it is not about audience size.
But what I am talking about is attracting the right people into your audience – building a nation of true fans.
In my opinion, most business owners look at their own marketing through the wrong end of the lens.
Meaning, they evaluate the success of their marketing efforts solely through vital metrics like website traffic, email opt-ins, click-through rates, conversion rates, customer acquisition cost, lifetime value of a customer, retention rates, and so forth.
All of these metrics are definitely important for evaluating the health of your sales pipeline and your business development strategy for converting leads into sales.
But there can be more – a lot more – as it relates to your marketing’s ability to generate revenue.
Thanks to the democratization of media channels – thanks to social media, email, podcasting, YouTube, and the myriad of other channels, today’s top business owners are now seeing themselves as media companies.
When I interviewed Gary Vaynerchuk back in September of 2013, he and I talked about how every company – every business owner needs to think of themselves as a “media company.”
And that bold statement is now taking hold – and today’s top business owners are making what may have seemed unrealistic to many several years ago to become a critical component within a company’s marketing strategy.
So – and this is the extremely cool crux of the matter that I will explain in greater detail – if you:
- Execute properly – and by that I mean create high-quality content from your POV, and you…
- Share that content across multiple channels – and you…
- Build an engaged audience across those channels…
Then you have successfully taken your first steps to become a media company where the content you produce can be monetized and generate top-line revenue.
But remember…I said that the second area that will impact your ability to be successful in monetizing your content, was that you need to produce content that is worthy of monetization.
Defining Your Monetization Strategy
So let’s go deeper here and dissect what makes content worthy of monetization.
In my opinion, there are two main ingredients to the worthiness recipe:
First, the content you are producing must be valuable and helpful to your current audience — and – it is helpful enough that it attracts new people into your community so your audience grows. There it is again — we must focus on our audience and being as helpful as possible to them.
For some additional context and learning here…I highly recommend that you go back and re-listen to Episode 305 of Onward Nation where I interviewed Jay Baer. And his spot-on advice was for all of us — every business owner — to give away your best stuff for free.
If you’re like most business owners I spend my time with, Jay’s advice may make you a bit uncomfortable or uneasy. You might even ask yourself, “Stephen, how in the world can I give my best stuff away for free without dismantling the value proposition of hiring our company to do the work?”.
Well, I can tell you based on personal experience with launching “Profitable Podcasting”, that it has been an incredible business development tool for us — and the reason why — is because the book shares each and every step of what my Predictive ROI team does for clients…in full transparency…step by step…nothing hidden. And for our right prospects…they read the book and say…this is an awesome recipe but there is no way we have the internal time or capacity to get this done…let’s just hire the experts. But it isn’t because we hid anything — it was because we gave it all away by following Jay’s advice.
Can’t Be a One-Trick Pony
Second, you cannot be a one-trick pony. That you are producing quality content, sharing it across multiple channels, and you have created “media properties” because having the properties is what makes your more “sponsorable.”
So let’s now distill this down into a recipe with specific ingredients to monetize content…
Ingredient #1: Add actual value by being helpful
You know what I’m saying! This again starts with a strong point of view. Does your content provide helpful, practical, and tactical advice and recommendations that when someone finishes listening, reading, or watching that they can go implement something?
Are they smarter as a result of what you shared?
Can they provide more value to their customers because of the time they invested in your content?
Are they somehow able to move their business onward to that next level?
If yes…then awesome.
What this world doesn’t need is more yacking into a microphone or having a video camera follow you around an airport, drama, and drawing attention to yourself…none of that self-aggrandizing content adds value to your audience.
Here is some great advice from Dorie Clark. As she shared with me during our encore interview in Episode 628, Dorie said to me:
“Stephen, business owners need to focus on content creation. People always think, ‘Oh, there are so many blogs! There are so many podcasts!’ The truth is, too few people are leveraging the power of content creation because we think about content the wrong way. Content creation is not about how many people view your article.
“The goal of content creation is to create a piece that shows your credibility and makes it easier for a prospect to say ‘yes’ to working with you.”
Dorie is right.
When you create a piece of content, the number of people who see it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not you make the next sale — and it’s much more likely that you are able to do that when you can point a prospect to a piece of content that shows off how knowledgeable and credible you are.
And all of that credibility and expertise helps you build an audience, which leads up into the second ingredient in the recipe of creating content that is worthy of monetization.
Ingredient #2: Multiple channels and properties to become more sponsorable
Great content is just the beginning. And it isn’t enough to consistently produce great content.
Today’s top business owners are consistently creating great content, sharing it across multiple platforms, and then slicing and dicing the content into multiple media properties to increase their “sponsorability.”
Let’s say you host your podcast. Awesome. Some additional opportunities to consider would be to take the transcripts from three of your very best interviews with influential thought leaders and use the content to create an eBook with an introductory letter from you on the inside cover.
Now you have an additional asset that your audience will find helpful – and – you have an additional asset a sponsor may want to be part of for a fee.
Here’s another real-life monetization strategy example for you.
Monetization Strategy Example: Sponsorship
Another Predictive ROI client just sold a $12,000 sponsorship of his podcast to one of his vendors who also wanted to get in front of his audience – and – our client sold a $10,400 sponsorship to two other vendors for an eBook.
Our team took 10 of his interviews…created an eBook that distilled the 10 best lessons from the interviews into an actionable plan…and our client sold the sponsorship of the eBook to the two vendors for $5,200 each.
Or, say you teach workshops and you attract attendees from around the country. At your next workshop…record the entire event on video…the actual teaching sessions…the behind-the-scenes side conversations…the Q&A…the social functions if there is a dinner or reception.
Record all of it.
You then cut up the video and it becomes what you need to launch a video series on YouTube – and then you sell sponsorship of your YouTube channel to one of your vendors.
And you transcribe the audio files from the entire workshop and the content can be transformed into webinar series that is sponsorable…or a book that is sponsorable…or podcast that is sponsorable.
I like to call this the Trojan Horse of Sales. You can go back to Episode 600 where I broke down the recipe for the Trojan Horse of Sales step-by-step.
Now that we know what the ingredients are..let’s keep refining and distilling so you can walk away from this episode with a specific recipe.
Describing the ingredients is great – and examples of how others have done it – that’s great too.
But maybe you’re still thinking “how can I possibly do this?” Well, it’s entirely possible and it can totally happen. This last section will show you and your team how to get started.
It’s a 2-day process with you and your team – really digging in and getting things done. In the end, you will have a solid plan for creating or gathering your excellent content, spreading it across multiple channels, and turning that content into revenue.
Ultimately, as a result of this process…you will be able to look at your marketing through the correct end of the lens, which will help you move your business onward to that next level because your marketing will no longer be a cost center – but a profit center for your business.
For Day One…I recommend that you take a deep dive into the POV of your business.
And here’s how…
Begin the process with a deep dive into your point-of-view – your position about why you do what you do within your business. Remember, your point of view should be a bold statement about what you believe to be true. Again, it might be provocative and thought-provoking…maybe even controversial.
But for those who are part of your tribe, or could be…it will be a beacon in the night for them.
When you say it…when you share it…when you build content around it…your tribe will hear and respond. Your POV will help you build an audience – it is that magnetic.
And because of these attributes of a well-crafted POV…it may take some digging to find it. It typically doesn’t reside on the surface. You and your team will need to push each other to find it.
It’s not about the usual suspects: customer service, features, advantages, or benefits.
IT IS ABOUT EXPERIENCE – why a customer chooses you over the myriad of other options in the marketplace.
To help…think of some thought leaders and what they stand for and what their brands stand for…or what their positions stand for…or how they built a category when previous to them entering the market…the category didn’t even exist.
So ask yourself: What do you stand for? What is the flag you want to plant in firm ground?
Defining Your POV For Your Monetization Strategy: Who Is It You Want To Serve?
I often to refer to the client avatar lessons I learned directly from Darren Hardy, former publisher of SUCCESS Magazine.
Creating a client avatar involves identifying the attributes of your ideal client.
Then you need to take that a step further by converting the avatar into a list of your Dream 25 prospects – these are the people you would most like to serve as clients for your business.
Next…begin identify what you and your team consider to be your three unique attributes.
These are the three unique attributes to your brand – what truly makes you distinctive in the marketplace? What do you provide that no other company provides?
For example…at Predictive ROI…our three uniques are:
- First, we help clients get clear on their point-of-view.
- Second, we help them create high-quality cornerstone content that cements their POV into the hearts and minds of their audience with consistent thought leadership.
- Third, we help clients drive revenue by transforming their content into a Trojan Horse of Sales, which you can learn more about this strategy back in Episode 600 where I break it down in full transparency.
We also help our clients attract an audience so a third party brand will want to pay to gain access to our client’s valuable audience.
All of this combined typically represents a 5x to 7x return on our client’s investment, which gives Predictive ROI a compelling – and unique – value proposition.
So what are your three unique attributes?
Talk about it with your team. But don’t accept surface answers. Dig deep. And when someone suggests that it might be X…push back with the question, “Okay, why is X important to our customers?” And when one of your teammates answers the question, ask the same question again, “Okay…that makes sense…but why is that important?”
Repeat the process three times to keep peeling back the layers.
And by the third time…you will arrive at something truly unique about your offering.
Okay, by this time in the day – you will have accomplished a lot – your team will likely be ready to wrap and be finished – and deservedly so – you have checked some large boxes off the list.
The Importance of Naming Your Process
There is just one more box that needs to be checked to complete Day One – and that is to give your process for delivering your unique attributes…a name.
I encourage you to keep it simple. Simple is best because if you are not careful, it will start to sound like marketing hyperbole, a bit slick, and too showy. And you don’t need that.
Keep it simple. And then go celebrate with your team – you just accomplished some serious business development and strategic work.
Monetization Strategy: Define Your Conerstone Content
Okay, now you’re back for Day Two…this is where you define your cornerstone content for your monetization strategy.
Or, more specifically…what type of cornerstone content you plan to create — and — how you will define success and measure your progress along the way.
You will begin the process by deciding what type of content will become your cornerstone. For example…do you prefer to speak or do you prefer to write? If you prefer to speak, you may want to consider a podcast, speaking engagements, or a video series as your cornerstone.
Or, if you prefer to write…you might select blogs, articles, books, or research reports as your cornerstone. Or, you may enjoy aspects of both.
For example, I enjoy interviewing guests for our Onward Nation episode – but – I also enjoy writing books. So for now, these are my primary cornerstones.
So what do you prefer?
Channel Agnostic Strategy
To begin – you only need to – and only should – select one cornerstone. Then master the system and process with it before you select another one.
Ideally, you should have at least two because that will keep you from being seen as a one-trick pony – true thought leaders build their platforms by sharing their content across multiple channels, which gives – or creates the impression – that their content is everywhere, which of course it isn’t – but it sure seems that way to their target audience.
Your POV will be the anchor within your cornerstone content. Each and every episode – every article – every blog post – will all point back to your point of view, which continues to plant your flag in firmer and firmer ground.
And one of the most powerful aspects of creating high-quality cornerstone content is the amount of leverage each piece of content gives you through slicing and dicing.
For example, you could take one of your podcast episodes…and transform it into 10 tweets, an eBook, top insights briefing that can be shared with your best customers, etc. Or, you could distill the content from 100 episodes down into a research report that truly sets your company apart from competitors in your industry.
The point is that there a myriad of ways for you to slice and dice your cornerstone content into additional “spokes” that move out from the hub…and each spoke helps you extend your thought leadership even further and attract an even larger audience for your monetization strategy.
Creating 1-3 Year Plan for Your Content Monetization Strategy
Once you define the type of cornerstone content you will be producing and some of the spokes – the slicing and dicing that each cornerstone will provide you…it is time to begin formalizing your 1 and 3-year plans.
Obviously, 3 years is a long time given the dynamics in tech, ever-changing economy, and the other factors that make predicting the results of a 3-year plan challenging at best.
So for this exercise, I recommend you focus your attention on what success would look like for you at the end of 3 years. How will you know when you have reached where you wanted to go?
Is that a number of employees, is it the size of the audience, is it the amount of revenue generated by sponsorships, is it the number of attendees at a private event you are hosting, or how you have turned your business into a media channel?
If you don’t take the time for you and your team to conceptualize a 3-year view of your business – then you may lose valuable time aimlessly wandering the wilderness, much like a leaf blowing in the wind.
It has been my experience, that the following core elements are what makes up a simple – yet sound – plan to keep you and your team on track:
- One — identify your most vital priorities – the core things that you must accomplish or nothing else matters.
- Two — what are the measurables? How will you know when you have arrived – what does it look like?
- Three — what is the tactical plan? Who is going to do what, and when?
- Four — what are the obstacles or roadblocks that will likely rise up to get in your way – and if they do – what are the likely solutions that can be executed quickly?
- Five — accountability – who will be held accountable, to what, by whom, and when will checkpoint meetings or scorecard reviews be held so that progress can be evaluated and course corrections can be made if necessary?
So let’s bring this in for a landing…
Yes, it may take you time to make this transition from your marketing efforts serving strictly as a lead generation tool over to both…generating new clients and producing a monetization strategy that works.
But the key to remember is that it is possible – that you can begin looking at marketing through the correct end of the lens.
So set the fear, the apprehension, all the myriad of excuses aside. Look, I get it — I felt them, too — and still to this day feel them — as I shared with you recently about the anxiety I was feeling about the launch of our new YouTube series. And because of what I was feeling…I kept putting it off…and putting it off…until a member of my team said… “Hey, you said you would get that done — so where is it.”
And Katherine was 100 percent right. Guess what? I made it a priority and got it done…and so it will be airing on Thursday this week…Episode 1. Ahhh. I’m scared…but I look forward to your comments…because I know all of the thumbs up and thumbs down will help me get better and better.
So, yeah, it’s scary – I get that. But when you start, and when you make mistakes, and when you make adjustments, you will also create momentum.
Monetizing your content is a long-term play – but it can’t be much of anything – if you don’t ever start.
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