Episode 627: Passive Income Lessons and Strategies, with Stephen Woessner
Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of three bestselling books including the recently released Profitable Podcasting. He is also a speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.
Subscribe to Onward Nation!
Good Morning, Onward Nation…I’m Stephen Woessner and welcome to Episode 627!
Today’s episode is going to be a solocast – where from time-to-time – I take the opportunity to fly solo without a guest so you and I are able to have an opportunity to explore a topic with some real depth — and in the process of doing that – I share practical and tactical steps along the way that you can take and apply right away to accelerate your biz dev in the form of more leads and sales.
My hope is that today’s solocast will be helpful to you in at least two ways:
First…I am going to illustrate how one piece of what my team Predictive ROI call “Cornerstone content” can be leveraged to create many smaller pieces of content – and when done properly – this process creates thought leadership for you around a topic that is important to your customers.
I will share more depth around the strategy of cornerstone content, and how it can impact your biz dev, as we get deeper into today’s lesson.
I first introduced the cornerstone strategy back in Episode 600 when I described the strategy of the Trojan Horse of Sales and how you could put your own horse to work within your business. And during the episode…I made a promise to you that that I would dedicate a future solocast to the process of creating cornerstone content — and — the value it can have within your biz dev.
The second way I hope today’s solocast will be helpful to you is by taking you behind-the-scenes to the passive income model that we have put into place here at Predictive ROI – and – how we created it using a single piece of cornerstone content.
I will explain how we took one piece of cornerstone content, which in this example was Episode 65 of Onward Nation – which was my very first solocast…and then we created a passive income model into Predictive ROI.
All from that one episode. All from that one cornerstone.
I will show you exactly how we did it and I will share the complete recipe during today’s solocast so you can take and apply the full recipe into your business right away.
But before we dive into all of the details…I feel pretty strongly that I should also share three warnings, or at least, some words of caution.
First…before you go down the path of creating “passive income”, in my opinion, you need to ensure that you have ample revenue flowing into your core business to cover overhead, generate profit, provide ample funds to reinvest, and to further expand by introducing new services to continue the life cycle of a balance business.
I am all about a business owner taking the time and investing the effort into building their core business. So it is critically important that your cornerstone content, i.e. your podcast, your YouTube channel, your blog, your books, your speaking engagements…whatever your cornerstone content is…that all of it feeds into your core business in a very predictable, measurable, and repeatable way.
I am sharing this with you – at the onset of this lesson – because I don’t want to see you make the mistake that many business owners make by becoming distracted with the delusions of grandeur in creating passive income as the savior to a core business that needs some TLC to grow.
Yes, passive revenue streams can be helpful and provide high-margin sources of revenue. However, it can sometimes be tempting for a business owner to want to create a passive revenue stream as a strategy to fix the core business instead of getting out there and selling, selling, selling and doing the hard work to fix their core business.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up each morning and see all of the successful credit card transaction receipts in your Inbox?
Of course it would.
But not at the expense of your core team not having enough work to do. If you pursue the goal of creating a passive revenue stream for your business – before you address the lead gen and revenue needs of your core business – you run the risk of losing valuable time and getting sidetracked.
And that could be very expensive, Onward Nation.
So…I designed the lesson in this solocast for business owners who have a healthy and profitable core business and are looking to accelerate biz dev even further.
Okay…so my next caution or warning about today’s solocast is that I’m actually going to cover two lessons.
Yep…this is going to be a two-for-one episode. I know…I’m being ambitious…but hear me out for a second.
I made the 2-for-1 decision, because as you will see, the two lessons build on one another and I didn’t want to feel, or have you feel, that I gave you one piece but then made you wait until the next solocast until you could get the next one.
Not awesome, right?
So, I blended the lessons together because I felt it was the best way to share the most value with you and your team. Give it to you all at once.
And that leads me to my final warning.
Holy bananas…we are going to cover a lot in this one solocast, which means…it’s long…there is a lot in here.
Just setting expectations…this is likely going to be my longest solocast ever. And it will take some commitment to get through it all.
The lessons are comprehensive…there are lots of steps…and I’ve embedded a number of screenshots and visual examples.
So, Onward Nation, I hope you’re okay with the 2-for-1 deal that I have teed up for you.
Okay…let’s dive in by beginning with a quick refresher from Episode 600 and why I believe so strongly that business owners go about selling the wrong way.
Business owners often find themselves thwarted by gatekeepers at every turn. They are blocked from opening the door and building a relationship with their dream prospects.
We have all felt that before – and – it doesn’t feel awesome.
In my opinion…there is a better way to drive biz dev without your prospect every feeling like they are a prospect. And it consists of three steps.
Step 1: you need to “plant your flag” by having a strong point of view – a belief – and make it the mission of your business.
You must plant your flag and then cement it into place with your cornerstone content in Step Two.
Ask yourself and your team the question, “What truth have we learned that influences our work, the recommendations we receive, and how we serve our clients?”
Perhaps what you have learned is strong enough — provocative enough — and meaningful enough to your clients for it to become your flag.
Think about that for a second – are any themes coming to mind?
Unfortunately…most business owners haven’t defined their point-of-view – and to take that a step further – they have not committed the entire purpose of their business to serving a specific niche where their flag should be planted.
As a result…many business owners create or pay for the creation of generic marketing tips, blog posts, or monthly e-newsletter and hope that it will pass for thought leadership.
But this level of generic content does not pass as thought leadership. So if this sounds like you – your business – or your content – it doesn’t pass as thought leadership because you haven’t taken a position — and — anyone could write the same blog post.
Instead…let’s move onto to Step 2 where you must carve out and establish your point-of-view…where you plant your flag…through “Cornerstone” content.
So what exactly do I mean by Cornerstone?
Let’s say we were constructing a large new building downtown.
The cornerstone — or the foundation stone — would be the first stone set for the building. And then all other stones after that would be set in reference to the cornerstone.
So to say that another way…the cornerstone determines the position of the entire structure going forward.
Now let’s think about cornerstone from a business context. Your cornerstone content is how you will communicate, share, and teach your audience about your flag. Remember what I said earlier…you need to plant your “flag” and then you cement it into place with a steady stream of unique cornerstone content.
From a tactical perspective…cornerstone content might take the form of a podcast, a YouTube channel, or a popular blog. And each day, or week, you are creating a substantial piece of content that is helpful to your audience.
Cornerstone content is bona fide thought leadership within your industry. Your audience takes notice because you are saying something worth listening to because it connects back to your flag – you are saying something different – you are saying something that resonates with them – and – you are sharing it consistently.
It is also important to recognize that cornerstone content is channel or platform agnostic. So…it doesn’t matter if you decide to create a podcast…or you decide to become the next dominant force on YouTube…or writing is really your thing so you decide to go long form and rock LinkedIn articles.
All of these are channels. Your cornerstone content is channel agnostic – sure it lives on a channel and you use a channel to share it – but the content itself is not dependent on a particular channel to reach your nation of true fans.
For example…as I prepared for this solocast…I wrote out the content in a Word document…which became my notes as I recorded the audio for the solocast…and then Louie on my Predictive ROI team takes my script and creates long form show notes.
And then he takes the same content…makes a couple of tweaks…and creates a long form article on LinkedIn…along with a batch of tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, Instagram, and earmarks chunks of the content for a future eBook that we will release in the coming weeks.
Lastly, portions of this content may find their way into my next book that we are starting to plan out.
All that is to say that true cornerstone content gives you that kind of leverage…the leverage that I just described. One episode becomes 30, 40, or 50 pieces of small content. Only cornerstone content is comprehensive enough to be sliced and carved into smaller pieces and the smaller pieces still have a lot of value all by themselves.
Now…once you have planted your flag and then cemented it into place with your cornerstone content – you will begin building an audience and the credibility and recognition that goes along with it.
And all that credibility you established through your continuous high quality cornerstone content is going to give you the ability to execute Step 3 and drive leads and sales.
You will now have – at your disposal – an All Access Pass to your Dream prospects, potential sponsors, and many other forms of business development that will drive your revenue onward to that next level.
For example…because you will have created an audience for yourself – or what I like to call a “Nation of True Fans” – as a result of Steps 1 and 2…you will now be able to invite your Dream prospects to become your guest on your top-rated podcast, YouTube channel, or to be interviewed for your popular blog.
And when you do that…you will be able to put your Trojan Horse of Sales into full effect like we discussed in Episode 600, Onward Nation.
Just in case you missed Episode 600…here are some highlights of the Trojan Horse of Sales Strategy.
The process begins by you and your team sitting down and making a list of your Dream 50 prospects — the companies you would most like to serve — but for whatever reason — you haven’t had an at bat just yet.
And then take it deeper than just saying, “Oh, we want to work for Harley Davidson!”
Of course you do…and so do all of your competitors.
Instead…you and your team need to get laser focused and say… “We want to develop a relationship with Sarah Jones at Harley Davidson because she is the type of business leader we most like to work with and for whom we can create the greatest impact.”
And instead of unleashing your junior salespeople or a digital marketing armada on Sarah Jones and your other 49 Dream prospects…you reach out to Sarah personally to invite her to be a guest on your top-rated podcast or YouTube channel — or a popular blog with a lot of subscribers – or listeners in a bunch of countries.
You invite Sarah to share her journey, her secrets to success, and the wisdom she could share with others in her industry or the broader business community?
You just changed the entire game, didn’t you?
Your podcast — video interview — or article for your blog – or to say it in another way – the creation of your cornerstone content just gave you an All Access Pass to a one-on-one, private, 60-minute conversation with your ideal prospect.
You are no longer a business owner looking for a new account. Instead, you are a journalist and your show is a media channel – a conduit – to an audience the guests on your show want to reach and influence.
And not only did your podcast give you an All Access Pass to Sarah…but the interview you recorded…the episode you will later air…is actually cornerstone content that you can share with your audience in a variety of ways that further cements the flag you planted.
You will also increase the awareness of your brand – or said another way – for your core business. Just like you hear me from time to time talk about Predictive ROI…my core business, Onward Nation. I only reference Predictive ROI when it’s relevant to do so – and you never hear me pitching Predictive services because that is not helpful nor is that the point of our daily episodes.
You will also be able to serve your audience – your nation of true fans – in new and deeper ways. The more content you create, the more feedback you will collect. And the more feedback you collect, the smarter you will become about how best to serve your nation. And how is that not a really good thing?
Rinsing and repeating Steps 1, 2, and 3 over and over again will provide you and your team with a business development strategy that is predictable, measurable, and repeatable…something you can plan for and build a business around.
And that is a very good thing.
Okay, now let’s turn our attention toward the passive income strategy that I promised at the onset of today’s solocast. I am going to show you – in full transparency – how my Predictive ROI team and I took one piece of cornerstone content and then cut it up and used it to create and entire passive income campaign within our business.
As I mentioned at the onset of this solocast – the two lessons I would cover today would intersect. And this is where that intersection happens – by seeing how you can create passive income campaigns within your business by leveraging the cornerstone content you already used within Steps 1, 2, and 3 that I just shared with you.
Okay…let’s dig in by starting with a bit of history. Because in this story are several examples of what not to do.
In August of 2015…one of my mentors said to me, “Stephen, Onward Nation is great and it is wonderful how you always put the spotlight on the business owners – the incredible guests on your show – but I want to know more about what you think – what your path has been – tell me more about what you think about the same questions you ask your guests.”
And I thought – wow – that is a really good question – but it also pushed my comfort zone because I had become comfortable with interviewing guests but the thought of flying solo and putting myself out there required a whole new level of confidence that I would need in order to deliver high quality content.
But I quickly realized this would be an opportunity to add and share value with you, Onward Nation, in a completely different way.
So I accepted his challenge – and committed myself to digging deep into a topic and provide strategies that could be applied directly into our listener’s businesses right away to make them more systematic, predictable, repeatable, and measurable.
And that first solocast became Episode 65 of Onward Nation. The feedback we received after the episode aired was encouraging, which gave me the confidence to continue creating that type of content…on a weekly rhythm.
After we aired Episode 65, I went back to the long form script I had written before the recording – I know, I know…funny right? Yes, I sit down and craft each and every solocast to make sure the content and what I am teaching is just right before I sit down to record it – okay, back to the lesson…so while I was re-reviewing the script…I thought about it from the context of a webinar…and asked myself “What if I took the script…then built a slide deck around it…could I essentially teach the solocast content but instead of just audio…could I teach it as a webinar?”
And the answer was yes.
So I decided to build the slide deck then my Predictive ROI team and I promoted the webinar…although in hindsight…we did not promote it as aggressively as we should have, which I think was just a confidence issue – or lack of confidence – regarding the service we had decided to offer up at the end of the webinar.
Then I delivered the webinar – and it ran smoothly until it came time to offer up the call to action at the back end of the webinar.
My delivery of the content surrounding the service being offered fell flat – it was not ideal – and beyond that – the service itself was not well thought out.
Consequently, the end result of our initial experiment of solocast converted into webinar resulted in a grand total of zero dollars in revenue.
Looking back…the most disappointing aspect of the process was that at the time of Episode 65 and our first webinar…our core business had holes in it left and right. Our business model needed some fixing.
If you have read my latest book, Profitable Podcasting, first of all – thank you, but it wasn’t until November 2015 that we began selling our Podcasting for Profit offering based on the content model we had built for Onward Nation. It wasn’t until November 2015 that we experienced what it felt like to close $223,000 in podcast-related revenue in just 6-weeks.
But several months prior…back in August 2015…we had real issues inside our core business that needed to be fixed…and my solution to fixing them was to create a passive income stream.
Again, not awesome.
My team and I needed to muster the courage to fix the business – so when the webinar tied to Episode 65 failed to produce any revenue – we dug in – and fixed the business and that is what helped us achieve such extraordinary results during that 6-week window at the close of 2015.
So when I recommended at the onset of this solocast that you ought to make sure your core business is running smoothly before you build a passive income model – that recommendation is based on my own personal experience of what can happen if your vital priorities in your business are askew.
Now let’s fast forward in the Predictive ROI timeline. We make it through November 2015…sell $223,000 of our Podcasting for Profit packages and begin the hard work of delivering a new service…and in the process…we not patch the holes in our core business by doing a complete rebuild of our agency.
We put a brand new production system into place…we hire new teammates…we focus on building a culture of teamwork…our personal network and sphere of influence begins to explode and the number of countries where Onward Nation is heard accelerates…and what starts to feel like progress “all of a sudden” in our core business is actually the result of the Compound Effect that Darren Hardy so masterfully articulated in his great book with the same title. Predictive ROI was getting stronger and stronger because of the years and years of learning, adjusting, successes, and failures…apply what we were learning from all of our guests…and now it was all coming together.
So in the spring of 2016…we were in much better place that I could temporarily take my foot off the gas with our Trojan Horse of Sales strategy and take another crack at the passive income model.
But as a team…we vowed to do it differently the second time around.
Our first step was to craft an offering that we felt would add significant value to Onward Nation business owners.
Something that would help the 43 percent of business owners that cite growing revenue as their top challenge. I wanted to teach something practical – something tactical – something that could be implemented by business owners right away and create real impact in the process.
And then it hit me.
I decided to teach business owners how to fill their sales pipelines by applying the LinkedIn lead gen recipe my team and I had created and applied with great success for clients over the last several years.
To date…we have applied the recipe nearly 25,000 times – so when this occurred to me — I had no idea why I wasn’t teaching and sharing the recipe so more business owners could apply it.
But before setting out to teach the recipe, I also wanted to learn from the mistakes made during our webinar based on the content from Episode 65.
I knew I wanted to start the process with some deep teaching within a solocast…so I began to script it out, which later became Episode 298.
Interestingly, Episode 298 aired nearly 12 months after Episode 65, Onward Nation – a lot of learning had taken place during that period of time.
After airing Episode 298…we again received some great feedback from listeners – great litmus test.
And the most exciting thing about 298 was that the content went really deep…like an inch wide and a mile deep.
It was true cornerstone content…just like what I described several minutes ago. The content within 298 was deep enough to act as the foundation stone that would direct the rest of the content within the campaign.
So what I want to share with you now is a complete dissection of how we leveraged the content from 298 and turned it into a passive income strategy.
First, my Predictive ROI team took my solocast script and used it to create long form show notes and posted them on OnwardNation.com.
Next, we took the show notes and used them to create a long form article and posted it on LinkedIn. This was not the first long form article we had ever published on LinkedIn – but – it was the most successful up to that point.
Again…this is what cornerstone content gives you…the ability to slice and dice…and as you will see shortly…we were just getting started with the slicing and dicing of 298.
Okay, back to LinkedIn. One of the reasons this article was our most successful article at that time was because we decided to feature Episode 298 in our Friday email that we share each week to our 28,000 email subscribers.
But instead of linking the email content to OnwardNation.com so our readers could find Episode 298, we instead linked to the article content on LinkedIn.
This drove additional traffic to the article, which got us into more of our follower’s feeds.
Part of LinkedIn’s algorithm is to give more organic visibility to content that is already getting some traction – so by helping your community find the content on LinkedIn – you will essentially be pouring some lighter fluid on your content.
Okay, so let’s do a quick recap so far.
From one piece of cornerstone content, which was Episode 298, we created long form show notes on OnwardNation.com…then created a long form article on LinkedIn…then used snippets of the article content to create the Friday email that we sent out to our full Onward Nation community.
From there…we also created a series of Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts…and a series of tweets…all based on the content of 298…to ensure we shared Episode 298 as broadly as possible throughout Onward Nation.
We then received some feedback from Onward Nation listeners – and if that was you by chance – thank you. The feedback we received was about the helpfulness of Episode 298 – and that gave us confidence that the cornerstone content we had created for the solocast was on target.
Then I took a lesson learned from Episode 65…and decided to build a slide deck around the content and create a webinar using the script from 298 as the foundation.
We entitled the webinar, “4-steps to Filling Your Sales Pipeline” and it was the most in-depth webinar I had taught up to that point.
Once the slide deck was built…it was time to create a series of promotional emails for the webinar.
Here again…we learned from our mistakes with the Episode 65 webinar…and instead…used the cornerstone content from 298 to fuel the content of this webinar’s emails.
We cut up the content into four emails…Promo Email #1, Promo Email #2, Deadline Reminder #1, and Deadline Reminder #2 and added the content into InfusionSoft for distribution.
Here you will see a screenshot of Promo Email #1 so you can take and apply the same recipe into your promotional emails.
We then took the content from Promo Email #1 and used it to build the webinar registration page – and once it was live – we sent Promo Email #1 to our full community of subscribers in order to begin driving registrations.
We also mapped out the full schedule of the four emails that would drive registrations and realized they would essentially cover two full calendar weeks. So then we decided to do something creative with the two other solocasts that would also air during the promotional window.
We coordinated the content of my next two solocasts so they tackled sub-topics that would also be discussed within the webinar. For example, I created a solocast around why business owners need to put profit first in their business – and – how to create a Dream 50 list of prospects. Both tangentially connected to the sales pipeline topic of the webinar.
Then it came time to create the sales page for the actual sales pipeline ignition product we would offer at the end of the 298 webinar. We were able to repurpose the content from the webinar slide deck into copy for the sales page, which was another point of leverage and a win that saved us time.
You’ll notice that we included something on the sales page – that is consistent with a chunk of content from the webinar – but – wasn’t part of Episode 298.
We included was some third party research published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs regarding the chronic problem – or chronic need depending on one’s perspective – that the lack of lead flow represents for the majority of B2B companies today.
In fact, 85 percent of the respondents to the study cite lead gen as their top organization goal – lead gen ranks higher than sales and all other marketing-related activities or benefits.
We placed a chart illustrating this problem right at the top of the sales page because we wanted visitors to see this first to help them realize they were in the right place and the page was worthy of additional investigation because it could be the helpful solution they were looking for.
This is vastly different than the typical marketing hyperbole we often see today among information marketers and “so called experts” who essentially live off passive income streams. Their products or offerings are often based on their opinions and they try to impress you by showing off who they spent time with last weekend on a private plane, driving expensive cars, or yacht.
In full transparency, Onward Nation…that type of marketing makes my skin crawl so we stay 180 degrees away and I recommend you do the same.
It makes my skin crawl because these types of marketers tend not to have a core business where they have actually applied what they now want to teach you…they haven’t added employees…struggled with overhead…taken on huge risks…or invested in building the culture of an organization.
Instead, the typical information marketer attempts to impress you just enough to sell you a quick turnaround product and then they move on to the next transaction.
So if and when you go down the path of building a passive income stream into your core business – be sure to share your story with your prospects – show your struggle – show how you understand what they are going through because you have been in the same trench as them, you have built a business, there have been good times and not so good times…show all of that in full transparency…so your audience can see that you are the right person to help them solve a core challenge.
And when you do that…you develop a rapport on solid foundation…not something fleeting like most of today’s marketing hyperbole.
Okay, back to the passive income model.
We also inserted a promotional message inside our each of our daily episodes during the two-week window in order for Onward Nation listeners to learn about the webinar and decide if it was right for them.
So then it came time to air the webinar, share the content, help some business owners, and see if the Sales Pipeline Ignition Program we had created truly had value. We offered up 10 seats in the program due to the amount of personal time from our team that we would devote to each customer.
And when we promoted the offering to our full community – all 10 seats were reserved in less than four hours. The registration process generated $5,000 in revenue for Predictive ROI. The $5,000 was certainly wonderful to receive – although in looking back on it – I think what we were the most excited about was the fact that the seats were reserved so quickly.
And then what really made us really see the power of cornerstone content was that as our customers worked their way through the Sales Pipeline Ignition Program…we received opportunities to talk about our full service offering. Ultimately, sharing the cornerstone content from Episode 298 generated approximately $80,000 in new revenue for Predictive ROI.
And although our result was not $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million as we all sometimes here from information marketers following the success of their major launches…we were pleased with the result outcome…because we truly had 10 openings available…that was not a false sense of scarcity to drive immediate registrations…and we could not have adequately served hundreds o thousands of customers with our Sales Pipeline Ignition Program because of how high touch the process is.
As a final recap…we used our cornerstone content out of Episode 298 to create all of the smaller content pieces necessary to launch and support a passive income launch that resulted in $80,000 of revenue for Predictive ROI.
I wish you the best of success as you apply this same recipe and my hope is that you will drop me a line and let me know how it goes for you.
So before we go…before we close out and I say goodbye…I just wanted to say thank you again.
Thank you for listening…thank you for making Onward Nation what you listen to and study.
Thank you for making Onward Nation part of your daily routine — please know — I am grateful for your time and I encourage you to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you ever have any questions, concerns, or feedback on how we can get better.
Let me know what you think of the show — thumbs up or thumbs down. I want to know because that is the only way we can get better.
Until tomorrow — onward with gusto!