Q&A: Creating Engaging Content

I was asked this question in response to my article 3 Secrets of Profitable Membership Sites:

I hadn’t really considered the “content delivery strategy” of my site. I guess I never really thought of it as being so overwhelming to have everything out there, and that’s something I might need to look into. Do you have suggestions of how to know what to put where/when? Thanks!

Here’s my answer:

1. Understand Your Objective
First, understand your objective.

Ask yourself, “what do I want people to have learned after going through my course?” Starting from this point, reverse engineer the steps you would take to get to that level of understanding starting from nothing. For example, if the final objective is to Plant a Tree, some steps you need to take are: how to choose a hospitable environment, how to water the seed, where to buy the seeds, etc.

When you start with the objective the steps for getting there should just fall out.

2. Start Broad, Then Get Specific
At first, keep the steps at a high-level. These will become the sections within your course. Once you feel like you have all the high-level sections, drill down into each one and bullet-point out the major components that make it up. These will be your individual lessons.

Now that you have you major sections and lessons, order them in logically (i.e. in order to understand how to water a seed you first need to know how to bury it in soil, etc). The natural order should come out easily. If the natural order doesn’t come out easily you may have a lesson or section that includes too many concepts … break it down further.

3. Don’t Assume Knowledge
In going through this process, it’s important not to assume that people know what you know. Get into the mindset of someone whose starting with a blank slate in your area of expertise. It’s easy to tell when someone makes this mistake when authoring a course because as a student you’ll feel overwhelmed and lost. This is because the proper foundation wasn’t built for you.

Not assuming knowledge can be tough because you’ve been doing what you do for so long that it’s become second nature. So if you’ve been planting trees for a long time you may make the assumption that everyone knows that trees come from a seed and seeds need to be watered. To accommodate for this blind spot, it’s a good idea to get 2 or 3 test subjects to go through your course and let you know if and when they get lost (the closer these test subjects are to your average customer the better). Then make the appropriate modifications to your content.

4. Create a Quick Start Guide
Once you have your course plan done, it’s a good idea to create a Quick Start Guide. The great thing about a Quick Start Guide is it’s a low effort, high impact asset. You’ve already created all the content, you’re just repurposing it to achieve a specific effect.

The Quick Start Guide should give the customer an overview of your course and present it in a way that will get them excited about going through it. It should also allow them to accomplish something tangible in a short period of time. People like to experience results and the sooner they’ve achieved some insight through your content the more naturally they’ll be motivated to go through your entire course.

For example, you could teach them the 3 steps to planting a tree, have them take a quiz on the material and then give them some kind of reward for completing (this could just be a page that says congratulations and has a certificate that they can print out). This particular example is kinda silly, but the concepts of quickly demonstrating your value and rewarding the customer for taking action are very powerful.

5. Implement Your Content Delivery Strategy
After all this you’ll have a course with a quick start guide, major sections and individual lessons in a logical order. From here implementing your content delivery schedule, or drip content sequence, is easy (assuming you have the right membership solution). Just figure out how much time you want to place in between lessons. For example, the Quick Start Guide and and lesson 1 are available on day 1, lesson 2 is available on day 4, lesson 3 on day 6, etc. Choosing the length of time between lessons is completely up to you, just keep in mind that you want to find a balance between keeping them engaged and overwhelming/spamming them.

6. Keep Customers Engaged
It’s a good idea to send out a notification email when new lessons become available. This will ensure that the customer stays engaged. When customers are engaged they’re far most likely to participate in the social aspects of your site and this increases retention and customer loyalty. Without the notifications they may stay away from you site for 2 weeks or more and come back to find they have a pile up of 6 lessons and now we have the same problem of overwhelming them.

Eric Turnnessen is the founder of MemberMouse, a membership solution designed specifically for the needs of high-volume merchants that integrates seamlessly with WordPress and Lime Light CRM. It is the result of combining over 10 years of marketing expertise with over 10 years of software engineering experience and delivers a powerful solution that allows users to easily implement and manage profitable membership sites.

 

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