By Roger C. Parker published July 20, 2015

How to Turn 1 Idea Into 2 Months of Content Marketing (and More)

idea-content-marketing-cover

It’s time to break the topic habit, the temptation to think of content marketing in terms of individual projects – like blog posts.

As an alternative, explore the benefits of serialization – developing and sharing content in a short series of blog posts organized around a common theme. The short-series approach offers numerous advantages:

  • More traffic – Each post builds anticipation for the next in the series. In addition, each post drives traffic to the previous posts because those discovering the series will want to get caught up.
  • Greater productivity – The series approach reduces uncertainty and helps you make the most of your writing time. (It’s generally acknowledged that the hardest part of most projects is getting started.) A series approach eliminates the stress of simultaneously trying to choose a topic and write about it at the last minute.
  • Enhanced creativity – Choosing topics in advance triggers your brain. Once you have identified the topic about which you’re going to write, your brain will be busy processing ideas and making connections — even while you’re driving or sleeping. As a result, when you sit down to write, your brain often has fresh ideas waiting in the wings.
  • Progressive disclosure – You can go deeper into topics without risking content overload that can result when you share too much information in a single post.
  • Higher conversions and profits – Series are flexible and easy to adapt to your goals, whether their purpose is brand building, list building, lead generation, or creating continuity products that generate recurring revenue.

Rescue high-potential ideas

Another major benefit of the series approach is that it solves the problem of “high-potential ideas” that might, otherwise, never see the light of day.

How often have you come up with an idea that’s too big and too important for a single blog post, but you’re not ready to write a book?

The frustration I was experiencing with “unwritten books” was the catalyst to this short series approach.

For a long time (longer than I’d care to share), I had several promising ideas that I looked forward to developing in greater detail and turning into equity content or revenue. But, nothing was happening. Months were going by without progress because:

  • I lacked a framework for action to help me develop and share my ideas at a consistent and sustainable pace.
  • I lacked a vision or plan for creating a high-value, high-visibility projector goal – greater than the sum of the original content.

If you don’t have time to write a book, consider a short series as the next best way to leverage your ideas and expertise into leads, traffic, and profits.

But wait … there’s more

The short series approach offers a final compelling benefit: It provides an easy transition from the “no documented marketing plan or editorial calendar” situation that continues to undermine the success of many B2B, B2C, small business, and nonprofit content marketers.

Trying the short series approach described and discovering its advantages can open the door to your firm’s adoption of more effective, long-term content marketing strategies for 2016.

Roger-01emptyShortSeries

Create a short series

The solution I created involves developing big ideas as a series of nine blog posts, organized as follows:

  • Blog post 1 – Introduce your idea and share its relevance. Consider describing the context in a problem-solution format. Describe the information you will share and how readers will benefit. In addition, summarize the seven core ideas or steps that you’ll be sharing in greater detail in the following posts. Choose a series title that identifies a problem and describe the solution using terms such as basics, keys, essentials, habits, hacks, mistakes to avoid, success factors, or things to look for.
  • Blog posts 2-8 – Devote each of the next seven posts to one of the seven ideas you introduced in the first blog post.
  • Blog post 9. In the final blog post, summarize the importance of the information you shared and the role that each of the seven posts plays in a successful outcome. Conclude with a call to action, such as a white paper download or webinar invitation. Or use the call to action in the last post to promote the launch of an e-book, video training series, or any new product or service.

By the way, there’s no magic to developing a big idea in a nine-post series. I wanted the time and space to do justice to each of the seven ideas. A four- or five-post series didn’t offer enough opportunity to develop each point. A shorter series also would have reduced the time available to prepare the series finale’s call to action – the e-book, white paper, or training videos.

I also had doubts about a longer series. I wanted a goal I could reach in a reasonable time. And, I was concerned that reader fatigue might set in with a three- or four-month project.

Although I envisioned the project as a series of weekly blog posts which would appear on the same day of the week, this doesn’t prevent you from addressing other topics in between the installments of your short series. It’s essential, though, that your series updates appear at predictable intervals.

You can download and study PDFs of the empty short-series framework (above), and the filled in short-series example (below).

Roger-02-KeysThoughtLeaders

Put the short-series structure to work

Here’s an overview of the steps involved in using the short-series structure to rescue your good ideas and create two months’ worth of content plus a conversion-oriented or revenue-creation project:

  1. Identify an unmet need.

Look for a resonant problem or goal where you can make a significant contribution that will be appreciated by your ideal clients and prospects. Be guided by buyer personas and your ongoing conversations with different market segments. You can review the ideas you’ve been tracking in your content marketing idea dashboard.

  1. Offer a list-based solution.

Choose a series title that clearly identifies the topic you’re addressing but also unifies the series and indicates progress (e.g., 7 Ways to Boost Conversions: Part 3 — Landing Pages.) Most important, have a good idea of how you are going to develop each of the blog posts in the series.

  1. Create a consistent content structure.

Avoid reinventing the wheel for blog posts 2 through 8. Instead, introduce each post by describing the current topic, its chief characteristics, and how it contributes to solving the problem identified in the first blog post. Decide what types of examples, quotes, or visuals will best tell your story. Look for ways to subtly reference previous posts in the series. At the end of each post, decide how you’re going to preview the next installment.

  1. Begin at the end.

Rather than starting with planning and writing the blog posts, define the series goal and the call to action at the series conclusion. What is the big picture in terms of the results you want the series to produce? Ask questions like: Will the goal be a list-building incentive, like a SlideShare presentation or a white paper? Is it going to be an event, like a webinar? Or will it be an e-book or video training series?

  1. Commit and schedule.

Time management plays a crucial role in the success of your short series. Adding start dates and due dates to each blog post will help you keep the individual posts and call-to-action project on schedule for the grand finale.

Options and tips

Here are some best practices and customization options:

  • Be flexible, but consistent. Although it may be convenient to think in terms of weekly blog posts, don’t limit options. If necessary, you might want to schedule updates to every two weeks or once a month. If resources permit, update your series on a twice-a-week basis. Be influenced by available resources, but be consistent once you start.
  • Use the series as a relationship builder. Look for ways to use the series to reward your followers and best clients. Identify how to offer premium content, greater-depth bonus information to your followers and key clients/prospects via password-protected pages. Offer electronic incentives like interviews, video content like screencasts, or downloadable checklists and worksheets to accompany the series. Announce these via email or social media.
  • Write to discover. Don’t wait until you know exactly what you’re going to describe in blog posts 2 through 8 before you start to write. As long as you know the main points you want to share in each post, and have scheduled enough time to describe what you know, and know where to look for missing information, you’re likely to be surprised how well each post comes out.
  • Use the right planning and project-management tools. Although you can create your version of the short series as shown earlier using a white board or spreadsheet software, visual tools offer significant advantages. I created the examples shown above with Mindjet’s MindManager mapping software. It allows you to develop the contents of each blog post, add starting dates and deadlines, as well as track each post’s traffic, referrals, and conversions. See How to Organize Your Blog Posts With a 3-Step Post Tracker.
  • Repeat the process. The short-series approach is not a use-once-and-forget idea. After you’ve gone through the process for the first time, you’ll find it easier to repeat it with other ideas. You might consider scheduling a short series once a quarter in your own blog. Or you might experiment with a different short series on LinkedIn’s Pulse or a series of guest posts.

Will it work for you?

Are you ready to schedule a short series to help you become a more consistent blogger while turning your big ideas into equity projects like e-books, white papers, and podcasts? Have you ever tried a short series approach to blogging? What are the key benefits the short series offers you? Are there any concerns or questions holding you back? Share your comments and suggestions.

Want to uncover the unique story your brand was meant to tell? Download CMI’s Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program for step-by-step guidance.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Roger C. Parker

Roger C. Parker is a Content Marketing Institute Top Performing Blogger who offers content marketers assistance and resources for implementing serial content marketing programs. The author of 40 design, marketing, and productivity books, he uses visual thinking to help others turn ideas into reality. Follow Roger at @rogercparker.

Other posts by Roger C. Parker

  • http://www.limwriter.com/ Clement Lim

    Hi Roger,

    I love the idea of using blog post series to really explore a topic in depth. I often find that I’ve more to say than can be covered in a standard blog post.

    Some copywriters like Demian Farnworth recommend the use of cliffhangers to keep your readers hooked. Would you recommend using them to ensure you readers ‘tune in’ for the next installment?

    Clement

    • rogercparker

      Dear Clement, great idea, i.e., use “cliff hangers” at the end to keep your reader’s hooked. That’s the one thing I forgot to include in the first installment of my LinkedIn Pulse series, The 7 Keys to Thought Leadership Success. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/7-keys-thought-leadership-success-introduction-roger-parker/edit

      By the way, as I was reading your comment, the idea came to mind that the “cliffhanger” could be simple and straightforward, or, you could promise a specific date, or–even–use humor to make the cliffhanger memorable.

      Ideally, as the series goes further, you can subtly insert links to previous posts in the series, as I always try to do in my Mindjet Conspire Content Dashboard series.
      Thanks for commenting. Good luck on your series!
      Roger

  • http://www.limwriter.com/ Clement Lim

    Hi Roger,

    I love the idea of using blog post series to really explore a topic in depth. I often find that I’ve more to say than can be covered in a standard blog post.

    Some copywriters like Demian Farnworth recommend the use of cliffhangers to keep your readers hooked. Would you recommend using them to ensure you readers ‘tune in’ for the next installment?

    Clement

  • http://www.limwriter.com/ Clement Lim

    Hi Roger,

    I love the idea of using blog post series to really explore a topic in depth. I often find that I’ve more to say than can be covered in a standard blog post.

    Some copywriters like Demian Farnworth recommend the use of cliffhangers to keep your readers hooked. Would you recommend using them to ensure you readers ‘tune in’ for the next installment?

    Clement

  • http://www.RobToth.com/ Rob TheGenie Toth

    I absolutely agree.

    I can write a short book quite fluently because I enjoy it… but it costs me a lot of time (passion takes me down the rabbit hole and next thing I know, key revenue activities are many days behind).

    Furthermore, the consumption on heavy weight content is way, way down.

    I’ve now switched to short videos, slide decks and series based articles entirely. Giving bite sized content to my readers and easing the workload on my end.

  • http://www.RobToth.com/ Rob TheGenie Toth

    I absolutely agree.

    I can write a short book quite fluently because I enjoy it… but it costs me a lot of time (passion takes me down the rabbit hole and next thing I know, key revenue activities are many days behind).

    Furthermore, the consumption on heavy weight content is way, way down.

    I’ve now switched to short videos, slide decks and series based articles entirely. Giving bite sized content to my readers and easing the workload on my end.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Rob: Thank you for sharing your experiences. I applaud your multi-channel approach to content. Unfortunately, many of us get “stuck” on one content format, overlooking the other options available. And, I love your idea that “passion takes me down the rabbit hole and the next thing…” Getting “in the flow” can be a wonderful state, but it definitely can be a two-edged sword. Best wishes on your commitment to “bite sized content” and greater efficiency. Roger

    • Ben

      Rob, bite sized content is definitely the way to go considering today’s readers have a shorter attention span and want to get right to the point. The article makes a great conclusion on how we should break down an idea into numerous pieces and have each piece be a build-up from the last. Choosing the right content for your marketing channels is crucial to a business’s development and expansion.

  • http://www.RobToth.com/ Rob TheGenie Toth

    I absolutely agree.

    I can write a short book quite fluently because I enjoy it… but it costs me a lot of time (passion takes me down the rabbit hole and next thing I know, key revenue activities are many days behind).

    Furthermore, the consumption on heavy weight content is way, way down.

    I’ve now switched to short videos, slide decks and series based articles entirely. Giving bite sized content to my readers and easing the workload on my end.

  • Jen McGahan

    Roger, I liked that last bit: “Write to discover” So often we think we have to have it all mapped out. But the truth is, once our imagination is ruminating on the topic, the ideas do come. You post today inspires me to just start. At the end I’ll have completed that ebook I’ve been fixing to write. Great stuff!

    • rogercparker

      Dear Jen: Thanks for your comment and sharing your views about “writing to discover.” The hardest part of writing anything is always taking that first step, reducing your inner critic, and recognizing that the act of starting paves the way for your brain to make connections you were not even aware of. And, knowing that your first ebook will inevitably, lead to future ebooks. Keep us informed. Roger

    • http://yoo.rs Yoors

      I agree very well said. ” Write to discover’ !

  • http://transeo.com.au Angelica Manlunas

    This was how it went for me before: Big idea > outline that is going in all directions > under developed, under explores sub topics > meh kind of blog. Now were working on a blog series. It makes the direction of our content clearer. It also allows us to explore more without writing a book-long blog. I agree this is easier to accomplish. Easier to consume for our readers too.

    Thanks, Roger!

    • rogercparker

      Dear Angelica: Thank you for the “before” and “after” comparison. Yes, as you say, this approach can be a “win/win” situation for both content marketers and their readers. Plus, think of the ebook, podcast, and video possibilities!

  • https://www.thesocialsavior.com Mariel

    This is a great guide on this topic, Roger. Makes me think that we should approach our content marketing in this manner, too. I love the idea that it could be a special relationship builder and a way to launch a greater project in the end. Thanks for this. We will definitely try this out.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Mariel: Thank you for your comment. I think it would very well as an approach to content marketing. Please keep me and the CMI informed about how the approach works for you as you implement the idea. Roger.

      • https://www.thesocialsavior.com Mariel

        Yeah, we think so, too. Sure, I’ll keep you posted. Thanks!

  • David Butler

    Great way to approach Storytelling. Thanks Roger for sharing this. I can our customers creating Story Scenario Sheets for each Idea. We group Ideas into Themes. Very simple way to automate your process.

    • rogercparker

      Thank you, David, I appreciate your comment. I’m familiar with your Story Scenario Sheets and the ability to group ideas into Theme. It is, indeed, a simple way to automate the series process.
      Roger

  • rogercparker

    Thank you, David, for sharing the idea of Story Scenario Sheets and grouping them into Themes. Sounds like a very efficient process. Best wishes…

  • Joan

    Roger, thank you for the insight you gave me in this article. For a long time I have been stuck on the topics but not the logistics of the process to accomplish the posts. My subject is not popular, people aren’t rushing to find the intangible, but I want to finish the writing… as time goes by and one day it will be too late.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Joan:
      Thank you for your kind words and the candor of your response.

      What I found most helpful was to come up with a way to spend 30 minutes a day, each weekday, to work on a topic…so you’re making consistent daily progress.

      The other thing I’ve found very helpful was to recognize the “messy reality” of writing, which means “Create the first draft as quickly as you can, no matter how badly you feel it comes out.”

      Then, return to the first draft the next day, and even the next day, until it’s ready for prime time.

      Your “one day it will be too late” last sentence is an unfortunate reality.
      Roger

  • jane_mckinnon
  • http://uploadinternational.com Mark

    This is Gold dust Rodger! Just the kick up the butt I needed!

    • rogercparker

      Dear Mark:
      Thank you for your kind words! Let me know how the “kick” turns out!
      Roger

  • rogercparker

    I want to thank everyone who commented or shared this post post on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I wish I could personally thank everyone. Thanks also to the CMI team for the opportunity and their support.
    Roger

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com Lisa Dougherty

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. We love working with you, Roger!

  • Scott Aughtmon

    Great job, Roger! Love it. Somehow I missed this when it was originally posted. Glad I scrolled through and found it.

    • rogercparker

      Thank you, Scott. Coming from you, that’s high praise! I always learn something from your posts, comments, and links.
      Roger

  • http://yoo.rs Yoors

    Really helpful we wish we saw this before. Now i start testing these ideas !

  • http://www.corepsych.com/ Dr Charles Parker

    Outstanding information, so well organized and so remarkably practical. Thanks for all your help over the years!

  • Cindy Ritter

    Hi Roger – Well, better late than never! I just found this article and really appreciate all the great nuggets of information. As a business/marketing writer, I’m always looking for a better mousetrap when it comes to content creation that’ll grab the reader and bring him back for more. All good stuff … thanks!

  • Linda

    Fabulous article. I’ve come across this idea of yours before, but now I’m ready for it.

  • http://zlass.com Howard

    Argh! The hardest part is step 5, Commit and schedule. I can schedule my heart out, sure, easy, but the commitment and consistency is my kryptonite.

  • http://podcastpowermarketing.com Podcast Power Marketing

    Awesome post Roger, plus once constructed these series can also be easily turned into a podcast (or video) series too, extending your body of work to other platforms (iTunes, YouTube) to attract another audience. Oh the power of content!