Speaking of Jeff Sheldon, here’s another fantastic post he wrote just recently.

Jeff has become a good friend, and it has been exhilarating watching him push the Ugmonk brand to the next level the past couple of years. Not only has his skill for product design improved, but the way in which he presents and sells his work has simplified. That alone is a magnificent feat!

As I find myself in a similar situation with The Focus Course brand — seeking to improve how we present and sell our products — keeping things simple and avoiding complexity has proven to be a huge challenge and an uphill battle. Things just naturally want to become more complex than they need to be.

Posts like this one from Jeff that share some of the behind-the-scenes lessons and mindsets related to business development are so helpful and encouraging.

8 Things Jeff Sheldon Has Learned from 8 Years of Ugmonk

For me: (a) I keep a Spark List in Simplenote that serves as a running list of random ideas, and (b) I mostly jot stuff down in my Baron Fig notebook (which has become the driving engine behind my day-to-day productivity).

The takeaway however, is not what you do to capture your ideas…

Here’s what you need to know about ideation:

  1. Don’t be afraid to write down every whopper of a bad idea you have.
  2. Have a system plus some sort of movement in your day-to-day life that will help you synthesize your ideas, test them, and then take action on the ones that matter.

Anyway. So long as we’re on the subject of ideas, I wrote more about ideation last summer in what has turned out to be one of my favorite articles.

How Jeff Sheldon Comes Up With Ideas

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Thoughts on Content Strategy (Part 1)

First things first…

“Content Strategy” is not a dirty term.

Sure, it carries with it some corporatespeak baggage, but let’s look past that. Let’s look at what the term actually means and why it’s so important for you to have some thoughts of your own on this issue.

Content: What you create.

Strategy: Your plan of action.

In other words, how will you use your creative work (your content) to move you toward your goals? Answer that question and boom, you’ve got yourself a content strategy.

Now, for many folks, they don’t want or need a content strategy. For them, there is no goal beyond just doing the work. The art in and of itself is the goal. And that’s great! I love it. That’s how I am with my photography — it’s a creative outlet and that’s the extent of it. Thus, there is no content strategy with my photography.

But with my writing, it’s different…

I write for a living.

Thus, my writing serves a goal beyond the art of prose and beyond the joy of doing the work.

I write to teach and to sell. These are my two goals.

And in order to do that, there needs to be a strategy for my content; a goal for my writing.

When thinking about your content strategy, it can be easy to get caught up in the metrics of sales, conversions, etc. Now, yes, those things matter, and I’ll explain why in a bit. But I hope they aren’t your driving force behind your creative work.

First and foremost: your content strategy should be focused on serving your audience.

Does your content strategy have only the best in mind for your audience?

Consider if your content strategy does the following…?

  1. Does it provide value at all times…?
  2. Is it relevant at the readers’ time of need…?
  3. Does it serve your business goals…?

Your content strategy can’t serve your business goals if you don’t know what those goals are. What type of business are you trying to build? What level of income do you need to sustain your creative pursuits? Where do you want to be in 5 years time? How is your content strategy moving you in that direction?

As you build a better content marketing strategy, it’s important to balance what works and what feels right for your brand and your voice.

For me, my goal is to build a creative business based on long-term relationship equity. So while there are many email tactics out there that may work, not all of them are things I personally want to do. I want to incorporate what feels right for my brand and my voice.

In order to do build a creative business based on long-term relational equity, it requires trust.

Trust that is built on feedback loops, delivering on my promises, serving others, pursuing generosity, and more. (See my notes here about taking your personal project full-time.)

I avoid selfishness and tricks. I don’t try to squeeze out short-term profits that end up hurting the long-term quality of my brand and voice.

Now, this doesn’t mean selling is bad. The problems only arise when we become indifferent toward our readership, stop caring about providing value, and instead just become greedy for the sale.

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Simply put, if you’re struggling to provide value at every single interaction, then (a) you’re not trying hard enough or (b) you’re over thinking it.

It’s more simple to provide value than you may think.

A valuable interaction can be a helpful tip, an interesting or entertaining story, a tutorial, an educational case study, a behind-the-scenes look at something cool, and more.

Focus on providing value at all times. If that is your goal, then you’ll come out ahead.

In the next article, I dive into the second aspect, which is being relevant to the readers. Click here to read about how I now do this using email automation in my article.

Thoughts on Content Strategy (Part 1)

Benson

Last week my wife and I had our third (!) boy. His name is Benson, and he’s awesome.

Benson Blanc

Everyone is doing well, and there is much excitement here at the Blanc house. Benson’s older brothers love having this little guy around. We are all feeling full of love and thankful for this life we’ve been given.

You’ll find me sharing kid pics on Instagram and Twitter.

shawn-and-benson

Benson

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Last year I made the mistake of paying full-price for an unlocked iPhone 6s Plus so I could get out of my 2-year contract cycle with AT&T. If I had thought a bit harder about it, I would have gone with Apple’s Upgrade Program.

From what I can tell, the numbers I crunched last year still stand. In fact, if anything, the Apple Upgrade plan is even a better deal now than it was last year.

As I said in this article last fall, if you like to upgrade every year, if you’re not ultra-thrifty, if you don’t care about keeping your old hardware, and if you like to pay for convenience, then Apple’s Upgrade program actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

The only “inconvenience” of the Apple Upgrade Plan is that you have to make an appointment at an Apple Store to swap out your old phone for the new one.

Thoughts on Annual iPhone Upgrades