Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Every Business is the Same. Seriously.


One of my favorite audience poll questions when speaking goes like this: “How many of your truly believe your business is different than the person sitting next to you?” What’s funny, is everyone always raises their hand. And truth be told, they’re all wrong. Sure, we may all be special, different, and unique– but when…

The post Every Business is the Same. Seriously. appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Marketing Video: How to Rise Above the Social Media Noise

Everyone is on social media. And that's not (much of) an exaggeration. But with that many users comes a lot of extra noise. So how do you rise above it and grab your audience's attention? Read the full article at MarketingProfs


A Practical, No-Nonsense Guide to Earning Passive Income Online

It sounds so enticing, right?

Tinker around on the side, creating a few websites, and before you know it, you’re earning hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month, giving you the freedom to quit your job, travel the world, and live like a millionaire without anything tying you down.

It’s the dream lifestyle, and everywhere you turn online, someone is offering to sell you a course, showing you how to do it.

You have to wonder, though… is all this Internet stuff real, or is it just a scam?

And if it is real, why isn’t everyone doing it?

Today, I thought I would take a moment to answer those questions for you. Normally, we only talk about earning money online from a blogging perspective, but I thought it might be helpful to step back and address the topic of “passive income” in general.

The sad fact is, there’s a lot nobody tells you. I wouldn’t exactly call it a cover-up because I don’t think most “gurus” are deliberately hiding the truth about how it works, but I do think they have a vested interest in not giving you the whole story.

So, that’s what I’d like to give you. First, a few important details:

This Blog Makes about $60,000 per Month in “Passive Income”

The reason I put “passive income” in quotes is I think the term is a little misleading.

Almost nothing is totally passive. While you may not personally be doing any work to receive the money, someone is, and there’s usually at least a little bit of management overhead.

For instance, I’ve gone on record saying this blog averages over $100,000 per month from selling online courses. From that total, about $60,000 of it is technically “passive income” because I don’t have to do anything to generate it. I could die, and the money would keep coming in month after month for years into the future.

But that doesn’t mean no one is working. It also doesn’t mean I’m personally receiving the entire $60,000.

The truth is, most of that money goes to paying my team. We have course instructors, customer support representatives, marketing specialists, and so on. All of them are working full-time to keep the “passive income” machine running, and they do it quite well.

But somebody still has to be the boss.

While I don’t technically do any of the work necessary to generate that income, I do spend about 10 hours every week on phone calls and meetings. I also spend at least another 10-20 hours a week thinking about how to improve the business and make things run more efficiently.

So, in reality, I’m working 20-30 hours per week for the “passive income.” In exchange, I receive a nice salary, plus the majority of the profits the business generates. If I wanted to, I could probably hire an outside CEO and cut it down to 5-10 hours per week, but that would also reduce the amount of profit I make.

And that’s how passive income really works.

Most of the people bragging about making millions of dollars per year online are being somewhat misleading. Yes, they might be grossing millions, but how much are they netting? In many cases, maybe 100-300K per year after paying for advertising, affiliate commissions, and salaries.

Granted, that’s still a pretty good living. It’s also work you can do from anywhere.

But is it “total freedom?”

Not really. For all practical purposes, you still have a job, you still have to do work, and you still spend at least a little time doing stuff you don’t really enjoy.

I’m not saying it’s a bad life. If you can make it through the learning phase (which I’ll talk about at length later), it’s still a hell of a lot better than having a regular day job, but I don’t know anyone getting paid tons of money to do absolutely nothing. While it’s theoretically possible, I don’t think it’s a realistic objective for most people.

You can earn a living online, but you will have to work for it. In time, you can also reduce the amount of work you have to do personally, but it’s almost impossible to eliminate it entirely, even if it’s only managing the people you delegate the work to. As any manager can attest, that in itself is a job, and it never really goes away.

That being said, how exactly does one generate this not-really-but-sort-of-passive income?

Well, let’s talk about that next.

5 Ways to Generate Passive Income Online

Technically, there are hundreds of ways, but I’ll give you the five most common ones I’ve seen work in the real world.

1. Selling advertising on your site

The idea here is to publish content that ranks for competitive search terms on Google, attracting a continuous stream of traffic, and then sell banner ads to businesses who would like to reach those people.

Of all the different strategies, this one is the most passive, but it also requires TONS of traffic to generating meaningful income. For example, a site getting 10,000 visitors per month might only earn $50-100 per month.

So, if you were planning to make enough money from advertising to quit your job, you can probably forget it. It takes too much traffic. In fact, one of the other methods below will almost always make you more money on a per visitor basis. Nevertheless, this is a legitimate model, so it deserves to be on the list.

2. Earning affiliate commissions

Similar to selling advertising, the goal is usually to rank for competitive search terms, but instead of selling advertising, you endorse different products your audience might be interested in, and whenever someone you refer buys, you get a commission. It’s kind of like the next generation of Amway, except instead of referring your friends and family to buy the products, you refer strangers who visit your website.

If you do it well, you can earn a lot of money. For instance, Pat Flynn is on record for earning over $100,000 per month in affiliate commissions. While that’s certainly unusual, I know quite a few people who make a few thousand dollars a month from it, and in my opinion, it’s the best model for a beginner.

Another variation of this model is to pay for advertising and then earn affiliate commissions from people who click on the ads. Years ago, when advertising on Google and Facebook was cheap, lots of people made a lot of money this way. Nowadays, it’s still possible, but it’s much more difficult, and you have to be much more sophisticated. Nevertheless, I thought I would mention it, because it’s still a viable approach, especially in certain niches.

3. Drop shipping

Here, you set up an online store, but instead of selling your own products, you sell products from other companies, you submit the order to them, and then they deliver the product to the customer. It’s called “drop shipping,” and it’s more common than most people realize. You’ve probably purchased items delivered via drop shipping and didn’t even know it.

While I don’t have any direct experience with it, I know it can be quite profitable, especially in niches where you have high profit margins and low shipping costs. Vitamins and cosmetics, for example, or two popular drop shipping industries. Anyone can theoretically start a “store” and have dozens or even hundreds of products to offer within a matter of days.

Needless to say, you have to find a way to differentiate yourself from everyone else, but if you can, the income can be relatively passive. Chances are, you’ll still have to deal with some questions and complaints from customers about other people’s products, which I’m guessing can be quite a headache, but you don’t have to deal with manufacturing, warehousing, shipping, or any of the other headaches of creating the product yourself.

4. Selling information products

Chances are, you’ve seen all the buzz about creating your own online courses, membership sites, e-books, online events, and whatnot. Collectively, these are known as “information products,” and selling them is one of the hottest online businesses to start right now.

Technically, the margin is close to 100%, because you have no product creation or distribution costs. You do everything online. You can also create the product once and then sell it to hundreds or even thousands of people, creating a stream of revenue that can last years or even decades.

The downside: it’s really difficult to get started. While information products are typically pitched as a “side project,” it’s really more like starting any business. You have to learn how to create products people want, promote them, support your customers, do your finances – everything businesses deal with.

It takes a special kind of person to wear that many hats, and in my opinion, the current positioning in the information marketing industry of “anyone can do this” is just nonsense. Everyone I know who has been successful creating information products is a driven, uber smart entrepreneur. If you’re one of those people, you might consider it. If not, I would look elsewhere.

5. Selling simple software (or apps)

In the past, most people wouldn’t have considered selling software to be a source of passive income, but I believe that’s changing. Thanks to tools like Bubble, creating simple web or mobile apps is easier than ever before. You can do a lot without knowing how to code or hiring a developer, and in the future, I think that’s only going to become more and more true.

Now, does that mean you’re going to develop the next Google in your spare time? Probably not, but you might create a simple app that makes you a few thousand dollars a month. I know quite a few people who have done it, and I even have a few friends who have become millionaires in the software business.

Once again, though, it’s like starting any company. While you might not necessarily need to know how to code, you do need an entrepreneurial mindset, work ethic, and personality type, and you’ll probably struggle for years, going through a string of failures before you finally get it right. If you’re successful, though, the passive income potential is enormous

Now, you might be wondering how all of this relates to blogging

While you don’t technically need a blog to make these models work, it’s quite common to use one as both a traffic generation tool and a way of staying in touch with customers. In other words, the blog gets people “in the door,” and then you monetize that traffic through the above methods.

But here’s the thing…

None of this is easy. Some models are simpler than others, but all of them require extraordinary skill.

Here’s what I mean…

The Prerequisites for Passive Income

Let’s say I gave you a step-by-step guide to earning passive income by selling information products, breaking down everything you have to do with specific instructions, real-world examples, and everything you need to understand exactly how the model works.

You’d think you could become successful within a few months, right? Most people assume it’s just a matter of doing the work.

But it’s not.

It’s a matter of skill.

For example, here’s a list of skills that all the models require (assuming you are using search engines as a traffic source):

  • Creating better content than all of your competitors
  • Search engine optimization, including keyword analysis and link building
  • Copywriting to improve the click through rate on your headlines
  • Conversion rate optimization for your opt-in forms
  • Basic WordPress and hosting administration

And let me be clear…

Those are just the prerequisites for getting traffic. We haven’t even started on monetizing that traffic.

In other words, you need to be proficient in all of those areas before you earn your first dollar. All in all, I’d say it’s about the equivalent of a two-year degree in college.

And the monetization side of things? That’s another two years, assuming you’re only mastering one business model.

So, to learn everything you need to know to generate passive income online, you need to invest about four years, assuming you are studying full-time. If you’re only studying part-time, it’ll take you about eight years.

That’s just an estimate, of course. Some people will be faster; some will be slower.

The bottom line:

None of this is as easy as everyone makes it sound.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Despite the time required to learn everything, I still think it’s a fantastic trade.

The Trade of a Lifetime

If you’re willing to invest four years, 40 hours a week, into learning everything you need to know, you’ll have some extraordinarily valuable skill sets that will serve you for decades. The best case scenario? You never have to worry about money again until the day you die.

To me, that sounds like a better deal than most universities are offering. 🙂

Reading about how long it takes and how difficult it is, you might think I’m trying to discourage you, but I’m not. I’m actually trying to save you time.

Because what’s the alternative?

You tinker around on the Internet, reading articles, buying courses, trying this technique and that, running around in circles for years without getting anywhere. Four years later, you conclude it’s a lot harder than you thought it would be, and you’re forced to decide if you want to go further.

Wouldn’t you rather skip all of those years running around in circles and decide now?

If you read everything I said here and your response is, “Okay, that’s fair. I can give it four years,” then you’re already way ahead of most people. On the other hand, you might also say, “Jon, this is interesting, but I really don’t have that kind of time, so I’m going to bow out now.” In that case, congratulations, you just saved yourself a lot of wasted time.

Because listen…

Building a passive income machine that fuels the life of your dreams is only one path, and it’s not right for everybody. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working for someone else. You can also become a freelancer, offering your services to businesses who need your skill set. Or you can start a more traditional company.

There are lots of options out there. This is only one of them.

Is it the right one for you?

Only you can decide. Now, at least, you know what’s required, and you can make an informed choice.

Good luck. 🙂

About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness,” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger. Poor man. 😉


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Customer Relationships, Digital Marketing, and eBay for Dummies: Marsha Collier on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Digital marketing and e-commerce expert Marsha Collier, author of 32 books, including eBay for Dummies, discusses how to manage customer relationships across channels, why behavior is more important than demographics, and what marketers can learn from successful eBay sellers. Read the full article at MarketingProfs


Has Your Company Found Its Video Marketing Leader?

on camera

With the explosion and importance of video-based marketing within organizations, the time is clearly here for businesses to not only learn how to do video, but also discover those employees that are able to thrive on ...

The post Has Your Company Found Its Video Marketing Leader? appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pinterest Isn't the Social Platform You Think It Is

Pinterest boasts social elements, but not enough of them to call it a social media platform. So if you consider Pinterest just a social platform, you're at a serious tactical disadvantage. Read the full article at MarketingProfs


Mad Marketing 101: Vulnerability, Keys to Innovation, and other Thoughts

Mad Marketing Podcast

  It’s podcast time again my friends, and in this episode of Mad Marketing, I discuss some of the powerful responses I received as a result of last week’s podcast, and the lessons that came from each. Also, I’ll touch on some recent listener questions, including: –Slides or No Slides when Presenting? -Is Snapchat a…

The post Mad Marketing 101: Vulnerability, Keys to Innovation, and other Thoughts appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

#SocialSkim: Facebook Changes the Rules for Bots, Plus 11 More Stories This Week

Social was all about getting down to business this week: Facebook refreshed its rules for Messenger bots, and Instagram made headway in deploying business accounts. Also: Twitter's newest "ad format" and the latest metrics for Facebook Live videos. Skim to let it all sink in! Read the full article at MarketingProfs


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hubcast 105: Google Adwords, HubSpot Deal Properties, & Sales Teams

Hubcast Podcast

Welcome back to The Hubcast, folks: A weekly podcast all about HubSpot news, tips, and tricks. Please also note the extensive show notes below, including some new HubSpot video tutorials ...

The post Hubcast 105: Google Adwords, HubSpot Deal Properties, & Sales Teams appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


How to Get Paid to Write for Magazines – The Ultimate Guide

But you’re just a little old blogger, right?

Why would popular magazines like Forbes, WebMD, and Redbook be interested in you?

You might be surprised.

Thousands of magazines appear on the newsstands and in readers’ mailboxes every month, and they’re constantly on the lookout for new writing talent. Yes, your audience as a blogger may still be small, but all those hours you spent slaving away on your content has probably honed your writing skills to where you could, in fact, compete with the big boys and girls to write for magazines.

And it’s SO worth it.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, let’s talk about why you should be interested in magazines:

1. They can send you a lot of traffic.

Most magazines that pay well for freelance writing also command a huge readership.

For example, when I wrote for Woman’s Day, they had 6 million readers all across the United States. That’s a lot of eyeballs reading your work.

Of course, the size of the audience isn’t everything. Sometimes you’re looking for a smaller but more targeted audience. Magazines can help you there, too!

For example, if you want readers in a particular geographic area, you can write for local magazines that boast followings in that area. If you want readers from a particular industry, you can write for trade publications devoted to that field. If you want readers who buy a particular product or service, you could write for custom publications reaching those customers.

The important point:

Magazine readers are an entirely different audience than the people surfing the blogosphere. These readers are all people who might never find out about you outside of their favorite magazines.

Magazine readers

Even better, many publications, especially online ones, run a bio box at the end of your article where you can trumpet your credentials and lead people to your blog. Writer’s Digest gave me a bio box at the bottom of my column in every issue when I wrote their Conference Scene column, and it drew interested readers online to find out more about my books and classes for writers.

2. They can be lucrative gigs.

Some magazines don’t pay anything at all… but some pay big. (Hint: Those are the ones you want to write for.)

I’ve earned anywhere from $.10 per word writing for trade magazines at the beginning of my career up to $2.50 per word penning articles for national consumer magazines like Health. What’s important, though, isn’t the per-word rate — it’s your hourly rate, and I usually earn $250 per hour at this kind of work even at magazines that pay just $.50/word.

So, you’re not just connecting with new readers. You’re getting paid to connect with new readers.

Get paid to connect with new readers.

How cool is that?

3. They can help you land other well-paying gigs.

You can use published articles as clips, or samples, to show to potential clients in all writing areas. Copywriting clients, for example, like to know you understand the ins and outs of journalism and have the skills to weave a narrative and tell a good story. Just what they want you to do with their products!

Your article writing can also turn into speaking gigs. If a conference organizer likes one of your articles in their industry trade pub, they might ask you to turn your article into a speech, giving you not only more exposure, but a nice speaking fee too! One of my very first articles, in a national business magazine, led to a speaking opportunity at a Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania.

Plus, let’s not forget about credibility. If you’re on the hunt for a book deal, a business partner, or an affiliate, who do you think they’re going to want to work with: the person with no creds, or the one with a column in a major magazine? Yeah, it’s a no-brainer.

Build credibility writing for magazines.

Traffic, money, credibility – you’re sold, right? Now you’re itching to learn how to get started.

Luckily, as a blogger, you’re one step ahead of the game, because just as you can use magazine articles as clips to get blogging gigs, you can use blog posts as clips to land article assignments.

Who wants to buy my articles?

You already know about the big magazines that populate the newsstand, so let me share two super-secret markets out there for writers:


Trade magazines are business-to-business publications created for members of a certain industry.

For example, I’ve written for Pizza Today, The Federal Credit Union, In-Plant Graphics, Sign Builders Illustrated, Restaurant Management, and Mini-Storage Messenger. These magazines tell readers how to best manage, market, and generally boost the success of their businesses.

There are gazillions of these magazines, covering every imaginable market niche. For example, my husband once wrote for Indian Gaming Business — and this magazine actually has a competitor. So whatever educational or professional background you have, you can probably parlay that into trade assignments.

The downside?

Don’t expect to get rich. At least, not right away.

Trade magazines typically pay less than consumer magazines — think 10 – 50 cents per word, though many pay higher — but on the “pro” side, they’re easier to write for than the big guys, they tend to pay quickly, and they become loyal clients that will come back to you again and again. Also, once you get the hang of writing for a particular industry, you’ll be able to complete assignments more quickly, meaning your hourly rate will increase.

Find trades in Writer’s Market and at WebWire. Webwire doesn’t include links to the magazines, but you can search for the sites of pubs you’re interested in on Google.


A custom publication is a magazine that serves as a marketing piece for a business to give to its customers or clients.

Many of these are published by companies called custom publishers (though many of them now call themselves content companies). That means the business distributing the magazine to its clients is not the actual publisher. The business pays the publisher to create the magazine for them.

So, that magazine you get at Sam’s Club? Custom published.

The one you get from your bank, supermarket, or insurance agency? Most likely also custom published.

And the even cooler part?

Custom published magazines tend to pay more than trades — in my experience, at least 50 cents to $1 per word. Yes, you do need some writing skill to freelance for them, but not really any more or less than you need for consumer and trade magazines.

If you’re good, you can also get steady work. As with trades, if custom pub editors like you they’ll add you to their “stable” of writers to hand out assignments to. Sweet!

Find custom publications at The Content Council. Click on “Members” and you can search by industry to see who publishes magazines (and other content) in sectors like health, retail, and financial services.

Writing a Kick-Ass Query

To break into most magazines, you need a query letter, also known as a pitch. It’s basically a sales letter telling the editor what your idea is, why it’s important to readers, and why you’re the best person to write it.

Here’s what you’ll need:


Read over your target magazine to help you brainstorm ideas. If you can’t find physical copies of the magazine, check out their online archives. Sometimes the content differs, but you’ll get a good idea of what the magazine runs.

A word of warning:

Most of the ideas that first pop out of your head will suck. Even if you think they’re great, they’ll probably suck. (Sorry.)

Most of the ideas that first pop out of your head will suck.

That’s because we tend to think in terms of topics, not story ideas. A topic is a broad idea that could really be a book, and has probably been done already, in some form, in both books and magazines. A story, on the other hand, has your own unique angle or slant that a jaded editor hopefully hasn’t seen before. For example:

Topic: How to stay healthy this summer. (See how that could be a book?)

Story: Summer bummers: The top 5 health snafus that can ruin your summer, and how to solve them.

Story: How to stay healthy this summer with items you already have in your pantry.

Story: Special precautions people with condition X need to take to stay healthy during the summer.

Get the idea?

Great. Let’s jump into the next most important part of a great query:


A lede (yes, that’s spelled right) is the first paragraph or two of your query, and it’s typically written in the same style as the ledes you see in articles in your target magazine. So you might start with an anecdote, a compelling quote, a startling stat — or you may do something more literary in style.

Here are a couple of potential ledes for the “Summer Bummers” idea above.

1. The anecdotal lede
When McKenzie Smith, 32, went to the beach last summer, she envisioned lying around on the sand reading a romance novel while her kids played in the warm waves.

What she didn’t envision was developing an itchy condition called sea bather’s eruption, which is caused by stings from tiny, larval jellyfish.

2. A stat lede

Beset by bug bites? Feeling sick from a summer picnic? You’re not alone. According to a new study by the National Institutes of Health, nearly one-third of Americans over the age of 18 have to miss work each summer due to seasonal snafus like these — and other recent research has found that 45% of us avoid going outside in the summer because we’re afraid of bee stings, poison ivy, and sunburn. [Note: I totally made those stats up.]


I know — what’s with all the funny spellings, right?

The nut graf is the paragraph right after the lede where you quickly summarize what you’ll be offering. For example, let’s take my stat lede above and add on a nut graf:

Beset by bug bites? Feeling sick from a summer picnic? You’re not alone. According to a new study by the National Institutes of Health, nearly one-third of Americans over the age of 18 have to miss work each summer due to seasonal snafus like these — and other recent research has found that 45% of us avoid going outside in the summer because we’re afraid of bee stings, poison ivy, and sunburn.

Summer doesn’t have to be that way. In my article “Summer Bummers,” I’ll interview top docs to give your readers solid, little-known advice on how to combat the top seven seasonal health woes: poison ivy, dehydration, food poisoning, sunburn, sea bather’s eruption, bug bites, and heat rash.


It’s the point in your query letter where you pivot from the idea into your actual pitch. The transition should be smooth, the lede flowing right into the nut graf, just like the one above.

Next, we need…


The body is where you get into the nuts and bolts of your pitch. You don’t want to make the editor guess at what you’re offering: Give her some examples, written in the style you’d write the article in.

And yes, that means you’ll have to do your homework. Probably more than you’re used to.

Most blogs are opinion-based: You write what you think, and nobody is looking over your shoulder, expecting you to back it up. Magazines, on the other hand, are evidence-based. Unless you’re an expert writing an opinion piece, editors will expect you to show supporting evidence.

Sometimes, that means conducting a couple of quickie pre-interviews. You can find potential sources to interview at universities, organizations, and think tanks, and on LinkedIn, online forums, Twitter, Facebook, and source-finding sites like ProfNet. And don’t discount the value of your email list!

So here’s the body of the query I started above.

For example, I’ll offer doctor-approved advice such as:

* Food Poisoning

If you downed questionable shrimp salad at the office picnic, you may find yourself faced with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. “One thing you shouldn’t do is take an anti-diarrheal medicine, because the diarrhea carries the toxins that are making you sick out of your system,” says Daniel Jones, MD, an associate professor at Harvard School of Medicine. Instead, sip a sports drink, which helps replace the electrolytes you’re losing. Until you feel better, avoid solid food and drink your usual liquids plus a quart of sports drink per day.

* Dehydration

The bad thing about dehydration isn’t that your mouth is parched and you crave Frappuccinos– it’s that dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, which can in turn lead to heat stroke. The worst-case heat stroke scenario is that your blood pressure drops dangerously, resulting in organ damage.

Here’s advice from Liz Johnson, MD, a physician at The Wellness Institute in Boston: If you notice decreased sweating, lightheadedness, or dizziness, get to a cool place and rehydrate with a sports drink. Anticipate and head off the problem by deep-sixing the caffeine, which can make you sweat more and therefore lose more water, and drinking more than usual if you plan to be out in the heat or if you take a diuretic such as blood pressure medication.

Don’t skimp on your research! This is where you prove to a skittish editor that you do indeed have the goods.

Then and only then can you…


My writer friend Kelly James-Enger calls this the “why I’m so great” paragraph. This is where you tell the editor why you are the best person to write the proposed article. So if I were 100% a blogger and had never written for magazines, I might write:

I’m a freelance writer in Sacramento who writes on health topics on my own blog, TheBestBlogEver.com; I’ve also written for blogs like X, Y, and Z. As a former nurse, I understand medical concepts and terminology — and as I writer, I know how to translate them into readable, fun prose.

Even if you don’t have a lot of writing credits to toot your horn about, there are other brag-worthy things you can use — like a deep personal knowledge of the topic (your spouse is a doc? mention that here!), an educational background in the topic, or exclusive access to a key source.

You’re a writer, so spin what you do have into the best possible light!


In the closing of the pitch, I usually do two things:

1. Show I understand the magazine’s readership.

Explain why your article will be important to the magazine’s readers. For example:

Your readers are young women who want to relax and enjoy the sun all summer long — without being waylaid by pesky summer health troubles. My article “Summer Bummers” won’t disappoint them.

2. Ask for the sale.

One mistake many writers make is they forget to wrap up in a clear way by asking for an assignment. They let the pitch simply peter out, and leave the editor wondering why the writer bothered.

You can ask for the sale in a lot of ways: “I look forward to hearing what you think about my idea for Magazine X!” “I look forward to your reaction.” “Does this idea sound interesting to you?” “May I write this article for you?”

And that’s it! You’re finished!

What’s Next?

Send your query letter via email directly to whichever editor you think would handle your topic.

At big magazines, that is often a senior, deputy, or associate editor. At smaller magazines, like many trades, you can pitch directly to the editor.

Can’t decide? Give them a call and ask.

To find the editor’s email address, first search the website, and try Google searches on the editor’s name and “contact.” You can also search for the editor on LinkedIn; sometimes you’ll find an e-mail address right on the editor’s profile.

If those tactics come up short, try calling the magazine. Don’t be afraid! I promise no one will yell at you.

As a last resort, try to decipher the magazine’s email format (it’s often on the Ad Sales page) and use that to figure out your editor’s address. You can take advantage of one of the many free online email verification systems like Verify-Email.org to determine if the address you guessed at is correct. This isn’t foolproof, but it helps.

Once you zap off your query, don’t just wait with bated breath for a reply, because it can take a loooong time. Send your pitch to other magazines as well (you may need to tweak your pitch a bit for each one), and get to work on your next query. Pitching a numbers game, and it’s all about volume.

Keep pitching…

Once you learn to write a query, you’ll get better and better at it, and the process will take less and less time. You’ll start to develop relationships with editors — yes, even a nice rejection asking you to pitch again can be the start of a beautiful (and lucrative) friendship. And some of those relationships will lead to regular gigs.

But you have to keep pitching.

Too many talented writers fire off a query or two and then quit. Maybe the rejection is too painful, or maybe you’re just too busy.

Regardless, the writers who make it are the ones who send a lot of pitches. Preferably at least one or two a week — with each of those going out to multiple publications — at least for the first few years.

You have to keep pitching.

Here’s why:

You have to do the work to write for magazines

Writing for magazines is the same as anything else. You have to do the work.

At first, you suck. Then it gets a little easier. Then one day you look at your work and realize you actually know what you’re doing! Heck, when I started out as a full-time freelancer in 1997, I would print out each pitch, go over it with a red pen, have my writer husband go over it with a red pen, enter in the edits, and repeat the process until the pitch was as clean and perfect as possible. These days, I can write a full pitch in under an hour.

You just have to keep going. You have to keep writing. You have to trust it’ll all pay off

It’s certainly paid off for me, and I believe it can pay off for you too. Not only through money, although that’s certainly nice, but through connecting with people who need your wisdom.

The world is full of people with questions who aren’t searching blogs for answers. To help them, you have to reach outside of your medium and connect with them where they already are.

You have the skills. You have the passion. You now have the step-by-step plan to make it happen.

So get out there and start writing!

There’s a whole other world waiting for you, and if you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll do just fine.

About the Author: Linda Formichelli has written for more than 150 magazines, from Pizza Today to Redbook. She’s also the co-founder of Renegade Writer Press, which publishes self-help, books for writers, and books for foodies — not to mention erotica (yes, erotica) through their imprint That’s What She Said Press. Linda is running her next Write for Magazines e-course on Monday, August 22, and 100% of the proceeds from the Basic version of the class will be donated to Convoy of Hope to help the victims of the flooding in Louisiana.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Ultimate Content Machine: How We Used Google Docs to Develop 307,000 Words of Spectacular Content

Know what’s tougher than creating great content?

Creating it at scale.

But that’s exactly what’s needed if you’re serious about building a popular blog.

And almost every successful blogger reaches a point where they realize they can’t do it alone.

(After all, how many large blogs can you name where the owner still writes every single post?)

Getting help means outsourcing at least some of your content creation to guest writers, but making the transition from a writer to the editor isn’t easy.

So how can you efficiently manage the content development process when you have dozens of different writers, each with posts in various stages of development?

How can you maintain your high-quality standards without becoming so overwhelmed that you begin feeling nostalgic for the days where you were doing everything yourself?

Truthfully, until a couple of years ago, I didn’t have a good answer to that question.

My Daunting First Dive into Major League Blogging

Almost exactly three years ago, I edited my first post for Boost Blog Traffic (as Smart Blogger was then called).

And honestly, I was feeling the pressure.

I’d edited dozens of student posts as an instructor in Jon’s celebrated guest blogging class, but editing a post by an established writer for one of the most respected blogs on the web felt like an entirely different level of responsibility.

(Though I’m still in the position, so I guess it went okay!)

But Jon’s goal in trying me out as editor was to move from an ad-hoc publishing schedule, where he still wrote most of the posts, to a weekly schedule, where guest bloggers assumed most of the writing duties.

Why? Because his company was growing rapidly and his responsibilities as CEO were demanding more and more of his time. In other words, he’d reached that point where he couldn’t do it alone.

When I took over the reins, there wasn’t much in the way of a process. I’ve learned over the years that Jon’s not much of a process guy. 🙂

Guest authors usually submitted their work as Microsoft Word documents, so we’d pass versions of the file back and forth until the post was ready.

While I loved working with the writers, the practical side of the process was frustrating.

Why Microsoft Word Sucks for Blog Content Development

What I realized in my first few months as editor of the blog was that my frustration was primarily due to the tools we used.

Microsoft Word is a powerful application, but it has so many features that the average user only needs a tiny fraction of them. And for creating blog content, which tends to have fairly simple formatting needs, Word is frankly overkill.

Also, it can introduce the following issues:

  • Version control. After collaborating with an author over several drafts, I’d usually find my hard drive littered with several different copies of the post, not always certain which was the latest one.
  • Compatibility problems. Sometimes one version of the software won’t open files created in a later version. Or files created on a Mac don’t look the same on a PC. Neither is conducive to happy collaboration.
  • Formatting frustrations. Historically, content does not paste very cleanly from Word into WordPress. Even though things have improved, the results are still very dependent on the templates and styles used within Word.
  • Large file sizes. Microsoft Word files can quickly become hefty, particularly those with embedded images. Passing large files back and forth via email can be time-consuming.

So if Word introduces more problems than it solves, some of them related to the transition from Word to WordPress, how about developing all your content in WordPress from the start?

Why WordPress Causes Content Problems Too

There’s no doubt WordPress has earned its place as the preeminent platform for bloggers.

But it’s primarily designed for publishing content, not creating it.

Developing your content in the same environment you’ll publish it may seem appealing, but there are some good reasons you might want to do it somewhere else, particularly when working with external contributors.

Here’s why a separate content development environment may be a better idea:

  • Clean separation of published posts and posts in development. When working with guest authors it’s inevitable that some of those posts will get delayed or abandoned. Do you really want those unfinished posts cluttering up your WordPress database?
  • Reduced complexity and risk. Giving lots of different people access to your WordPress installation may not be such a great idea. Sure, if you set everything up right, security shouldn’t be an issue but make a mistake with user roles and you could open yourself up to a whole host of problems.
  • Content safely stored outside of WordPress. If your WordPress site gets hacked or accidentally wiped you can always restore from backup, right? Well yes, in theory, but we’ve all heard stories of people who lost all their content because they neglected to take a backup or because their backup solution wasn’t quite as bulletproof as they imagined.

Of course, if you’re determined to keep everything in WordPress, there are clever plugins that will turn your installation into a fully blown editorial management system with pre-defined workflows.

But that’s probably overkill unless your blog is already huge, and it still lacks some of the advantages above.

So what’s the alternative? Google Docs.

Two years ago we switched to a simple editorial workflow based on Google Docs, and we haven’t looked back.

In fact, since then, we’ve used it to develop over 300,000 words of content for this blog!

3 Reasons Google Docs Rocks for Content Collaboration

If you’ve not used Google Docs yet, it’s one of several lightweight Office-style applications that Google provides via Google Drive, its cloud-based storage service.

Some people use Google Drive solely for its remote storage, but if you ignore the apps that come along with it, you’re missing a trick.

In addition to Docs, Google also provides other online apps, free to anyone with a Google account, including:

  • Google Sheets — a spreadsheet app which can replace Microsoft Excel for most tasks
  • Google Slides — a presentation app that duplicates much of the functionality of PowerPoint or Keynote
  • Google Drawings — a drawing app for creating simple diagrams

But why is Google Docs in particular so well-suited to blog content development?

Let’s take a look at a few reasons:

  1. Cloud-based — conveniently maintains a backup of your content, so you can always access your up-to-date posts-in-progress from anywhere, without an internet connection
  2. Tracked changes — automatically records every change you make to a document, so it’s easy to revert to any previous version of your work
  3. Native collaboration features — natively supports editing by multiple authors, including in-document conversations via comments, edit and suggest modes

On top of these advantages, it’s also free!

A Crash Course in Google Docs for Busy Bloggers

Even if you have worked with Google Docs before, you may not be aware of its full capabilities, so let’s take a quick look at some of the key features.

Creating a New Document

Creating a new document is easy. From within your Google Drive, just click the big, red “New” button and select “Google Docs” from the drop-down menu.

Create a new Google doc

This will create a new Google Docs document in your Drive.

Then, click “Untitled document” to change its name:

How to Title a Google Doc

Once inside your document, most of the toolbar and menu options should look familiar — Docs is much like a simplified version of Microsoft Word and offers many of the features you’d expect, such as:

  • Bold, italic, underline text styles
  • Plain and number bullets
  • Customizable heading styles
  • Tables
  • Headers and footers

As you add content to the document your changes are automatically saved to the cloud, so there’s no chance of losing your valuable work!

Another nifty feature is offline editing. With this enabled, you can work on your documents even without a network connection — your changes will sync once you’re back online.

Sharing Your Document with a Collaborator

While Google Docs also functions well as a simple word processor for writing your posts, it comes into its own when other people are involved in the process.

One common scenario is where you have guest authors developing content for your blog. Another is where you’re working with an editor to polish your work.

Sharing your document with someone else is as simple as clicking the blue “Share” button:

How to Share Google Docs

This brings up a “Share with others” dialog box:

Google Docs Share with Others Dialog Box

You have three options when granting permissions:

  • Can edit — the recipient has full permissions to edit the document, adding and deleting content
  • Can comment — the recipient can’t edit the content but they can add comments in the margin
  • Can view — the recipient has read-only access, in other words they can see the content but can’t edit it or add any comments

Once you’ve selected the appropriate permissions, enter the email address of the person you’re sharing the document with (they’ll need to have a Google account). Optionally, you can add a personal message to send along with the sharing notification.

Adding Comments to Existing Content

Google Docs supports adding comments within your document. These are text notes that are visible within the document but aren’t technically part of the content itself.

Use comments to:

  • Leave notes for yourself, e.g. “Remember to check this statistic before publishing.”
  • Leave notes for other collaborators, e.g., “Can we find a better example for this?”

The powerful thing about comments is that they are attached to a specific context within the document, which makes them perfect for editors working with guest authors. If you don’t like the particular word choice or feel a sentence is redundant, you can attach a comment to a designated piece of text.

Adding a comment is simple. Just highlight the text you want to comment on and either press the comment button or select Insert > Comment from the menu bar.

How to Comment on Google Docs

However, comments in Google Docs are much more than virtual sticky notes. They can be the starting point for an entire conversation, allowing collaborators to discuss parts of the document in context.

When working with guest authors for Smart Blogger, I’ll often use comments during the early stages of the editorial process to highlight sections of their posts that are unclear or need more examples.

These annotations allow the author to see exactly which part of their post I’m talking about and add their own comments or reply to mine with questions and clarifications.

Once a comment has outlived its usefulness, e.g. after you’ve address the issue it originally highlighted, you can click “Resolve” and it disappears from view (although it’s still available in your comment history).

Suggesting Changes to Content

When collaborating with someone — a writer, co-author or editor — you may want to make changes to the content they’ve written. It’s clearer (and displays better collaborative etiquette) for you not to make edits directly to their work but instead, make suggestions they can review and accept or reject.

This feature is particularly useful when a copy editor — who edits for grammar, accuracy, and consistency — reviews a post because it allows them to highlight possible issues within the text.

To do this you must switch from Editing mode (where changes happen directly in the document) to Suggesting mode:

You can do this by clicking on the “Editing” menu at the top right of the horizontal toolbar and selecting “Suggesting” from the drop-down menu:

How to edit Google Docs

Once you’ve switched to Suggesting mode, any changes are highlighted and shown alongside the original text. A note also appears in the right-hand margin describing the change and giving the option to accept (tick) or reject (cross) it.

Here’s an example:

How to collaborate in Google Docs

In addition to accepting and rejecting collaborators’ suggestions, you can also add a comment to start a discussion around the suggested change.

A Simple Workflow for Managing Guest Posts on Your Blog

At Smart Blogger, we’ve been using Google Docs for developing guest posts (and many of our own posts) for over two years, and in that time we’ve developed a simple workflow that simplifies the process of working with external authors.

It’s a huge improvement from those frustrating early days spent wrestling with Microsoft Word documents!

Before we look at the precise workflow, it’ll help to understand our basic process for developing a guest post from start to finish.

Here’s an overview:

  1. The guest author writes their first draft based on an agreed topic or headline.
  2. The blog editor or owner provides feedback on the draft to the author for their next draft.
  3. The author makes revisions (repeating stages 2 and 3 for several drafts until the post requires no further changes from the author).
  4. The copy editor makes any corrections/suggestions to the draft.
  5. The final draft gets formatted into WordPress and published.

It’s straightforward enough in an overview, but we’ve found the process can go awry without an agreed workflow to keep things running smoothly.

So here’s how it works…

Step 1: Create a New Folder in Google Drive

As soon as we’re ready for a guest author to start working on a post, we create a new folder for it in our company’s Google Drive.

Here’s the basic folder structure we use for all our guest posts at Smart Blogger:

Google Docs folder structure

The roles of the individual folders are as follows:

  • Posts – the parent folder containing all of our blog posts
  • Author – contains all of the posts by a single author
  • Posts – contains all of the files relating to a particular post by that author
  • Draft – contains snapshots of all the drafts for the post

Here’s a specific example — the folder structure for the post you’re reading right now.

Smart blogger Google Docs structure

Once we create the folder structure, we populate the post folder (in this case “Google Docs Workflow”) with new copies of a handful of simple templates we reuse for each new post.

How to organize guest writers in Google Docs

The first document is a blank blog post template where the author will work on their post.

In addition, there are a couple of other files we  create — one for a list of possible headlines (You know how we love tweaking our headlines!), and another with post metadata — such as the proposed slug and meta description, which is completed before publication.

Here’s what the blog post template looks like before the author starts working:

Guest post template

If you want to use our template, you can grab a copy here (click File > Make a copy while logged into your Google account).

Step 2: Share the Template with the Post’s Author

Once we set up the folder structure, it’s time to share the post template with the author, exactly as we discussed above.

We grant them “Can edit” permissions so they can add their content and usually include a short note that gets sent with the sharing notification:

Share a Google Doc with personal message

Step 3: Create a Copy of Each Incoming Draft

While the author is working on the post, we tend to leave them to it — they’d probably find it disconcerting having us watching over their shoulders as they write!

But once an author tells us they’ve finished with the current draft — usually by email — the first thing we do is create a copy, add the label Draft 01 and drag it into the Drafts folder:

Guest post draft structure

Google Docs are effectively snapshots of the content at that moment in time, minus any comments and revision history.

But why create them? Is it really necessary, particularly since Google Docs automatically maintains a complete record of the evolution of the document?

We find it useful because while Google Docs tracks changes, writers and editors tend to think in terms of individual drafts. So it can be helpful when we need to quickly review a snapshot of a post at a particular stage in its development.

For instance, a post doesn’t always develop in a straight line, and it’s valuable to give the author notes like “I feel this section worked better the way you wrote it in Draft #2.”

Step 4: Review the Current Draft and Add Comments

Once I’ve created a snapshot, I’ll review the latest draft and add detailed comments to help the author understand what I require for the next draft.

Next,  I’ll drop them an email letting them know I’ve left comments for them to review.

Then, I’ll keep an eye out for notifications from Google of replies to my comments — those in-document conversations I mentioned earlier — and jump into the document to resolve any questions.

At that point, it’s time to wait for the author’s next draft — effectively looping back to Step 3, creating a new copy and so on.

Note that the file the author works on is always the same, which greatly reduces the potential for confusion. Before our Google Docs workflow, we’d typically exchange Microsoft Word files via email and after a few drafts, it was often difficult to be sure you were looking at the latest draft.

Step 5: Submit the Draft for Copy Editing

Once the draft has reached the point where the author has addressed all my comments and suggestions, and is close to being ready for publication, it moves into a new phase – making any final pre-publication edits.

Sometimes I’ll make some minor edits to make sure the post meets our house style and tone – I’ll create a new copy of the draft labeled “Final Edit” and work on it there.

Once happy, I’ll change the label to “Copy Edit” and pass it over to our copy editor who’ll make any changes in Suggesting mode before handing it back to me.

Once I’ve reviewed and accepted (or rejected) any copy changes, the Google Doc is finally ready to be copied and formatted into WordPress.

At this stage, I change the label to “FINAL” so that it’s completely clear that the post has reached the end of its development.

Step 6: Format the Post in WordPress

The final step is to copy the content across into WordPress and format it. It’s fairly straightforward but does requires a couple of manual steps, specifically:

  • Any embedded images must be uploaded to WordPress separately and manually added to the document.
  • A small amount of HTML clean-up is required, but it’s only a minute or two’s work with a text editor.

Admittedly, it’d be nice if these steps weren’t required. They’re a byproduct of pasting directly from Google Docs to WordPress. A small niggle in an otherwise fairly elegant process.

However, depending on your exact formatting requirements and the number of posts you publish in a typical month, it could make sense to look into a tool like Postable, which automates this part of the process for you.

But let’s assume you’re doing this part by hand. Here are the steps for moving your post across.

1) Copy and paste your entire post into the WordPress Visual editor.

Using Visual mode (instead of Text mode) all of the important formatting will be preserved — text styles, heading levels, bullets, etc.

As mentioned before, images will not come across when pasting. You’ll need to handle those separately.

2) Switch to Text mode and remove any unwanted HTML markup.

When switching to Text mode within the WordPress editor, you’ll see your formatted post in its “naked” HTML form.

The code created by this process is pretty clean — particularly if you use our Smart Blogger template above — but there are still a few recurring “artifacts” that you’ll need to fix by hand.

Remove unwanted markup

Fortunately, they all follow a predictable pattern so performing a global search and replace in your favorite text editor will quickly do the trick.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Replace all occurrences of <li style=”font-weight: 400;”> with <li>
  2. Remove all occurrences of <span style=”font-weight: 400;”> (replace with empty string)
  3. Remove all occurrences of </span> (replace with empty string)

The exact text you need to replace may be different with a different starting template, but it should still amount to removing opening and closing span tags and styling from any other tags.

Copy and paste the code into the text editor, make the changes, then copy and paste it back into the WordPress editor (Text mode).

3) Upload any images to the Media Library and add them to the post.

It’s up to you how you handle images. We like our authors to embed them in the Google Doc because that makes the post easier to review and keeps all the content in one place.

If you do it the same way, there’s a neat little trick you can use to grab all the images within the document.

If you select File > Download as > Web page (.html, zipped) from within your Google Doc, you’ll get a zip file.

Download images in Google Docs

Unzip that file and you’ll get (amongst other things) an “images” folder with all of the embedded images in their original file format. Yay!

You may choose to rename the image files for clarity or SEO purposes, but once done, you can select the whole group and drag it to the “Upload New Media” page within WordPress.

Then it’s simply a case of adding the images to the body of your post as you normally would.

Turn Your Blog into a Content Machine with Google Docs

There’s no doubt — content is the fuel that drives your blog’s growth.

But as important as it is, smart bloggers know when it’s time to outsource.

Because the sad truth is, if you spend all your time creating content, your blog will never reach its full potential.

That’s why you need a process that will scale as your blog grows, and you begin working with talented guest writers.

You need a simple system that’ll enable you to publish more quality content while spending less time doing it.

Combine Google Docs with a simple editorial workflow and you can create a powerful content machine that will propel your blog into the stratosphere.

(And even if you’re not ready yet, you’ll still benefit from making Google Docs your go-to content development tool.)

So what are you waiting for?

Let’s add some fuel to that fire.

About the Author: Glen Long is the managing editor of Smart Blogger (a.k.a. chief content monkey). When he’s not creating or editing content for this blog or an upcoming course he’s probably watching Nordic Noir. Why not say hello to him on Twitter?


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mad Marketing 100: Health Struggles and Personal Reflections

Mad Marketing Podcast

It’s podcast time my friends, and in this very personal episode I step away from discussing business and explain my recent diagnoses with a rare disorder called “Cramping Fasciculation Syndrome.” It has, at least at times this past month, been very difficult. But it has also been a powerful learning experience. I decided to give…

The post Mad Marketing 100: Health Struggles and Personal Reflections appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


Monday, August 8, 2016

7 Ways Content Marketing Can Dramatically Benefit Your Sales Team Without Actually Ever Making a Sale

sales team video

Would content marketing be worth it if you never actually made a sale from it? The quick answer to this question would appear to be “no”—but as many organizations have found out, the act of producing content can have a dramatic impact on a sales team, well beyond the simple definition of how you or…

The post 7 Ways Content Marketing Can Dramatically Benefit Your Sales Team Without Actually Ever Making a Sale appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


Friday, August 5, 2016

The Hubcast 103: Inbound Rocks, Girls Who Code, & Social Media Reporting

Hubcast Podcast

Welcome back to The Hubcast, folks: A weekly podcast all about HubSpot news, tips, and tricks. Please also note the extensive show notes below, including some new HubSpot video tutorials ...

The post The Hubcast 103: Inbound Rocks, Girls Who Code, & Social Media Reporting appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


#SocialSkim: Instagram Just Cloned Snapchat Stories, Plus 10 More Stories This Week

This week: imitation. Instagram essentially integrated a copy of Snapchat within its app (with one major advantage); Facebook and Twitter took a play from YouTube's book to attract well-known creator influencers; and LinkedIn made a foray into video. Read the full article at MarketingProfs


Nine Content Tools to Improve Your Online Presence Through Curation

The more relevant, interesting, and even entertaining the content that you share or publish, the more your audience will view you as a trustworthy source of information, and not just a provider of a product or service. Content curation can help. Read the full article at MarketingProfs


8 Types of Awareness Stage Offers Guaranteed to Convert More Traffic

awareness offers buyer's journey handwriting image

As content marketers, we have three main goals that fuel all of our efforts: drive new and returning traffic to our website, convert that traffic into leads, and nurture those leads into becoming customers who are excited about our brands’ products and services. In order to accomplish these goals, we need to first create quality,…

The post 8 Types of Awareness Stage Offers Guaranteed to Convert More Traffic appeared first on The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan.


Why You Need to Prep Employees Before They Go to the Social Media Frontlines

Companies should be training and explaining the rules of social engagement to their employees before sending them out to become brand ambassadors on social networks. Read the full article at MarketingProfs