How To Monetize Your Content Marketing With Gini Dietrich From Spin Sucks/Arment Dietrich [ACM 007]
You’re already putting a lot of time and energy into creating great content. So wouldn’t it be great if it could be making even more money for you?
And it would be even better if you knew before you even posted it that it would be successful.
When it comes to monetizing your blog, knowing what is going to appeal to your audience ahead of time is priceless.
Today’s guest, Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, and the lead blogger of Spin Sucks, is speaking to us today about content monetization. Gini is also the author of the book, Spin Sucks, as well as Marketing in the Round.
If you’ve been thinking about how to bring in more money with your content, today’s episode is perfect for you!
Some of the topics that you’ll hear discussed today include:
- How Gini’s background led her to where she is today.
- Tips for learning about what topics would work best with your audience.
- How Gini filtered and weighed responses when she asked questions of her target audience.
- Advice on testing ideas before spending a lot of time or money on them.
- How Gini promotes content for maximum conversion.
- Tips on pricing and finding out what people will pay.
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Quotes by Gini:
- “You can try to mimic what others are doing, but until you actually do it, you’re not going to be good at it.”
- “You can’t let perfection get in the way of getting things done.”
- “You have to just do it.”
Nathan: You put a lot of time into creating content so how can you make that work really pay off? What if you could know your efforts will be successful even before you create that content? This is a challenge Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, and a lead blogger of Spin Sucks, has been solving. Gini is a PR mastermind, she’s the author of the book Spin Sucks, and co-author of one of my favorite books about breaking down organizational silos, Marketing In the Round.
In today’s episode of the Actionable Content Marketing podcast, Gini is teaching you how to make money from your content. Gini has figured out a super smart process for gathering audience feedback and understanding the absolute best ideas. She’s even found a way to test those ideas, to know they’ll be successful before she spends a lot of resources creating that large form content.
Hey, I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and I’m really excited to share how you can monetize your content. Let’s learn together from Gini.
Gini, thanks a lot for joining me today. I’m really excited to have you on the podcast. I know CoSchedule followers would really like to hear your take on content monetization.
Gini: That’s awesome Nathan because I’d love to talk about it. I’d also love to give CoSchedule a plug because we love you guys.
Nathan: We love you back. It’s been pretty fun, I know. We’ve written a couple posts for you guys on Spin Sucks. It’s fun to just share the love.
Gini: It is fun to share the love.
Nathan: Nice. Alright. Gini, I obviously know a little bit about you but some people may not so could you give me the lowdown on Arment Dietrich and Spin Sucks?
Gini: What do you mean some people may not?
Nathan: That’s a good question.
Gini: Sure. I actually launched a PR firm which is the Arment Dietrich side of the business in 2005. I came from the big agency world and decided that there was a better way to do things just like every entrepreneur does, they’re like, “Yeah, I’m really good at my job and so I’m going to start a business.” Then there’s a rude awakening about actually running a business, making payroll, having employees, dealing with HR, dealing with the IRS, and all the kind of fun stuff. It’s been 11 years of very difficult but also rewarding decisions, challenges, and lessons.
We launched Spin Sucks in 2006 essentially with the idea that we wanted to figure out what this blogging thing was that everybody was talking about, and whether or not it was a tactic that we could sell the clients. It just took off kind of accidentally and people always ask me, “What was your strategy?” Literally that was the strategy, was to figure out if it was a tactic that we could sell the clients.
Of course over the last 10 years, we’ve learned a lot and we’ve figured out blogging is great but can we make money at it? When you get to the level that Spin Sucks is at, you have to have people actually running it. You can’t pay them unless you’re making money. Last year, 2015, we sat down and we said, “Okay, we really need to have a plan for monetizing all this content, what are we going to do?”
Nathan: Your story about just starting the blog, just going at it, and then figuring it out as you go is a really good lesson actually for a lot of us. Sometimes, we shoot for perfection before we can begin and you need to just start to build a skill.
Gini: You do, you really do. That’s such a good point because until you do it, you have no idea. You can read all you want, you can look at all the theory, you can try to mimic what others are doing but until you actually do it, you’re not going to be good at it.
Nathan: Yeah. That is excellent advice. Gini, I guess you eluded to this but we’re going to talk about content monetization today and that might be a scary word for some people. Could you just explain, what’s the definition, or what’s your definition of content monetization?
Gini: If we’re going to be producing this much content, how do we make money on it? Does it have its own revenue source or is it generating qualified leads that eventually convert to customers? What kind of return on investment for all of the time, and it’s a lot of time, what is that return on investment?
Nathan: Right. I think that goes a hand in hand with some of the stuff that Joe Polizzi kind of says works. Content marketing is about driving profitable customer action. You’ve figured this out and that’s what we want to talk about. From the very beginning, I just want to know how do you even go about learning what kind of topics your audience would really dig?
Gini: It’s funny because on the blogging side of things, it’s a little bit easier because you can write something and there will be crickets or you can write something and the whole world responds. You get that instant gratification or real time information on what they want.
On the monetization side of things, we sent a survey chart radar last April or May I think, it was last year sometime. We asked them one question, “If you could spend an hour with me talking about business, what would it be?” Rather than asking what kinds of topic do want us to write about or anything like that, we just said, “If you could spend an hour with Gini Dietrich talking about business, what would it be?”
The answers that we got were awesome. We got everything from, “I wouldn’t really wanted to talk business, I would like want to eat cupcakes and drink wine,” which is totally fine with me, to really in depth, “This is what I need to know is I master modern PR and I need your help doing it.” That has really driven a lot of our content decisions. Based on that, we built products to help our community learn. That’s how we’ve been able to monetize.
Nathan: Yeah, it makes sense. You really talked to them, got their feedback before jumping in so you basically could know that what you were going to do would be successful.
Gini: Yeah. It’s easy to sit in a conference room and come up with all sorts of ideas and think they are going to work but it’s way better to ask people what they want.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s something that we like to do a lot around CoSchedule too, is get feedback and then act upon it. One part of that though is you’re getting so much feedback. I’m wondering how did you filter those different ideas to really focus your efforts on the ones that would be the biggest opportunity for you guys.
Gini: For those who know me know that I am huge on data and numbers. It’s strange that I’m in such a creative industry because I’m so numbers focused, I love Excel, this blows people’s minds. This won’t surprise people.
What we did is we took the answers and in that survey we also asked just to figure what demographic, it was a multiple choice, are you an independent, peer from owner, inside a corporation, blah, blah. We ask that and then we ask the major question. The last thing that we ask was, “If we have additional questions, can we call you?” Asking people to leave their phone number.
Now, we had 800 and some odd responses. I’m not going to call 800 people but what that did is it told us how serious somebody was. If they’re willing to leave their phone number, you knew that were really serious about the answer that they had left. We took that and then we also took the character count of the response. If somebody wrote, “I want to have wine and cupcakes,” that character count is a lot less than somebody who wrote two paragraphs about where they needed help the most.
We took the character count of the responses and we multiplied that by two if they left their phone number. If they didn’t, then we just left it at the character count. That allowed us to have a numerical formulation essentially to be able to drop out the bottom 80% of responses and only review the top 20%.
We did that. We went through and we said “Okay, of the top 20%, what are the buckets that people need help?” There were five different buckets. That helped us to figure out, “Okay, this is where we need to be spending our time.” Almost two years later, we’re going back into that bottom 80% taking the next level down of the 20% and saying, “What do these people want?” As we continue to create product.
Nathan: There was absolutely no process, you just made up your own to help you out. I’m just wondering if just high level, why do you think that process was helpful for you guys?
Gini: It just really helped us. If you have 800 and some off responses, going through all of that and trying to figure out what people want is just impossible to do. We’d probably still be going through those responses. That might be a slight exaggeration.
It was just really easy to say, “Okay, if we take the top 20%, numerically wise, what are the content buckets that they fall into?” We found that there really were five buckets that pretty much everybody fell into.
Nathan: Now you have these buckets, you have lots of ideas or things that you could talk about. I’m wondering, how did you actually test those ideas to know which ones would really move the needle so to say before you invested a ton of time into creating those actual resources?
Gini: This is my favorite thing ever because I spoke at Content Marketing World and I was at dinner with some of the speakers I think the second night. We were talking about this like, “How do you monetize content, are you doing online courses and what other kinds of things are you doing?” There are couple of people at the table who said, “I’ve spent all this money creating these courses and nobody’s buying it.” I was like, “Why would you spend money before you knew if there was an audience for it?” They all just looked at me like, “What?”
Here’s what I did. To your point, you can’t let perfection get in the way of getting things done, so we did a pilot program. Essentially what we said to our community was, “We’re going to offer this to you for $200. It’s eventually going to cost a lot more. But in exchange for that low, low price, we need a few things from you, we need consistent feedback, we need you to fill out a couple of surveys, and we need you to be engaged in the lessons so that we can improve as we build a full launch.”
We did four weeks of live webinars. Literally, I had an outline of what I thought the courses should look like but after that first webinar, there were so many questions and it was so much more advanced than I think people were expecting. I had to go back to my outline and revise it based on the feedback we got from the first webinar.
If I had already created all four webinars at that point and then tried to launch them, we would have lost people because it was too heady. We’re asking people to make a big, big shift in the way that they do PR. I just went back and I revised it. I literally created the next week’s webinar from the feedback I got from the previous week. We also did Q&As, we did frequently asked questions from that. We took all of that at the end, we did a survey at the end, we asked people if they’d give us a testimony of also what we could improve on. We took all that and then we spent the money to have it all professionalized and created.
Nathan: Yeah. Not only did you find the topics but you tested those topics before you created something that’s going to cost you a lot of money.
Gini: Right, yeah. There is no $70,000 product before anybody bought anything, we just didn’t do that.
Nathan: So smart, so smart.
Gini: It’s like a Kickstarter except without using Kickstarter.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. That is actually, because you get to that idea before it happens.
Nathan: I’m wondering, obviously webinars, FAQ, Q&A were some of the things that you used before you invested time into these bigger pieces. How did you choose some of the actual content formats for those larger pieces that you were trying to monetize?
Gini: We did a few things, we tested out written content, we tested paid podcasting, we tested the webinars, we tested video. What we found is that video was a lot more engaging. People were able to pause and do the work, rewind and go back and forth. We also found that there were a handful of people, people like me who wanted to have the script and so we had scripts that you could download as you go along.
What we found is that because what we’re teaching is such a big change for most PR professionals, they need to actually see it, pause it, and be able to do the work along with it. I did a little bit of on camera work, we did some professional voice over, but most of it was animated video.
Nathan: If you think about social video right now, they just perform so well. I guess my next question is you’ve got these big pieces now, you’re getting them out there, how exactly did you promote some of this content?
Gini: I will tell you that email is number one. Blogging about it is number two. We do things, I’m out on the road speaking all the time, I do two or three speaking engagements a month. One of the things that we started doing that I hadn’t done before is a text campaign. Somewhere in the presentation I’ll say, “If you’d like these materials or if I can send you some swipe copy or some templates, text Spin Sucks to this number and I’ll get it to you.” Of course, it’s all setup through Lead Digits, through Lead Pages. They text it, I get their email address, it automatically sends them the template, or swipe copy, or whatever it is that I’ve offered.
Most people will say, “Now I have their email address, I’m just going to add them my list.” I don’t do that. I send them an email and I say, “It was really great meeting you at x conference. I’m not the type of person to automatically just add you to our newsletter list. If you’d like to subscribe to Spin Sucks, I’d love to have you,
and then I include that link. We convert 96% of these people.
Nathan: Wow. That’s unheard of.
Gini: It’s unheard of because I’m honest. I’m not going to add you to the Spin Sucks subscription unless you want it. People are like, “Okay, I totally want it.” It’s crazy, it’s 96%.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s a good tactic to just make them crave it in a way.
Gini: Exactly, that’s exactly it.
Nathan: Yeah. I’m going to have think about that one. I might steal that from you.
Gini: You may steal it, you may.
Nathan: Alright. I guess my next thing that I’m wondering then is you’ve got this content, you’ve put a lot of time into it, you’ve promoted the heck out of it, tried some really interesting things, how do you repurpose it to get even more out of it?
Gini: We should have Erica Helder, chief content officer with us, she’s a master at this. She’d be like, “Okay, you just wrote this blog post and then we’re going to take it, we’re going to do this, and this, and this.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.”
She literally will take pieces of the course and she’s had me create three minute videos, we’ve done Slide Shares, we’ve done an ebook, all this content that drives directly into some of the course and it works brilliantly, brilliantly.
Nathan: Yeah. I really like it because you just invested a ton of time, not to mention money, but you’re making sure that you just milk it for all it’s worth.
Gini: Yeah, you have to. You have to do that no matter if you’re selling content or not. You have to repurpose your content. I think Lee Odin is probably the far most expert on this in my opinion because he talks about if you’ve got this blog post, here’s how you can use it and repurpose it in different areas.
Nathan: Yeah, I absolutely love that. It seems like a pretty big journey that you’re on for creating this sort of content. I bet you have some lessons learned along the way.
Nathan: I hear the nervous laughter. I’m just wondering what kind of pitfalls have you encountered along the way, maybe if you could share those, and how we could learn from them, those mistakes, maybe?
Gini: Let’s say pricing is number one. People were really, really, really willing to spend $197 and be part of that exclusive, I get first look at it, but not as willing to spend $997 for something super professional and really well executed. That was a really interesting lesson. The other thing that we’re trying is new subscribers get to buy at a discounted price. We’re testing different price points for that. We have found again that the $97 products for new subscribers does 65%-ish better than the $497 product. We AB test it. It’s the same message and everything, just different prices. That $97.
Pricing, I think you have to test and have to be willing to take a little bit of risk. Sure, it’s a lot easier to sell $997 because you don’t have to sell as many, but people may not be as willing to spend that money.
The other lesson that we’ve learned is when you have something like this especially in our industry, I would venture to guess it’s pretty similar if your audience is a corporate audience. Their budgets are set for the year about now. You almost have to come out in October or November and say, “Here’s everything we’re going to offer from a professional development stand point next year, plan for it.”
Nathan: Yeah, I think that’s really smart. I think another take away that you alluded to that I might want to pry a little bit deeper into is we have one audience that we’re targeting but you have them in different segments, you have the blog subscribers that you’re treating differently with your marketing. Could you explain just a little bit about that?
Gini: Yes. We’re trying to segment, this is fairly new, we launched all this with active campaign earlier this year, what a pain that was. Anybody who’s doing email marketing really well on marketing automation and segmentation, and all that knows what I’m talking about. It’s painful but it’s so worth it when you finally get through it.
We have a campaign for new subscribers, we have a campaign for anybody who’s seen me speak, we have a campaign for of course our current subscribers, readers, and then we have a group of what I’ll call brand ambassadors even though we don’t have a formal brand ambassador program. People who comment the blog, share the blog, participate in our Facebook group, all those kind of things. There’s about 150 people in that group and we’ve segmented out that way.
Inside those, you have segmentation of your audience, for us it’s PR professionals, it’s corporate communications, it’s solo-preneurs, it’s PR firm owners, it’s marketing directors, that kind of stuff.
Nathan: Wow. I think that’s just a really great way to make sure that the right message hits the right person.
Gini: Yup, it’s really difficult to do all that.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. That’s something that we’re doing too at CoSchedule, separating user versus person who likes social media blog post, that sort of thing is something that we’re constantly thinking about.
Gini, I have another question for you about just general best practices for content monetization. I was wondering if you had to think of one of your best piece of advice for someone looking to launch their own monetized content, what would it be?
Gini: I think it’s what we’ve already talked about which is just do it. You have to just do it. With the webinars that we did as a pilot, it was not professional, it was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I got a little beat up on it but it got us the information that we needed desperately in order to build something perfect.
Nathan: Wow, I love it. Something that we talked a little bit about around our offices scrappy. Scrappy is okay.
Gini: Yup, scrappy is great.
Nathan: Alright, Gini, what’s the next content monetization project on your road map?
Gini: We’re doing a 30 day challenge in January. I think, I think it’s going to be a writing challenge. You’ll go get a writing prompt every day. I think that’s what we’re going to do, we’re 90% of the way there.
Nathan: That seems like a really great month for that because of New Year’s resolutions.
Gini: That’s exactly right. That’s January. We’ll do a relaunch of this Modern Blogging Masterclass in March, I have a mastermind group so that’ll be in May, and then we’re doing a new pilot in July, and then we’ll do business planning in November. That’s the plan.
Nathan: Nice, yeah. That is a ways out.
Gini: Yeah. We’ve been trying to figure it out but it’s a business. At this point, you have do casual projections and figure out what you need and who you need, all that kind of stuff. It’s definitely business at this point.
Nathan: Very nice. Alright Gini, I think that’s it for us. Thanks a lot for sharing your tips on content monetization today. I think this was a really, really fun conversation so thanks.
Gini: Thank you. It was so good to talk to you.
Nathan: Wow. That was jam packed with information. Thanks Gini for the great advice on content monetization and thanks to you for listening in to this episode of the Actionable Content Marketing podcast.