Case Study: How Copyblogger Shifted From Blog Publishing To Product Development

Have you noticed how Copyblogger is moving from a ‘traditional’ blog to a solutions provider offering web marketing tools? Some people feel that Copyblogger should have stuck to its roots and built a better blog, but I’m not so sure.
As they say, “To stay in business, you need to be in business.”
What Copyblogger’s currently doing allows it to scale, integrate, and increases its capital value.
How many blogs can you say that about?

Web Business Models: Which work best?

Let’s back up a second. Most ‘blogs’ struggle to make money.
Why?
Their business model relies on revenue streams that are often beyond its control.
The three most common forms of revenue generation on the web are:

  • Advertising
  • Services
  • Products

Advertising is the one most start with.
It’s very easy to add Google Adsense to your site. However, you need a phenomenal amount of traffic to make a genuine living from it. Trust me, you really do. And anyone telling you otherwise is telling a porky.

  • Services are fine but they’re hard to scale. There are only so many hours in the day. You can’t service clients in your sleep. Try it!
  • Products are the most difficult to develop. But the most lucrative… if you get it right.

 
What’s interesting for me is how Copyblogger developed a path that allowed it to escape from the blogging thread-mill and create something more substantial, with more value, and less dependency on web traffic.

Using your blog as a platform

If you go back to when Copyblogger started, it was like most blogs except that it identified, isolated and owned its niche very quickly. It grew incredibly fast.
This allowed it developed educational tools, such as Teaching Sells, which appealed to its readers.
However, the problem was scale.
Teaching Sells was/is limited to a number of subscribers. My understanding is that it’s run every year, sells out, and then re-runs the next year.
But wouldn’t something the sells 24×7 make more money?

Developing Complementary Solutions

Copyblogger moved into product development a few years ago with the Thesis Theme. This is probably the top-selling premium WordPress theme.
For different reasons, Copyblogger separated from the Thesis Theme developer and created their own offering – The Genesis Framework.
What’s interesting here is that what started as a copywriting site began to offer products that complemented their readers’ needs.
Copyblogger started to develop web products, built upon a strong brand name, that helped bloggers, ie their army of loyal readers, to be more successful.
At the moment, it offers three main products:

  • StudioPress for Blog Design
  • Scribe for Web Traffic
  • Premise for creating Landing Pages

Scaling

The advantage of having this suite of products is obvious:

  • Affiliates help spread the word and create more sales.
  • It’s less dependent on weaker business models, such as advertising which has taken a huge hit in the recession.
  • It can integrate these products with other partners
  •  Upsell opportunities can be realized by selling premium and enterprise versions

Conclusion
Here’s another way of looking at it. Take a look at the AdAdge Power 150 and see which of the sites in the top twenty you’d like to own.

  • Which sites have the best opportunities for revenue generation and licensing?
  • Which sites can be scaled, i.e. build other products upon what’s already there?
  • Which sites can expand into other verticals and industries?

Most sites cannot scale, have few independent revenue streams, and are vulnerable to competition.
What’s interesting about Copyblogger is how it’s building for the future. Instead of building a better blog, it’s building a better business.
What do you think? Is Copyblogger making the right move? Has it abandoned its roots? What do you think it will do next?

Warren Buffett and Better Business Plan Writing

‘The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.’ Warren Buffett

warren-buffet

How to Write an Executive Summary that generates interest

Your Executive Summary should excite the reader and help them understand the key results and conclusions in your business document, whether it’s your business proposal, business plan, annual report, case study or white paper.

Looking for inspiration?

Read the Annual Reports written by Warren Buffett and you’ll see how he does it. You know he has confidence in his company. He highlights the goods news in a nice understated way and delivers the less pleasant results with the same even tone.

Executive Summary Definition

Here’s one definition from The Handbook of Technical Writing, “An executive summary is to consolidate the principal points of a report in one place. It must cover the information in the report in enough detail to reflect accurately its content but concisely enough to permit an executive to digest the significance of the report without having to read it in full…."

Characteristics of a Well-Written Executive Summary

While this is a business document in the tradition sense, you must still find ways to stimulate the reader’s interest, make them want to turn the page and take some action.

  • Executive summaries must be original.
  • Executive summaries must not be cut-and-pastes extracts from the main document.
  • Executive Summary should provide unique information not contained anywhere else.
  • Executive summaries are standalone documents. The reader, for example, an investor, should be able to grasp your over-arching aims without having to read the entire document.

Documents That Require Executive Summaries

Some business documents require summaries, others don’t. Write an executive summary for the following types of documents:

  • Grant Applications
  • Standards
  • System Design Documents
  • Technical Reports
  • Training Plans
  • White Papers

Documents That Do Not Require Executive Summaries

You do NOT need to write an Executive Summary for shorter documents or certain technical publications, such as:

  • Functional Specifications
  • Meeting minutes
  • Release Notes
  • Status Reports
  • User Manuals
  • Workshop reports

Executive Summary Format & Guidelines

These are guidelines for your Executive Summary. They’re not set in stone, so adjust where necessary. The summary should cover the:

  • Purpose
  • Scope
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Conclusions

In general, you can write it as follows:

  • First paragraph answers: "What is this document about?"
  • Summary answers "How did you get the information?"
  • Expand on the Software Development process (if applicable)
  • Facts
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • Findings Note: present facts in tabular format.
  • Recommendations

What doesn’t go in the Executive Summary?

Other information that doesn’t go in the Executive Summary includes:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Background data
  • Cross-references
  • Footnotes
  • Industry updates
  • Justifications
  • Objectives
  • Project history
  • References

Remember to close your executive summary will a strong summary statement. This must persuade the reader that your business is a winner and the only way to do this is to turn the page and learn more about your company.

Final Tips for Writing the Business Plan’s Executive Summary

Provide a summary. The business plan itself gives the financial details.

  • Use strong and positive language.
  • No more two pages long. Don’t pad your business plan’s executive summary with fluff.
  • Generate interest by enticing your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
  • Read it aloud. Does it read well or sound artificial? Is it clear and succinct?
  • Adjust the executive summary for your respective audience. For example, if you want to attract investors, focus on the opportunity your business provides investors and why this opportunity is so special.
  • Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Does the executive summary really make you feel excited? If not, why?

First impressions count, right?

The Executive Summary of any business document is the first impression you make on the reader. If your business plan’s executive summary is poorly written, dull, or cut/pasted together it will hardly get noticed and the effort you put into the rest of the document won’t be seen.

Instead, set aside two or three hours and write the best Executive Summary you can. Challenge yourself to write three hundred words that excite you, generate interest, and paint a picture of your company. People want to read about other people. Don’t forget the power of human interest.

In the end, they’re going to do business with you – not your product.

The final word goes on Warren. Here’s his take on gold, “It gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”

Make sense?

About the Author: Ivan Walsh provides Business Tips for Smart People on Klariti.com. His also runs the Business Planning Blog at http://www.ivanwalsh.com

PS: The Business Plan Template is here

How To Ensure Your Business Proposal Gets Accepted By Difficult Evaluators

What’s your success ratio with proposals? 25% is average. Very few get 50%. I help government agencies evaluate proposals. Most bids that come across my desk make the same errors, use the same flawed strategies and are never accepted. And the next time, they repeat the same mistake. Here are some ways to avoid this. It’s not painful, it just requires effort.

What’s your success ratio with proposals? 25% is average. Very few get 50%. I help government agencies evaluate proposals. Most bids that come across my desk make the same errors, use the same flawed strategies and are never accepted. And the next time, they repeat the same mistake. Here are some ways to avoid this. It’s not painful, it just requires effort.
How To Ensure Your Proposal Gets Accepted By Difficult Evaluators

What does a Proposal Evaluator Do?

My job is to reject your proposal. I fail proposals if they miss a requirement, avoid a clause or get the figures wrong. We received 36 proposals for the last RFP. Some were over 300 pages. The less I have to review, the better.
Tip: make sure the proposals are well-bound. We scribble all over them, book-marking pages, and adding comments. Don’t use cheap papers and poor ring-binders. If they fall apart, I’m not going to re-assemble your document.

  • I eliminate proposals that don’t measure up. This means they fail on a technicality, are over budget, don’t agree to the deadline or have omitted to include some document.
  • Then I review what’s left and make a short list.
  • For me, evaluating a proposal is a process of elimination, not a process of selection. That happens later.
  • When you start your proposal, don’t focus on getting selected, instead WRITE A PROPOSAL THAT CANNOT BE ELIMINATED!

Here’s how you can do this:

  • Write your proposal so that the evaluator cannot reject it on a technicality.
  • Respond to every requirement in the Request For Proposal (RFP). This means you cannot be dis-qualified on the grounds that you were “non-responsive to the RFP.”
  • Identify the solution. If it’s a product, name it & give the version number.

  • Don’t be vague. State clearly how you will do this. If possible, describe the solution in a single sentience.

  • Demonstrate that you have provided this expertise in a similar project.
  • Support you claims with case studies, white papers and other reports where you are given credit.
  • Provide pen portraits of your team. CVs go in the appendix.
  • List the benefits that your solution provides. Cross-reference these against the requirements. Itemize and prioritize each benefit.

Remember, the evaluators are looking for ways to disqualify you.

  • Check your proposal once, twice and three times.
  • Each time check for a different weakness or error. For example, once for writing errors, then for flaws in the solution and finally in the costs.

Conclusion
Write the proposal so that it cannot be eliminated.
Once you have this established, then drill-down into each requirements and respond from the perspective of the reader. Regardless of how good you think your proposal is, if you overlook a technicality, you’re out.
What have I missed? Let me know what you think below.

Wired.com Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain #2

Wired.com Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain #2

Gary Wolf writes in Wired.com that, “two years ago, my fellow Wired writer Kevin Kelly and I noticed that many of our acquaintances were beginning to do this terrible thing to themselves, finding clever ways to extract streams of numbers from ordinary human activities. A new culture of personal data was taking shape.”
The immediate cause of this trend was obvious: New tools had made self-tracking easier. Continue reading “Wired.com Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain #2”

Where is the Search Engine on MSDN Blogs

Microsoft still has a lot to learn about search engines. While Bing is very impressive, other parts of the Microsoft websphere aren’t so lucky. Here is the search engine on the MSDN site. Do you see it? No? There is no search engine – at least not at first glance – until you click the Search link. Then, and only then, can you search the Microsoft blogs.

Microsoft still has a lot to learn about search engines. While Bing is very impressive, other parts of the Microsoft websphere aren’t so lucky.
Here is the search engine on the MSDN site.

Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanwalsh/3580555906/
Do you see it?
No?
There is no search engine – at least not at first glance – until you click the Search link.
Then, and only then, can you search the Microsoft blogs.
Why has Microsoft designed the site like this?
I don’t know.
I think it’s because they are a software development company and still think like developers – they haven’t made the switch to search. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong.
But I do know they need to re-define their search engine strategy or risk losing more market share.
Will Bing answer this?
We’re going to look at Bing later this week so stay tuned.
For a taster of what you get on Bing, look at the video. Go on, it’s free, and Bing is better than you think.
Find out more about Bing at: http://www.decisionengine.com/Default.html
rgs
Ivan
www.ivanwalsh.com

Case Study – AVST streamline delivery of documentation with MadCap Flare

flare This case study describes how Applied Voice & Speech Technologies, Inc. (AVST) significantly streamlined its delivery of documentation and training materials with MadCap Flare.

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Case Study – How US Healthcare Provider Uses MadCap Flare to Tailor Technical Documentation

flare A new case study from MadCap Software, shows how MadCap Flare can improve the quality of documentation for healthcare software users and streamline the technical writing team’s efforts. It highlights how one company in the healthcare software industry was able to build 11 online and print documentation outputs in just two days.

Continue reading “Case Study – How US Healthcare Provider Uses MadCap Flare to Tailor Technical Documentation”