The following is adapted from The Thought Leader Formula.
When you’re laying the foundation for your thought leader platform, remember that some parts of your business will take time to grow. When you start out, the timeline will be even longer because you’ll need to build your credibility. It might take you six months to a year, or even longer, to get your first paid speaking gig, and that’s assuming you have at least one video and a developed content platform.
Parts of your business will take time to develop, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait forever to get going. I have seen friends launch themselves as thought leaders rapidly.
Monika Proffitt is a great example. She was at the beginning of her thought leader journey when we started working together. She had been successful in the art world, but she wanted to break out into the blockchain industry.
She made a major step toward this transition in a period of 10 days. As she already fully understood the basics of blockchain, she wrote an eighty-page book called Blockchain 101 quickly and easily, with little to no research.
As her mentor, we both agreed writing a book would make a big difference in her career change, but Monika wanted to do it cheaply and quickly, so I told her to publish a PDF.
To publish a PDF, you simply need to write a 20-page Word doc, and then turn it into a PDF. Alternatively, write ten to 15 articles, stitch them together in one document, call each article a chapter, add a little commentary that ties them all together in an intro and conclusion, and you’ve got a short book.
When brainstorming the book content, title, audience, business model, and potential revenue streams with Monika, we concluded that being an expert on blockchain at blockchain conferences wasn’t going to make her stand out. However, if she could be the only blockchain expert at non-blockchain events, she would have a starring role.
So, when writing her first book, she wrote the basics—essentially a dummies guide to blockchain. Not only was the content incredibly easy for her to write, but it was valuable for a lot of people, corporations, and startups that wanted to understand the basics.
Now Monika is one of the go-to people for events that need an “intro to blockchain” speaker. In fact, within months of publishing Blockchain 101, Monika was already speaking at MIT. What are the basics in your industry that you could teach to people outside your industry? That’s always a good angle to take when writing a PDF.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind when you write a PDF:
People pay for packaging and delivery, not content.
If you write one PDF, you can then create five or more products based on that, each one more expensive that the last. These are called “upsells.”
This step-by-step process translates well across many content mediums: written, in person, spoken, audio, video, and more. Here are the five products, aka upsells, and four more optional upsells you could launch from your PDF:
- A free workbook for the price of an email address.
- A book: expand on the PDF and sell it between 99 cents and $30.
- An online learning program: this is a higher-priced ticket item that expands on this content and engages members in a personalized way. A lot of paid online learning programs by thought leaders are priced between $59 and $3,000 in total, sometimes using a subscription model, sometimes a one-time purchase or payment plan model.
- An hourly consulting package for corporations and entrepreneurs. This is even higher priced and more personalized.
- A full keynote and/or workshop on the topic, typically for five-figure speaking fees.
- A community around the interest area: this can be one-time purchase or subscription model. Prices vary dramatically on these communities.
- An online conference, completely variable on pricing.
- An in-person conference, completely variable on pricing
- A mastermind conference: a hybrid between an in-person or online conference and a community. Some cost $100,000 a year per participant, with most around $5,000.
The “free” upsell item—the workbook—can act as a feeder to your sales funnel that leads to the expensive products or upsells. With the workbook, you provide value up-front in exchange for an email address, which most people see as a negligible or zero cost. In reality, email is a key avenue for a relationship.
Once I have your email address, you can communicate with about other products or upsells. Once someone downloads the free workbook and it provides value, they are also more likely to trust you and want to know more about what you offer.
This is called leading with value.
The beauty of ROI as a thought leader is that it multiplies over time. You put in the most work up front in everything new you do, and then you have all kinds of ways to sell your content and expertise, simply repackaging the same information and expanding upon it.
That begs the question: if it’s all the same information, why would someone pay thousands to hire me as a consultant if they could just get a free workbook?
People don’t pay for content; they pay for packaging.
The real value difference is in the packaging and personalization. When we have a hand to hold, we can learn more and grow more quickly. In an online course, for example, you can expand and customize the material much more than you would in something like a workbook.
Whatever industry you are in, you can use this same process. Consider what your upsells will look like. What can you offer in exchange for an email address that will provide value to your current potential revenue base? How will you expand the content and personalize your approach with each product or upsell?
For more advice on creating upsells for your thought leader platform, you can find The Thought Leader Formula on Amazon.
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