A few months ago I began thinking about building an audience (you, this audience) from a different angle. What prompted that is I wrote a few guest posts (which I spent hours on) that didn't produce very good results by my standards. I needed to try something different.

Now, before I continue, I still believe in the value of guest posting. Besides the tangible traffic, quality links, and subscribers that come from guest posting there are a couple of huge intangible benefits to guest posting.

  1. By providing high quality articles to other bloggers you're building goodwill. There are a lot of great blogs out there seeking quality content. Believe me, blog editors truly appreciate receiving high quality articles from you.
  2. Public writing practice. If you're trying to be a writer, it's good to take every opportunity you can to practice your craft. Obviously, at a certain point, you might have so many of your own writing projects to work on that taking most guest posts isn't worth it. But in the beginning stages of your website it's a good idea.
That's not what we're here to discuss though.

The Big Idea Strategy

The big idea strategy is nothing entirely new, but I can't recall anybody discussing it and breaking it down. And to be honest, it doesn't always work out as well as you might expect or hope. I think that's OK. If you continuously use The Big Idea Strategy you will hit on a few really successful ideas.

Why Big Ideas Work

They get people talking about you, usually in a decidedly positive light. While writing guest posts is all well and good, when somebody talks about you and links to you there is an instant bond of trust established. What I mean is, assuming the person who links to you has built trust with his/her audience, that trust is forwarded on to you in a way that just doesn't happen with a guest post.

Below are 4 Big Ideas I've used in the past 3 months and there is no reason you can't use them as well.

Big Idea #1: Free Manifesto / Collaborative Article

My first conscious attempt at a Big Idea was The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!), my free manifesto. Writing a free manifesto is fairly common these days. Writing a blog post where you solicit advice from X number of other bloggers is fairly common these days as well. I hadn't seen anybody put the two ideas together, so that's what I did.

Results: initial results were less than stellar. For whatever reason, August 30 (launch day) wasn't great. But since that time over 10,000 people have downloaded the manifesto and it continues to be one of the most visited articles on this blog. In addition to that, I get a consistent stream of e-mails thanking me for writing the manifesto. Positive feedback is always welcome. :)

Total cost: $250 for the design of the manifesto by Charlie. Time investment: ~20 hours, including writing and soliciting/editing the launch day post.

Big Idea #2: Create A Holiday

This idea hit me out of nowhere and I immediately acted on it. I'm not known as a minimalist blogger because I don't write too much about minimalism, but I live minimalism so I wanted to make myself more of an authority in the niche. Enter International Minimalist Day, a new holiday that will be celebrated every 23rd of September. :)

Results: in the minimalist community this article was passed around everywhere. And that was the exact plan. Now, in the future, in case anybody ever thinks "Hmm, I wonder if there's a minimalist day" hopefully my name and my site will come to mind or pop up in a search. :)

Total cost: $0. Time investment: ~4 hours to write/edit the International Minimalist Day article and send some personal e-mails.

Big Idea #3: 72 Hour Sale #1

2 weeks after International Minimalist Day I released my own book on minimalism, called The Luxury of Less, via a 72 hour minimalist book sale. Another big idea to get my name out in the minimalist community.

Thought process for creating this (watch out, we're directly entering my brain):

  • There's a price cap on minimalist eBooks. I'm going to price mine at $9.99, which will result in a lot of sales, but how can I increase the value for all buyers, and raise the price at the same time?
  • Hmm, I wonder if everybody else who has minimalist eBooks available would be interested in a fun promotion for 72 hours. I'm already friends with all these guys and gals, let's see what they think.
  • What would be a good price point, higher than normal, but not too high so as not to detract from sales? The minimalist community is generally known as frugal so I wanted to pack in as much value as possible, while still releasing a profitable product.
  • $27. It's higher than any single minimalist eBook, and by packaging them all together, it will be an almost no-brainer insane value.
Total cost: $350 for The Luxury of Less design, 72 hour sale images, and Amazon S3 hosting. Total time investment: ~40 hours, including writing the eBook and putting together the 72 hour sale.

Results: Besides sending $9,388.40 to Kiva.org entrepreneurs, I got my new minimalism eBook into the hands of 1,687 sweet people in 3 days and made almost $10k for myself. How many authors can say that?

Big Idea #4: 72 Hour Sale #2

For this sale, due to its massive scale, I brought on Baker as a partner, which severely cut down on my own workload and also made it a lot of fun to work on.

Our goal with this sale was to create a package that would sell for about $100, but to provide more than $1,000 in real value. It was the same concept as the first sale in that regard. The first sale was $224 in real value for $27. We met with a little bit of resistance, and almost didn't reach the psychologically important $1,000 mark. But Baker made it happen. :)

Total cost: ~$700. This included design services, programming, domain, e-junkie, aweber, and Amazon S3.

Results: Over 1,900 sales (I believe it's 1,915, but we're still waiting on some eChecks) and over $30k to Charity:Water. This was a completely different niche than the first 72 hour book sale and about 20,000 unique visitors came to our site in 72 hours. Being exposed to that many eyeballs for something that is such a huge win/win/win is a big ... win. ;)

The Big Wrap Up

The Big Idea Strategy isn't something you'll be able to use every single day, but it it something you should think about in addition to any other audience building strategies you use. Since first consciously utilizing The Big Idea Strategy in late August, my audience has grown by leaps and bounds. And it has been a lot of fun thinking about big things I can do instead of simply writing guest posts (which I will also do, of course).

You can use this no matter where you are in the growth phase of your audience. The Internet is the great equalizer. You have all the same opportunities as I do and vice versa. In actuality, you can copy the same Big Ideas I used above if you'd like. They will adapt to any niche, any audience.

How are you going to use the opportunities available to you? What Big Idea are you going to take action on today?

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