by Gabriela Pereira
In my last post, I talked about why you should consider running a 30-day challenge to boost your business. Today I’m sharing four easy steps to help you create that challenge. How you apply these four steps will depend on what your business is and what ultimate conversion goal you’re going for. For instance, if your goal with a 30-day challenge is to beta-test some new content, how you approach building the challenge will be very different than if you’re aiming to use the challenge as part of the sales funnel for a specific product. Either, way, though, these four steps should remain the same regardless of your topic or goal.
1. Start with the call to action (CTA).
This might sound like putting the cart before the horse, but before you even consider any details of the challenge, you have to have clear conversion goals. What is the obvious next step you want your customers or fans to take after the challenge? Is there a specific product or service you want them to purchase? Do you want them to sign up for a webinar or share their challenge results with a friend? Whatever that call to action may be, it must be clear. Why? Because the content for your challenge completely depends on that CTA.
Here’s the reality: yes, you’re building your 30-day challenge to give your people something awesome but you also want at least a fraction of those people to take that next step. This means that you’ll want to reverse-engineer the challenged content based on what your call to action is.
For example, suppose you’re an author and you’re about to launch your zombie book series. Running a 30-day fitness challenge would make absolutely no sense because it has nothing to do with zombie books. On the other hand, if you did a 30-day How-to-Survive-the-Zombie-Apocalypse Readiness Challenge then it makes more sense. By the time your customers finish the challenge, they’re immersed in that zombie world and would likely be interested in reading your zombie book series.
2. Figure out the “Before” and the “After.”
The whole point of a 30-day challenge is that it produces change. Whether your goal is to get people on the green smoothie bandwagon or to help them grow their email list, there needs to be a clear result for the challenge. This is more than just saying “You’ll drink green smoothies every day for a month,” you have to paint a clear picture of what life looks (and feels) like both before and after the challenge. Think of the challenge as a road trip. Before you plan out your route, you need to figure out where you’re starting from and where you want to go. Be clear on these start and endpoints from the get-go and the journey will flow naturally from there.
In August, DIY MFA ran #CTC29 (“Conquer the Craft in 29 Days”) In this challenge, the change was that by the end of the month, writers would have conquered the craft of fiction. In other words, this wasn’t just a “write one prompt every day” challenge; there was clear change built into those 30 days. Before the challenge, writers might be intimidated by the nuts and bolts of writing fiction, but by taking these incremental steps throughout the month, they would master the techniques and ultimately “Conquer the Craft.”
Power Tip #1: For maximum marketing punch, build the results of your challenge right into the title.
3. Map out the journey.
A 30-day challenge isn’t just thirty days of doing something, it’s a transformative journey and you have to think of it as such. It’s not enough to ask people to do something every day for 30 days, you have to create a story arc or journey for the challenge. There’s a reason the material for Day 1 is at the beginning, and the material for Day 29 is at the end. There’s a build-up and you have to craft the challenge accordingly.
Power Tip #2: Use index cards to brainstorm each day’s material for your challenge. Lay them out and play with the order until you’re happy with the progression. For #CTC29, the prompts grouped naturally into categories so it was easy to put them in an order that worked.
Power Tip #3: If you’re creating a challenge that focuses on building stamina, make sure you don’t start too hardcore. Make the first few days of the challenge a little bit easier so that people can get in the rhythm, then build up from there. You want to avoid making the challenge too hard at the get-go, or you’ll see a lot of people quit before they even get going.
4. Build a community around the challenge.
Let’s face it, change is painful and 30-day challenges create change. Even if the results of the challenge are great, getting through those 30 days can be rough. Nobody likes to suffer alone so it’s crucial to build a community around the challenge. This way, people can support each other as they battle their way through the month-long event. Here are a few tips for building a challenging community.
- Integrate your social media. For #CTC29 one of the biggest challenges was making sure that all of our social media was working together to support the challenge and create that community. Our primary outlet for challenge-related discussion was the Twitter hashtag so we had to keep funneling discussion from other social media to that hashtag, while still keeping enough going on in the other platforms to engage non-Twitter-users. You need to find that sweet spot between interacting enough to build a community and not getting overwhelmed by trying to be everywhere at once.
- Hashtag it up. Create a hashtag for your challenge! Just make sure the hashtag you choose isn’t being used for something else. The last thing you want is to choose a hashtag and suddenly find out that it’s also used for another (possibly embarrassing) topic. Once you’ve picked a hashtag, build traction by using it for all your conversations about the challenge.
- Connect on a personal level. Nothing beats a little one-on-one TLC from a challenge leader. As your challenge progresses, you’ll start seeing the same die-hard fans commenting and chatting it up. Give these super-fans some extra attention because they will be your evangelists the next time you run the challenge, plus they’re likely to be vocal about helping to promote future products and services as well. These people are your hard-core fans so treat them like super VIPs.
- Collect testimonials during the challenge. Every time someone tweets or shares a nice comment about the challenge, contact them and ask for permission to use it as a testimonial. Even if you don’t use it right away, just save those testimonials in a Google Doc or desktop folder. You never know when they’ll come in handy and it’s best to collect the testimonials now (while the challenge is fresh) than trying to drum them up later on.
A 30-day challenge can be a rewarding experience, not just for your people as they get awesome results, but for you as well. I myself used a 30-day challenge back in 2010 to beta-test the basic idea for DIYMFA.com and since then I’ve created #CTC29 which has helped me meet and connect many wonderful writers. My team and I are planning to run the challenge again later this fall, and I’ll keep you posted on any new insights I get from doing it again. Until next time, keep writing and keep being awesome!
Gabriela Pereira is the Instigator of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master’s degree in writing, and she holds an MFA from the New School (New York, NY). While undercover as a graduate student, she learned the inside scoop on MFA programs, invented a slew of writing tools all her own, and discovered new, more effective ways for writers to learn their craft. Now she wants to share what she learned and help writers around the world get the “knowledge without the college.”
Before founding DIY MFA, Gabriela taught several writing courses in New York City at organizations like 826NYC, Everybody Wins, EHTP, and a local writing workshop she built from the ground up. More recently she has shifted gears to teaching exclusively at DIY MFA but continues to speak and lead workshops at national and international writing conferences both online and off.
Her favorite thing to do is come up with new dastardly plans and innovative resources for DIY MFA. When she’s not working, Gabriela loves to write middle-grade and teen fiction, with short stories “grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. She is represented by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management and is currently working on a book on writing.
Gabriela lives in NYC with Lawyer-Hubby, Little Man, Lady Bug, and a trifecta of feline critters. You can connect with her on Twitter (@DIYMFA).