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4 Steps to Creating 30-Day Challenge by @DIYMFA

4 Steps to Creating 30-Day Challenge

by Gabriela Pereira | Featured Contributor

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.

Instragram-CTC29
Mind map and notes used to create the DIY MFA challenge (#CTC29).

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 challenge 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 everyday” 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 hard-core. 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 challenge 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 hash tag so we had to keep funneling discussion from other social media to that hash tag, 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 but not getting overwhelmed by trying to be everywhere at once.
  • Hash tag it up. Create a hash tag for your challenge! Just make sure the hash tag you choose isn’t being used for something else. Last thing you want is to choose a hash tag and suddenly find out that it’s also used for another (possibly embarrassing) topic. Once you’ve picked a hash tag, 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!

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GPereira-AuthorPic2Gabriela Pereira is the Creative Director and Instigator of DIY MFA, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. Gabriela earned an MFA from The New School and is the author of several articles on the process and craft of writing. She has taught writing at various organizations throughout New York City.

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12 Replies to “4 Steps to Creating 30-Day Challenge by @DIYMFA”

  1. Kelly Edmonds

    Hi, Gabriela – great to see you in here and providing great advice. I delivered a 5-day challenge earlier this summer and called, ‘5 Day Design Trip’. Basically over 5 days we helped people build an actual lesson in an online course using the free version of a hosted platform, Thinkific (my partners in this event).

    It was great fun and participants learned a lot in this simple event about course design, student learning needs, best activities, and how to use learning technologies.

    We used Facebook for questions and sharing screenshots of final lessons. I created subgroups in my Facebook group (E-Learning Rocks) using images as a post for 7 different groups (based on industry/field of participant). We plan to run this event in Oct again.

    Furthermore, I like you idea about hashtags on Twitter to circulate about the event.

    1. Gabriela Pereira

      Hi Kelly! So great to see you here as well! It’s been a while since I’ve been active on this site (writing and publishing craziness) but I’m thrilled to see that this post is still proving helpful to people. GREAT idea for your event and I love how it leads logically to your paid courses and offerings. That’s the key that I think many people miss when creating challenges: you need to see where you want participants to get to, otherwise the challenge is just a fun event but it doesn’t really work as a sales tool.

      Interesting enough, I recently used these same concepts while leading my Street Team for the DIY MFA book. While the Street Team experience wasn’t a “challenge” in the strictest sense of the word, it certainly was similar to a challenge in that it was a journey for the participants. There was definitely still that beginning-middle-end arc to it like a challenge would have. 🙂

  2. James Chapman

    Hi Gabriela, we are developing a “90-day” team-based challenge on walking (virtually) the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine (2,200 miles), and several topics in your article are very helpful … thank you! I’d love to chat about our plan and possibly use you as a resource if you’re interested … please see our website at https://www.95210.org.

  3. Marlene

    This post is so fantastically helpful! Do you have any advice or insight around # 4 and using either Facebook fan pages or Facebook groups?

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Marlene — Good question! I personally find Twitter hash tags to be my go-to choice but that’s because I started out my social media “life” on Twitter so FB always feels a bit more of a stretch. I think you could totally use a Facebook fan page to help build buzz around the challenge and if you want you could create a group around it as well. If FB is your strength, then I would start testing out different ideas.

      My only hesitation with a FB group is feasibility (in terms of time it will take to manage the group). This is why I find Twitter easier, because it allows people to be part of the conversation, but you don’t have to be the one engaging all the time. With CTC29, after a few days of me tweeting and replying, people in the challenge began making friends and they took the conversation from there. I know this can happen on FB too, but I find that FB tends to be more high-maintenance in terms of needing someone to lead the conversation.

      Also remember, a private group is great for giving people a safe space to discuss challenge-related topics, but then the social media impact (in terms of helping you grow your list) may not be nearly as viral. It all depends on your goals, your strengths, and the challenge you want to create.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Marlene

        Once again, so helpful and smart. Thank you! I’m also more active and comfortable on Twitter so I might just keep it to that.

  4. Melissa Stewart

    What a great post Gabriela! I’ve never done a 30 day challenge but your breakdown makes it seem a little less overwhelming and more doable. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing with She Owns It!!

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Hi Melissa,

      My pleasure! It was a blast writing this post and I’m glad you found it helpful. Hope it inspires lots of fabulous women entrepreneur to give a 30-Day challenge a try.

  5. SallyE

    Hi Gabriela,
    I’ve never done this before, probably because it seemed too difficult, both to offer my audience and to do myself. I don’t think is was the 30 days. It was just the challenge itself not fitting what I was already challenged by my business to do. I’m hoping with your guidelines, I can now do something like this effectively. Thanks so much for putting it into a step-by-step. Now I’m an expert. –Sally

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Hi Sally,

      Totally hear you! That’s why I think it’s SO important to focus on the CTA from the get-go, so you build a challenge that’s helpful to your people, but that also flows naturally to your next step (whether it’s a product, an opt-in, or something else entirely.)

      If you decide to run a challenge using these tips, please let me know how it goes!

  6. Judy Yaron PhD

    I am not a great fan of 30 Day Challenges, Gabriela. Challenges, yes. 30 days – no. BUT, I found your post to be VERY good! It is sensible, clear and easy to follow. Your approach, whether deliberately or not, follows Stephen Covey’s 2nd Habit – “Begin with the end in mind”, which I believe is the best way to go about planning anything.
    Loved it! HUGS <3

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Hi Judy!

      I agree on the 30 days, in the sense that often these long challenges aren’t thought through completely and the number “30” can be fairly arbitrary. But if you think in terms of building habits and crafting the challenge as a journey, then the number of days doesn’t really matter; the key is choosing the right number for the change you want to create. (As you know, some changes can take longer to take effect than others.)

      I think a lot of people avoid 30-day challenges because they’re afraid it’s gimmicky and my goal here is to give a framework for thinking about challenges in a way that feels more genuine (and more doable).

      Thanks for your great comment! Cheers!

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