You’ve committed to an email marketing program for your business. You’ve promised subscribers you’ll deliver emails regularly. You sit at your desk a day or two before the planned delivery date, put your fingers on the keyboard and then … nothing. Crickets chirping. A cursor blinking on a blank page. You have no idea what to write.

So many email campaigns suffer this dreaded fate. The deadline passes. The promise is broken. The campaign crashes and burns. Cause of death: writer’s block.

Like so many small-business people, I used to suffer from writer’s block. Then I found a cure.

I’ll reveal the secret by describing my process that led to this column.

Every January I create a one-page planner for my content marketing. The page has a table with 12 rows and three columns. The columns have these headings: FAQs (frequently asked questions), SAQs (should ask questions) and objections.

I spend an hour or two completing the table.

What are the questions I hear most frequently from my clients and prospects? Examples: How often should I send emails? What makes a good subject line? What factors affect open rates?

What are the questions they don’t ask but probably should? Examples: How do I improve click-through rates? Where does email fit with offline media? Which statistics are most important to track?

What are the most common objections I hear from prospects considering my software and services? Examples: I can send emails myself without an email service provider. My list is too small. I don’t know what to write. (Notice that last objection.)

I complete the table and revise it at least once a year – three columns, 12 rows. Then I tack the one-pager to the bulletin board next to my desk.

Every three months I outline a calendar of topics for all of my content marketing – email newsletters, blogs, newspaper columns and social media. I select my topics by referring to the FAQ-SAQ-Objections table.

At the beginning of June I planned content for the third quarter of 2016 (July through September). I referred to my FAQ-SAQ-Objections table and saw the entry “I don’t know what to write…” in column 3 (Objections), row 4. I marked my calendar for September: “Small Business Monthly Column – I don’t know what to write/writer’s block.”

By planning my topics in advance, I eliminate writer’s block. No longer do I sit at my keyboard on deadline wondering, “What should I write this month?” Since I determine the topic so far in advance, I’m thinking about the contents and organization of the article well before the deadline. Sometimes that thinking occurs consciously. Often it happens subconsciously.

The same principles and practices apply to all content marketing I execute. Outline a set of rough topics once a year. Select topics and put them on the calendar once a quarter. Think about the specific content for those topics in the time after you’ve scheduled them.

If you follow this prescription, you’ll cure writer’s block and your emails and other content marketing will be much more effective.

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