Blogs are great, but as many of my clients say, you never know who is reading them and there is no way to contact those readers with follow up offers. That's why every practitioner and website also need to provide a special report (give-away) that is available only by requesting it.
Requests are usually made by use of an email widget or form so that you can return the special report by email. This helps you build an email marketing list. Every solopreneur should have such a list, and be sending occasional ezines, as part of a well rounded marketing plan.
Here's what you need to know to write a 4-10 page special report.
Name the Problem Focus for the Report
Special reports are only useful and sought after when they give practical perspectives on a specific issue that your ideal clients are currently wrestling with. So the first thing you need is a narrow focus on a particular problem.
Often the problem focus is clearly spelled out in the title. Just as with blog titles, the best special report titles are somewhat catchy, or intriguing, or promise new insights or methods. Click here for some ideas.
Outline the Cost of Continuing to Have the Problem
There is always a cost -- in emotional peace, in time, in relationship harmony, self confidence, in energy output, and in financial resources. Be specific about detailing what the cost of the focus problem is for your particular potential clients.
Naming the problem and the costs of having it help develop emotional connection in the reader. When you are clear and concrete about the problem and costs as they are likely to be experiencing them in their own lives, those potential clients will begin to trust you, because will feel seen in their experience.
Mention the Accepted General Solution
Let's say your special report is about having self-sabotaging anxiety. The accepted general solution for that problem might be to learn relaxation techniques or use reality checks. Readers have probably heard this before, so these should be repeated in your special report as a way to align yourself with the standard of practice.
You might also mention the accepted general solution that many people resist or object to -- taking anti-anxiolytic medication. Depending on your own views about medicating emotions, you might acknowledge that this is a commonly prescribed option, but that it doesn't address the root of the problem -- and may have undesireable side effects.
Whatever the accepted general solution is, take half a page to note it, to explain why it's an option, and to say that your approach is different, has greater success, fits certain lifestyles better, doesn't have as many opponents, etc. In this way you are futuring pacing the reader to be interested in your approach.
Give Your Own Special Solution Steps
I hear you worrying already that if you outline the steps of your solution, no one will want to hire you. Experience proves that to be an unfounded concern.
What happens is that most people can't actually implement what they read. Plus, you aren't going to tell everything! --- just the most obvious 4 steps, as that is about all the average reader can take in at once. For example:
Step 1 for Stopping Self-Sabotaging Anxiety -- Confront Yourself
Ask yourself where your worry thought is coming from
What part of you is generating the thought
Ask what's going on in your life that this worry is coming up
Step 2 -- Take a Reality Check
Ask yourself if the thought is really true
Ask if it belongs to you, or to your mother, or boss
Step 3 -- State How Worry Thoughts Sabotage You
Say out loud: Keeping this thought forces me to ________
Say: Bu,t this thought's real goal is to keep me safe
Step 4 -- Negotiate New Anxiety Coping Method
Tell yourself: the old way of keeping safe isn't working
Tell yourself: worry is just a signal to slow down
Delay making decisions until anxiety eases
Tell others you are taking time to think things through
People love tips and steps. The shorter, the better. Lists of keypoints are great. You can elaborate after the list, but keep all keypoint lists succinct. Partial sentences are fine. No punctuation is okay. Make it easy and quick to read.
Obviously the 4 steps in this example need a lot of elaboration to make them really useful. Give half, and reserve half for your paid in-person / on the phone work. Because you give real suggestions, you will be building trust and rapport with your audience, and people will begin to view you as their go-to specialist. And that's exactly what puts butts in chairs in your office.
Illustrate the Process with Creative Anecdotes
People like to read stories about how others have come through the same problem. Anecdotes can be created as a composite of your case experience without revealing any actual client details.
For example: let's look at how this problem and solution have impacted Betty's life.
For our purposes here, we'll call Betty a typical psychotherapist. She has recently gone into private practice after years of working in a clinic where she didn't really have to do any marketing to fill her client load. Betty specializes in couples couples and wants to offer a special report from her website. But, she is anxious about writing something that's already been said, or that's boring, or that reveals too much. And that anxiety is paralyzing her efforts. Nearly a year has gone by without making any progress on this good way to market.
So Betty decided to consult with me about getting her special report project finished. As we talked through Steps 1 and 2, Betty realized that she had a constant and secret fear of not being good enough. And when she connected with this fear, it came up in her father's voice. She recognized then that she felt unsupported in her efforts to be in private practice.
Betty quickly saw that feeling like she was all on her own as a business owner was the root of feeling unsafe. She saw that her self-sabotaging procrastination in marketing could be framed as a way to keep her safe by preventing her from taking risks -- some that her father had lectured her to avoid. So we talked about necessary and unnecessary risk that private practitioners must take. Soon Betty was ready to follow this 7 point formula for writing her own special report. And once the report was online working for her, her practice schedule began to fill.
Claim Your Authority at the End of your Report
Now it's time to briefly mention your credentials, in a casual and relevant way. You might ease into it by saying something like -- Betty is not the only clinician stuck in a self-sabotaging hesitance when it comes to marketing. I've talked to hundred of solopreneurs just like her who have learned how to handle professional anxiety and have created a thriving practice.
And switching back here to talk to you, dear reader, from my own authority, you might like to know how I know what I'm talking about. My knowledge comes from a degree in communication arts, experience as a journalist and author of several books and many special reports, and my decades of implementing the same advice to fill my own private therapy practice. So you can be assured when I recommend a marketing method, I have tried it myself, and proven it to work.
Notice in that paragraph above, I haven't droned on about schools, and publication titles. I can point you to my CV if you really want to know, but I have found it more effective to give credentials in this casual, conversational way.
Make a Next Step Offer
And finally you are at the end of writing your special report. Don't forget to wrap up with a call to action! The more straight forward, the better, but it doesn't hurt to remind the reader of their current pain or problem.
So if you want to have a special report you can use to help market your practice, and you need a more personal look at where you are in process, I'm happy to do a 30 or 60 minute coaching consultation with you. Click here for more details.