How To Use Other People’s Ideas for Fun & Profit (Without Copying)

Joanna Wiebe on marketing her new content marketing and writing app, Airstory

The more you learn about copywriting (or sales and marketing in general) the more you realize that half of your job is using other people’s ideas.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating for copying other people’s work.

Is that clear?

Okay… what I mean is that…

Business is always a process of identifying what works and creating from that knowledge.

Copywriters do this by paying attention to what really grabs their attention, turning that into a formula, and then creating completely original content on top of that formula.

Now, copywriting is a particular passion of mine. I love learning about how it works and I love the way it trains me to think differently.

And when I think copywriting, I think Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hackers.

I had the chance to talk to Joanna about her approach to marketing a brand new project that Copy Hackers has been working on, Airstory.

When I asked her how she was approaching the marketing for Airstory–which Joanna describes as what would happen if Google Docs & Evernote had a baby and let Trello raise it–she said she was really inspired by a marketing campaign that Blue Bottle Coffee had come up with.

They decided they wanted to use the idea too.

Blue Bottle had created a beautiful video “course” on Skillshare that explained the process of brewing exceptional coffee from start to finish. As Joanna told me, the result of watching it was that you couldn’t think about coffee the same way again.

In order for her to use the idea… 

Joanna needed to reverse engineer it.

Her goal is to get people to rethink the way they’ve always done a frequent task: content marketing specifically and writing generally.

After all, that’s what Blue Bottle did. It’s not really about the videos, it’s not really about putting it on Skillshare. The really important part is to understand the mechanism that made that campaign go viral: rethinking the way you do a daily task.

Further, Joanna told me, the real idea is teaching people to be a better consumer of your product so that they’ll only want to choose your product in the future. It’ll be the only one that now meets their standards.

Once she knew that, she could approach marketing Airstory with the “how and what” of the Blue Bottle campaign but with her core goal being to create better writers instead of better coffee brewers.

The videos and distribution channel for the marketing campaign became what I call the “building blocks” of her marketing. But her own product, brand, and customer perspective become what the building blocks are made out of.

You can do the same thing with any successful marketing or sales assets.

What’s more: you should.

I teach our Quiet Power Strategy clients to start looking at every sales page that catches their eye or every email that moves them to click as an opportunity to create a template.

That template is inevitably made up of building blocks that you can use if you only sub in what’s particular to your product, brand, and customer perspective.

Take this blog post, for instance!

  • The first building block (at the beginning) is a shocking or counterintuitive statement that seems to go against cultural norms.
  • The second building block (the bulk of the email) is an explanation of this idea referencing a conversation, in this case, one I had with a successful business owner.
  • The third building block (what you’re reading right now) is a call to action around how to apply this to work for you.
  • The fourth building block (it’s coming, read on!) is a final call to action to check out the whole conversation.

So what are you waiting for?

Listen to Joanna explain this whole process–plus how she interviews prospects to come up with product ideas and how she’s built out two teams to support both the training side of the business and the software side of the business.

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Turning Customer Research Into a New Product with Copyhackers and Airstory co-founder Joanna Wiebe

Turning Customer Research into a New Product with Copy Hackers and Airstory co-founder Joanna Wiebe
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • How listening, watching and interviewing customers about the pain points of their process, helped the Copy Hackers team develop the basic idea of a new product.
  • What the jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation is and how it facilitates customer research.
  • How growth, innovation and building new solutions build on the battle scars you learned from other endeavors and creates opportunities and new responsibilities for your team.

Listen. Watch. Interview. And then build.

As Copy Hackers and Airstory co-founder, Joanna Wiebe relates in this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., these steps were foundational building blocks in the creation of the new business endeavor, Airstory, a drag-and-drop document builder. Think: Google docs and Evernote had a baby and let Trello raise it.

The more we listened to more and more people and how they wrote. . .they were all kind of clunkily putting stuff together. So, all of this stuff was happening, and we’re like, OK, well, maybe we can solve this. That’s where the basic idea of Airstory was born.

– Joanna Wiebe

Jobs-to-Be-Done Approach to Innovation

When the Copy Hackers team attended the Business of Software conference 2 ½ years ago, they knew they wanted to build something for the same audience they served with Copy Hackers and to solve some of the problems they kept seeing over and over again. Joanna attended a session at the conference led by Bob Moesta of The Rewired Group where she was introduced to the jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation. The jobs-to-be-done approach essentially tasks the innovator with figuring out what job consumers want to hire a product to do. When consumers buy a product, they “hire” it to get the job done. If a product doesn’t perform, it gets “fired” and there’s opportunity to build something to take its place.

The Copy Hackers team followed the jobs-to-be-done approach and set out to uncover what specific job needed to be done that a software could solve for a content team. Although they started the process by talking to writers, novelists, editors and literary agents, they ultimately determined large content teams with demanding deadlines such as Moz and Hubspot would be the target audience for their new product, in part because they had money to pay for a solution.

“We went through two years of iterating on it to make sure that it had stronger value that it could provide for people. We’re really only now getting to the point where we have a good structure in place, we have a solution here. Do we have something that’s enough to make someone switch?”

– Joanna Wiebe

Joanna describes how they uncovered the “secret sauce” to Airstory when they watched and listened to how these content teams were creating content. Hint: It had nothing to do with their age, gender or socioeconomic status as traditional persona work might make you think.

Effective Customer Interviews

“Interviewing people. Putting something together. Watch beta users. And then get to this place now that we’re onto something; maybe not 100%, but we’re onto something.”

– Joanna Wiebe

Soliciting customer feedback was crucial in the development of Airstory. As Joanna said, it’s essential to get inside the heads of your customers to determine what problem you can solve.

Listen to the full podcast to learn Joanna’s approach to customer interviews, how reverse engineering someone else’s solution to identify building blocks and create something unique is part of innovation, and how to apply lessons you learned on past projects to enhance your current and future work.

To get your weekly Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast fix, where we dig into the nitty-gritty details of marketing, management, business development and more with some of today’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, subscribe on iTunes.