I attended a travel show this weekend and witnessed something that was pretty impressive. There were multiple stages set up around the perimeter of the convention center, each of which could hold several hundred attendees. As I walked around, it was obvious the each presentation area had a speaker booked at all times. But most of the presentation areas only had a dozen or so people listening to the speaker. Except one.

In the far back corner there was a speaker who literally packed every seat plus standing room only. There must have been 500 people listening to him. You’ve probably heard of him. His name: Rick Steves.

What made Rick Steves so much more popular than all the other speakers combined? Was it

because he is on television? That certainly helps, but I think it is the other way around: he got to be on television because he was providing a ton of value to his followers.

If you look at Rick Steves’ business, he is basically a content creator: He creates videos that are on television. He writes books and travel guides. He writes a blog. He has a radio show. He has a YouTube channel with over 800,000 subscribers. The amazing thing is that Rick Steves gives away all of his information for free! No wonder he was such a popular speaker at the show.

“I always just feel that the more generous you can be with your information, if you’re passionate about it, it will provide for you the basis for keeping your business viable.” – Rick Steves Share on X

Rick Steves charges public broadcasters nothing to air his programs. He also posts all of his episodes online for free, an extension of his passion to push Americans out of their bubble and get them exploring the globe. In an interview with current.org, he was asked, ” Could you explain how your business model works? You offer your TV shows to stations for free, right? And your radio show, too? Where do you make money? “

Steves replied, “Right now I’m doing just what I was when I was a 20-year-old student at the University of Washington. I spend the summer traveling, I make all sorts of mistakes, I take careful notes, and I come home and I package the lessons from my mistakes into some kind of content that I can amplify. Originally it was giving lectures, then it was writing guidebooks, taking tours around, then it was doing TV, and now it’s doing radio also.

When I started my lectures, back when I was a kid, I’d charge people for the classes, and I found people — couples — were choosing one person or the other to take the class because they couldn’t afford both to take it. Or I’d offer a class and I’d have 50 people paying $10 each. I’d rather have 200 people paying nothing than 50 people paying $10 as long as I can cover my costs, and that’s my business model. Even way, way back when I was just a student, offer all the information for free, and then teach with all your heart and soul. I’ve got guidebooks that people can buy, and I’ve always been able to make money selling my guidebooks.”

Interesting, here is a guy who creates a boat load of content and he gives it away. But all this content supports the product he sells (his guidebooks). He describes his business model as one based on generosity. Think of how this applies to your business. How much content do you create? Are you publishing this on a regular and consistent basis? Do you give away a ton of value to generate a following that supports your sales model?

I like to follow Rick Steves’ example and give away a ton of content: this blog and newsletters, my podcast, and my seminars. What do I sell? I develop custom ecommerce websites and teach courses so people like you can manage and run your online business.

Over all the years I’ve been in this business, I find that most businesses simply do not create enough content. Perhaps you can’t produce content at the same rate that Rick Steves does, but creating content WILL make a huge difference in your business. It is what keeps people coming back to you (or your website) again and again. If you want to sell more with your online store, start a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel.

The key, as Rick Steves describes, is to create your content with passion. I’ve used this example before, but take a look at Jessica Alba’s blog for her business, the Honest Company (https://www.honest.com/blog). Clearly Jessica is passionate about what she has created. She links to her products within her blog posts. But she provides real value.

Travel Show

Did you miss the travel and adventure show but you are interested in a unique experience? A friend and colleague of mine is producing an event in a couple of weeks called the Small Ship Cruising Expo in Denver. If you preregister, the event is free and parking is free. Check it out at: https://smallshipcruisingexpo.com/

Tools for Creating Content

Gary Vaynerchuck said, “The cost of entry to being relevant in our society today…is content. If you’re not putting out [content], you basically don’t exist…Every single one of you is a media company.” You know you need to create content, but you aren’t sure what kind of content you should create or even how to do it. Here’s the thing: A little content here and there doesn’t do much for your business or brand. A lot of content on the other hand – reaching levels that would be described as “prolific” – can absolutely skyrocket your business. It can turn you into the next Rick Steves.

The biggest tip for becoming a prolific content creator is to get in the habit of creating content daily. That doesn’t mean you need to write a blog post or create a video every day, it means you need to have the habit of creating something on a consistent and regular basis. Once you have built up enough content, you can repurpose it in different formats and on different platforms. Here is an example of repurposing the content in the article into memes that can be shared on Instagram and Pinterest, pointing back to the original article:

All of these were made from free images at Pixabay and quotes were added from the article or about the article. Simple and effective and I’ve got enough content for a week. Some types of content you can produce:

  • Articles & blog posts
  • Audio & podcasts
  • Checklists
  • Menus
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Ebooks
  • Online courses
  • Email / Newsletters
  • Infographics
  • Photos
  • Webinars
  • Slide Presentations
  • Quote cards & memes
  • Interviews
  • Q&As
  • Contests
  • Quizzes
  • Product reviews
  • Virtual summits
  • Challenges
  • …and more

Can’t think of what to talk about? The best way to create content is through your own experiences, much like Rick Steves does. But you can also create content by gathering information from other sources and putting your own spin on it. Personally, I never run out of ideas because I consume more content than I put out, but if you’re really feeling stuck try syndicating content from other sources. Use a RSS Feed Aggregator like Feedly to combine multiple information sources into a single place where you can do your research. If you are using WordPress, there is a great plugin called Feedzy Lite that allows you to display articles from hundreds of sites and combine them into a single page as i do with this: https://webstoresltd.com/education/news/

Regardless of how many times people proclaim “blogging is dead,” “email is dead,” “organic reach on social is dead” or “SEO is dead,” content marketing continues to grow in volume and effectiveness. And its not just influencers, but savvy business owners who are making their voices heard. The bottom line is that the longer you publish infrequently or put out mediocre content, the harder it will be for you to sell your products and services online. Be like Jessica Alba, Rick Steves and Gary Vee!