Re-inventing the wheel is commonly regarded as a waste of your time and effort. So how would we regard re-inventing your own wheel?
Believe me, it happens more often than you think - I've discovered this only last week myself.
During the second half of last year we noticed an increase in website visitors searching on the keywords: restoring or repairing parquet floor. Web marketing logic dictated we wrote a dedicated web page - wood guide - on this subject (in fact, we wrote two: "7 Easy steps to repair/restore your parquet floor" and "3 Easy steps to clean and maintain your parquet floor")
The 7 Steps almost immediately became the most popular page of our 'static' website. We then took the step - no pun intended - to turn this wood-guide into our first digital wood product, complete with extra information and advice. This was launched end December and has been ordered 7 times already (not bad for a specialised and physical product retailer we think = average one a week).
Now, on our FAQ & News site we also have a most popular post containing simple tips and advice for DIY-ers. In fact sometimes we feel we are giving away too much information - information suppliers/retailers should give their clients. Most however don't and many DIY-ers end up on our websites. Even if they have already bought all the materials somewhere else. This and the "succes" of our first digital wood product gave food for thought, which in a meeting with our good friend "the company-doctor" also came to the forefront. Why not reduce the info in that particular post and create a Comprehensive Installation Guide, give this away for free to our own DIY-clients (on CD-rom) while making it also available (at a price) for others?
We also agreed that if we were to sell our knowledge it should contain as much practical information as possible - we still feel a bit strange 'selling' digital wood products. And I saw a month of writing ahead.
And then I saw 'the light'. We've been writing advice, tips etc in posts and web pages for over 4 years! Why re-invent the wheel, or better our own wheel?
All I had to do was compile the written material already at hand. In between normal daily tasks of a retailer this only took me 4 days. A great help in this was of course one of my favourite software programs "ScreenSteps", the Rapid Documentation Tool.
You create a 'manual', name sections (like introduction, preparations, installation and resources) and in these sections you create your chapters (lessons).
In the lessons you write the 'steps' - every step is a 'sub header' - your audience/reader must take to complete the task at hand and even better, the 'camera' lets you capture screen shots for images. As in "a picture tells more than a thousand words".
In the lessons you can swap steps around by simple drag and drop them and in the manual you can swap lessons around in the same way.
Then the best part of the software takes place with one simple click of the button Export. The whole manual is converted into a PDF complete with:
- Cover page (you can add and edit the templates very simple)
- Index-page (with links to the 'lessons')
- Page header image & footer text (again you add/edit these in the PDF template and you can create an unlimited number of templates)
The whole process of converting the 57 pages - yes, 57 pages! - into a PDF took only 1 minute.
Since yesterday the new Guide is for sale on our website, the "delivery" of it is of course automated too: combining AWeber with Paypal (more on this in later posts).
Lesson learned: all of us have specialist knowledge about our job/trade/profession and most of us have written plenty of posts/articles/white-papers about it. Instead of writing new material, why not search through all you already have in your 'possession' - and only add new materials/edit existing material where needed?
Why re-invent your own wheel?