How a simple framework can get you off the content treadmill

2017.12.04 Post #3 BLOG - Get off the content treadmill.jpg

If you could have $10K to spend on digital marketing for your business, how would you spend it?

A new website? Yep, I’d spend on that.
Content? Yep, I’d spend on that too.
What about graphics, branding materials, that type of thing?
CRM & email software?
What about a plan? Would anyone invest in a plan to pull all this stuff together?

Without a plan, without some sort of overarching framework or bird’s eye view of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you can very quickly start feeling like content marketing is about feeding an insatiable beast. You know the feeling? Like you’re on the content treadmill, running your guts out, making content for the sake of making content instead of making it to meet a direct need and purpose.

When that’s going on, your content quality and effectiveness is slipping, which usually means more effort, less results. That’s because quality isn’t prescriptive. It’s not about the number of times you post in a day, or how long your blog posts are, or how many views your Facebook Lives get. It’s about how your audience experiences the value you offer and how your customers get further along on their journey with you as you show them how you can solve their problem.

A journey that has a depth of experience is one that we value more and while the same is true for content, that depth of experience is way more about connection and really becoming personal to people. It’s about relationships and about becoming known for that thing you do. So it does take time, but it also takes some planning and some focus.

So how does this framework make things better?

This framework is based on 3 principles;

  1. Start with the end in mind - understand the problem and provide a solution
  2. Design your content with your audience and customers, and their problem, in mind - create a pathway from problem to solution
  3. People connect with people, not brands and stuff - be real, show your personality

The tools and tactic you use therefore, become your strategy which is overlaid on top of the framework.

Starting with the end in mind.

The role of your content is to sell your products and services, which exist to solve a problem your customers are having. The reason you need to start here is because the content you produce needs to form a clear pathway to the sale of your goods and services. This is why your business exists, it’s the mission you’re on.

Starting with why, your mission, is at the heart of the framework and at the heart of all of your content. All roads lead to Rome, as they say, so from here, you have to get into your customer’s shoes and figure out the steps they’d need to take, the information gaps they’ll need to be filled and the experience they’ll love to have in order to get to Rome. That is, be ready to buy.

The next ring around your mission, or Rome, is flagship content. This is where you’re offering something that gives a taste, a sample of the product or service you sell. In other words, you want to give people a demo of how you’ll solve this problem they’re having. It could be a sample, or it could be a free version of your course, or a free workshop, ebook, video series, or a framework like this one. Whatever it is, it’s your chance to show that you know what you’re talking about - you understand the problem, you’ve got a solution and you’re someone they can trust.

Once you’ve got that flagship content created, it’s then a case of building out that pathway of getting people to experience it. That path is created by your content - content that forms the road to Rome and it involves all of the marketing fundamentals of branding, consistency, and personality.

Design your content with your audience and customers, and their problem, in mind

So you want to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what you do and the problem you solve. If they’re left to guess, they won’t, they’ll just find somebody else who spells it out for them better than you did.

Not only do you need to make your mission and that pathway to the solution for their problem easy to understand, but you need to make it easy to DO. This is where both the strategic creation of your content as well as linking it all together comes in. This is the architecture of the content - the logical links that actually make going on a journey with you possible for your audience and customers.

It’s about demonstrating that you understand the problem you solve deeply and that you have the solution. But it’s not just about talking about it, it’s about leading people on a journey where they experience it for themselves. It’s about anticipating the next step, the next question, the next problem and the next solution.

That journey is also a bit of a dance. When you solve one problem, it’s delightful, but it inevitably leads you to the next, doesn’t it? It’s rarely, if ever, the end of the story. Take a framework like this, for example - I explain the framework, you’re undoubtedly enlightened, go off to create your content and you realise you’re not entirely sure what your flagship content should be. Stuck again. So ideally I will have thought about that next step, anticipated the next sticking point, and have the next solution all ready for you.

And so by doing this, you’re deepening that experience and that relationship. It builds trust and it makes it very easy for people to continue on that path with you. If it’s easy and you’re anticipating and solving their problems as they come up, why wouldn’t they stick around with you?

People connect with people, not brands and stuff

This bit isn’t really a step in the framework, it’s an overarching principle that if overlooked can render all of your efforts completely useless. It doesn’t matter how good your product is, or how amazing your service is. You could have the perfect manifestation of this framework or any other framework, but if you’re not connecting with people like an actual person, you’re missing out on a much bigger bit of the pie.

This is so true because we also see evidence in the reverse. People doing their thing, genuinely connecting with others and shining their personality on those who find them without any plan or structure or framework, and they’re killing it. It’s because above all else, people want to connect with people. It’s just the way we are. So if that’s you, imagine what a bit of structure and intent could do!

To solve a problem well, make it interesting and attractive enough for anyone to pay attention to you in the first place, you’ve got to understand who you’re talking to and be able to connect with them in a way that’s on their level. That cuts through the noise and speaks straight to them. This will be an evolving process and nailing it won’t happen overnight, but if you have a bit of a plan and you’re committed to sticking with it, it will happen.

So before you go off and spend money on your marketing, take some time to understand and map out the bigger picture. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown marketing plan, but at least a bird’s eye view of where you want to go and how you’ll get there is better than pouring money into keeping the content treadmill running. Even a really simple plan of the steps a prospective customer might take from finding you to eventually buying your product or service using a framework like this is better than treadmill fuel. Content is a work in progress, it does take time, but the more structure you can give it, the more effective it will be.

Even this framework is in a process of evolution. There are more elements and 2 other frameworks I want to incorporate into one whilst still maintaining its simplicity - simple is not easy! You can download the framework in its current format here and also watch the video of me explaining it, then as it evolves and hopefully becomes more useful, I’ll let you know.

To read the article about how flagship content anchors your strategy, click here, and to read about how to create killer flagship content, click here. You can also read the article about content marketing being like building a reputation here.

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Photo thanks to Scott Webb via Unsplash.