content marketing

Stuff shmuff - stories are how we make sense of the world.

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The effect of our environment has on us and the way we develop, the way we live, our habits and beliefs, is astounding, isn’t it?

I still think of human brains like massive sponges soaking up everything around them and then incorporating the other stuff we’ve already soaked up. For me personally, I find this thought both comforting and exciting because for most of us, we have a lot of control over what we hang around, both physically and mentally, and therefore, what we soak up.

You know that maxim that we are the average of the 5 people we hang around the most, or spend the most time with, however it goes … That’s pretty interesting, but what’s most interesting about it is how you can control who you’re hanging around and what you’re feeding that brain sponge of yours.

For me, I access ‘hanging out’ with all sorts of brilliant and amazing people through the books I read. This totally counts and while I can’t physically be with them, it’s probably more powerful anyway to be hanging out with their focused and organised thoughts that are books.

And there’s something really interesting that I’ve noticed about this - while you can learn from the step-by-step guides and lists and reference-type articles, the ones that show you exactly how to do something and are of great value because of this, the greatest value comes from tapping into someone else’s experience. It’s the story, that kind of connection that seems to reach our brains in a different way - an emotional way.

That connection, that emotion is what really inspired and motivates us to make use of the practical knowledge and resources all around us. I really do believe that you can learn anything and that, especially now with the sea of information available to us, is not that hard. Pretty easy in fact.

I had a friend whose car battery went flat and wouldn’t start. The only other person around was another friend who did have jumper leads, but neither of them knew how to use them. What did they do? Call one of their husbands or the RAC? No, they YouTubed it of course and were back on the road in less than 5 minutes.

That’s a really simple example and I’m sure that heaps of people would have done the same thing. I’m pretty sure they didn’t tap into some deep archetypal story in order to think of YouTubing how to jump start a car. But with so much information available to us about EVERYTHING, how are we drawn to and know what to listen to, to seek, to choose?

It’s through the stories that we identify with, the stories we internalise from our environment and the stories we aspire to make our own. And that’s why being aware of the environment you’re creating for yourself reveals the path you’ll take, the opportunities you’ll attract and the outcomes you’ll manifest.

Stories allow us to see ourselves in a different light, to see the possibilities and options that in the end lead us to choose the information, the people, the art, the places, the brands and everything else we’ll seek and incorporate into our lives.

Think about this in terms of content, both that which you create and that which you consume. Content that’s just information alone might be useful, but it’s kind of like a commodity. Will we come back? Maybe. Will we feel a connection with it and start feeling trusting and eventually loyal towards it? Well maybe, but if there’s something else that gives us that emotional connection as well as solving the problem, we’ll probably go for that … and go back again, primed and ready to take notice and incorporate what it says.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ is full of statistics, but it’s the stories that inspire and bring those stats to life. Jen Sincero’s book ‘You Are a Badass’ has a great list of other books and resources at the back, but it’s all the stories in all the preceding pages that make a reader almost certainly pursue at least one of them.

Stuff is just stuff, information is just information. Humans are emotional creatures and we all make sense of the world and stuff and information through stories. When content lacks the emotional element, the story bit, it just becomes a commodity and blends in, gets lost and doesn’t stick like it could.

Find the stories that matter to you and follow the people who tell them, see where they take you. If Tony Robbins is your story guy, but you’re a tax accountant, follow the trail of his stories - they’ll inform and influence your own in a way that’s unique and a way that will stand out.

If you’re a patchwork quilter, but you love Steve Jobs and Metalica, more’s the better. Follow them, read their stories, open your mind to how you fit into all three because when you do, then your own stories develop and shine in a way that only yours can. You’ll start to have an impact on people’s lives because you’re allowing them to connect with you in a way that tax accounting or patchwork quilting alone can’t.


This isn’t a content marketing or social media tactic, it’s just being human. Tools are just tools - it takes a human connection to get them to take us where we want to go.

Content marketing isn't rocket science and you don't have to be a multi-million dollar brand to express your message and build your tribe. Everyone has a story and they're all unique and they're all important. Pepper Street's mission is to help small businesses tell theirs in a way that's manageable, is true and feels good, so if you liked this article, you can receive the weekly blog via email by adding your details below. And if you'd like to check out our Ultimate Content Framework, you can download that here
 

How a simple framework can get you off the content treadmill

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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.

If you’d like to receive these articles via a weekly email, as well as other content marketing tips, ideas and inspiration, please subscribe below - I’d love to stay in touch :)
 

Photo thanks to Scott Webb via Unsplash.

Express your truth

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Surely you’re over being told that. I am and can’t really believe I’m about to write about it, but I’ll tell you why I’m going to to do just that … it’s because the easiest and hands-down most effective way to create content, and content that actually engages people, is to find your truth, and then practice expressing it.

I know, I see you with the eye-rolling after reading that first paragraph, and no doubt I’ve lost some of you by now, but I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t think it was true and worth thinking about.

On one hand, it sounds so easy and basic, there’s a tendency to ignore it. Like, yeah, yeah, got it. Yep, heard that, already know it, read it before, 10,000 times in fact, and have definitely earned the right to now ignore it. 

Yes, that was me too. It makes so much sense, it’s easy to trivialise and disregard. I do it too, and yet, as a content creator for my own brand and others, it’s something I’m starting to realise is more of a fundamental content creation skill (and being a proper human being online skill) than just a throw-away, woo-woo, content fodder line.

Because actually doing it can be surprisingly tricky. I mean for a start, you have to know what your “truth” is, right? And even if you know that, why does it matter to anyone else anyway? Besides, on top of everything else, it then takes courage and guts to express that stuff, doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing; it’s not actually all that hard, but it does take practice and it does make content a lot easier to produce and a lot more engaging. In fact, in that way, it’s a lot like the effects of meditation on life.

On the surface meditating, that is, in essence, not thinking, or letting thoughts go without getting ‘involved’, is both extremely simple, and yet something that takes a lot of practice to master. It’s worth it though because even if you’re not that great at it (who’s judging anyway except for you?!), the practice itself is good for you. Just practicing it makes you feel better.

It’s the same thing with your truth and the content that expresses that - it takes practice, but the practice itself is good for you. It’s not an end-game thing, it’s the journey. And when you practice expressing your truth, you’ll get better and better and expressing it, whatever the subject at hand is.

The truth is that we’re communicating and connecting more often and with a far more diverse variety of people than ever before because of the channels and conduits available to us. Therefore we’re all having to evolve so that we can work out what’s relevant to us and what’s not. With so much choice and so much information, so much content, the way we’re getting really good at coping with it all is by finding what really lights us up, resonates and connects deeply. We look for something personal, we want real people, real connection.

Information is gigantuous, overwhelming - it’s too much and at the same time, not enough. We need to step back into our human instincts to make sense of it all, to filter what we’ll take in and what we’ll ignore. And our instincts are emotional. We sum people up on gut feelings, in the blink of an eye, and we do the same with content and information.

Your truth, who you really are, and what’s actually important to you is the way you connect with people. It’s in the subtle things you say and nuances in how you say them. It’s the stuff that lights you up. It’s the things that don’t change no matter who you’re talking to, what business you’re in or why you’re creating content. It’s also in the things that make you stand out, the things that are truly unique, and the things that can never be copied.

Yes, it does take some practice, no, actually, it’s an ongoing practice, like meditation, but one that benefits you unquestionably and one that allows other to connect with your meaningfully, which is, after all, the point of creating content in the first place.

Ok, I hear you say, that all sounds well and good, but how does one actually practice expressing said truth in one’s said content?
 
Here’s an idea - try this;

For the next 2 weeks, create one piece of content every day that’s purely based on expressing your truth, in whatever form that may take.
You don’t have to publish it, or do anything with it at all, just do it.
Make it, say it, write it, record it, paint it, design it - whatever it is, just do it as if no one else will ever see it. Complete freedom, complete privacy.
Just you, what you care about and how you feel like expressing it.

Do this once a day for 2 weeks and see what comes up. Write it in a journal, in Evernote, record your voice, or a video, create draft posts in Facebook or your blog - whatever, just allow yourself to create without constraint. See how it feels, see what comes up - be open and brave and remember that no one’s watching so go for it.

This should be a very revealing and inspiring exercise. You may end up with a heap of content that’s perfect as it is and ready to use. You may end up with recurring themes and ideas that you hadn’t noticed before. You may find that it was the easiest and the best content you’ve ever produced and be wondering why you haven’t done this before. You may even have revealed a slightly new path, opportunity or passion that’s been dying to be given wings.

Go on, try it - what have you got to lose?
Nothing, but you just might come across some well-deserved and really valuable insight.

So if you’re keen to do this and want daily prompts within a community of people doing the same, join the Not Rocket Science Facebook group. No one’s going to make you post your stuff, but it can be really inspiring seeing what comes up for other people on a similar journey.

Also, if you think you might need a bit of a kick-starter for thinking about your truth and your mission, you can download the ‘What’s your mission anyway?’ workbook here.

You can also download my flagship content framework right here. It's a simple visual PDF that shows how to start with your mission, create flagship pieces, align your other and link it all together to create that journey and experience for your audience. ... and it's kinda pretty so you can stick it up where you can see it when you're creating to keep you on track :)

For more about what to write or say, the Stuck For Words blog post gives some suggestions for getting unstuck, and Say What You Want to Say is more riffing along the same tune.


Thanks to Neven Krcmarek for the photo via Unsplash.

How to create killer flagship content

You and I both know that there are a million resources out there on how to create excellent flagship, or anchor content. Some of them are brilliant, some of them not so much. This is something you’re going to have to figure out by doing it. Pick and choose the bits you like, the bits you want to try, the things that resonate to get this thing done. But here’s the thing - for all that advice and all those resources, you still have to make it YOURS. Your voice, your style, your angle and your take on things - please, please, please start here first.

With more content being produced on a daily basis than we can poke a stick at, tuning into your own voice, values and unique style is fundamental. Sure, you can copy everyone else and you might even get some good traction, but even if you do, how sustainable is it if it’s not quite you? And how real are the relationships you’re forming from it?

Flagship content is killer when it provides real value to real people and in my opinion, that means it has to be real too. Think about how you want people to feel when they find it, inject it with the things that care about, use the words that you really use and bring them into your fold. When you start with that mindset, you’re already well on your way to creating stuff that people will actually genuinely really love.

You’re the art, sweetheart

There’s no shortage of resources to teach you the tactics. You can learn anything, anyone can. The tools, the tactics, the tricks really are, like never before, available to anyone. And none of it’s rocket science, once you get into it, is it?

But the art is the more difficult part, the unique part, the YOU part. Difficult, that is, for everyone but you. To you, it’s just, well, you and that’s the bit, believe it or not, that people crave. People want to connect with people, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a cheat sheet on how to use groups in your email marketing, or how to paint your toes without botching it - there will be almost as many resources on that thing as there are people in the world … but only you can do it your way.

Two similar *things*, two totally different *experiences*. That’s the magic. That’s the you. It’s the art of turning a ‘thing’ into an experience. Be good at what you do - be very good at what you do, then focus on the magic, the way people experience what you do in the way that only you can.

That’s how you stand out, that’s how you become different and that’s how what you do starts to really matter to the people you serve.

Know your audience and solve a real problem


Gah, really? This again? I’m tired of reading that so I’m going to have to come up with a new way of saying it because it does need to be said. It’s what’s at the heart of anything really good in terms of content, isn’t it?

But here’s the thing - it takes time. Knowing your audience, truly understanding their problem, the one you want to be known for solving, and creating that killer solution that they love TAKES TIME. It’s bit like building a reputation with your content - it’s a process that takes time and you can’t just skip to the good bits (you can read a whole article on this here: Relax, content marketing is like building a reputation - it takes time).

Content is about building relationships and relationships take time. There are probably plenty of people in your real life that you know very well. You know what motivates them, what they struggle with, what makes them happy and where they’re trying to go. But you did not learn all that in your first meeting. No. Most of the time, it took years of experiencing things with them to learn about them

And yep, it’s the same with your audience. You have to create experiences with them so you can learn about them and them about you. Now, I’m not saying that you have to wait years before you can understand your audience well enough to make something cool for them - don’t do that! Make something today! But what I am saying is that it’s an ongoing journey and what you understand and create today is not set in stone and is not the end of the road - it’s just a moment in time.

To know your audience, you’ve got to get amongst them


Because your audience is made up of real, actual people and so to know them, you have to get amongst them.
 
Getting to know people doesn’t happen on paper, or in check-boxes, or ‘know your audience’ infographics - it happens with conversations, by being real, by caring and sharing (sorry, but it’s true), and taking the time to listen.
 
It’s not something that you get to the end of either, that you get to be ‘done’ with, because it’s ongoing, as are the evolution of all relationships.
 
Meeting people where they are and building communities around common interests and values is nothing new, and yet we can all fall into the trap of trying to ‘create opportunities’ and make sales before we even really know who they are.
 
We need to get amongst our audiences, get to know them as people. Seek to understand them first and figure out how we fit in with them and how we can help, before we analyse how they fit in with us and what we’re selling.

If you’re not sure what to create for your flagship content, start small and start specific. What’s something one of your customers has been struggling with? What keeps coming up in your networking groups? What’s the tiny little pain in the ass thing that you hated so much you figured out a way to fix it?

Don’t try to solve all of the world’s problems, just start with one little thing and bring to it everything you know about that exact thing.

Learn by doing


You have to learn what works by doing it, by trying things. Producing great content is a choice and that’s because learning to do it well comes from doing it.

You can read all you like. You can study the best. You can emulate those who’ve gone before, and I would definitely suggest all of those, but most of all, you have to learn by *doing* it.

Do your best work, then take notice of how you can do it better. Take notice of what engages your audience. Take notice of what leaves them quiet.

Take notice and take action - neither of which can be achieved through theory alone. This kind of learning comes from getting out there and doing it and it’s best way to both continually improve your content and engage your people.

Watch, listen and DO. Standing out is not about being louder, nor about being everywhere all the time. It’s about getting better, improving every day. It’s about doing and that means you have to start.

Get good at asking the right questions


I was reading a discussion in a content marketing group today about asking the right questions to produce the right content.

Rightly so, the thrust of the thread was all about questions like, ‘What is the purpose of your content?’, ‘What action do you want people to take?’, ‘How does this piece fit in your sales funnel?’ …

However, it struck me that no one asked, ‘How do I want my audience to feel?’

The other questions are important, no doubt, but if you can’t connect through a feeling first, subsequent actions are unlikely, and that’s because humans feel first.

It’s the feeling that an image, or a video, or a blog post conjure up that gets people’s attention. It’s the feeling that make them want to know more, that plants a seed of interest, which grows into familiarity, of brand recognition, aspiration and eventually, trust and loyalty.

If you’re going to convey feeling, then you gotta feel it first. Trust your instinct, express yourself, talk about what you really care about and find images that match the way you feel. If you practice this, you’ll find your authentic voice, your brand will come alive and you’ll be standing out with authenticity, being super-visible to those who really matter.

The more feeling you can convey in your content, the more visibility you’ll be creating for your brand … that’s because people connect through their feelings and emotions. What you might think is the burning issue, the one you want to solve, might turn out to be not as much of an issue as the underlying cause, but you’ll only discover that by trying and by asking.

Give them what they WANT

This can be more tricky than it sounds. All too often we focus on producing content that we know our audience needs or can benefit from, rather than what they actually want. That’s because we’re thinking from our place of having learnt the lessons and earnt the expertise. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that if we can’t say it or present it in a way that meets our people exactly where they are, then we’ll miss the target.

You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.

We actually need to be educated about what we need before we know we need it. And that’s why jumping in with our expert solutions, as brilliant as they may be, can be met with crickets. Nada. Niente.

Listen first. Find and create ways and places to listen and learn. And when you understand where people are at and what they want, then and only then, can you give them what they need … all wrapped up and tied beautifully in what they want.

Make it all about THEM

This is relationships 101, right? How to win friends and influence people? Make it all about THEM.

And if you haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m a firm believer that content is all about relationships.

The reason you’re producing content is so that you can form relationships with people. Therefore, all of the same rules and best practices apply whether you’re doing it online or having an in-real-life conversation with someone.

The problem with online content is that we’re usually waaaay too aware that we’re talking to people en masse … and people ‘en masse’ don’t have names and faces. Kind of a generic blob, really.

But when you’re talking to a generic blob, the actual names and faces that make up that blob can kind of tell, right? You know, content that’s meh. Take it or leave it, remember it not.

Actually what people really want is content that’s all about them. You know those things you read, or view, and could swear to god that person got in your head and made that thing especially for you. It’s an awesome feeling and not something you can usually do by thinking of faceless blobs.

I challenge you to write, or record your next post thinking of one very specific person - talk to them, show them you understand, show them you’ve been listening. See how that goes and comment below. Do you already do this? How much better is your content when you have an actual person in mind?

Make yours better


If there’s stuff out there that people love and want, then by all means, go in and get a piece of that. But! Make yours better. This is not rocket science, is it? If it’s already out there and doing well, especially by several big-hitters, then you need to make yours better.

You know people want it and that it’s popular, so that’s a start, but make it stand out with more, better and YOU.

A good way to figure out how to do that, is to just ask yourself what’s missing from what’s already out there? How could it be better? What’s the thing that would make this awesome? And, more often than not, that’s just a great big slice of you.
Get to the point
This goes for your headline, the URL and the content itself. The clearer, more straightforward and to the point it is, the more easily people can understand it, remember it and share it.

If it’s a guide or an infographic, make it easy to grasp at a glance - not too cluttered or complicated.

The same goes for an article or report - use headings to break it up logically and make sure it flows. You need to make sure it's as easy to read as possible, especially if it’s an epic piece that goes into a lot of detail.

Link to more


Use links throughout your piece, where appropriate, to other work and resources that supports and augments this one. Think about the journey you want to lead your audience on and while flagship pieces should certainly stand alone in their depth and value, they also need give your audience somewhere to go.

Think about the information that precedes this piece, as well as what people what to know after they’ve absorbed this one. Don’t just leave it at that - show them how it fits in, the steps before and the steps after. (You can read more here on how flagship content anchors your strategy).


Flagship content is a work in progress - it evolves


Don’t let the need for perfection stop you from sharing your knowledge and getting something out there. I’m not for one minute suggesting that you should disregard quality altogether - I’m not, this is flagSHIP content after all, not flagSHIT content. However, don’t think of it as something static that has to be perfect once and for all. Think of it as something that you’ll add to and refine over time. Something that will increase in quality, value and usefulness as you learn more and more people engage with it.

The idea is to make it today to the best of your ability, but to add to it, tweak and refine it over time. This way, it stays current with ongoing evergreen appeal and allows you to promote revised editions without creating all-new content. So put the work in today, but with the mindset of creating something that will grow and evolve over time. Taking the first step is the only way you can get to the next step.

It won’t be for everyone … and that’s ok


Great content is subjective - not everyone is going to agree on whether the same piece of content is great or not, and that’s fine. The important thing is that your audience thinks it's great, and they are not everyone.

Content that your audience thinks is great will be stuff that’s useful (or educational), entertaining, or inspiring.

What’s considered useful will depend on who you’re talking to, as will entertaining and inspiring, but in broad terms, these are the that jobs great content does and why certain people really love certain stuff. In other words, why they find a connection with it.

And that’s what you’re after - a connection. Producing content, good content, is all about connection. Connection that forms the basis for relationships, which is why we’re all in business anyway.

In conclusion


Go and give it a go - think about what you can make that your audience will love and which will really help them out with something. Show your passion and your personality because at the end of the day, people connect with people. Don’t let perfection hold you back and know that this thing will evolve over time, as will you and your relationships.

At this point, after reading my own mammoth article, I’d also like to acknowledge and point you towards Chris Garrett’s own mammoth article (book, actually) on how to create killer flagship content. You can find it at http://www.chrisg.com/ and I’m very confident you’ll enjoy it - it’s very good. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris.

You can also download my flagship content framework right here. It's a simple visual PDF that shows how to start with your mission, create flagship pieces, align your other and link it all together to create that journey and experience for your audience. ... and it's kinda pretty so you can stick it up where you can see it when you're creating to keep you on track :)

 

If you’re feeling daunted, or inspired (!) about how to get more visibility for your brand through your content strategy, it’s ok - you know more than you think you do and it’s really not rocket science after all, honestly.

Getting a grip on your content marketing is as easier with a collaborative community to support you, and it just so happens that I know one …

https://www.facebook.com/groups/notrocketscience/

Flagship content anchors your strategy

 

Who’s ever fallen into the trap of running your guts out on the content/social media treadmill? You know, where you’re so hell-bent on showing up consistently and sticking to your schedule that you start to numb out a bit and lose the point. It’s hard to admit, but a case of quantity over quality, or letting cadence reign.

The treadmill happens when showing up takes priority over your value. You know, the ‘ole that’ll do, just get it out there. Obviously there’s a bit of that in every piece of content we produce - you absolutely do have to get to the point where it will be enough, or we’d never publish anything.

But I’m talking about when this ‘just punch it out’ approach is more chronic. Where your value slips as a result. This is not a good thing. It’s not just a waste of time, but it will damage your brand and your reputation over time.

Quality & consistency go hand in hand

Producing quality content consistently, on the other hand, has a cumulative effect. The deeper you go, the more value you offer, the more likely your audience will want to know more, so it makes sense to understand that context and provide them with the next logical step. You can create that context, provide the next logical step for your audience AND make it easier to produce better content consistently by creating and incorporating awesome flagship content pieces.

It’s not a new idea, but nonetheless, here’s my take on how to use flagship content in a framework that’s going to serve both you and your audience.

What does quality mean?

Quality, to me, means that it’s of value to the people you’re making it for and its presentation or delivery is of a standard that adds to their experience of that value.

Value and quality are similar, but I’m not sure that they’re the same.

It’s a bit like someone doing an awesome podcast interview, but the sound quality sucks and you can’t hear it properly. I might think the content is perfect, EXACTLY what I want to hear and therefore of high value. Except that I can’t hear it properly. My experience of the value is diminished because the overall quality isn’t there.

And what we value is an individual thing.

Does quality mean a 4,000 thousand word blog post, beautifully formatted and presented?

Yes, maybe it does.

Does it mean showing up on Facebook Live everyday, without fail, with a killer, super-actionable tip?

Yes, it could. If that’s of value to your people and that’s how they want to experience that value.

But it’s not about the length of the article, or the video production, or the amount of times you show up. It’s about the real value you provide and how your people experience that value.

Experience has depth

We humans love to ‘experience’ things, don’t we? Look at all the stuff we do in the name of ‘experience’! No wonder it’s a popular word.

But what makes a good experience? What makes an experience positive, something we remember, something we talk about and something we want more of?

Our good experiences are the ones with depth. Deep experiences can mean more to us than the actual thing itself because of their context. Even a simple, or seemingly mundane experience may be remembered and cherished because of the meaning we attach to it. It’s the context that gives an experience depth.

Context deepens the content experience too

Just like all the other things we experience in life, content is also experienced in layers - layers that build on each other.

So take that 4,000 word blog post, for example - that could be the most epic, most mind-blowing, dead-set value-packed, on-point thing ever written, but without context, it’s still not all it could be. It needs to fit in. It needs a path to it and it needs a path after it so that those layers of experience become part a journey that has a cumulative effect.

Content and context need an anchor

When you think about a journey, you generally think about getting somewhere, right? Even if that ‘somewhere’ is just enjoying the journey itself, the journey is anchored, it has a reason. And it’s the same for content.

Knowing how to solve the burning problem your people are experiencing is a good basis for giving your content an anchor, but making a specific piece of content that actually embodies that mission is even better. And the reason is simple; because then you can build a content journey around that mission that deepens your audience’s experience at every step of the way.

Start with why

When you start with your why, your mission, it’s easy to come up with flagship content ideas that will really be of value to your audience. They’re the pieces of content, whatever the format, that solve the problems they struggle with. It’s the stuff you do best, the foundation of everything you do, it’s your way, your voice, your style, your thing.

Flagship pieces are loved by your customers because they’re something that actually helps them with the problem you know all about.

Your why is the anchor.

Your flagship pieces express that why and provide the context.

And your internal links provide the journey.

Content that’s linked creates a journey

… the next logical step

If you’re taking the time to focus on your mission and create excellent flagship content, then you want to be thinking about how it fits into the bigger picture of your audience’s journey with you. Show them you understand by making it easy for them to take the next step.

When you create flagship content that’s based on your mission, it’s much easier to produce other content that supports and feeds those flagship pieces and expresses your value to your audience. Your concepts, your philosophies, your approach, the things you want to become known for are now easier to be clear about when they’re anchored and they have context.

Deepen that experience and show your audience you understand their journey by highlighting that context and showing them the next step. Logically and helpfully guide them to more, the next bit, more depth, another touchpoint, another piece of the problem solved.

Do this by linking your content, not only in the logical flow of subject matter between pieces, but by including actual links between each and every piece.

Ask yourself, what would they want to know next?

What questions come up from what I’ve just shared?

What other content does it relate to, or that I can create, to continue this path for them?

Better for you, better for your audience

This makes it easier for you to produce better content because you’re putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and walking the talk. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time - you know your stuff and all the bits that give it context - hang onto that thread and over time and draw out every detail. This is how you make your content more specific and more valuable.

Which is also great for your audience, of course. Now they get to experience even deeper value as you guide them along their journey with you. A journey that’s logical and helpful - who doesn’t like that?

And just as an added bonus, it’s good for SEO too. Search engines love this kind of content architecture because it makes their job easier. Google loves great content just as much as your audience does and like your audience, it’s the links that make it easy to determine the relevance and authority in what you’re producing.

So it’s not exactly rocket science, but with a bit of thought and planning, you can make your content much better and much easier to produce. That’s good for you and good for your audience. After all, content is about human relationships, so when the why’s clear and it’s supported by a simple framework, beautiful things can happen.

Ready for more?

So now if you're all fired up and ready to jump into creating some of that amazing flagship content for yourself, hop over to How to create killer flagship content to learn how.

You can also download a PDF copy of the framework here so you can stick up and keep focused when you're creating for your audience - remember to start with your mission, align all of your content to that mission through flagship pieces and link it all together to create a journey.

 

I’m talking about this framework in the Like A Boss virtual summit that starts on 1 July.

The Like A Boss summit is designed to inspire, switch you up a notch and make all sorts of lights go off in your business head. It features 15+ bosses sharing their best knowledge nuggets in short, easily digestible video trainings.

When you sign up for the summit, you’ll not only see a video of me going into the detail of  everything you’ve just read here, but you’ll also be able to download the framework PDF so you can start applying it to your content today.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for free here.

The money's in the list ... still.

Social media marketing is brilliant for reach and targeting, no doubt about it, but email is still the linchpin for building genuine relationships with your customers and clients. And that’s very much STILL the case, which is why email marketing absolutely has got be a permanent and prioritised feature of your marketing plan.

There are lots of reasons that email’s really important in your marketing efforts, but it’s good to also remember that it works best when it’s part of a strategic and purposeful system. That is, I’m not here telling you to forget about your social or content marketing, or that paid ads have no place if you’re rocking your email marketing - they do. It’s the role of email marketing as the linchpin or glue in an overall system that makes it truly awesome.

Did you know that on average, for every $1 spend on email marketing, $38 is generated in return (Content Marketing Institute, 2016)? Not bad, hey? Here are some reasons why that’s the case;

  1. They’re already interested - you have their attention. You have their email address for a reason, either you’ve worked with them before, or they’ve shown their interest by signing up to your list, that’s why it’s so much easier to build that relationship from here.

  2. It’s a personal medium - it feels like you’re talking one-on-one and that the message was sent just for them … or at least it should. And when it does, it’s so much easier, again, to build rapport and relationships.

  3. An inbox is quieter than a social media network - when you’re in someone’s inbox, you’re not competing with a thousand other bells, whistles, people, offers and ads.

  4. You’re not limited to how long for short you want to go - if you have a lot to explain about a more complex product, service, or event, you can provide a lot of value by providing the necessary detail. If, on the other hand, short is more appropriate, that’s fine too.

  5. Email marketing is targeted - when you email your whole list, you already know they’re interested in what you do, but by segmenting that list, you can be even more targeted in your messaging. By changing your messages depending on the needs & interests of each segment, you’re providing more value and becoming more relevant to your people.

  6. Stay top of mind & build brand awareness with each and every email that you know is going to be seen - even if they delete the email, they still had to have seen it, and your company name, and then taken an action.

  7. Email is easy to share with friends - an email jammed with valuable information or a great offer is just the ‘forward’ button away from being seen by a wider audience.

  8. Email marketing is measurable. When you use an ESP (email service provider), they’ll provide you with all sorts of accurate and useful data that will give you excellent insight into your efforts, as well as your audience’s preferences based on their actions - gold.

  9. Email marketing is incredibly cost effective. When you’re starting out with building a list, you can market without any cost, except your time. As your list grows and you require more complex functions to manage it, your ESP will cost more, but because of the reasons listed here, your return on every dollar spent makes it extremely lucrative.

Oh, and one more reason … you own your list and no one can take it away from you. This is really important because it puts you in control. Your social media followers aren’t really yours because if Facebook shut down your page, or ceased to exist (this is not going to happen of course, just an example), you’re left with nothing. Your list is yours. It’s part of your company’s IP, and you’re in complete control of it.

So given you’re now fully sold on the importance of your email list and email marketing, your next question will be how to grow your email list, right? Oh! Glad you asked. This bit’s pretty cool and I have some brilliant ideas for you, especially for using social media to do it … but, I’ve pledged to respect your time and keep my blogs a bit shorter than they used to be, so you’ll have to wait until Thursday. Don’t worry, it’ll be totally worth the wait, I promise.

In the meantime, if you want to pick my brains on any of this, send me an email - andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). And, it has to be said, if you’d like to relax knowing you’re in the loop with our latest marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to our list right here :)

Have a great day,

Andrea

Keep showing up

If you’ve read any of my blog or social posts, you’ll probably know by now that I rate quality and consistency pretty highly in terms of social media marketing & the associated production of content. Quality is half the battle, consistency is the second, but showing up is all about the balance between the two so that striving for perfection doesn’t jeopardise achieving either.

You know that feeling when you’re committed to writing or posting or creating in a reasonably scheduled way, and you’ve been doing well - you’ve stuck to what you said you’d do & delivered good quality on time. But then things get busy, it’s time to post and you’re staring at your screen thinking, “What on earth am I going to do?”.

So you stick with it, you get it done … but it’s not good enough. It’s not as good as your other work. It’s not perfect. You can’t post it, can’t ship it, can’t send it. Damn! Not only have you spent time producing something that you’re just not happy with, but now you don’t even want to use it, so your consistency, your schedule is interrupted.

This is where showing up with ‘enough’ is better than not showing up at all, and where good enough is better than nothing at all.

Now please don’t get me wrong - when I say ‘good enough’, I am in no way advocating using ‘good enough’ as an excuse for poor quality. I am not for one moment saying you should post any old rubbish or deliver substandard work EVER. But what I am advocating is that sometimes perfection has to take a backseat to doing enough NOW.

That’s because reaching perfection could take a couple of days, a week, a month … years! And will it be worth it? No, because you diminish the power of quality if it’s not delivered consistently.

Improvement takes time and it comes from doing the work, so in your quest to attain that perfection, that mastery, you have to be willing to practice consistency so that you get better at producing quality ON TIME. Ship the ‘good enough’ - your next will be better, and doing this is precisely how you’ll get better.

Showing up is a long game - consistency builds trust in your audience over time, and you’ll feel more comfortable and get better at the work you’re producing over that time. Showing up also means being in front of your audience on social media every day - if you’re not, then someone else will be. Google needs you to show up on a regular basis so you can stay relevant and be found in search queries - periods of silence just don’t rank.

And another thing - every time you show up, you’re adding to your body of work. If you posted on social every day, or wrote a blog post every week, or gave a presentation once a month, you would have 180 social posts, 24 blog posts, and 6 presentations not only done and dusted, but at your disposal to reuse & repurpose in any way you please. You’ve also got data on how those pieces performed, and you learnt about producing quality content on time with each and every one.

Don’t let perfectionism or creative block stop you from showing up. You’ll learn more from showing up under different circumstances than you will by not showing up at all. And your audience or customers don’t need you to be perfect - they mostly just want you to show up for them because they’re looking for someone to trust with their attention and their money. Be that person - show up for them … and it’s amazing how what they think is perfect differs from what you do anyway. Show up today, and tomorrow, and the next day … I just don’t want you to stop.


As always, if you want to chat about some simple things you can implement to get better at producing your content consistently, send me an email at andrea@pepperstreetsocial, or fill in the form on the Work page, or connect with me on one of my social accounts - I would love to hear from you and I don’t charge anything for having a chat :)

Make content for people to love, not for consumers to consume

If I asked you how your business stands out from your competitors, you’ll probably tell me about the things that are easy to explain, the tangible things. You might say that you have the newest, most modern equipment, or technology, or that your location is the best, your coffee’s the best, that your products really help people etc. And you’re probably right, and while these features are no doubt important, they’re not the only reason people do business with you.

There are a whole heap of other reasons that people choose you over your competition that have nothing to do with the ‘what’ of your business and everything to do with the ‘why’. These are the emotions that really drive customer’s decisions and keep them coming back. Reasons like trust and the way they feel when they experience what you sell.

It’s the same with the content you produce. Building relationships & earning trust are two of the main outcomes of producing great content. That’s because it’s a way for people to get a ‘feel’ for what it’s like to do business with you before they actually make that decision (and indeed content is often used to make that decision), and to continue to nurture those relationships for the long term.

Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.

People aren't going to do business with you if they don't trust you, right? But how can you earn their trust before they buy from you? It's not enough just to be seen, you really have to find ways of expressing what it means to do business with you *before* they make that decision. This is one of the main reasons we produce content for our businesses.

So with that in mind, you can see how important it is to appeal to your audience’s emotions when you’re making your content. Just listing off the features of your product or service isn’t going to cut it for long. To stand out and build relationships based on trust, you have to produce content that people love. Invoke the emotions you want people to feel when they do business with you. Things like excitement, comfort, trust, inspired, warm, cool, fun, happy, accepted, wealthy, clever, smart, capable, hero-like, generous, cultured … whatever’s unique to your business and your customers. Think of ways to express those feelings, not highlight more ‘stuff’.

Great content is subjective - not everyone is going to agree on whether the same piece of content is great or not, and not everyone will feel the same emotions when they experience it either, that’s fine. The important thing is that your audience thinks it’s great for their own reasons, and they come to see you as giving them ‘that’ feeling.  That is, they begin to feel familiar in associating that feeling with your brand.

Producing content that people love is an amazing opportunity to stand out and grow your business through the rewards that come from trust. Think about this when you’re checking ‘content’ off your task list and take a bit of time to think about how you want your customers and potential customers to feel because of it. Remember that trust drives revenue and emotions are key to earning it.

 

I hope YOU loved THIS piece of content and that it gave you some inspiration maybe about how to approach your content a bit differently. And hey, as always, if you need a hand getting your head around content, or coming up with a strategy and schedule, send me an email (andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com), or fill out the form on the work page and I’ll contact you, or connect with me on social - just click your button of choice.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Andrea

Content marketing mantra: Produce high quality content that's meaningful to your audience - an unwanted epiphany

This is like the foundational tenet that we hear so much, so often, that we run the risk of taking if for grated that we actually know what it means and are delivering it. It came as a shock to me personally when I realised that actually the truth is that I hadn’t been doing this so well. Not well at all in fact.

 

It’s not the first time this has happened in my life around something I really care about. One of my most significant ‘growing up’ lessons (and just to be clear, this did not occur in adolescence - I was already well and truly a "grown-up", at least in age) was realising the difference between logically understanding a concept, a life truth, a principle, and actually doing it. For me, it was all about accountability. I knew what accountability meant logically, and if fact, I loved it. It made so much sense to me, really resonated, and I’m sure I preached to more than one other person more than once about all I understood about accountability. But then one day when my Iife had reached rock bottom, I realised that for all my understanding and resonance with the principle, I’d done bugger-all of it myself. Understanding is only one half of the equation.

 

I think this is a common pitfall and a reason people get stuck in so many areas of life. Some principles or high-level concepts are so familiar to us, so drummed in, so ubiquitous to us that we actually confuse our knowledge and understanding of them with actual implementation. It’s kind of like a marriage, or family that we see every day. We know we love them, we know this so confidently and unquestioningly that we may forget to explicitly communicate that, or worse still, treat them in a way that communicates the opposite message.

 

In the same vein, how many times have you heard that the first step to content marketing is to produce work, or content, that’s top quality? That it needs to be of a high standard to stand out from the crowd, from all the other content. That not only does it need to be high quality, but something that your audience really wants, loves, needs. That it’s actually useful to them and solves a problem for them. You hear it all.the.time. right?

 

Well I can only truly speak for myself, but I know that not only have I heard that so much, I also really, really care about it and believe it underpins connection, authenticity, brand and all marketing. I love that stuff, it’s my thing … But I had begun to take that I knew what it meant for granted so much that I believed I was doing it and was therefore ready to move on to the next thing. I’d begun to see quality as a check box. Tick, yep, done that, got that, what next?

 

Ok so for a start, any lesson that’s worth learning tends to be an ongoing practice, not a one-off check box. Take getting fit as an example. Clearly understanding the importance of exercising is not the same as sticking to a fitness regime. Sure, you have to understand its benefits first in order to be motivated and committed to doing the work, but understanding is not enough. You then have to do the work - you have to go for that run, Crossfit, yoga, whatever it is. But then there’s more - you have to keep doing it. You have to incorporate that principle of fitness into your life not just in resonating thoughts, but in action.

 

Producing high quality content therefore is not a point you get to and from which you move to another stage. Sure, once you’re producing high quality content, you have options and things you can do with it, but high quality is not a static thing - it’s something you have to continually strive for. Something you have to practice on an ongoing basis and, I don’t think it’s unfair to say, something that you have to keep improving on.

 

I didn’t know that I’d got off track and I certainly didn’t expect an epiphany in this form, but I got it just the same. I realised, sadly and painfully enough, that I had ticked the check box for quality and moved on to tactics. I hate this! I bellow on about it all the time to other people - DON’T DO THIS!!! Especially in marketing - I’m passionate about this: unless you have found your reason, your why, and are producing work of a high standard that people actually care about, then all of your marketing efforts will come off as tacky, slimy tactics that will get you nowhere.

 

What I didn’t realise is that quality and tactics can both be represented on a sliding scale, from really, really poor, to really, really good. And that even though I wasn’t all the way down the poor end on either, I wasn’t as far as I could be towards the truly excellent end. Which is actually fine, but what’s not fine is that I subconsciously ticked the box and therefore wasn’t going to move. My blog posts were ok, they were getting some attention and I wasn’t embarrassed about them. My website was/is ok - I mean I have one, it’s up, which is better than nothing, but I wasn’t proud of it, am not proud of it. It can be a LOT better. But because I checked the box, I had begun to see the ‘just ship it’ principle as a tactic. I believed I had enough quality to just publish and that publishing regularly, shipping it, and pushing for exposure was the focus.

 

‘Just ship it’ isn’t a bad principle, nor the most sinister tactic if that’s how you’re using it. There’s a lot worse you can do on the crappy tactics scale, trust me! But because I thought I’d got the quality thing down alright, I was putting a higher emphasis on a lower principle. The quality will do, just get it out there. And when you do that, you always have to come back and take stock and re-callibrate.

 

Quality and making stuff that actually helps people has to be part of your process. For quality, you have to have a target you’re striving for, something you want to get to one day, and you have to find ways to take steps towards achieving that or becoming that TODAY. And tomorrow, and the next day. It’s the accountability thing again - you actually have to DO it, not just understand it. And making stuff that actually helps people is a part of that quality. Quality’s not just how well you write, or how lovely your layout and images are - sure, they’re important, no doubt and I for one am, at least from today(!), committed to constantly improving these aspects, but a big piece of quality is how well you serve people. If your audience just wants a beautiful reading experience, then understand that and aim to nail it. If they want things they can take away and put into action right away, well you have to do that too. Sometimes they want both, but knowing that is key to producing quality.

 

Making stuff and writing about things that are interesting and which actually help people isn’t really for you to decide either. I’m interested in marketing, could talk all day about it, but I know that the people I really want to help and connect with and make something useful for don’t like marketing. No they don’t. They find it overwhelming, they find it sleazy and frankly they’d rather have nothing to do with it. What they care about is being a doula and helping women birth naturally and mother gently, or making natural skincare products that don’t harm their families or the environment, or selling enough of their dreamcatchers so they can justify doing it all day long because they love it so much. Marketing to them is a necessary evil and I want to be the one who can show them that they can do it effectively in a way that feels right to them - sans sleaze! Whether or not I can pull that off depends on how well I understand them and the effort I put into producing things that represent real value and real quality to them.

 

Significant pieces in my epiphany:

1. Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

This book arrived in the post on Tuesday.

It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for ages, but my husband recently ordered it for me and it arrived Tuesday.

I read it that night. It confirmed a lot of what my soul already knew.

2. On Wednesday I read a Content Marketing Institute article about growing the Canva blog.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to articles like these because I find that they can often be more overwhelming than helpful, but not this one.

Again, it seemed to tap into something I was already thinking about and was particularly piqued after reading ‘Turning Pro’ the night before.

It put rock solid fundamentals before any sort of tactic. I found it confronting, but undeniable.

Read the article here.

3. After reading this article, I went to the Canva blog - I wanted to see what he was talking about.

I regularly use Canva, but I’d never read their blog. Now I know I’ll never miss one.

There’s a line in the CM Institute’s article that asks, ‘What do you want your blog to be when it grows up?'

This is it. I want my blog to be like the Canva blog - excellent quality, far and away better than the usual, it’s long, long form writing, there’s lots if images - it’s beautiful in every way, not just superficially.

Have a look at the Canva Design School blog here.

4. Ice to the Brim

On Thursday I went to this site and completely fell in love with it.

This is what I want my website to be when it grows up.

It’s beautiful, it’s purposeful, it’s personal, in fact it oozes personality and it makes me feel like I’m at home - I want that at JamTree.

Go see what I'm talking about and meet Chase Reeves here.

5. Fizzle’s 9 Stages of Small Business

I’m going to use this as a roadmap to go back and spend the time to get these steps right.

My foundation wasn’t sure enough so I had to have an epiphany about that, but it’s ok because now I can do it properly.

If you haven't heard of Fizzle, I highly recommend you change that here.

 

Today came the culmination of an unwanted epiphany that started on Tuesday, so today I draw a line in the sand and share with you the places I want to go and the things that I am going to do differently to get there. I don’t know if this post will represent any of the quality and usefulness I’ve been talking about, but if nothing else, I’ve shared a point in the road I’m on and I hope that in some small way, it gives you the courage to reconsider, reevaluate and perhaps take comfort in the fact that just because your road is wiggly and windy with a few wrong turns, you can still learn and you can still turn it into a positive. Keep moving forward, keep striving for quality, keep seeking to understand both yourself and those you want to serve.

I don't know how useful or high-quality this post really was today, but I promise you this - I am on a mission to walk the talk and learn everything I can so that I can be the producer of quality, helpful content that helps you do the thing you love.

Take care,

Andrea 

Photo credit: 'You Can't Depend on Your Eyes' by Brian Talbot via Flickr

Content marketing overwhelm: a 5-step plan to get you moving right now

Content marketing overwhelm a 5-step plan.jpg

Yesterday I wrote about entrepreneurial overwhelm and how caring greatly about the thing you want to create has a habit of also getting you stuck. In that post I said that one of the very best thing you can do to get through that overwhelm and stuckness is to create a simple plan of one or two things you can do every day to give you some wins and get you moving in the right direction. And that’s true, it’s good advice, but I thought about it afterwards and I thought I could do better. I could be more specific.

 

A lot of what makes the people I talk to feel overwhelmed in their business is marketing, and right now, that’s often content marketing.

It’s often the same story - I know I should be doing something more, but I don’t know what.

I know I should be on social media, but I mean, how, and what am I going to say?

I’ve heard of content marketing and that sounds good too, but I don’t really understand what it is or how I’m supposed to find the time to fit it in.

My friend’s done some stuff with Facebook ads so maybe I should do that, but I’m not sure how.

I’ve heard the best thing I can do is to start a blog, but I hate writing and what would I write about anyway?

 

Well there’s no doubt about it - there are a million and one marketing things you can do and most of them are apparently accessible, and free and with very few barriers to entry. But we know that, right? What we don’t know is where to start, which one to choose and what is the best use of our meagre time?

 

The truth is that there is no 'one size fits all' answer. There is no one best thing because that will depend on you, your business, where you’re at, the time you’ve got and what you enjoy. However the closest answer to the one right answer is that you just choose something and commit to it. Movement gains momentum, staying still cannot. So you’re going to choose one thing and you’re going to make a little plan and execute that one thing every day for 2 weeks.

 

The goal here is that you do something and start moving.

The goal is not to see a massive spike in sales or engagement - it’s possible, but not likely and not the point just yet anyway.

The goal is to stop being stuck, start where you’re at and take some small steps that you can build on.

 

1. Choose 1 aspect of content marketing that you’re going to focus on.

This will vary from business to business depending on where you’re at and how long you’ve been doing this.

If you’re just starting out in business, or have been in business for a while, but are just starting out on your journey of content marketing discovery, I like to suggest starting with Facebook. The reason is that most businesses have a Facebook page already, and if not, they’re very easy and manageable to set up. Facebook is also a platform that most people are familiar with, which means we cut down on the learning required and can get straight into the practice of creating and posting content regularly.

If your platform of choice is Pinterest, or Instagram, or Twitter, or perhaps you already have a blog, then that’s fine too - follow these steps with what’s familiar and works for you.

 

Example: Facebook business page

 

2. Decide how often you can realistically post per day, or per week CONSISTENTLY.

The critical part of this step is consistency. 

The reason consistency is key is because small consistent wins over time always beats big unsustainable spikes of spectacular work with nothing in-between.

You want to train yourself to be consistent and in order to do that, you need to make your goals sustainable.

Forget about the 'Twitter expert' recommending 20 Tweets per day, or the 'blogging expert’ prescribing a 1000-word post 7-days a week. If you can manage one blog post per week with certainty, then commit to that. If you can post twice to your Facebook page 5-days a week, then do that. But choose something you know you can achieve because you want to experience ticking the boxes and knowing you hit your target, not feeling like you failed for no other reason than your target was unrealistic. If you’re not sure, start small and change it up later.

 

Example: Post to my Facebook business page twice a day, five days a week.

 

3. Decide on what that content will look like and what you can reasonably expect to deliver.

Again, this is about being sure to set targets that are achievable so that you get your wins on the board.

So, using the example from the previous step, let’s say you’ve decided that posting to your Facebook business page twice a day per week is manageable for you. You know you’d like each post to feature a beautiful, sharable image. That sounds like a great idea, as long as it’s realistic and doesn’t jeopardise your posting goal. As much as it’s a great idea and as much as we all love great images, if your images are taking 2+ hours to create, then this can quickly become unsustainable.

The same goes with blog posts - your goal might be 2 per week, but if your style is very long and each post takes you at least 5 hours to write, then that too, for all your good intentions, has a high probability of failing.

If you have the time, then great, go for it, but all I’m saying is to be realistic and at this stage, our primary objective is to set targets that we can deliver. Get your rose-coloured glasses off and be realistic - you can change it up later.

 

Example: 10 Facebook posts per week - a mixture of quotes with images (2), shared content and my own comments.

 

4. Make a simple plan

Your plan will tell you what to do and when to do it.

Once you’ve created a simple plan, you don’t have to worry about ‘what' and ‘when' decisions anymore - you only need to execute, tick the boxes, accumulate the wins.

Your plan should be very simple because you don’t want to get caught up in making and maintaining a schedule - you just need it to tell you what to do and when to do it.

I have attached a sample plan here for you to download and get started with if you want to, or you can make your own.

This one uses the Facebook example, but you can change it for blogging, or any other kind of content creation via any other platform.

I have included a ‘Theme’ column - some people like to use this to focus their content on a particular theme. It also includes the date for each post, the ‘Topic’ and ‘Type’ of post, as well as the ‘Format’ or details about the post, and of course when it will be posted. Mine shows the times each post will be scheduled in Facebook, but again, you can do this with blogs or other platforms too.

 

5. Execute and review

Once you’ve made your plan, you’re all set to create and post the content.

Remember, this is not a full-blown content marketing plan - it’s a little bite to get you moving and start chewing.

Stick with it for a few weeks, see how you go and tweak it if necessary - the goal is to WIN, so if it’s too much and you’re not winning, cut it back.

Make some time at the end of the week to review how you went and to update the plan for the next week.

 

From here you can grow, but you can’t grow anything if you don’t start.

Give it a go, good luck, and if you need a hand, send me a comment - I’d love to help.

Andrea

 

P.S. If you are posting to your business Facebook page, did you know you can schedule your posts in advance?

That means you could spend a block of time creating and loading all of your content for the week to automatically post at times you choose.

Here’s how to do it ...

To schedule a post:

Start creating your post at the top of your Page's Timeline

Click  next to ‘Post’

Select ‘Schedule Post’

Choose the date and time you want the post to be published

Click ‘Schedule’

 

To backdate a post:

Start creating your post at the top of your Page's Timeline

Click  next to Post

Select Backdate Post

Choose the date and time in the past that you want the post to be published

Click ‘Backdate’

When you backdate a post, the post will be published immediately and appear in the past on your Page's Timeline. You can also choose to hide the post from News Feed.

Photo credit: 'The Art of Social Media' by mkhmarketing via Flickr

 

Book review: 'Difference' by Bernadette Jiwa

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I’m excited about the times we're living in. I know that in many ways there's a lot to be scared of, but it seems to me that there's also a hell of a lot to be excited about, and to find hope and brilliance in. Much of that excitement, that brilliance, I believe stems from a collective step change in the human psyche. It's about truth, it's about living authentically, it's about real stuff that matters and it's about the human need to connect and belong.

 

So what does this have to do with a book about marketing? Everything. 

 

We're living in a special point in time where many of us enjoy lives where our basic needs are more than satisfied. Our collective human intelligence has advanced further up the hierarchy of needs pyramid at precisely the time that technology has advanced to the point of true integration into everyday life. This means that people are questioning more and demanding the satisfaction of deeper desires, such as meaning and purpose and integrity, in their lives. It also means that because of the accessibility of technology, never before has there been such an opportunity to realise these desires.

 

We want more meaning and purpose. We also have the ability to connect, collaborate, integrate and disseminate information like never before in order to inform our choices. And because the barriers to enter the marketplace have been greatly reduced by technologolical advancements, we also have more options available and a greater ability to make choices that reflect the things that matter to us.

 

It means that mass marketing is dying, if not, dead. We're not prepared to be treated like invisible numbers and demographic conglomerates anymore and it seems that we don't have to be. Doing work that matters, making choices that reflect our values, giving our loyalty to ethical and caring companies that make a difference is where we're headed, and 'Difference' encapsulates that thinking. Although it's a marketing method, the overarching message of this book is much broader and can be applied not only to all facets of a savvy business, but as a mediation and encouragement for us all to embrace the abundant opportunities to make choices that matter.

 

The concept of making yourself matter to your customers, of reinventing your business and staying sharply focused on what makes you different to your competition is not a new concept, but it’s the way ‘Difference’ tells the story that makes the difference. Firstly, Bernadette Jiwa is a great storyteller, so she’s a pleasure to read. She has a style that combines that inspirational values-approach to business combined with enough clarity and punch to avoid the waffle. In ‘Difference’, she manages to marry what matters on a human level to what works on a business level. Secondly, she doesn’t just stick with the theory and avoid the issue of how to actually put it into practice. Her engaging and succinct writing style is further enlivened by the very practical and applicable Difference Model and Difference Map.

 

The Difference Model is centred on empathy as the foundation for making things and developing ideas that actually matter to people. By understanding how people feel and what they care about, and therefore what they want, we can realise a great opportunity to build better, more sustainable businesses and ideas, and communicate in ways that people actually want to hear. The Difference Model provides a framework to begin this journey and the Difference Map is a visual shorthand way of brainstorming and representing your findings.

 

‘Difference’ also presents several inspiring case studies in the form of Difference Map samples. It’s here that this philosophy is really illustrated, this important step change not only in our ability, but our responsibility for creating work that matters. These are companies that know it's about showing up, about making the most of the choices available to us, about choosing the stories we want to tell and be a part of. It's about connecting authentically with the people who matter to us and our business. They are companies millions of people have shown their desire to support, emulate and connect with, to be a part of their story.

 

This is an inspiring and important little book that speaks to so much more than turning dated marketing approaches on their head, although it does that too. It asks us to be brave enough to consider the truth about what we really care about and what really matters. Bernadette Jiwa tells us the story of Difference and illustrates the tale with the stories of companies who are choosing to matter. But she also shows us a practical way of doing that, of identifying and expressing those differences in a way that will resonate with our clients and customers. This is a story I want to be a part of and one that I suspect we all do.

 

To find out more about 'Difference' and Bernadette Jiwa, you can find her at http://thestoryoftelling.com

 

 

The #1 Secret to Content Marketing Success

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Content marketing gets a lot of press right now and is something that most of us not only consume, but more and more, also create.  Creating and promoting valuable, quality content can absolutely be very powerful indeed for establishing yourself as a credible authority in your field, engaging your existing customers and attracting new ones. We know that content is key because we’re living in the information age and content’s our currency. Content, content, content - there’s a million ways to approach it, but what makes really, really good content really, really good?

It’s the authenticity factor - keeping real.

We know that in order to create good content we can find inspiration from reading other people’s content, rearrange what others have said, put our own spin on it and personality into it, or come at it from a different angle - heaven knows there’s a million articles on how to write great content! But with all this content we’re all so endlessly sifting through, we’re also getting very good at picking the regurgitation, reading the same stuff in different words and … ignoring it. Yes, they might come from a different angle, say stuff slightly differently, have a bit of spunk, but if it's not really different and doesn’t really click better, then we tune out. The things that stand out and aren’t ignored have that X-factor, but what is it and why? 

The secret is to get personal. Get real. Write for one and make it a real one.

Usually that X-factor is that it feels much more like a personal, even private conversation rather than any old article about the topic of any old month. It feels more like you’re listening in, or even that it was written just for you. I know, it’s amazingly difficult to achieve that when you sit there academically trying to mentally imagine that ‘one’ fictitious or real person, put yourself in their shoes, write about a problem you know they have, in a way that resonates with them, and offer them a tailored solution. The truth is that most of us just aren’t good enough at doing that - remember high school drama and being taught to ‘get inside’ the character! And then to match it up with killer writing - really, not many of us are going to nail that, are we? Content creation might be booming and that probably means a lot more people are writing, but it also means there are a lot of people with a lot to learn and lots of great business people trying to be great writers.

So what do you do?

Cheat. No, I don’t mean go and copy someone else’s stuff, there’s enough of that and you won’t stand out, and forget about trying to imagine being in someone else’s head or shoes. By cheating, what I really mean is don’t fake it, or imagine it - just be real. Cheat as in use the stuff you already do - use a real situation with a real client and a real problem and write about it, for that client. You may have only had a conversation with them - that’s fine, if it was real and helpful to them, craft that into a useful written piece. Or maybe you actually wrote them a report, or corresponded by email - that’s fine too, probably better because you’ve already got content that you’ve already written. Take that, or the kernels you want to expand on and write more for them.

Now naturally you’re not going to divulge sensitive information or identities, but the point is if you have customers and clients that you interact with, then you have content on tap. When you write what you already know, you’ll sound much more natural and when you write for just one real person about just that one real problem, then you’ll sound much more authentic.

These are the principles of target marketing, but unfortunately it’s the kind of thing that all too often becomes nothing more than an academic theory and rarely practically applied. The thing about applying it for real, is that you’ll find out first hand how effective it actually is. Many of the problems that arise from target marketing and writing content for your specific target/customer/audience is that for all the definition, analysis and avatar creation, there still is no actual person for whom the content is being written. We make up the avatar, imagine the problem they might be having and repurpose someone else’s popular content to riff on that same problem … and try to catch a ride on the popularity train.

But if it’s not real, then it’s just not real and you’ll look and sound like everyone else. Which is totally fine, if that’s what you want. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t write about things that are clearly hot topics - not at all! I am, after all, writing at this very moment about content marketing, but I’m writing for one person and that person is real. I happen to know she’s been struggling with how to write more personably because we’ve been talking about it. But her writing is a tool, it’s not her work - she’s already done the work and does it every day. Now she just has to write about it.

The #1 secret to creating content that gets traction is; do the work!

Doing real work for real clients, solving real problems is where your very best content lies. 

You know that if they have that problem, then so do others and the way to stand out in writing about solving that problem is to write just for them - don’t expand it, dumb it down, make it more generic, because that’s what’s going to make it beautiful. When you’re consulting with them, or serving them, you don’t act like you’re on stage before thousands trying to please them all, do you? No, in fact the very opposite is true - you adjust your tone slightly, you mention things and make references that you know are specific to them, you make eye contact, you use language that mirrors theirs and you try to make them feel understood and like they matter. You focus on understanding their problem and then on customising a solution that’s perfect just for them.

Let’s face it, your customers and clients have access to just as much readily available content as we all do, so you could easily curate a bunch of material and send them links to a handful of articles that will be helpful to them. That’s fine - I do that too because that’s also helpful, but writing just for them, just for their problem or challenge, well that’s in a different league. That’s your best work and that’s what you should be showcasing.

  • Write for one person, a real person
  • Address their problem, a real problem - use language they use and understand
  • Present a solution, a real solution - in language they use and understand
  • Provide goodwill and encouragement in a way that’s personal for them

Writing for one person shouldn’t be an academic concept - it’s something you really, actually have to do, and if you have customers or clients, then you’re already doing it every day anyway. Sure, write about things that are topical and popular, get inspiration from other people’s content, of course add your own spin and perspective, but to stand out, it has to be real, for a real person. Write for them the way you’d serve them as a customer or client - your writing will become easier and much better, your clients will love your work because it will resonate so easily with them and others will be attracted to it because it’s authentic and useful all at the same time.

Thank you for reading - I hope it was useful.

Andrea

Image credit: "Adler (typewriters)" by MCAD Library via Flickr - thank you!