As a business, or as a “brand”, your biggest challenge is overcoming obscurity.
In his book, The 10x Rule, Grant Cardone writes that as he was trying to get his business off the ground, he was working extremely hard to gain initial traction. His problem, he writes, “wasn’t competition; it was obscurity”. No one even knew who he was.
“Since most people don’t know you or your product or service,” writes Cardone, “the only way to burst through obscurity is by taking massive action.”
Content is the price of admission for relevance.
If you want to burst through obscurity, you need to show your work.
As many of you know, it was in 2011 that I quit my job to begin writing my blog for a living. At the time my content strategy was simply this: “write stuff that didn’t suck.”
And my business goals were about the same: “be profitable.”
Which means my overall plan was to simply to write as well as I could and hope that it generated enough traffic to earn a living through sponsorships and memberships.
The “simplicity” of that whole setup is actually why I think things worked.
Long-time readers will remember that most of my writing centered around Apple, tech, and design. And while these topics are what first drew people in to my website, those who stuck around to become readers and members are those who also connected with me, Shawn, as the writer.
Don’t discount the importance of putting passion and personality into your work. Let who you are show through.
Back in 2011, in the first article I published as a “full-time blogger” I quoted Anatole France: “a tale without love is like beef without mustard: insipid.”
So too is a blog writing without personality.
If you happen to be good with words then congratulations. Dispassionate beautiful prose, however, is still dispassionate.
When you think about content strategy, think less about your skill and more about emotion, honesty, truth, and passion. These are the backbones of writing. And these are the very things that can be the hardest to put into our writing.
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In today’s article I’ve got three things I want to cover:
First of all, I want to briefly unpack what it means to have a content strategy that serves your business goals (and why that is so important).
Secondly, I’m going to share a few unordered bulletpoints about my own experience with content strategy, writing, and business.
And finally, I’ve listed out some questions you can ask yourself that will help you figure this stuff out for yourself.
First, let’s briefly unpack what it means to have a content strategy that serves your business goals…
That’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down.
As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, “Content Strategy” is not a dirty term.
Content: What you create.
Strategy: Your plan of action.
In other words: how will you use your creative work (your content) to move you toward your goals?
Answer that question and boom, you’ve got yourself a content strategy.
You want your content strategy to serve your business goals because otherwise the work you’re putting out there is just a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with a creative hobby, but if you’re trying to earn an income from it then you need to start thinking differently. You need to become a bit more intentional.
You want the work you do align with the big goals and values you have as a business. But also, each piece of content you put out there should help move people along in their customer journey (which is why email can be so powerful, by the way).
In order for that to happen, it kinda helps to know what your business goals are, what your business values are, and what your customer journey looks like.
At the end of this article I’ve listed a few simple questions that can help you consider your business goals.
A few unordered bulletpoints about my own experience with content strategy and writing
As you know, I’ve been writing full-time since early 2011. Here are a few few things that have proven to be immensly valuable to me as a writer who is also trying to grow his business.
It helps tremendously to have a customer “avatar”. If you’re a writer, this is not unlike your ideal reader. Who is it you’re trying to connect with and to help? Unless you’re Coke, you can’t make something for every single person on the planet. And even if you are Coke, there will still be folks who prefer Pepsi, or who just flat out don’t drink soda.
In addition to knowing who our ideal customer is, it helps to know what their journey is. What are the things they need to know, the mindsets they need to understand, and the actions they need to take?
Don’t give in to scarcity mindset. Don’t fear that one person having success means you now have to see failure. It’s not a zero-sum game in the market, nor is it a zero-sum game with your own work.
What’s awesome about growing a business with content marketing is that, over time, you can build the business you want to exist. You can attract the audience, customer base, and even employees who by conveying your values and goals through the content you create. How you share ideas, the way you promote products, your attitude toward your customers, etc.
Watch out for the spiderweb mess of “Content Strategy Tactical Overload”. Off the top of your head I bet you could easily list a few dozen things people say you absolutely MUST DO if you want to WIN BIG in content marketing. Ugh. I’ve been in that spot, where I try to implement multiple things all simultaneously, and it’s exhausting. There’s just no way I can focus on more than just one thing at a time. It is far more efficient and effective to do just one thing and to do it well before moving on to the next.
When people sign up for my email list, one of the first emails they get is me asking them about what’s challenging them right now. For example, when I was working on The Focus Course, as people signed up to get on the waiting list, I’d reply back and ask them about what their biggest challenge is related to focus. And I got tons and tons of replies. Those replies helped direct the content I created for the course itself. My point being: if you can pay attention to what resonates with your readership and also pay attention to what they are saying, then you can be all the more helpful and relevant to them.
For even more, see this list of 50 things I’ve learned about publishing a weblog.
Lastly, here are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you figure this stuff out for yourself
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your business right now?
What is your current business model? (Who do you sell to, how do you make money?)
What is your ideal business model? (Who do you want to sell to? How do you want to make money?)
In an ideal scenario, what does your business look like in 12 months from now? In 5 years?
If all other things were to remain the same, what one thing, if changed, would have the most significant impact on your business?
What are your business goals?
What values is your business based on?
Do you want to develop long-term or short-term customer relationships?
Do you have a customer journey? (Where should someone start? What are the best next steps for them to take to get from where they are now to where they want to be?)
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There is quite a lot to digest here. The reason I moved through it all so quickly is because I wanted to give you the high-level view and something to think about for the next few days.
However, I want your key takeaway to be this:
Focus on consistency and honesty.
The internet thrives on patterns and regularity; showing up every day lets people know they can rely on you to be there.
Secondly, consistently showing up to do the work will help you grow in your skills. As your talent improves, so too will your ability to turn your work from a hobby into something more.
And honesty, as I shared about at the very beginning, is the most important element for building an audience that trusts you. Being honest and sticking to your guns is how you earn the respect and long-term attention of your readership.