How to Gain Confidence in Your Content Strategy

The Growth Report #24

Hey Sunshine! ☀️

Did you know that the human eyes are actually a part of the brain that got squeezed out of the skull during development? So when you look into someones eyes, you are in fact looking at (or into?) their brain. 🤯

Somehow that both explains and raises a lot of questions in my mind simultaneously.

Aaaanyways, I am getting off track. In todays report we’ll be talking about my own experience of putting together a content strategy based on research and go on a little mind-excursion into the complex beauty of simplicity.

Much love,

Sandro


Today's topics include

📈 Content Marketing:
How to Gain Confidence in Your Content Strategy

⚒️ Tools of the Trade:
Educational Resources and Inspiration for Marketers

⛑️ Reflections from the Trenches:
The Complicated Beauty of Simplicity


📈 Content Marketing

How to Gain Confidence in Your Content Strategy

I have experienced and participated in the following scenario way too often:

The Oracles gather

It's content strategy time. A bunch of marketers huddle together in a conference room and brainstorm content topics. Each throws in their prophecies with the iron conviction that they indeed foresee what their customers want to read, view or listen to. The prophet with the loudest, most convincing version of the promised land (it's podcasts, I tell you!) wins the day and leads her people to where the leads are plenty.

Now, I've been one of those all-knowing oracles, defending my prophecies with vigour and determination (and letting groupthink do the rest). So sure that the industry report with proprietary data released as an ebook once every quarter will save us all.

This "intuition" is often based on what kind of articles, podcasts and ebooks the person has seen being consumed "out there". It is often based on the common denominator of what the competitors are putting out (whether the culprit realises or not). The issue is, do we really know if what is "out there" is actually consumed, enjoyed and moving the needle in terms of sales? Or are we all blindly copying from each other? I have a hunch...

What if we just ask for the way?

Here's a revolutionary idea: What if we go on a quest to find out what people actually care about. What if we talk to them? What if we listen first? And what if we meet them where they already hang out?

Here is a set of steps that helped me to gain clarity and confidence over what content to produce and how to distribute and promote that content.

For content to attract potential customers

  1. Interview 5-10 (potential) customers - First segment them according to target group where you see the most potential in the future. Ask them about their daily challenges, what keeps them up at night? Ask them about their favourite water coolers, where do they get information (online), where do they educate themselves? Ask them what future initiatives they are planning and what developments in their industry excite them most? Take notes, record the interviews if you can! Pretty quickly you will see patterns.

  2. Survey a broader base of customers - Once you have clear patterns emerging and put them into topic-buckets, test those patterns with a broader audience. Three questions suffice: Which of the following topics would you like us to focus on (offer the options that came up most often during the interviews)? What formats do you consume your content in (video, blogs etc.)? Which of the following social networks do you frequent most often? And as a bonus open-ended question: If you could choose for us to focus on one topic only, what would it be?

  3. Do your keyword research - Now people say a lot of things, let's verify that with some hard data. Within the most voted topics, what does the search volume look like? Are people actually as interested as your interviews and survey suggest? What concrete sub-terms are being googled?

  4. Summon the Oracles, Prioritise - With that well of data you can now have that famous oracle brainstorming session we talked about in the beginning. But this time you are armed with customer insights and data. Your discussion will be based on a solid foundation.

For Content to close the sale

Just as a quick throw in. When it comes to content that is designed to convert the traffic you gathered, there are a few more stops on your quest for truth:

  1. Talk to your sales team - What objections are most common with your potential clients? What arguments work to counter those objections? What are the most frequently asked questions? Where does the sales team sense confusion when it comes to our offerings?

  2. Talk to your customer success team - What complaints do customers have? Again, what questions come up often? Where do they sense the most friction? They will know, it's their daily job!

  3. Do some "review mining" - Get an export of all the written customer feedback you received in the past year. What are the most cited positive aspects of your offering? What do people complain about the most? Pay very close attention the actual words they use (and use them yourself in your content and copy!). Now go do the same online and search for mentions and reviews of your brand. Rinse and repeat for your competitors!

No more Guessing Games

If you go through this process, you will emerge with more ideas and possible topics to write and talk about than you could ever produce. But more importantly: You will have the confidence that what you will pour your time and money into will actually resonate and make a difference. Lastly, you will not only get more high quality traffic (because you asked your most lucrative segment what they are interested in), but also strengthen your brand, you're the ones who seem to "get it"!

This might seem like a lot and even if you don't do all of the above steps, anything is better than to sit in a room full of prophets and oracles with no customer research to ground their ideas. It's still hard work, but at least you know the territory.

Now go lead them to the promised land. Good luck my friend! 🙌


🛠️ Tools of the Trade:

Educational Resources and Inspiration for Marketers

Marketing Education

  • Product-Led Summit - A five day online summit on all things product-led growth. It’s almost over, but you can still get the recordings. There are dozens of great talks on marketing, product, customer success etc.

  • Marketing Landscape Guide - A great reference table to print out listing many available marketing channels, targeting types etc. Great for a strategy session.

  • Startup School Library - A well of knowledge from Y-Combinators Startup School. Many great talks and articles about growth, leadership, product, competition, you name it.

  • Reforge Marketing Strategy Course - I have taken their Growth Series course and it is still the best educational content out there for marketers in my opinion. This strategy course is starting this fall for the first time and it looks like a worthwhile investment. If you need a referral for your application, let me know.

Brands and Products I noticed

  • Pop Show Live - Remember those TV infomercials? Well they are back, but tailored to the direct to consumer brands of the 21st century. Maybe a channel worth trying out?

  • Italic - Italic is a membership club that grants access to 1000+ quality goods from the same manufacturers as top brands, at cost. Brilliant idea (and fantastic UX).

  • Window Swap - Open a window to anywhere in the world. What a freaking cool idea! I am hooked!

  • Hey Summit - An online summit/conference software. I have attended two online conferences executed through them (e.g. the product-led summit mentioned above) and it's the best user experience I have seen thus far.

  • Off Limits Cereals - Just a well-executed cereal brand from the US. Refreshingly different and memorable.


⛑️ Reflections From the Trenches

The Complicated Beauty of Simplicity

I've been thinking lately how often the most simple solutions are cutting through all the bullshit we make up (so we can hide behind its complexity). We draw up intricate marketing strategies, perfect exercise regimens, and complex financial investment plans. What if we happens if we remove the fluff?

"Take a simple idea and take it seriously." —Charlie Munger

  • Writing one thoughtful email (newsletter) per week to a handful of people is a simple idea.

  • Doing a few sets of pushups each day is a simple idea.

  • Saving at least 10% of your income every month is a simple idea.

  • Sending Thank You notes to your loved ones or loyal customers is a simple idea.

But we don't take the simple things seriously, do we? Why?

Simplicity is scary. Because it doesn't let us off the hook. All the excuses are stripped away.

Simplicity is deceiving. Because it seems as if simple means easy. It does not.

Simplicity needs courage. Because without courage we can never attain simplicity. Cowardice keeps us ‘double minded'.

Simplicity is achingly beautiful. Because it stands on its own. Nothing to remove or add. Nobody to argue with.

So we conjure up excuses. Our complex problems can't be tamed by such simple minded solutions right?

Could it be that we make our own life more complex than it needs to be because we are afraid that simplicity puts all the weight of responsibility on us?


That's it for this week.

Enjoy your weekend 🏡

See you next week,

Sandro