This is the blog post based on this week’s episode of Hit Publish. You can listen to the audio below, or read through depending on how you like to consume content…
This week you and I are going on a journey to explore simple, but highly valued content that you can create to not only thrill your readers, but make you stand out as a notable authority in your field. Exciting.
Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and knock the socks off your audience with some simple, but jaw-dropping content creation skills?
Let’s Hit Publish
For this episode, we need to address the latest Dear Amy Letter. Now, if you have submitted a dear Amy letter and I don’t get to it straight away, do keep listening because there’s sometimes a delay of a few weeks from getting a dear Amy letter to being able to address it in the show but know this, if you do send one in, I will answer it.
I’d like to create a piece of stand-out content for my site. I’m not sure whether it will be an e-book or a blog post. I really want to put effort into making it valuable but here’s my problem. I’m constantly conflicted with what I should create and also at what level to pitch it at. I don’t want to make it hard for beginners, but I don’t want to look like my stuff is too simple. I know I’m probably over thinking and over-complicating this so anything you can do to get me going would be great.
Yours, in limbo, Roger.
Roger, this is a great question and personally I have hit that content creation wall so many times I have bruises in the shape of a keyboard on my forehead. Now. I want to be honest with you as a listener. I chose Roger’s letter because I have a really simple solution.
But it’s a bit of a zinger. It’s so simple in fact that many of your competitors won’t even think about doing this. And if you do, and take advantage of producing this kind of content I’m going to share with you, you can find yourself in the spotlight pretty quickly. And in a great way.
The type of content I’m going to talk you through is a great way to get people blogging about you, sharing your stuff on social media as well as being noticed and contacted by people who want to work with you.
It’s got a pretty smart title. It’s called: *clears throat*
The simple content that your customer wants but doesn’t have the time, money or inclination to create
Oh, yes I spend a lot of time on my sexy titles.
Now don’t let the word ‘simple’ put you off. Simple is good. But what happens when you are an expert, you can forget the power of simple. Basically, as your knowledge, experience and expertise increases, you may feel the need to create more complicated, in-depth content. The kind that you find fascinating, but which may be a little out of your customer’s reach.
Teacher: Okay everyone. As you know, I’ve been studying survival tactics for years. This weekend I’ve got a special task lined up for you. We’re going to be staying deep in this forest for 48 hours. All you have is a flask of water and a sharp stick. You’ll be making your own accommodation, killing your own food and finding your own water when your flask runs out. You’ll also be defending your territory against the wild animals which may include coyotes and bears. This is going to be a true test of your skill in survival expertise. It’s going to be amazing.
Student: I thought we were just going camping.
Teacher: Camping is for beginners. What are you some kind of…
Student: I’m six sir… I’m lucky if I can get my cereal ready without any help. I don’t think they have cereal in the forest.
Teacher: Of course not, you’ll be killing rabbits and…
Student: I want to go home…
[animal noise] / child cries
Teacher: Oh for Pete’s sake. It’s the wilderness trip of 2005 all over again. I mean if you can’t fend for yourself at 6 what is the hope for you… Okay, let’s get back on the bus… It’s only a 3 hour trek that way.
So it’s important that you check in with yourself and ask – is this something that I personally am interested in based on my level of expertise, or is it also something that is accessible to people who are a few steps behind you.
And of course, you don’t want to make your content too simple for your audience.
Now the following may or may not have been something I witnessed first hand…(and then added creative license).
Attendee 1: Are you looking forward to the event?
Attendee 2: Absolutely. I can’t wait to see this top marketer in action. I’ve heard so many good things.
Attendee 1: Me too. I mean my business is growing steadily but I’d love to know any up-to-date techniques that might give me a bit more growth.
Attendee 2: Same here. I’ve just started generating leads by driving traffic to a handful of landing pages and I’d love to know what he has to say about optimising those pages.
Attendee 1 – Oh here he is. Can’t wait to take notes.
Marketer: Hello ladies and gentlemen! Wow. What a crowd. What a crowd. I’m so happy to see you here. Being here means I know you are willing to invest your time and money in learning. You’re willing to spend money, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, if it means you can take your business to the next level. So let’s dive straight into the content…
The first rule of marketing is that you need upside leverage. You’ve got to maxmise what yu’re doing. Hands up here for anyone who is currently maximising what they’re doing?
Attendee 1: What? What on earth does that mean?
Attendee 2: I’ve no idea
Marketer: Every business starts with a killer idea, so I want to ask you. Do you have a killer idea? Hands up… Good. But that’s not enough. You also need to take action. I want you to write this down in your workbook. Business success is based on a killer idea AND taking action.
Now I once had a business that was failing. It was a catastrophic failure… But then. I decided to maximise my leverage through marketing and innovation, and then… and only then did it become a huge success. So write this down, sometimes you need marketing and innovation to turn failure into a success
In marketing today, if you’re not going forward, you’re moving backwards. Here, let me bring up this slide so you can tweet this.
Attendee 1: This is rubbish.
Attendee 2: I know. He’s not said one thing I can actually take away. Come on, let’s go to the pub. Quick we’ll just sneak out.
“Escapee / escapee!”
Marketer – Quick, don’t let them leave, swipe their credit cards on the way out…
Attendees – Run!
Okay Amy, not too complicated, not too simple, but give me something I can work with here. How do I create simple content that makes me look like an authority?
Well, you do it by making your content: interactive.
What I mean by this is you create simple content that your reader or potential customer can interact with to help them create or do something new.
What do I mean by this?
Well instead of having a general article, like a blog post with some advise or steps to follow, you put in a little more effort so that it’s even easier for your reader to use. It’s the difference between writing a post about how to eat healthily, and giving your customer a recipe.
This interaction, and I’ll go through more examples in just a minute, is key to making your content stand out. Though I wouldn’t recommend interaction for every industry…
Art gallery boss: Welcome to my art gallery. Now, you will just love this piece. See how the linear nature of the portrait really draws your eyes to her nose. You can really see how it explores the universality of myth and urban spaces. Mmm.
Now, onto this piece which is really something special. It’s an actual piece by Turner.
[gasps!] Amy – what are you doing?
Amy: Oh, hello boss. Well I really wanted to throw myself into this job as an art curator so I read a book about art. It talked about how the audience is actually the final piece of the creation process. It’s much more interactive because we bring our own interpretation to it.
Boss: But what have you done?
Amy: welll… I thought this piece was a bit drab. And I thought you know what… oh what’s his name. Turner? I thought you know what Turner, It’s not a bad landscape but I’m going to help you out here. You got it so far, but I think I can finish it off better. So I painted on a big sun. Doesn’t that look better. His looked like a dreary sunday afternoon. Now it looks like…
[clattering of paint pots]
Amy: Arggh – why are you chasing me, I thought you’d love it?
Okay Amy, tell me more about this interactive content.
How a simple comparison chart became a multi-million pound business…
Right. Well first of all let me tell you a story about a man named Simon Nixon. in 1993 when Simon was a student he started up a business called Mortgage2000. It included and compared various mortgage rates from different lenders at the time.
Every week, or month, Simon would painstakingly compile this list and then sell it to mortgage brokers. It was simple, anyone could have done it, but he was the only one doing it and as a result became invaluable to mortgage brokers. 6 years later he launched moneysupermarket.com which grew into a huge online price comparison site for a range of financial products and in 2007 was valued at £843m.
Why did this work so well? Because this type of work wasn’t useful to an individual mortgage broker. It wasn’t worth the time to spend hours each week looking up every single mortgage rate. They had other things to do. It also wouldn’t have been worth their time hiring someone full-time to do it for them. However, for Simon Nixon, once the hard work was done, he could duplicate the information very easily and sell it to multiple people, meaning it was affordable to the end-user, and more than paid for Simon’s time to do it.
The content is interactive, because the end-user would actively have these rates beside them when making decisions. It was a useful factsheet that saved them so much time rather than having to look up the individual information themselves.
This is a perfect example of:
The simple content that your customer wants, but doesn’t have the time, money or inclination to create
So, how can you adapt this to what you’re doing? Well it might take a bit of thought, and if you’re struggling to think of something, feel free to head to the comments and let me know a bit about your business and target market and we’ll brainstorm something together.
Let’s think about the Moneysupermarket example though. Could you create a comparison chart or table? If your customers are brides to be, could you have a weekly comparison and collection of the best offers for brides? If you’re into fitness, could you compare the best 20 different exercises for toning legs? Think about this because if you can create a regular comparison publication it is the sort of thing people come back to check and see what’s changed and also the type of content that often gets referenced in the media.
Here are some other examples of how businesses create this type of interactive content. Hopefully one of the examples sparks inspiration of how you can apply it to your business.
Can you organise your customer’s life?
Now, if you’ve been listening for a while, you’ll know that cooking is not one of my strong points. Eating, yes. I could have an olympic medal in clearing a plate. One of the things I hate the most is planning out meals in advance and creating enough variety to keep my husband happy. Me, I’d have tinned mince on toast every night and be very happy. In fact, quick story. For the first couple of years of marriage I thought I was a great cook because my husband always said how lovely everything was. Turns out he had nasal polyps which meant he had absolutely no sense of taste or smell. My hopes of being a domestic goddess were dashed and had to up my game in cooking tasty food.
So, as with every problem I face, I turn to google to look for recipe ideas. But here’s the problem I found:
- They use fancy ingredients that I don’t have and don’t want to buy.
- If I picked 7 recipe ideas I’m going to end up with a ton of food that I don’t need that will go to waste.
Enter Frugal Foods. I stumbled on this site and it was a Godsend. Frugal Faye is a genius. Because what she does is plan out a week’s worth of evening meals for to feed a family of four. But this is the best part. She also includes a shopping list, AND the meals are tailored so that you can use ingredients across a number of different meals meaning all the food you buy in the week gets used up.
She has 25 of these one week guides and I go back to them again and again. What’s more, they are all super simple to make and I now am improving my cooking reputation. Her beef burritos were so good when I did them for a dinner party a guest asked if he could take home the leftovers. I use these 7 day guides a lot. They save me so much time and I love the shopping list.
Now, could I have collected 7 different recipes and written out a shopping list? Yes. But I don’t want to. I want it done for me.
So, that’s something you might want to do. You see this a lot with fitness plans. I’m running a marathon next year and so I’ve been looking up training plans. I just have to download and follow what I’m supposed to do each week. Easy! Right?
Could you help organise your customer’s life? If you teach marketing could you set out a 4 week marketing plan for them to try? If you provide teaching materials, could you plot out a curriculum and timetable for your customer to follow?
People love this because they don’t want to do it themselves and chances are they will use your content time and time again, bringing them closer to you and your business.
Or would they love a structure or template?
Another style of interactive content is creating a template, or structure for your customer to fill in. A few years ago I created the copywriting dictionary. It categorised hundreds of different words. So for example you’d have 50 different words to help you talk about the pain points in someone’s life, or 40+ words to help keep the tone conversational. This took me a few weeks to put together bit by bit. I would research lots of different styles of copy and then adds words and phrases to te dictionary into the different sections. Now, right at the start of this book was also a number of headline templates. The reader would spend a few minutes filling in a grid that asked them things like their target market, how long it took to see results, what problem was solved etc.
Once people had this, they could simply plug this information into the templates. Now not only was this popular with individual business owners, but it landed me my first high-paying, long-term client who read the book, loved it and wanted to use the framework to develop marketing messages for software companies.
And that’s something to remember, the effort you put into making this simple style of content makes you look like an expert because no-one else is doing it, and yet it is so useful.
On the subject of templates, a couple of sites even have simple pieces of software for generating content.
Hubspot and Portent both have online tools to help you generate blog post ideas. These are excellent and simple to create. It takes time and effort to do the research, gather the content and structure it but anyone can do it.
Checklists are also excellent pieces of content. Packing lists for different types of vacations, or shopping lists for a house party. All simple, all valuable and all are the type of content that your competitors probably aren’t creating and your customer doesn’t want to create.
So, here’s my question to you: What simple content can you create to make you stand out as an authority. Think about the following questions:
- What ongoing need does your customer have?
- Do they have to keep coming up with content ideas
- Need inspiration for their fitness routine?
- What do they not have the time, money or inclination to create?
- What format do you want to use?
- Finally, do the research and put your work together
I would love to hear it if you have already created content like this – let your business shine in the hit publish comments. Or tell me what kind of content do you think would work well for your business.
Antoniya K Zorluer says
Dear Amy, this post rocked my Saturday morning coffee time 🙂
I couldn’t agree more with you and can’t wait to put all the ideas I generated about interactive content into practice…
Actually, I tried that with my 66 Days to happiness challenge (through my blog) but I went a step further and tried to create an accountability system for the participants. That didn’t work because it was too complicated to manage with so many people taking part!
Maybe just sending a daily challenge or a template would have been a better way to do that, what do you think?
Amy Harrison says
So glad you enjoyed this piece. Accountability is great but like you say, can be tricky to coordinate with large numbers.
I love the idea of a smaller bite-size challenge or reminder. Something that can give them a quick prompt or idea to put your ideas into practice. This isn’t just easier for them to do, but it can build a series of quick wins which can increase momentum and make them feel good every time they complete a smaller challenge.
Let us know what you decide and how you get on!
Alice Elliott says
Amy, when I read this post, I had your voice in my head the whole time. This message is brilliant: “The simple content that your customer wants, but doesn’t have the time, money or inclination to create” and yet even though it’s not simple to do, it’s also a mindblower! I’m off to rewrite my subscription incentives and even create a few extra to see which one bites best. That is, if I have the time…
Amy Harrison says
Yay! The temptation can be to overcomplicate content but simple and interactive is a perfect way to start getting to know your customer. It’s easy for them to consume and they get to see results quickly, building the ‘like, know and trust’ factor for you and your business.
Donald Jetman says
I am writing a book about J. Paul Getty’s 3 tactics for building a billion dollar business. After reading this post lightning struck. I am adding a worksheet at the end of each chapter so the reader can actually implement each of the strategies. AND I have you to thank Amy.
Kudos, Donald Jetman
(the sparing partner of Donald Trump. “That Other Donald.com”
Amy Harrison says
Always thrilled to hear about a lightning strike especially when it comes to content and inspiration. Glad I was able to help Donald, J. Paul Getty was a fascinating man! Best of luck with the book.