Updated: Jan 15, 2022
As seen in APeeling 2020 by Tina Waller
Pivoting during Content is a huge part of every business’s overall strategy. It forms part of your branding, your marketing, your business plan. It’s a large component of how you reach your goals, regardless of what your goals are.
If you want to be noticed, you must be publishing content that appeals to your target audience on a regular basis.
But what do you do if you have no idea what to create? How do you come up with the content ideas to fill your emails, sales funnels, blog posts, or ads?
It’s something almost every single one of my clients have struggled with – and what they pay me to help them with. But it’s also something I struggled with for many years in my own business, and this struggle made me feel like a bit of a fraud.
Why was it so easy for me to create a content plan for my clients, but so difficult for me to create one for my own business?
Part of the answer was hidden in the process I use for my clients.
Once I realized this and started implementing the same process for my own business, I stopped struggling with coming up with ideas.
My Content Creating Process
#1. Look at competitors
When I sign a new client, the first thing I do is go look at 3 of their top competitors. (3 is the “magic” number. It’s not so many that it’s overwhelming or takes forever, and it’s enough to see trends.)
Who are they?
How are offers positioned?
What is their price point?
What they post on social?
What topics of blog posts?
Do they engage audience?
I also sign up for their lead magnets and emails so, I can see what they’re doing on the back end.
I call this “Ethical Stalking,” because all of this stuff is public domain, and it’s not done so that you can copy what your competitors are doing; copying is unethical and if you care about your business reputation, you’ll avoid it at all costs.
Remember, you and your competitors share an audience, and the audience will notice if things are too similar. If you’re copying, you’ll likely be called out for it or worse, be served a cease and desist.
Your goal with Ethical Stalking is to form a baseline that will allow you see what’s being overdone or what’s not being focused on enough, then create content to fill the gaps.
Going deeper, the strategy you use to create content after analyzing your competitors could do one of two things:
a.Indicate allyship, or b.Create polarity
i.e. If you’re trying to show an allyship, pick a piece of your competitor’s content and expand on it. If you’re trying to create polarity, pick a piece of content and offer a differing opinion.
A word of warning if you choose to try to create polarity: your goal is to make your business stand out, not bash your competitors. Bad-mouthing your competitors doesn’t incite trust from your audience and can cause them to turn on you. Use this strategy carefully and thoughtfully.
#2. What comes “Second-Nature”
What are they naturally good at? Create content around it.
I ask my clients about the things in their business, products, or services that they don’t even have to think about. The things they (mistakenly) assume that everyone knows – or should know.
These are the things you should be creating content about because they are almost never common knowledge to anyone outside your industry.
People tend to hesitate with this because they think it’s too basic, too easy. But content doesn’t need to be complex to be engaging. As a matter of fact, the easier it is to understand, the better it’s received.
#3 Create content around what they don’t know
Depending on their industry, I may ask my clients to tell me about what they don’t know (yet) but wish they did. Then, I encourage them to spend some time learning something and document the process so that content can be created around it.
People love to see other people learning, especially if it’s at their own level.
While this content strategy doesn’t work for every industry, if done right, it can make you more relatable to your audience by showing that even if you’re an expert, you’re not an expert in everything. It shows that you’re willing to be vulnerable, to be real.
And people like to do business with people who are real.
#4 Let the audience tell you
Oftentimes, businesses will create content around what we think the audience should know about. The audience usually has different ideas.
What are some of the most asked questions your clients or potential clients have? What are they commenting about the most on your social feeds? How many times have you written the same informational email to different people?
These are the things your audience wants to know about, and they’re flat out telling you that. Creating content around these things before they have a chance to ask can position you as someone who “gets” them and allows you to start forming a relationship before they even approach you.
A lack of content ideas was only part of what was holding me back. The other part was being unsure how to create the content. So even on the rare occasion that I had a fantastic idea for a content piece, I struggled with creating it. Not because I’m not a writer, but because I am.
I have a long history in creative writing; I’ve been writing stories since I was 7 years old. Some of them have even been published internationally in well-known publications.
I also spent years in corporate writing professional business documents.
But there’s a big difference between creative or business writing and writing copy.
This difference is what causes most people to hesitate for one of two reasons:
•For those who have a background in writing, they think they know what they’re doing, but when their content flops, they have no idea what went wrong.
•For those that have no experience in writing, they think their writing sucks, so they seldom get started.
When I first started writing content copy for clients, I had to unlearn everything I thought I knew about writing.
Writing copy for various content types doesn’t follow the traditional rules of either creative or business writing. It’s bold enough to completely throw out the rule book, too.
Copy writing doesn’t care if you’re a writer. It cares that you have something to say.
The real “secret” to writing content is to write how you talk. Because content is created to spark a conversation with the audience.
And we don’t ever talk with perfect grammar.
Oh snap! I just started sentences with ‘and’ and ‘because.’ Strunk & White are rolling over in their graves.
But Copy doesn’t care.
Colloquialisms? Bring it on! Copy LOVES them.
Clichés? They’re welcomed with open arms.
Typos? Copy doesn’t even sea them unless their’s alot.
Maintaining style throughout a piece? Whatevs. Copy’s cool with it.
Anthropomorphizing things? Yup, Copy likes it when you give things a personality.
But Copy doesn’t like big words. Copy reads at around a grade 7 or 8 level and doesn’t like to use a dictionary.
So if you’re struggling to come up with content, throw out everything you think it has to be and just write. Or pull out a voice recorder app on your phone and speak it. There are many apps out there that will transcribe your words into text for you.
The more content you create, the easier it becomes.
Trina Waller helps people with their social media content.
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Like most small business owners, I do a lot of different things and to create enough content to rank for each service I provide will take years. So, the first thing I did was choose two things I wanted to be known for and gain traffic: Brand Storytelling and Digital Magazines. In writing about these two keywords, I’d naturally incorporate other keywords about how I tell brand stories by publishing digital magazines.