You don’t have to be a dummy to make the most common mistake in marketing. Lots of smart people do it every day. In fact, it is often because they know so much about their business that they fall into a trap that makes their content marketing a big old belly flop.
That trap is forgetting your audience. A cornerstone of content marketing strategy that gets results is to fix your mind on the naked truth that you are not your audience. When you dive into creating content for marketing, that is easy to forget. Why?
Blame the curse of knowledge.
The more you know about your business and product or service, the easier it is to forget what it is like to not know. You can lose the audience state-of-mind. You make wrongheaded assumptions about what they know and what is important to them. That’s how the curse of knowledge infects content marketing.
Here is an example.
Claude Hopkins was one of the early pioneers of advertising. In his book My Life in Advertising he tells the story of creating a campaign for Schlitz brewery. On visiting the brewery he learned about the exacting process they used for filtering the beer and purifying the ingredients. He was amazed.
“Why don’t you tell people about these things?” he asked. The reply he got illustrates the curse of knowledge in action. They told him the processes they used are just the same as other brewers use. No one can make good beer without them.
Hopkins was unmoved by the explanation.
He went on to create an advertising message telling the compelling reason why the Schlitz brewing process made its beer so pure. It was the first time the audience had heard this message. It gave meaning to the concept of purity. Within two months Schlitz moved from number five to number one in sales.
The secret to content that inspires action
Hopkins demonstrated two important things in this campaign. One is the importance of having the audience state-of-mind. The other is to give them a concrete reason why they should believe you and care. The story of how Schlitz almost missed this opportunity is a common one. Hopkins said:
This situation occurs in many lines. The maker is too close to his product. He sees in his method only the ordinary. He does not realize that the world at large might marvel at those methods and might give to him vast distinction.
The opportunities for content marketing are the same today. You can inspire the desired action from your audience when they know your purpose for being in business. Simon Sinek calls it starting with why. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he said in his famous TED Talk.
What makes for a compelling reason why?
The answer is to move your idea from the abstract to the concrete. Schlitz, like every other beer brewer of the time, wanted to emphasize the purity of its product. Purity is an abstract idea. It was only when Claude Hopkins put details to the idea – specifically defining the reason why it is pure – that it became meaningful to the audience. This has great power for your content marketing.
Giving your audience a compelling reason why activates the emotional decision-making part of their brain. They don’t want to be convinced so much as to be inspired. It is about wants more than needs:
- Your audience wants to be part of something important
- Your audience wants to identify with a higher purpose
You’ve heard the expression ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know?’ In content marketing, the ‘who you know’ is your audience. Tap into their desire for a reason why and you can avoid belly flops.