Content marketing ≠ blog posts
How to create high-impact content that solves actual problems for your audience
If the main goal of your content strategy is “producing 10 blog posts” you’re doing it wrong. You’re not thinking creatively enough about what content can be and you’re probably doing a lot of busywork making content that doesn’t move the needle. You need to expand your definition of content.
Good content marketing isn’t just writing blog post after blog post and creating boring formulaic case studies. Content can be: spreadsheet templates, calculators, guides, trend reports, data studies, tactical guides on specific topics, Q&As, webinars, video series, podcasts, examples, twitter threads, polls and results, combinations of the above, etc.
This newsletter is part of a series I’m calling “Content as a Product”. This first post is about creating content, the next post is about content roadmapping, and the final post is about distribution. TLDR of the series: Think of content as a product. It’s not the software product you are creating, but it is another “product” for the same audience. Much like your product solves a big problem for your audience, so should your content.
To create high-impact content—like it’s a product—keep in mind the following 3 concepts (covered in depth in this newsletter):
Solve problems for your audience with content, not limited to the problem your product solves. Featuring the “30% juice rule”.
Ensure your content can be a winner. Create a GACC™ brief before creating content & make sure your content is differentiated from competitors.
Get mileage out of your content. Don’t stop at one post or asset per content idea. Slice it, dice it, add it together again, repurpose it, redistribute it, update it, expand on it, etc.
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1. Content ideation: Solve actual problems for your audience
The first step to generating content ideas is to identify the problems your audience faces. Much like you can’t build a product if you don’t know your audience, you can’t create content if you don’t know your audience either.
Specifically, you need to know what challenges your ideal customer faces in their entire job. What are all the things they struggle to figure out, do extremely manually, look up every time they do them, etc? Answering these questions will give you a lot of great content ideas.
For those of you who are fans of jobs-to-be-done, you can apply this framework to your content strategy and planning. Map out the “jobs to be done” for your audience(s). Then, for each job to be done, you can create a piece of high-impact content that helps them do that job. This could result in creating a how-to blog post with a template or resource, a step-by-step guide, shared survey results, etc.
Start with audience analysis
To make sure you understand your audience, make sure you can answer these questions about each ICP (ideal customer persona) and/or audience segment:
Things your audience wants to achieve: What is a goal your audience is trying to achieve (independent of any product or solution)? How can you make this easier?
Challenges in workflow: Similarly, think beyond just the workflow your product replaces or solves. Understand all of the relevant or adjacent workflows or processes for your audience segment.
Other tools they use: Understand their entire stack, including SaaS products, spreadsheets, and templates they use. Note: All of these SaaS products can be partner marketing opportunities as well.
Behavior and content consumption: Where do they find information? How do they buy products? How do they like to be communicated with? What communities are they in? Note: This is most often skipped in customer interviews, but really important.
We have a more detailed audience analysis template for paid subscribers, subscribe here.
30% Juice Rule
To really bring this point home…when identifying problems your audience faces, remember you aren’t limited to things your product directly solves for. I recently talked to a candidate (thanks Ilana) who mentioned she worked with a juice company whose content strategy was something like “only 10% juice content”—meaning, literal content about juice, or what their company makes.
This applies to B2B startups too, don’t write about just what you make. Content about your company’s product might need to comprise more than 10% of your overall content, so a 30% juice rule is probably a bit more appropriate.
The bottom line is this: your audience doesn’t just care about your product features or “the juice”. You need to make them problem aware, solution aware, brand aware, and product aware typically in that order. To do this, you can write content a few circles out from what your product solves for, as long as it is for the right audience. Once you get them to your site or capture their email, you can nurture them down the funnel with content that gets more specific to your product.
2. Before you create, make sure your content can be a winner
Once you’ve made an exhaustive list of problems your audience faces, it can be tough to prioritize. Our next newsletter will focus on content roadmapping in depth, but the general rule here is you need to figure out what content to bet on. What has the potential to drive a lot of traffic? What has the potential to be a “lead magnet”? What can your company create that no one else can create?
Running competitive analysis, checking your ideas with the “add value rule”, and using MKT1’s GACC brief writing framework, you’ll be better equipped to make content “bets.”
Competitive differentiation—important for products & content
Most likely, someone else has written or created a resource about every topic on your content roadmap. Do it better. If only it was that simple…
This requires taking a look at what competitors have created. If you are trying to rank for SEO, mimic the format of high-ranking posts, but make the content way more interesting. If you are creating a resource, focus on things you are uniquely suited to make. For instance, if you have unique access to data, customers, survey responses, partners, thought leaders, leverage that!
Finally, use the “Add value test”. Everything you create should pass this test. If the content doesn’t add value to your audience specifically and is simply duplicative, really ask yourself if it’s worth making at all. Even when creating SEO content, make sure it adds value. If your content ranks #1 for a high traffic keyword, that’s great, but that’s not really the point. You need some of these visitors to convert to being a customer.
Create a GACC™ brief before creating content
The GACC is our version of a (brief) marketing brief—we didn’t actually trademark, but maybe we should. To double check that the content you are planning to create checks all the boxes, write a GACC before an outline or a rough draft.
GACC stands for goals, audience, creative/unique take, and channels/distribution. When you are planning a campaign, writing a blog post, deciding the focus of an event, or creating anything longer than a Tweet, you probably need a GACC. Writing the GACC in advance helps give your future content focus, aligns the team on the plan, sets context for reviewers, and ensures you have a plan for driving distribution. We wrote a whole newsletter on this.
For big pieces of content, circulate the GACC in advance to get others’ thoughts before you start writing. Your outline and draft will be a lot better if you do this first, and you’ll save hours of time in revisions—we promise.
GACC for our previous newsletter on the GACC (super meta!)
Super pro tip: Maybe don’t create it?
If your content doesn’t check the boxes on unique point of view or adding value, reconsider creating it. If you have no clear distribution plan, reconsider creating the content. And of course if the content doesn’t ladder up to one of your current priorities or goals, put the idea on ice until it does. Your content, much like your product, should to be better than “competitive” content.
3. Make more content with less: Get mileage out of your content
Mileage is our term for taking one content idea (that maps to a problem your audience has) and expanding upon it, repurposing it, and/or using the same research to create a new piece of content. You want to get the miles-per-gallon of a 2022 Prius, not a 90s SUV (that said, I’d much rather drive a 90s SUV than Prius, but I digress).
Let’s start with another self-referential example to explain the mileage concept:
I originally wrote a really, really long post titled “content as a product” for this newsletter. I would have hit up against the Substack content size limit. This happened to me last time I wrote a newsletter too. I wanted to avoid it.
I was breaking my own rules. I was writing about mileage, and wasn’t practicing what I was preaching.
So I decided to break my newsletter into 3 shorter (but still value-add, IMO) posts. A content series was born.
After I share all 3 of the newsletters, we will likely do a Q&A with a content leader (get ready Jenny Thai). That will be a live event. Then we will turn that into a 4th post in the series.
And finally, when all of these are out in the world, I will put it all together into the complete (and you guessed it, “definitive”) guide to treating “Content as a Product”. I’ll link to all my other posts and all the templates shared.
This is mileage. 1 idea, many assets, many formats, repurposed content.
You can do this too, but you don’t even have to start with the master plan. You can produce one post, and if it’s performing well or you think it has the potential to perform well based on feedback, you can expand on that idea. Think of the initial launch as a “product” beta, if it’s working, double down and launch a better version with more content types to more people later.
Here’s a diagram that also illustrates the concept:
You’ll never know if you should try to get more miles per gallon on your content if you don’t set up goals. And not just goals to make the content, like “10 blog posts this month”, as I referenced earlier. But metrics goals, like drive “30 qualified leads from ICP 1 from gated content in Q2”. You also need to get feedback on content, is it really resonating and is it really useful? Make sure you have ways to get this feedback—whether that’s via social comments, email replies, communities, etc
Examples of great content—and why
Hopefully, I’ve changed your thinking a bit about how to develop impactful content. But, it’s always helpful to experience great content too. Here’s a list of solid content by type to hopefully inspire some new ideas—subscribe to our paid newsletter for more examples.
Paid subscribers also get:
More content marketing-related content:
Content roadmap template - we will dive deep into how to use it in our next newsletter
Audience analysis template - not your typical ICP template, but 1 level deeper, as mentioned above
Longer list of content examples by type
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