“Without a map everything looks promising. With a map the right road becomes obvious.” – Leah Remillet
To succeed as businesses we need all the right people to know, like, trust and remember us; to buy what we sell and refer us widely. You’re here reading the Valuable Content blog so you’ll know that creating and sharing the right content plays a big part in that sales and marketing journey. You’ll also know that it can be hard to get right.
What’s the best path to take to make your content truly valuable?
Website, blogs, social media, email updates – how do you make your content work so well for you that it becomes the client-attracting, business-building fuel you need to grow a brand that people love?
For the love of maps
Over the years we’ve helped many good businesses work out what to say, how best to say it and how to spread the word through the content they share. So, with the help of two super talented Bristol illustrators we’ve charted that journey and turned it into a set of maps. Pitfalls, paths, pit stops and final destinations – we’ve put them on the map to help you visualise your adventure through the Land of Content.
I love a good map. My family moved many times when I was young – across the UK and around the world (I went to 12 schools in total!) so maps became a way of plotting our travels and making sense of the unfamiliar places yet to come.
Maps are powerful things. They give us direction.
“Maps make us masters of sights we cannot yet see” – Robert Harbison
You may have seen the original Land of Content map we created when our second book was published in 2015, but in the last month we’ve focused down on one important section of this map and gone deeper. So here’s the full set – a brand new, illustrated guide for your journey to content that matters and a business people love.
Welcome to the Land of Content
So marketing with valuable content is a simple idea, but tough to make work on the ground. The journey – from the decision to focus your efforts on sharing the kind of content your customers are looking for, to the point where your content is so valuable it’s pulling all the right business to you – is not a straight A to B trip.
There are numerous pitfalls and mountains on the way. So many, and so familiar are the highs and lows of the content marketing journey, that back in 2015, with the help of designer Lizzie Everard, we imagined them as real places and created a map of The Land of Content.
You can use it to find out where you are now, and to plan your journey to Bountiful Bay: that’s marketing nirvana where your content is just right, and the perfect customers are drawn to you again and again.
To get the full low down on our original map and its destinations head over to Sharon’s post: The insider’s guide to the Land of Content.
Set out on the surefire path to success
In our first Land of Content map you can see that, alongside common pitfalls, there are several paths to success:
- Grafters Gorge. You can take the hard road – battling your way to content clarity, learning and refining your approach as you go. A valid route, but it’s definitely the long road, full of false turns and frustration.
- Wisdom Way. Or you can strike out on a more surefire path. Head to Pow Wow Plain and take time to address your content strategy. This is where you do your hard thinking and where problems like not knowing what to say and how to say it get solved. Strategy and plan sorted, you set off down Wisdom Way – the fast track to Bountiful Bay.
But what does this surefire route involve? This is what we wanted to explore more deeply in map number two. So we enlisted the help of illustrator Carys Tait to help us visualise the fast track road along Wisdom Way.
Stage 1: Start here – the exploration and discovery phase
Before you head out on the path take some time out to do the hard thinking at Pow Wow Plain. You’re at the start of a quest to find the answers that unlock your story and show you the pathway to content (and business) enlightenment. All the information you need to create a valuable, client-winning content strategy is out there, it’s up to you to find it.
There’s work to do on your own business goals. Who are you as a business? What do you want your content to do for you? Who are the clients you really want to work with? What work is most fulfilling, both financially and happiness-wise? Why are you in business? What’s the change you want to make in the world? What’s your mission?
And there’s important work to do listening to your customers. If you want to create a message and content that resonates then it’s important that you have deep understanding of their world and their challenges. What difference do you make? How do you help them? How do they describe your value? Once you start questioning and listening you discover that customer research is like panning for gold. You’ll uncover nuggets during this process that will form the foundations of your plan.
“Customer research is like panning for gold.”
Answer the big questions – why, who, what, where, how, when? And make a plan to get you from A to B using the content on your website and beyond. Document your strategy and pin it to your wall – use it as a compass to guide you. It’s so easy to get pulled off course when it comes to content creation. The secret is to know where you are heading, and to be intentional.
- Get clear on your goals
- Who are you as a business?
- Listen to your clients and team – use the insight from the research to help you make decisions on your message and content strategy
- Focus your positioning, perspective and purpose
- What’s your sweet spot?
- Craft your content strategy and plan and set out on the journey
This crucial first phase – exploration and discovery to set your strategy and plan – will give you the clarity and confidence you need to forge forward and reach your goals.
Stage 2. The platform building phase comes next
You’ve moved into the construction phase – building your digital platform. It’s time to put your plan into action. Keep your strategy, your manifesto and plan to hand as you:
- Build your website and visual brand
- Create a bank of valuable content to share
- Set up your channels – social media, email newsletter etc.
The discoveries you made on Pow Wow Plain will almost certainly have implications for your website. Whether it’s a fairly cosmetic affair of changing some of the wording on your website to make your proposition and purpose clearer, or a complete redesign so that you can share valuable content, there will be actions that you need to take to turn your website into the lead generating, credibility boosting, trust building machine you’ve planned. You’ll need to keep your wits about you as you navigate the tasks of putting your plan into gear.
There are many obstacles during this construction phase. A new digital platform is a change project, so be prepared for a bumpy ride. Make sure you stick to the plan and implement the changes. Stay on top of it. You know what you need to do.
- Invest in this phase, and accept that it will almost certainly take longer than you think to get through.
- Put a great team together to help you get it all done.
- Share your content strategy and plan with your people, and paint a picture of what you’ll be achieving together so they’re motivated to get stuck in.
- Get web designers on the case who understand marketing with content.
- Seek help with writing the web copy if that’s not your strongest card.
- Divide up the blogs etc on the content calendar amongst your team, (or plan a manageable schedule for yourself if you’re a one person band.)
- Start getting your newsletter list together, if you don’t already have one. A way of keeping in touch with people until they’re ready to buy is an essential part of your digital platform.
- Use this phase to get your digital marketing platform and team poised and ready to go. That might mean practising your podcast skills if you learned that your ideal customers look for content to listen to as well as watch or read. Or find video partners, if videos are going to be part of your content mix.
- Make a plan for how you’re going to engage on the relevant social media platforms and get started.
- Skill your own people up, and give them time to create the content you’ve planned.
Your website is at the heart of your content marketing universe, so it’s got to be good. But don’t get so hung up on perfection that you get stuck, full of doubts that it’s just not good enough. There’s no such thing as a perfect website. Accept that yours will always be a work in progress. It will evolve and that’s fine.
Get your platform in place and get ready for the final phase – the non-stop festival of valuable content! Cross over Customer Canyon and get connecting.
3. Keep it flowing – a festival of valuable content
Congratulations. You’re well on the way to Bountiful Bay and this third stage is party time.
You know what your customers want, you understand their challenges and what they want most from you. The line up for the perfect content festival is in your hand, and with your digital platform in place, you’ve got a way of sharing it with the world. So mix it up and share it out, and keep the valuable stuff coming. With blogs, videos and guides going out, you’re helping current customers be more successful, and you’re helping new ones find you online. Use your content to strengthen those relationships still further. Be more helpful. Keep sharing valuable and entertaining content. Keep talking, keep listening and learn from what works.
Give yourself and your team the time for content creation and sharing and keep your community of followers coming back for more. Turn visitors into your regulars at Bountiful Bay.
- Get out there – social media, events, email – the right channels to connect
- Don’t be afraid to go direct – valuable content-fuelled sales campaigns
- Engage your team in the process – give them the skills and confidence they need to play a part
- Build your community
- Keep the content coming
- Learn as you go and up the value you deliver over time
Many businesses will be content once they’re pulling in all the right business at Bountiful Bay. For others their in-demand, amazing content leads their business to a whole new place – your ideas are so valuable people will pay for them. Your business model changes and you’re on route to the Brave New World. If the Brave New World is where you’re heading (as it is for us) then dip back to Pow Wow Plain – do the hard thinking and set out back on the trail.
Collect badges on the way
The path to valuable content nirvana (Bountiful Bay and beyond) is definitely a journey. Success won’t happen all at once, but there’s benefit from your investment at each step. [See – Why content is a brilliant catalyst for business transformation]
To motivate you on each leg of your adventure we’re giving out badges for achievement (Look out Pub Schoolers, these are coming your way!) Who doesn’t love a good badge?
Lost in the Land of Content?
“If you focus on producing valuable content for your customers, then good things happen for you and your business.”
Wherever you are in the Land of Content we really hope this set of maps helps as a useful guide. It IS a journey – a transformative one at that. So pinpoint your location, set your compass and most importantly, take the steps you need to move on and make progress towards your goal.
You’re not alone. We’re on this journey with you. It’s a hell of an adventure, and we’re with you all the way.
PS We’re still in testing mode with this new iteration of the map. Any locations, pitfalls or pathways we’ve missed – do let us know!
Learn from businesses that have made it to Bountiful Bay:
- Ascentor – the case for valuable content with impressive long term results for this UK information security firm
- BeerBods – a beautiful business powered by content and connection
- Ecosurety – a true team effort to create the content they need for success