Law: Time disappears if you stay in the same space
You may have experienced this phenomenon… You sit down at your desk with the intention of doing a very specific thing. Something else catches your attention, and before you know it, you look at the clock and gasp! An hour has gone by and you still haven’t done the thing you sat down to do. It's like it disappeared into a black hole.
It’s not that you didn’t get anything done. You may have been “busy” and gotten a lot of little things done. Then you say, “well, I just didn’t have time to do that other thing.”
It’s not that you don’t have time. It’s that you are sitting in a “time sucking space.”
This is particularly common when the thing you have to do is either something that you don’t like to do, or something that requires a higher level of focus. Content creation is a perfect example because it is a creative process that works best when you focus your full attention on it, and aren’t distracted by other things.
So how do you keep distractions away from your mind?
Pick up your laptop and go somewhere else. It could be a coffee shop, or a spot outside (although not in the winter in Wisconsin), or just your couch. Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever relaxes you, and sit in a different space. Get out of your office where there are piles of papers and lists of tasks. You will be amazed at how your mind can function differently when you change your surroundings.
Content Creation requires not just dedicated time, but dedicated space. I don’t ever write my content in the same space where I do my work.
I realize that, these days, the internet and all of your distractions can follow you wherever you go. So, do your best to shut those things down while you are in your “creative space.”
If you do this consistently, it also becomes like Pavlov’s bell. When I sit on my couch with my laptop, my brain goes into “creative mode.” When I walk into my office (which is 25 feet away) I go into “accomplishing” mode - checking off lists, sending communications, projects, etc…
If you try to squeeze content writing into your regular routine, or force it to get done like another task, it will be frustrating and it won’t happen as fluidly as you would like. Instead, I encourage you to set aside a space that becomes your “content creation space” and see how that affects your perception and experience of content creation.
When was the last time your website got a refresh? Either just with new content, or a complete overhaul?
We’ve all looked at our website and thought, “I really need to go through and update that.”
But it is something that often gets pushed to the bottom of the list, and old content sits there for a lot longer than it should. Part of the problem is that we don’t always know exactly what we should put on our website.
This happens during website design (or re-design) projects as well. The web designer expects the business to provide the content for the site. But the business owner doesn’t always know what to provide or have a good process for coming up with website content.
This can sometimes take a long time and cause frustration on both sides. Especially if you are working with a solo designer, as opposed to a large marketing firm. Once the designer has the content, they can work their magic. But neither side is really equipped to create content that is going to be effective and part of a bigger marketing strategy.
I call this the “Content Hurdle.”
What often happens is that businesses end up falling back on the “brochure formula,” creating content about the business (the ubiquitous “About Us” page). They don’t use the tools that would allow them to harness more of the power the website could be providing.
In my work, I have developed a process to create content for websites. I have identified what questions to ask and what pieces to create. I recommend getting help to guide you through the process, ensure that your website content is really effective, and hold you accountable to make sure it actually gets done.
But, whether you are a web designer struggling with your clients or a small business who wants to update their site, here are some of the steps I take to create website content.
#1 - Identify who your ideal visitors are
Get very clear about who you are talking to. You’ve probably heard this before, but have you actually taken the time to write it down? I like to write about who my visitors and prospective clients are, and put it on the website. Then I can say, “Hey, does this sound like you?” That way people can self select, and only engage further with my business if they are an ideal client.
#2 - Know what they want, and give it to them
Once you have identified who you are talking to, and let them know you are talking to them, you have to provide them with some value. In order to do that, you have to know what they want. Giving people information about what you can provide for them is okay. But giving them a little piece of it that they can use right now is so much more powerful.
#3 - Tell them what to do
Your visitors will only spend a short time on your website (a few seconds to a couple of minutes if you are lucky). Then they will be gone. It is important to capture their information or connect with them in some way while they are there so you can stay in touch with them and continue the relationship. There are many things that could be a “call to action,” but it is important to be strategic and specific about what action you want your visitors to take.
#4 – Build a relationship
This is the part that I like the best, but often gets left out. The most important thing we need to do with prospective customers is to establish a relationship with them. Build the “know, like, and trust” factor. We often save this part for when we talk to people on the phone or in person. But our website is the perfect place to plant the seeds of the relationship. The previous three steps can play a role in building the relationship, but a relationship has two sides. So you also have to portray yourself in such a way that you are a participant in the process, and not just a bio with a list of accomplishments.
Take a look at your website content with these things in mind, and see if it is time for a content overhaul.
To really understand content marketing, I find it helpful to go back and look at marketing before the internet. I know, I know, that's like the dark ages. But hear me out.
Before the internet, marketing and advertising was limited in its use of space and it’s access to people. Information had to be crammed into a print advertisement, or a flyer, or on a billboard. There was a limited amount of space to use and it was often priced by the size. The bigger your ad or the longer your commercial, the more expensive it was.
Additionally, the only way to reach individual people was on the telephone or at their home address.
For service-based companies, the goal of marketing and advertising was to get the individual people to contact you. Phone numbers were prominently displayed in ads. The prospective customers had to pick up the phone and call you, or walk into your office.
At that point, the sales process would start. The person who called you or walked into your office had clearly identified themselves as someone who is interested in your services. You would smile at them, and thank them for contacting you. You would ask them about their situation, and answer any questions they might have.
It is in this process when you begin to build relationships with people, earn their trust and see if you are a good fit to work together.
Now, flash forward.
When the internet comes along, all of a sudden there were no more limitations on space or access to people. We had websites and e-mail! You could put as much information as you wanted on your site, and it didn’t cost any extra. You could e-mail people as much as you wanted.
So what happened?
Marketers were so used to the old model, that they used the internet the same way they used other marketing tools. They still provided information and tried to get people to contact you. Even though the tool was very different, the tactic was the same. And for many small businesses, this is still the case!
There is information - more of it - about the company and what they do, and a phone number (or e-mail address) where you can contact them. But the relationship building part of the process doesn't happen until a prospect makes personal contact with you.
The real power of the internet is not in the expanded amount of space to work with, although that is nice. The real power is in our ability to use it to build relationships with people.
Content marketing is what takes things to the next stage. It isn’t about getting people to call you or come to you. When they opt-in, or follow you, or “like” you or subscribe to you, they are identifying themselves as someone who is interested in your services.
The next stage is the conversation. The part where you build a relationship with them, answer their questions, share some of your expertise, and see if you are a good fit to work together. That is what content marketing is about!
You likely have a lot of marketing materials and copy in your business that is intended to inform people and get them to contact you. But do you have content that carries the conversation to the next level?