Blogs don’t normally keep me up at night, but two posts I read last week did just that. One was a LinkedIn post from Mark Traphagen who shared a tip he picked up from a podcast with Jay Baer about the value of providing “…and therefore” content, which is essentially highlighting what the information means and how readers can use it to their benefit.
The second blog that had me tossing and turning was Joel Klettke’s “You Don’t Really Know Your Audience, Unless,” which is his smart take on the need for businesses to create compelling calls to action. His advice is for business owners to finish the following sentence: “I want….”
Strong, simple and easy to follow.
When I read Traphagen’s post, it struck a chord by highlighting what I’ve long believed to be a hole in the content marketing game: opinion masquerading as fact. Yes, distilling and defining meaning for your audience can be and often is opinion-laden, but it does deliver real value beyond the overdone list posts and mind-numbingly common how-to posts.
At least with “…and therefore” content, readers walk away with a stronger attack plan.
Then, upon reading Klettke’s post, the problem I’ve been alluding to for over a year reared its head:
Content marketers have a “miss-the-mark” and a “miss-the-audience” problem:
- Miss the mark: Refers to information that, while not invalid or inaccurate, it is often lacking in sufficient depth or nuance to be truly beneficial to the person consuming the information (e.g., “Your business needs to be on social media”).
- Miss the audience: Refers to delivering the right information but to the wrong audience (e.g., “Learn SEO in just 30 minutes a day with our free ebook”)
In each of these instances, the information can be entirely valid, but more often than not it is provided to an audience that either needs more information to make an informed decision (miss the mark) or is delivered via the wrong platform or at a less-than-optimal point in the information-gathering journey (miss the audience).
Delivering The Tough Medicine We’ll All Prosper From
Looking back, these two blogs resonated so much with me mainly because they speak to the conversations I have every day with business owners.
Two of the biggest complaints I hear from CEOs and marketing directors go something like this…
- “I read [SEO, inbound marketing and content marketing blogs], but all I get is a lot on conflicting information that tells me nothing about how to run my business…what will help me be successful. That makes it tough for someone like you. How do I know you want just feed me a load of bull and take my money?”
- “All I hear about is content. That’s blogs, right? I have a blog now. It just sits there on the site gathering dust. How is all this content helping other businesses but not mine?”
Have enough of those conversations and things start to crystallize.
I’m now convinced businesses need more “Yes, but” content.
As marketers sharing information, we owe it to our audience to share factually accurate, thorough and honest information, even if it provokes disagreement. Also, we must be explicit in highlighting to business owners that a focus on their customers, not on their marketing efforts, must be the way forward, even if they don’t want to hear it.
As regards content, it’s not about the needs of the business.
To highlight how the above points play out in real life, I’ll use a personal example from an encounter I had with a successful small business owner less than a week ago..
Him: “I’m already blogging, but I need to be on social media and have my website sorted out. I’m no longer ranking for many of my ‘money’ keywords, so something is definitely [wrong]. One of the articles I read said my site could have been [penalized by Google] … I know we bought links in the past. How do I get started in social? That’s my main goal. Where do I start? Can you help with that?”
Me: “Let’s break this up a bit. Your business is doing quite well without social media, so: (a) What do you think being active on social will do for your company? (b) You said earlier in the conversation that the last year has been the most profitable in your 15-year history, and that’s the same timeframe you list as having most of your keywords fall to the [second page of Google]. Hmm…”
Him: “I had this social media [consultant] tell me that, because my blog is strong, I’m missing out on business because I’m not getting any social signals, which are basically the same as links, right? Look, if I’m doing well now, social could put me just that much higher. You can’t argue with that. You have to agree…social would only help my business. Right?”
Me: “Yes, but likely not in the way you assume. First, the consultant was wrong: Social signals are not links. Also, if you are doing better than ever, I doubt all your main keywords have really dropped off the first page of Google. I’d want to see that for myself. The bigger question would be, ‘Were you actually seeing conversions from those keywords, when they were ranking?’ Yes, social can be a strong, viable addition to your digital footprint, but that’s not anywhere near where I’d focus my energy right now.”
What I needed to ferret out was (a) what he saw as success in social and (b) would he be happy if his keywords were on the first page but his business was no longer successful.
I couldn’t get there with many more “yes, but” responses.
Solving For Prospects’ Pain Isn’t The Same As Solving For Every Problem
Getting to the “yes, but” means you’re getting closer to the crux of the issue, not just blindly looking for problems that may or may not exist. I see too many agencies and consultants spending time on efforts that will yield very little return for their clients.
Why? Because the client said so.
By adding “yes, but” to our vocabulary we not only get the work we need, we likely get to keep it longer. Instead of going down a rabbit hole to nowhere, we must be willing to push back, making it clear that satisfactory results are what we’re in it for. That will likely mean those clients looking for someone to freely say yes to everything will pass us by.
However, those are the clients we weren’t going to be able to help long-term anyway.
Some of the onus falls on the shoulders of the clients, too, who must be willing to hear discordant voices, those that might share information they haven’t heard elsewhere but that they desperately need.
I’m passionate about the need for more “yes, but” information, mainly because I see how the absence of such information plays out daily:
- Client A asks for blogs. We know they need a content audit and a competitive SEO assessment first. We provide the blogs, but the client complains she’s still not converting for his main keywords. See the disconnect? “Yes, but” ensures we never get to this point without the client being aware of what’s ahead
- Client B says his site needs a redesign to aid tanking conversions, but only has money for a “re-skin,” meaning the main elements of the site, including the content, will have to stay the same. “Yes, but” could make them aware of the need to take a deeper look at why conversions are ailing and, just as important, of how leaving non-performing content on the site isn’t part of the solution.
In a followup post, I’ll tackle how consultants and writers can begin sharing more “yes, but” information and how business owners can open themselves up to freely receive it.
In the end, we all need businesses to be successful.
Being afraid to ask the tough questions and afraid to share unpopular information aren’t much help in this regard.
What are your thoughts? Do you share “yes, but” information? Are you a business owner who’s willing to hear “yes, but” responses from contractors and agencies?