If you read LinkedIN enough you learn the most important trait of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to talk in gruesome detail about what an abysmal failure you were until you found ‘the secret’. Dan Norris is no exception.
I first came across Dan at the recent Interactive Minds Digital Summit where he paced across the stage talking mostly to the floorboards. The quirky presentation style did little to distract from the powerful message behind his story. Go getter starts business, works hard, fails miserably, learns, tries again, succeeds spectacularly, writes book.
His main business WP Curve is a WordPress support community and has been an ‘overnight’ success in helping people solve their WordPress challenges (we thought it was a great idea until he told us to bugger off because he doesn’t white label for agencies).
The success of WP Curve is based on the simple premise of a great product marketed exclusively through great content.
Peeling back the glossy packaging of his ‘failure made good’ story reveals some powerful lessons about the value of content and the impact it can have on your business. Thankfully his expertise and advocacy for content is matched by a commitment to transparency and he has put all his learnings as writer, blogger and content marketing in a nice little book.
Content Machine ($4.00 for Kindle) is a must read for anybody embarking a new business venture or who wants to supercharge their content marketing. Here are some of most important takeaways.
Kill your avatar
For a long time brands have been creating ‘avatars’ that represent their ideal client and writing content targeted at this imaginary consumer. Norris argues the impact of content is far more complex and fluid because content doesn’t work the same way for everyone.
Your ideal customers will hear about you over a long period of time, through multiple sources, and that is how trust is built
He argues it more effective to write for a community. Some of the community will become your customers but many more will become advocates of your brand and your content. This advocacy creates a chain of influence that ultimately delivers sales months, or years, down the track.
Not all content is equal
As brands rush towards content (and content kings make out like bandits) the discussion about content has moved from a simple ‘we need to do it’ to a ‘we need to do it properly’. This means producing high quality content that has the capacity to change perceptions and promote real engagement. Norris’ definition of high quality content is:
Great content is something you provide to your audience that captures their attention and encourages them to engage and share.”
It’s pretty simple in theory, difficult in practice. The best tips from Norris are to make sure that, above all else, your content is highly specific and actionable. What problem are you solving? What change can it make to the readers’ life? Why would anybody care?
Norris’ seven lessons learned from a good and bad content are among the most important takeaways from the book and worth the cover price alone.
Differentiation can make all the difference
Content marketing is like any business, if you can find a niche and own it, you will do well most of the time. The world’s best content marketers rarely strike out into new areas that haven’t been covered before. As Norris explains; “They don’t simply create content. They create content for a certain community of people, and they do it better with a unique angle so they get noticed.”
A bit like writing a great media release you need a killer ‘hook’. The angle, the insight, the perception that brings clarity where the reader only saw complexity.
Norris suggests that rather than targeting a certain persona, you should adopt a persona. The Whisperer reveals the secrets of an industry, The Hustler bursts on the scene with content that is completely new, The Analyst is the undisputed king of data and the Artists takes graphics to a new level. Regardless of what persona you take, make sure you own the niche.
Content Machine includes countless other gems and comes complete with a range of ready-to-use resources to get you moving on the path to content marketing mastery. A great read for anybody starting their own business and wants to understand the true value of great content.