One challenge I hear from clients and subscribers is, “How do I create profitable content when I’m trying to teach my audience?”
Teaching is an especially powerful form of marketing. As you teach, you establish your expertise. You’re teaching when you write articles, blog posts, podcast episodes (yours or your guest gig), and of course, courses.
You may have heard the term education-based marketing. That’s what many of us do, even if we call it something else. It’s also known as creating authority content…content that establishes your expertise and builds your reputation.
Your challenge is to realize, “My audience isn’t studying for a test. I have to give them information they’ll remember, and I can’t afford to bore them. And I have to meet them where they are.”
A few years ago, I dipped into a business book that a friend recommended. The author (who I’ve mercifully forgotten) presented a 5-step plan for telling a particular type of story.
I don’t remember what the author was trying to teach us. I remember becoming increasingly frustrated as I tried to understand. There was a lot of theory. There were references to Greek and Roman mythology. There was a lot of name-dropping about the author’s clients.
But there wasn’t a single example of someone who’d written a story with the author’s formula, let alone the steps they’d taken.
Here’s what I wanted to tell the author:
The two most important words to use are, “For example.” Use them after every point you want to make. If you have a 5-step process, use a story to illustrate each step. Ideally, you’ll tie the steps all together into one big mega-story.
You won’t just offer clarity to your readers. You’ll check your own understanding.
For example (!), suppose I want to explain why marketing needs to respond to symptoms, not problems. “For example,” I say, “my client has a lot of ideas but hasn’t started implementing even one of them. She frames the problem as having too many ideas. I know her underlying problem is that she lacks confidence. So I respond to her symptom – ‘too many ideas’ – because that’s what’s bothering her.”
1 – Every time you make a point or introduce a concept, write, “For example.” If you’re doing a rough draft, you can leave a blank space and come back later.
2 – Choose an example the client can relate to. I once tried to tell a football story to a live audience of technical experts – probably the only people in Philadelphia who’d missed our football victory. Luckily I had a backup example ready to go.
3 – If you can’t come up with an example, consider changing the content you’re teaching. Or delve deeper.
4 – Make sure your examples support your story archetype.
5 – Often the best ideas start with examples, not the other way around.
For instance, I got the idea for this article from the business book I mentioned. I still suspect there’s a cool idea there: I just couldn’t get it.
For a good model, of using examples, I recommend Todd Rose’s book, The End of Average.
Todd makes a fairly abstract point. Trying to fit what’s “average” won’t work for most people. Two of his examples are:
1 – When he went to college, he realized he couldn’t follow the recommendations for the “average” student: take required courses your freshman year and get them out of the way. Instead, he chose the most interesting courses he could find, so he’d build study habits early.
2 – At one time Air Force cockpits were designed for average-sized pilots. But no pilot was average on all dimensions of height, arm length, and other measures. Planes were crashing because some pilots could fit comfortably in the seat but not reach the controls and vice versa. Someone came up with the idea of an adjustable cockpit seat, so even a short, slim female pilot could earn a medal for getting a plane home after an air attack.
One story example comes from Todd’s experience. Another seems far away. They both explain the concept in a way that’s hard to forget.
Almost every service-based business owner needs to explain complex or novel ideas as they create content.
If you’re seeking to develop content that’s stronger and clearer, I can help.
“For example” is a powerful phrase when you’re writing content.