This is the third installment in the Positive Business series on how to use ideas from positive reinforcement (R+) in your business and your creative projects.
This whole nutty idea of thinking about positive reinforcement (and puppy training) in your business originally came in a post I wrote about treating your audience like dogs.
It’s about creating a rewarding experience so that your audience does more of the stuff you want them to.
If you send good things to your audience via email, your audience will tend to want to open more of your messages. If your product or service offers a great experience, customers will tend to want to buy again.
It’s not something one of you “does to” the other. It’s a cycle of mutual benefit. Both sides find the experience rewarding, so they come closer together.
Content is one of the best ways I know to create a customer experience that’s innately rewarding. But only if it’s created with care.
Today I’m going to talk about a few specific ways you can improve that rewarding aspect of your content.
1. Sharpen your skills
The problem: Most content sucks. It’s boring, it’s thrown together, and it doesn’t offer enough value to the audience.
The solution: Sharpen your skills.
You don’t have to be the world’s foremost authority at what you do. But you do want to put the time in to help people make meaningful change.
You don’t have to write at The New Yorker level to create solid content. But you do want to put the time in to communicate clearly and in an interesting way.
Give your business enough G.A.S. to get the job done. You’d be amazed at how far it can take you.
And a business that’s taken the time to create something of real value? Immensely rewarding to connect with.
2. Teach without overwhelming
The problem: Many folks (particularly those new to teaching) feel the need to paint every inch of the big picture before they can settle down and answer the question.
This is a classic curse of knowledge issue. If you really understand your topic, you see everything that has come together to create the answer you’re giving.
But your audience doesn’t care. And when all they want to do is launch a simple website, you need to restrain yourself from the fourteen-page memo on the details of Al Gore’s role in creating the internet.
This one is extremely hard for me. I was in a mastermind that helped me to see I was overwhelming my audience by regurgitating way more information than they wanted or needed — and ever since, my watchword has been, “quit puking on your customers.”
The solution: Teach without overwhelm.
In other words, quit puking on your customers.
Instead of putting together giant, indigestible posts, podcasts, or videos, break your ideas up into more manageable bites.
You’ll find that you can keep dividing what you know into smaller and smaller bites, making them easier and easier to digest.
Focus on solving specific problems — and provide the background with hyperlinks for those folks who do want to dig deeper.
Not everything can be reduced to a short, punchy blog post or a two-minute video — but be sure there are some of those in your mix.
Quick answers to questions make for great content ideas — and there are always lots of them waiting to be answered. Keep your eyes and ears open for them.
Irony note: As I wrap this post up, I realize it might have been more effective written as seven smaller posts. What do you think? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
3. Simplify, don’t dumb down
The problem: A lot of “beginner” content doesn’t teach anything worthwhile.
So, that digestible, manageable introductory content is great … but sometimes we cross the line from introductory and go right to kindergarten. Content that fluffs up the same weak answers as a hundred other sites will never do anything for you.
The solution: Simplify, don’t dumb down.
What you’ll find if you Google around in your topic (an activity I strongly recommend) is that there’s a lot of “beginner” content that doesn’t really teach anything worthwhile.
How do you know it’s fluff? It doesn’t move them meaningfully toward what they want.
It leaves out important steps. It glosses over the hard part. Instead of clarifying and explaining, it’s dumbing the topic so far down that the solution won’t work.
So when you’re creating the “bite-sized” content I mentioned above, make sure it’s easy to see how it fits into that more complete solution. (That often means you create lots and lots of bites, then organize them so it’s easy to go from one to the next.)
Write your tutorial. Listen to audience feedback. Notice where they’re getting lost, and write a new version, or edit the old one for clarity.
Record your explainer. Pay attention to what’s still getting people confused. Record a new version that’s clearer.
Look for the places they get stuck.
When you see that the same question comes up in your Facebook group or a private forum again and again, it’s a sure sign that you need to create a clearer, simpler resource — and get it where people will see it.
It’s hard to explain your topic simply but meaningfully.
But when you keep working on it, you create content that’s deeply rewarding, because it helps the audience learn about things they care about (which feels great) and minimizes frustration (which feels crummy).
4. Eat your own dog food
The problem: User experience is complicated. We create all of these moving pieces for our audiences, and sometimes those pieces get jammed up.
The solution: Eat your own dog food.
Subscribe to your own content. Read the emails you send out. Do they look ok? Do the links work? Do you have some of those weird personalization codes in where they’re not supposed to be?
If people can place an order with you (online or offline), go through that process regularly. Schedule it, or “some time” will become “never.”
Look at your content on different devices.
When your site is new (like this relaunch), you’ll find lots of weird little things that need to be addressed.
You’ll probably never get to a point where it’s all perfect. As we grow and evolve, we introduce the possibility for errors … or just weird choices.
Stay connected to the experience of your work, so you can keep making it better.
5. Make the right choice easy
The problem: Everything is overwhelming. Audiences are more and more freaked out, about all kinds of issues. Minor confusion can become a major stumbling block.
The solution: Make the right choice easy.
When someone boogies on over to check out your content, how many different choices are they faced with? Is it easy to know what to do next? Is that choice beneficial to your audience? Is it beneficial to you?
Make it easy to make the “right” choice.
That means you use clear calls to action. Keep your site design uncluttered. Don’t be afraid repeat yourself.
If you have a million ideas you want to try (welcome to my world), think about how to string them like beads and approach them one at a time.
Yesterday on one of our Authority coaching sessions, I suggested that a student plan out his business evolution in launches. (I happen to like Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula a lot, and you can pick up his book with the key details very cheaply.)
One advantage to a launch model? It pushes you to think about one project at a time, and make the case for it with your audience, then see it through before you bounce to the next thing.
Clarity is rewarding. The feeling that I know what to do next when I hit your site — and that it will be a wise choice that brings me closer to my own goals — is rewarding.
6. Speak their language
The problem: There’s a ton of content being published on the web. It’s easy to get lost in the noise.
The solution: Speak their language.
Every experienced copywriter knows how valuable it can be to know the language of your prospect.
Do your people say soda or pop?
Do they identify as nasty women and SOBs? Is it good or bad to be a snowflake? Or deplorable?
Every topic has its little oddities of language. And within the topic, different sub-niches and ecosystems have their own twists on things.
Social media is wonderful for being able to tune into these. Find those peculiar phrases, understand them deeply, and use them in your content.
When users see content written in “their words,” they’ll tune into it. Instead of the wall of Internet noise, it becomes something interesting that’s worth checking out.
Which has been known to lead to the next point …
7. Understand them
The problem: It’s easier than ever to feel disconnected, isolated, and just plain lonely.
And having hundreds or even thousands of “friends” on social media often only makes it worse.
Too many folks are papering over their unhappiness with bright, happy social media posts — creating an “Instagram-ready” life to try to hide their pain and insecurity.
The solution: Understand them.
Show your audience that you get all of these painful and difficult feelings. That you empathize and understand … and that you’ll be able to help.
Talk about your own tough spots. Let a few cracks show. (They’re how the light gets in.)
Show that you’ve been there.
An online art class I’m in has been doing an “inner critic” exercise this week. It’s funny (and sad) how similar everyone’s critic sounds.
- Why are you wasting your time with this?
- You can’t really think you’ll ever be any good.
- You clearly don’t have any talent, so why would you show other people how bad you are?
- Isn’t there something more important you could be doing?
- You’re just going to humiliate yourself.
Even if you have no interest in drawing or painting … I bet one or two of those sound familiar.
Whether your topic is fitness, finance, or flamenco, those nasty, hypercritical inner voices tend to say the same things.
If you’ve made some difficult journeys in your topic, don’t just show people the shiny highlights. Let them know about the tough spots as well.
It’s a great gift to know that someone understands our crappy day, or the reasons we can’t sleep at night.
And if you have a product or service that can ease the pain, that’s a true blessing.
These are not the only options
A case could be made (I may have made it once or twice) that most of the work I do on Copyblogger and this blog is about how to craft content that’s more rewarding.
More interesting, more useful, more relevant …
Something I love about writing is that you can always get better. You can always learn to craft a shapelier sentence or a more pleasing paragraph.
How about you — anything you’ve found makes your content more innately rewarding? Let us know about it in the comments. 🙂
The Positive Business series
Here are the other posts in case you missed ’em!
- Why “Positive Business” Doesn’t Mean Making Yourself a Chump
- How to Make Progress in Your Business … Even if You Don’t Feel Like It
- Drawing the Line Between Marketing and Manipulation
I’ll be happy to send you the upcoming posts in this series — just drop your name and email in the boxes below. I’ll also send you a quick “Freedom course” I’ve been working on, about mindset and business and doing the things that need to be done.