Episode 44: Is an “Empty Canvas” Content Strategy Defeating Your Marketing?

When you get down to the nitty gritty of marketing your creative practice, content strategy is almost certainly going to be an essential part. And as I emphasized in episode 23, your marketing is a marathon not a dash. This means that creating compelling content has to have to become a steady, regular, ongoing part of marketing your creative practice. If the thought of having to come up with new ideas month after month, for years on end, is a bit terrifying for you, keep listening, because there is a secret to keeping the content coming.

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Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?

One of the reasons so many creatives fail to effectively market themselves comes down to either a neglect of, or ineffective efforts in executing their content strategy. You can only write about “branding” so many times, and how many of your competitors have a similar post in their archives? Posts about your latest work, events you’ve attended, new hires at your firm, or the pets you bring to the office just don’t move the needle when it comes to impactful marketing.

But if you eliminate these themes, what do you have left to write about? In episode 24 I talked about the essential need for PinPoint positioning as a catalyst for content creation. Creative firms that narrowly define their scope of services, and focus on delivering their services to one clear industry, or common problem, have a much easier time generating and sustaining ideas for content.

But there’s something else about the kind of content that well-positioned firms generate that makes it not only easier to sustain, but extremely effective to boot. It has to do with their ability to accurately, concretely, and articulately answer the third question that defines a PinPoint position, namely, how does what you do benefit your clients.

As Donald Miller so persuasively describes in his popular book, “Building a Storybrand,” when a prospect reads your messaging, they want to see themselves as the hero in the story. You’re just the guide who can help them reach their goals. At the end of the day, people care about their own goals, problems, and dreams. They don’t really care about your love of creativity, your belief in the power of branding, your awards, or what a fun loving crew works at your firm. They want to know that you understand their problems, and that you have a solution that will lead them to the outcome they’re striving for.

That’s what makes the content that flows out from a well-positioned firm so engaging and persuasive to prospective clients. Prospects can clearly see how the well-positioned firm has answered the problems they’re having. They might even find insights to problems they’ve never considered. That’s because from within their embedded context, they can’t perceive the patterns that a specialist sees from their higher level perspective.

Not only does PinPoint Positioning overcome the blank canvas syndrome for creating content, it increases its impact and effectiveness as well. Comparing the content marketing experience of a well-positioned firm to that of the generalist is like comparing the golden age of illustration to modern abstract expressionism. Illustrators such as N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, and Normal Rockwell connected so concretely with their audiences—with iconic images such as the small runway boy with a bindle, sitting next to a big policeman at the counter of a diner. You know the one. Doesn’t that one image tell a clear and compelling story?

The work avant garde abstract expressionists, on the other hand, which might be great art—speaks more to the prestige of the artist, and the subjective experience of the viewer, than to a clear and unambiguous narrative. The content of the generalist is all about the artist. The content of the specialist effectively serves the viewer—and thus the cause of the client. Your clients don’t hire you so that you can have an opportunity to display your artistic genius. They hire you to tell their stories, stories where they, not you, are the hero.

What does your content history look like? Is it more expressionist, or illustrative? If you want a content strategy that’s effective and sustainable, it’s time to enter into your client’s world, and make them the hero of your messaging.

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.