Planning to Use Content to Grow Your Business with The Three Simple Circles

Stains

If you’re a small business that wants to use content marketing to grow your business but don’t know where to start, I’m here to help. And as usual, I start by developing a plan.

There are a lot of people that dive into great detail about creating and executing content strategy/planning, and that stuff is all great – if you have the time to read it, I recommend you do so. But, if you’re time-crunched – and who isn’t these days – here’s a quick and dirty plan you can use to get started with content marketing.  As with any good plan, this one is made up of questions that should be asked and answered in order to guide your actions.

That said, here are three key questions you need to ask and answer in order to use content marketing to grow your business. If you picture each question representing a circle that overlaps the others like a venn diagram, then the common area of this Three Simple Circles approach is where you want to be:

  1. What’s my competitive advantage or my “BIG Diff“? Why would someone choose to buy from me vs. anyone else? What are the things about my company/product/ service that would influence someone to choose them? For example, I LOVE The Keg, and the thing about The Keg for me is that it’s great value for the money, it’s a good atmosphere with good service, and it’s very consistent experience – those things are very rare (no pun intended), if not unique, for steak houses.
  2. What are the key challenges or higher-order needs of the people/organizations I want to sell to? The answer doesn’t have to be limited to the problems your product/service solves – it could (and arguably should) be anything related to it. For example, if I run a dry cleaner, my clients have a variety of problems they need solved that go beyond having their clothes cleaned. They may need to find time to drop their clothes off, or may be having trouble keeping up with the latest fashion trends given the wardrobe they’ve got. Neither problem is directly related to having their clothes cleaned, but nonetheless, they’re still problems those clients face.
  3. Given your competitive advantage, and the problems that your clients have, what are the topics you can comment on that address your clients’ problems AND that reinforce your competitive advantage, without discussing your products or services directly?

To tie this all together, let’s go back to the dry cleaning example, and assume that you’re known for getting stains out that others can’t – that’s your competitive advantage.  Further, let’s also say that you recognize that your clients (like most people) have problems with stains on a variety of surfaces, not just clothes, including table tops, cutlery, and carpets. Putting these two pieces of insight together could lead you to develop content (e.g., advice, perspective, news) focused on anything having to do with stain removal.  Not only does it reinforce your brand/competitive advantage and speak to problems your clients have, but in this case, it also opens up a whole new world of topics you could educate your clients about that go beyond clothing stains, keeping you more top of mind than if you were just focused on clothing.

For a quick and dirty (this time, pun intended) plan to get you up and running using content marketing to grow your business, asking and answering these three questions in the Three Simple Circles approach is a great place to start.

Learn How Curiosity Can “King” the Cat

Amanada Lang, co-host of CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange and senior business correspondent for CBC News, has a unique perspective on competitive advantage.

Over the years of her business reporting and interviewing, she’s come to believe that curiosity is a key source of individual and organizational competitive advantage.  In her recent book The Power of Why, she outlines why curiosity is so important to success and how you can leverage it in your personal, and business, life to achieve your goals.

You can read my full review of the book at PROFIT Magazine.

Enjoy!

The Difference Difference Can Make

frosty-beer

As you can tell, I believe that understanding and communicating your BIG Diff is one of the most important things an organization can do.

In my last post, I talked about how Toyota is able to align with a greater purpose – something that’s only distantly related to cars – to differentiate itself.  This is a real feat considering that many people would consider cars in Toyota’s competitive set (e.g. Honda, Kia, Hyundai, etc.) as overall being “generic” or “commoditized”, i.e. there’s little to tell them apart (that wouldn’t apply to Toyota’s Lexus brand though).

So here’s an example from another “commoditized” category – beer – that should act as a warning of what NOT to do.  This TV ad is filled with generic scenes (golf, the beach, a patio) and talks about generic things that really mean nothing (“you’re a complicated diverse creature”).  You could substitute Michelob beer with a host of other low-calorie beers and you wouldn’t need to change a thing about the ad, in either look or content.  The only reason I noticed it at all was  because my business background gives me a different POV on ads.  At least Coors Light creates a somewhat differentiated personality for itself.

So how do you avoid becoming generic? Once again, it comes down to defining your BIG Diff first.  It could be found in the product itself (as Lululemon or Canada Goose do), the personality (as Coors does), in a higher purpose (as Toyota does), or the experience (as Porter Airlines does), but you need that defining idea first before anything else. Once that’s done, you then have a clear understanding of what makes your product/service different from the competition, and you can execute your marketing to focus on those things to build your business.

That’s the difference your difference can make.

Tying your BIG Diff to a greater purpose

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Toyota makes cars.  Good cars.

That’s not news and it’s not a lot different from what Honda and other quality car makers do.

But once you’ve watched this video, I bet you’ll feel differently about Toyota than you do about Honda (and the rest).  It has little to do with the cars themselves and it may even influence your next car purchase.

So why is that?  What does this video do that helps Toyota differentiate themselves from the competition in a way that their existing and prospective customers will value?

As the title of this post suggests, it comes down to associating Toyota’s “BIG Diff” to a greater purpose.  One of Toyota’s “BIG Diff’s” is its approach to making cars (aka lean manufacturing).  That, in itself, offers consumers a great reason to buy Toyota because it ensures high quality cars at low cost.  But when they apply that same manufacturing expertise to helping those in need – a greater purpose beyond cars – it elevates the company in the mind of the market to a different place, a more emotional place.  And considering how important emotions are in the buying process (research shows it’s responsible for at least 50% of any decision), this ability to create an emotional connection is critical.  Now, Toyota can be associated with not just great cars (rational) but also with enabling a better community, society and even world, and its this emotional link that is differentiating and valuable to the market.

The question of how to do this is complicated and warrants its own post.  But, at the simplest level, you can ask yourself how the net benefits of your product/service can be expanded to positively influence your community or society.  For example, if you run a hair salon, you could tie your company to the greater purpose of helping people improve their confidence, instead of just focusing on cutting and styling hair.

It may at first seem a small thing but I’d argue that it’s a critical difference in an economy where there are so many options for your clients and prospects to choose from, and one that can help you develop your BIG Diff to grow more profitable.