3 Reasons Why Your Content Sucks (And How to Fix It)

In this episode, you’ll learn tips for sharing content that makes a dramatic impact on your business. Kevin Lund joins the podcast to explain what companies usually get wrong in their content marketing, and ways to create content that attracts customers and drives results.

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • Why content from companies usually sucks (and how to fix it)
  • How the global economic collapse led to brands becoming publishers
  • 3 warning signs that your content marketing is bad
  • The #1 thing brands should do right now to improve your content
  • How to use free tools to listen to your audience on social media
  • What you can do to contribute to a conversation online
  • How to earn attention by listening to what people aren’t saying
  • Why you must create a unique and unapologetic personality
  • How to learn how to become a better storyteller

Resources

Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you will learn why your content sucks and how to fix it. My guest today is a super experienced content marketer and lecturer. He’s the CEO of T3 Custom. He knows his stuff around digital marketing strategies.

He worked with many, many clients for the last 18 years. Including companies I love, banks, in particular. HSBC, Forbes, Nasdaq, Blackrock, and all of those big names.

He knows content marketing, in particular. He’s based in Seattle, Washington, and he also consults with and has written for the Content Marketing Institute. And finally, he has a book coming out called Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human. So very happy to have you, Kevin Lund. Welcome.

Kevin: Thank you, Louis. I appreciate the warm introduction.

Louis: You’re very welcome. So, we’ve talked about content marketing in this podcast multiple times. We talked about content multiple times. We also talked about the fact that people seem to be absolutely overwhelmed by all the contents being thrown at them.

Can you remind me? I don’t know if you know the study, or if you have a study that you’ve read recently. But on average, how many times are people being exposed to content or stuff in general from companies every day?

Kevin: Well, if you look at emails alone, there are over 200 emails every day between business and personal. We spend over, I think it was four to six hours on our phones, so there’s that kind of information.

But the statistic that was the most interesting to me was there are over 3,000 marketing messages every day. That may seem like an impossibility, but it’s everything from a logo that you might see on your shoe, to an advertisement on TV, to content that you’re reading to an email. So, the numbers are up there.

Louis: I have to curse right away, but how the fuck are people supposed to handle that? How the fuck are you supposed as a brand or as a marketer, as a content marketer supposed to go through that noise, right?

Kevin: Yeah, it is tough. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re in information overload. We’ve got too much of a good thing now. This is part of my philosophy all along was if you’re going to write content, it better be good. I mean, you are competing against 3,000 messages.

You can’t just put out content for content’s sake and that’s sort of why I titled this bit, “Why Your Content Sucks and How to Fix It.” So, I go out there and talk about various ways of improving your content, so you do stand out from the crowd and you do get seen.

Louis: Yeah. Because I guess the flip side is that many companies do things very badly. I mean, I can think of 10 shitty messages only today that I’ve seen online or over email or shitty behavior, or shitty marketing that I’ve seen just today alone.

The good news is that you can stand out fairly easily if you just focused on what matters the most, speaking human and being yourself. Treating people like they are human being and not just numbers and all of that. But I don’t want to lead you into answering questions that way I want to.

So instead, why don’t you tell me more about why content from companies tend to suck more than more than it tends to be good. And maybe you can describe a few symptoms of why this content sucks so much.

Kevin: Well, I think part of the reason is because a lot of content writers are not trained as content writers. A lot of content that’s being put out there is because, for the first couple of decades as the Internet was sort of in the heyday of the Internet and the 90s, we were all clicking buttons and having a lot of fun clicking emails. There was a high click-through rate, nobody really paid attention to telling stories, and telling good content.

They were just clicking buttons and having fun. And there was a very predictable measure of how many people would buy your product or at least click through. I mean the numbers were as high as 5-10% when it was born.

And over the last couple of decades, this content has matured and brands have become publishers now. Especially when the fallout of 2008 happened and there was a lot of publishing companies that sort of went out of business. You had brand publishing come to rise.

There was a lot of extra pressure for companies to come out, be seen, and publish content. One of the ways they decided to do that was to start marketing themselves through that content. And it ended up becoming more of a long form billboard, discussing products, services, and not really focusing on the needs of the person reading the article.

Companies got really good at SEO, Search Engine Optimization, playing with the bots, and playing around the rules of Google. But they stopped paying attention to what the humans actually needed once they got to the story.

So you can bring a horse to water, but they couldn’t get him to drink very well. They’re still suffering today. And it’s just a lot of really crappy content that doesn’t do anything. There might be a few step-by-steps but people aren’t remembering the content. They don’t remember where they read it. It’s ineffective and there’s very, very high bounce rates.

Louis: Right. That makes total sense. Can you give me more detail because that’s something that’s sparked my attention, my interest, when you talked about the publishing world that kind of collapsing, you said 2009, is that it?

Kevin: Yeah. 2008 and 2009. The global economic collapse. There was a lot of consolidation in publishing. And so the responsibility of putting out good content was less on the media, as they were struggling to survive, and more on the businesses that started springing up online.

Louis: That’s an interesting take. I never heard of the connection before but it makes total sense. And since then it’s clear that as you said, companies have taken the role of publishers and more and more companies are publishing more and more content.

I would, however, question the fact that those companies only started to ignore what’s customer really cared about, or the way they would talk when they only started to do content marketing properly. I have a feeling that they were bad from the start, but that the content that we are seeing is just a symptom of all of that behavior. If it makes sense.

Kevin: Yeah. And if you think about it too, something to add to the whole suit that happened back in 2008, 2009. I think iPhone came out in 2007. Right? And the iPad might’ve been, I can’t remember when it is.

But you have the proliferation of mobile devices. And that was kind of when the digital age really transformed. There was this gap to fill. So when you have all the print companies and print media companies that didn’t really establish their online presence yet, that big gap was being filled by companies. And people were going online to get answers. The content that was being put out there, it was in demand.

There was a huge gap being filled by companies. And the problem is, if you put a subject matter expert inside of a company with a junior level marketing person — or even a marketing person that has very little writing experience other than copywriting experience — they may not be trained as journalists or writers who would do a better job of telling stories and making a connection with that group.

It wasn’t really the company’s fault to begin with, but I do blame companies now for not improving on what they started in the beginning.

Louis: Can you give me a bit more example about content that sucks? Gives me more tangible examples that people can relate to.

Kevin: Well, take the financial world. We’ve specialized quite a bit over the years and financial. And obviously done a fair amount of looking around spying on some of the other companies to see what they’re doing.

And they might write a really catchy headline like, “How to Not Lose Money in a Bear Market.” You can go grab that headline, and it might be SEO-driven, and there’s going to be a lot of people to go read that article. Then you get there and it’s nothing but an advertisement for funding, an accountant, or broker.

It might have two or three sentences about, or two or three paragraphs about, diversify your portfolio and by cash bonds. The kinds of stuff that we hear every day ad nauseam. It’s nothing really new and interesting. There’s no new right angles to the content, they’re just trying to grab you with headlines.

The first thing is companies will use catchy headlines and SEO tactics to bring you to their content. But then when they deliver the content, it’s not in storied form. It’s not very helpful. It’s not very memorable and it’s not likely shareable, which really is the key to good successful content marketing. Creating shareable content that makes an emotional connection with the reader.

Louis:  I’m actually so glad you took the example of financial institutions. There are so many things to say about them. But that’s true and that’s something you see a lot. Which is the traditional bullshitty way to message people and to market at people instead of with them.

Exactly as you said, like a good headline, then you fail to deliver on the promise, and you end up with a paragraph of fluff that you really frankly can’t understand if you don’t have an MBA in finance or anything related. Right?

I guess this episode is particularly for you if you work in finance because I guess we can help you even more and then the other industries. That makes all the sense in the world. And that’s why in your opinion, content sucks the most, is that we do have good job at bringing people in.

Then we fail to deliver on a promise, we give them fluff. Basically, they end up being more confused than they were before they arrived.

Kevin: Perhaps. It’s basically being inwardly focused on the products, services, and not really being outwardly focused on addressing the needs. The quote I use a lot is, “Don’t sell me a camera. Teach me how to take a great picture.”

And if you’re Kodak, you don’t need to mention that you’re Kodak, or even necessarily talk about your cameras to be able to write a great article on how to take a good picture. And if you have it branded with Kodak or it’s in your Kodak blog, then great.

You know what, people just want the information. They’re gonna see the branding. And that little branding on the outside of the article is the billboard that they’re going to see. That’s what they’re going to remember.

Louis: All right. Let’s go through the practical steps to actually make your content stand out so it doesn’t suck anymore. I know you have a few steps there that we can go through. So, let’s go through step number one. What do you think is the number one thing that people should do right now to improve that content?

Kevin: I think number one is don’t say anything just yet. I think that it’s sort of an anti-content moment where you don’t want to say anything just yet. Instead of just putting something out there for the sake of putting something out there, everybody wants to put out a blog.

And they know they need to and they know they need to put out regular content, but if you don’t take the time to actually listen to what your audience is trying to tell you, you’re not really going to be giving them any relevant information.

There’s a lot of companies that go into business over the years and they stick to sort of one mission statement. But they’re not really listening to the current needs of their audience and what they’re saying right now in this very moment, in real time. You got to step back and listen.

Louis: That sounds good. I really appreciate you summarizing that to the essence because that’s something we’ve talked about a lot. But it needs to be repeated until the end of times. It’s all about listening first and acting and doing marketing second in a sense.

But I know I can hear my listeners asking the question which is, “Okay, that’s all well and good, but how do you do that? Practically today, how do I find the time to do it?”

I know that’s one of the biggest objection out there is, “I know I need to listen to my customer, everyone says that. Where do I even start and why should they take hours out of my day to make it happen?”

Kevin: Absolutely. Yeah. In fact, a lot of these steps are going to sound like, okay, that’s obvious, but if it’s so obvious, how come people still are doing it? The question becomes what are the specifics? And at the end of day, especially when we’re talking about any business, it could be big, it could be small.

You could be an entrepreneur, you could be a writer, a freelancer, you just need to go out there and listen on social media and there’s a couple of tools you can get there to pay for them that aren’t very expensive. And then there’s free tools. You can use Hootsuite to track social media conversations.

Especially on Twitter and you can actually listen in real time what the current state of affairs are in your industry. LinkedIn, if you’re a professional organization and you’re a consultant, you’re probably going to be listening on LinkedIn. Joining those groups. Any group that is relevant to your industry, join it.

Usually, it’s permission-based and that’s good because they keep out the riff-raff. They do a little checking on your resume to make sure that you’re the right fit. And then respect the rules of those groups too.

Don’t go out there selling product X and don’t go out there trying to recruit people necessarily. Start participating in those conversations. One of the things I tell people is this, you haven’t been invited to the conversation yet.

What people are having right now, in real time, in your industry, is a conversation that somebody else’s possibly started. So if you’re just starting your content marketing program, don’t jump in just yet.

Wait. Not necessarily wait to be invited, but listen in and contribute and add some value to the conversation by providing solutions, or your opinions without really promoting yourself, or maybe even saying your name.

Louis: Let’s say we’re listening on LinkedIn, if that’s where our audience hangs out. We’re members of groups and forums and whatnot. You can have a sense of what people say, but what type of stuff should you listen to, and how do you keep track of that to use that in your copywriting and your messaging?

Because I understand the first step, right? You need to empathize, you need to hang out where they hang out with, but how’d you turn that into something substantial?

Kevin: So, we’re all experts in what we do, right? I mean, at least I like to think I’m an expert in what I do, but I’m always listening for the right angle. I think that that’s the thing, and the right angle can often be the things that you’re not hearing.

Maybe you do come to the table where the conversation with a solution and you’re waiting to hear people ask about that. There could be two things happening. Number one, it’s knowledge that they don’t know that they need, or maybe it’s something that you don’t need to be saying that you think you need to bring to the table.

You might be wasting your time if somebody’s not asking questions, but at the end of the day, you want to listen for the right angles. What can you be contributing to a conversation that isn’t already being said?

And now step two is earning their attention. You have to do something unique. You can’t just start answering questions without having some spin on what you do. What makes you special? What makes your solution special? What makes your knowledge different from somebody else? Or maybe you can say the answer in a certain way that isn’t already being said.

Louis: I appreciate you going to step two already, which is in your opinion, to earn attention. But I do think there is a bit missing in instilling in the point number one about listening. So you mentioned hanging out where they hang out, which is really good. You also listened about, what are they focusing on? Whether the pain points? How can you help them?

But that doesn’t bring me to the point where I can, let’s say, write a landing page or headline or value proposition that speaks to them, right? I feel like there’s a magic step that you are not talking about that he’s missing between those two.

Kevin: I’ll use the financial world again because I think most people can relate to the financial world on some level. You’re either writing checks to pay for groceries. Well, probably not writing checks, but you’re either paying for groceries or you’re investing in stocks and investments and things like that.

Let’s just take the example. I mean, everybody loves Apple, right? We’re both using Apples ourselves right now, and we know that Apple is one of the biggest companies and there’s a lot of people investing in their stock. Everybody’s talking about Apple.

Is there something that you could be saying differently about Apple or something else that might be worth it? Because if you’re a broker. For example, or you’re an investment advisor, independent, and you want to provide some new ideas. You need to go plug yourself into some of those groups that are talking and maybe you’re going to be joining tech investment boards.

Or you’re going to be joining the financial advisory board, so you know these chat rooms on LinkedIn or these groups on LinkedIn. And you’re going to be listening for the conversations. You could go to Hootsuite like we talked about earlier. Type in Apple, and see what kind of conversations are going on around it.

And what you listen for are the things that people aren’t saying. I mean it’s one thing to say, “Oh, Apple’s retracing here. I’m going to buy some. It’s a great deal. It’s down 20%.” It’s another thing to talk about whether or not there’s a way… is there a tool out there that you can use to figure out if there’s a high probability that it’s going to keep going down or not? When do you get into Apple? Is now the right time?

You could be talking about tools that you might have either as a broker. If you’re a financial advisor, use your wisdom as a jumping point to say, “Hey, you know what? I’m a tech investor and here’s a twist on how to get into a stock like Apple, as well as any other high flying stock that’s crashed 20% in the last month.”

You just have to kind of listen for what people aren’t saying. Try to participate in the conversation in a way that’s unique and has your own spin and flavor on it.

Louis: Right. Okay, I get it way more now. When I first listened to you talking about listening to customers, I thought it was more about the fact that you listen to what they say, the way they say it, and you can reuse that in your marketing.

Which is something you mentioned a few times on the podcast already. But what you’re saying is different and I think it actually makes the point. It’s different and it makes a lot of sense because that’s something I tend to like to do.

I’m very contrarian in nature. So if I see conversations after conversations of people mentioning the same thing, I’m likely going to try to find a reason why I should contradict them, or at least find an angle that is different because everyone is talking about the same thing. So I get that.

Kevin: Absolutely.

Louis: In essence, point one is just the step before point two, in a sense that you listen to find the right angle, what people are not saying so that you can earn the attention, right?

Kevin: Exactly.

Louis: And one for you, the way to earn the attention is not doing what everyone else is doing.

Kevin: Exactly.

Louis: That’s something I love doing actually and this book here is a good example. I might be speaking too much about myself here, but that’s an example I know because I know the process that went through that.

For years and years, I listened to people talking about SEO, numbers, how to hack Google, and how to make people do what you want them to do. Without caring about the fact that they’re just humans behind the screen. It just pissed me off so much, that after a while of reading those stupid books and going to those conferences of speakers talking about the exact same thing.

About those social media trends and all this bullshit. I just had enough and I had to find a way to express that anger almost. Everyone Hates Marketers is the fruit of this anger. So I get you.

Your main ways to find an angle that is worth talking about, not everyone else is talking about. Now, that’s all well and good in retrospect when you talk about it like this, it makes sense. But how does one actually find an angle that is truly contrarian?

Kevin: Well, it actually is a couple of different parts and I’ll use you as an example. You come to the podcast and it’s very clear what your strategy is. You’re sort of taken the opposite view that most marketing kind of sucks. You have this mission to improve it and you have a very easy to talk to language, it’s easy to understand.

I come into this conversation saying, “Yeah, this is what I’ve been trying to promote forever.” So, it is about your tone of voice and it’s not just about finding the right angle, but it’s also establishing a voice in the industry and being unapologetic about it.

You don’t want to be apologetic for what you’re trying to say and you don’t want to try to tiptoe across anybody too. Clearly, I’m not afraid of offending anybody. I mean, I could say pretty comfortably that most content does suck.

But there’s a lot of really great content out there. So we can really learn from the content that’s good, that resonates with us by studying it, and participating in the conversations around that good content.

It is about the tone of voice and establishing who you are. Who cares about what you do? Most people understand the products and services that you offer. But nobody really knows who you are and if you’re going to go out there and create handshake moments. You’ve got to kind of think of this as I’m talking to one person at a time.

I’m not talking to an entire audience when I create a blog, even though I might want to have a thousand people read my blog or 10,000 people. At the end of the day, there’s one person listening to a podcast. There’s one person at a time reading your blog.

There might be 10,000 at the same time, but you’re talking to one person, so you have to start to create a two-way dialogue. So by creating that two-way dialogue through a personality, you have to get the right personality to come to this conversation, to begin with those. That’s really step one, is creating your personality and making sure it’s unique and unapologetic.

Louis: No, no. You go ahead

Kevin: Secondly, it is about finding the spin. It really is about learning to be a good storyteller and creating an emotion — instead of spewing a bunch of facts about what you can do or the marketplace. I mean people generally can argue with facts, but they can’t argue with story.

You can’t argue with once upon a time and then how it ends. And that’s the beauty of being a good storyteller and your content is, you can engage somebody in a certain way because you create your leads or your content, that creates a relatable experience.

You sort of address a problem that they might have already and then they relate to it. And then you provide a solution and you’re still not talking about products and services. You’re just helping them through this problem in the form of an article.

And then when they start to respond to your article through the comments or something at the end of your blog, you can start to carry out a two-way dialogue with them and start to create value with them.

Louis: That makes all the sense in the world. I’m glad you’re mentioning all of that. I know though that people listening have discretion, which is, I understand that I need to pick an angle and I need to be unapologetic. That I have to have a strong personality, but I’m scared.

All right. I’m scared of doing that because not everyone is doing it. I tend to follow what others are doing and I tend to seek approval from others. How do you convince me of taking such a risk? Such as starting a digital agency that is not an award-winning digital agency like anyone else.

And you just stop saying award-winning for once or a bakery that doesn’t sell anything but croissant, but it’s just focused on the best croissant in the world. I don’t know why I picked this example, but you get my drift. You know where I’m coming from.

So, how do you convince people to take such a risk, to be unapologetic, to have a personality and not just to be like everyone else?

Kevin: That’s a tough question, but I think it comes down to how are you in your daily life? I think one of the things that we lose sight of is that even as marketers, we approach content as human beings. One of the first things I would do is start to analyze how you yourself engage in your own personal conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and everything.

What do you sound like? And try to personify that, your content, through your own voice. You don’t have to become a different person. You don’t have to become something else. Especially if you’re a freelancer. It’s actually quite easy to either establish a voice online that’s very similar to the voice that you have.

It’s a lot more difficult for companies to figure out what kind of personality they want to become or want to be in the presence on social media. But if you’re just starting out. Let’s take the entrepreneur, or the blogger, or the financial advisor, or the doctor, or somebody who’s got a small business.

You just really take your own personality and start writing a few things. Maybe don’t publish it yet. Just write a few pieces of content. When you’re doing your listening, and you address a few problems, and you find the right angles. Practice a little bit and that’s why you don’t want to start talking right away.

Practice makes perfect. Get your sea legs, writing some content and see if the personality comes out. Start to share it with your own friends, colleagues, and family. See what they think about it and how you might improve on that.

It won’t take very long, a week or two if you’re writing every day, to just get a sense of how to craft your own voice. And when people start relating to it in a way, your friends, and colleagues say, “Yeah, this is good.” As long as they’re being honest with you, it starts to give you that confidence that you’re onto something.

Louis: I completely agree with you on this one. I think that’s a great tip because I met a lot of people throw the years in marketing and there’s a clear difference between who they are as a person and what their business.

Maybe they funded a business a year ago or maybe it was just a freelancer and what their business voice is, right? And usually there’s a big gap. That makes sense to actually stick to who you are truly. Because it’s easier as well to stick to who you are, to stick to your personality and tone of voice when it’s natural. When it’s really who you really are.

Kevin: Exactly.

Louis: The thing that would question though is the fact that seeking maybe feedback from friends and family and people who know you. The reason why I said that — and once again it’s completely from experience — I might be wrong.

I didn’t ask anyone of my friends, colleagues, or anyone what they thought of the name of this podcast or what they thought of the angle. I just went with it because my gut told me to. I just had the feeling I had to do it.

And I know if I had asked maybe the wrong people, some of them might’ve put doubt in my mind and say, “Oh, you know what. Maybe you need to dilute the title a bit to make it less stronger. Are you sure that’s the right angle? Because I haven’t heard any podcasts like these, maybe people don’t care.”

I would just say that when it comes to taking risks like this and really, really trying to have a contrarian viewpoint that is really yourself, maybe do not listen too much to people who are too close to you.

Kevin: That’s a good point, especially when it comes to naming conventions and things like that. And with your naming your business. I mean, that’s a great example. You came up with an idea, and Everyone Hates Marketers may sound like, “Well, wait a minute, that’s not gonna work and that’s going to offend people or whatever.”

But again, you have a mission. It just aligns right away and your gut was to put that out there in the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It could have flopped and that’s the risky take. And I can’t teach an audience how to overcome the pain of a flop.

But we’re human beings. We pick ourselves back up, we try something else. If you want to get feedback, I would worry less about, “Hey, what do you think of the name?” And more about, “Hey, I’ve got some ideas of things I want to talk about. What do you think of these ideas?”

Just get a sense of whether or not these ideas are helpful to the people you’re talking to. And one way to do that is, some of these groups that like if you go to Meetup.com. You just go to a local meetup group, not sure if they’re out there in Ireland, but I know they’re here in the States.

You can go to a meetup group, maybe it’s whatever industry you’re in. There’s a Meetup groups for marketers, there’s meetup groups for the leisure activities that you’re interested in, like skiing or whatever.

And just go to these groups and say, “Hey, I have a couple ideas I’m going to be blogging about. You guys want to take a listen?” You’re going to get some of that feedback. And there are people that you don’t really know very well. So why not take a risk in front of them?

Louis: And you cannot afford not to ask for feedback. Right? That’s to be clear.

Kevin: You can’t.

Louis: I’m not saying you should not listen to feedback. I’m making the point that people close to you tend to have an emotional connection with you might not be the best person to ask. However, as you said, perfect strangers that you’ve just met. If you ask them to be super honest with you.

Which I think is another thing to say, openly say like, “Please be 100% honest. You’re not gonna offend me or hurt my feelings. Tell me what you think, that’s gonna help you.”

Kevin: Absolutely. Better to ask somebody personally, Maybe like I said, like a group of people. Maybe it’s not meetup or maybe it’s just a local organization that you have people that you don’t know very well.

If you don’t want to make a fool of yourself in front of your family and friends — who cares about the people that you don’t know?

If you don’t like the experience, it’s may be good for you to know that maybe you’re not cut out to do this. The blogging thing or the content thing. Maybe you need to go out and hire a professional writer or somebody who does know what they’re doing. That’s also a good test too.

Louis: A few minutes ago you mentioned step three of your thinking. Which was about storytelling, and we talked about storytelling as well on the podcast a few times, but I think you do have a unique take on it.

Once you’ve earned the attention of your audience, when do you find that the right angle? Once you feel you have a mission that is worth talking about, and you have an angle that is somewhat unique. You’re making the point that telling a good story is what matters.

It’s not really about facts, it’s really about stories. So, how do you go about actually telling a good story in the first place?

Kevin: It’s a tough question to answer because storytelling is now being bandied. The term itself has been bandied about quite a bit. And what I really try to help people understand is more or less how to use storytelling techniques.

You’re not always going to be able to create a story front to back, that’s once upon a time, and then they rode off into the sunset, right? That’s the old classic story. But at the end of the day, what you need to do is craft a piece of content in a way that’s going to grab somebody.

And hopefully, make some kind of emotional connection. It might be inspiration. It could be anger, it could be sadness, it could be something. A lot of times it’s hope. You’re solving a problem.

If somebody comes and says, “Hey, I need to learn how to do X,” and you give them a solution to that, you’ve given them hope. So that is an emotional connection. If you give them hope, and they enjoy reading your stuff, they’re going to share it.

You have to apply some basic storytelling techniques. And one of the first things you have to remember is, you are not the hero of the story. Your audience is. Your products are not the heroes of the story. Just think of every story has a hero some point and put the hero on the person reading it. That’s sort of where you start.

Louis: I like that very much because I think that’s what people tend to do a lot, is talking about themselves, put them at the center of the story. How do you flip the table? How do you flip everything, so that there are at the center? How do you force yourself not to focus on yourself?

Kevin: This would be in that early part that we were talking about with the last answer. You’ve got to practice. I challenge anybody listening, if you haven’t done this before, just go ahead and start writing something. The rules of thumb are, try to think of a problem that your business or your expertise can solve.

Keep in mind that you’re not the hero, but the person whose problem it is that you’re trying to solve, they’re the hero. You’re going to help them be the knight in shining armor for their industry or their problem that they’re trying to solve. You don’t mention your name, don’t mention your product’s name and try to do everything you can to provide workable solutions.

The basic techniques of don’t talk about who you are. Don’t brag about who you are, be humble, and try to craft a scenario in two to three sentences. Say, “Isn’t it funny how some people do X? And yet there is no solution for Y.” So you can create your lead, establish who is the hero of the story and then start to develop the body of that content by solving their problem.

Louis: That’s a nice exercise to do. So repeat that for me. You can’t really talk about who you are, what you do. And you also mentioned workable solutions. You should not mention workable solutions.

Kevin: No, you should mention workable solutions. Just don’t talk about it in the context of your tools and services as being those solutions. For example, you’re a psychiatrist or a therapist and you’re talking. You have a blog, and you have a specialized niche.

Maybe it’s in the family therapy, and you’re trying to help children of divorced parents or something like that. Rather than try to establish in the first paragraph that you’ve been in business for 15 years, and you’re a doctor for so and so, and you have an office that specializes in family therapy. You’re simply going to take a problem that is very common.

You’re going to apply your own spin to it and you’re going to establish like, “Hey, statistically speaking, children of divorced parents wind up doing X, Y, and Z if they’re not properly taken care of. And sometimes that means they need to go see a therapist. Sometimes that means that parents need to Sort of stop saying certain things.”

You establish your credibility by talking about solutions and what a therapist might be able to do in that situation for the child, as opposed to talking about yourself and your credentials.

Louis: Let’s go through it in a bit more details, because I can feel you’re quite creative in that, you can come up with stuff on the fly. We’re not doing it right now. You can pick an industry that you’re more familiar with, by the way.

But let’s craft a very simple, compelling story that would lead people to say, “Aha, that’s interesting. I want to know more about whatever business, without mentioning who we were and what we offer directly.”

Kevin: Okay, I’ll go back into financial. I love talking about stocks. Let’s go with that one. Right now the market’s been pretty turbulent, and there’s been a lot of talk. I mean, if you watch the news on any given night, you may not be paying attention to CNBC or some of the financial channels, but you are flipping on the TV.

You probably have a 401(k), and you’re noticing that things aren’t going so well. Perhaps you’re down about 10%, maybe 20%, whatever it is, you’re wondering what to do about this. Nobody’s declaring that there’s a bear market.

Meaning the market’s going to be going in a period of time of a protracted sort of returns. It’s going to be going down, down, down. But you want to have an idea of when this might be coming or what to do about it.

If you’re a marketer for say, a brokerage firm or a financial advisor, you could put a slick headline in there. Something along the lines of, “Bear Market Radar Detector” and get people to go to your site and see that. Okay, well, I’m going to establish a couple of ideas.

Here’s a couple of the tricks that you can go out on the Internet with some free tools. You can actually see for yourself, here are some things you want to look for that might tell you that the shoe’s going to drop in the marketplace. You could talk about two or three things that would indicate that the market’s going down.

And if anybody is knows anything about chart reading, and your blog is about how to read stock charts, you could discuss the types of things they might want to look for in the price action on a chart. If you’re somebody who talks about fundamentals, you could be talking about some of the fundamental indicators.

Like priced earnings ratio, and what kinds of price-earnings ratios, or what kind of sentiment indicators might indicate that a market is going to be going down. And if three or four things all line up to say, “Yep, we’re going down,” you could also provide a solution on what to do about it. How to perhaps rebalance the portfolio or how to protect yourself if in fact the stock market is gonna go down.

Louis: That brings us to point number four, which is about being humbled, and not pitching and instead of teaching. So to deconstruct what you’ve just done. The way you’ve actually described who this person is, before actually trying to describe how you would go about it, was actually even more impressive.

Because even though you know the market, obviously you do know it, which is a testament to your skills. You actually describe in detail what this person goes through. You said that you might have a 401k and that it may have been going down. You said that you may be worrying about it.

You said if you’ve watched the news, you’ve noticed that stock is kind of going all over the place and therefore there may be a bear market in front of us. You may be worrying that you might be even losing more money. All of that stuff that you said naturally is what I believe is the true core of what you’re talking about.

Which is the ability to understand people so well that you can just talk about it simply. With simple terms and understand their pain points, teaching them how to solve those pain points. So you can, in turn, offer them the right solution.

I just wanted to make that point, that the fact that you know financial services so well, even though you’re not directly in financial services is a testament to what you’re preaching, right?

Kevin: Louis, I just want to add one other thing. At the end of the day, whenever we think about if we’re trying to solve a problem and a pain point, we’re trying to provide relief. Somebody goes to the Internet to solve a problem. They’re gonna read your content.

Somehow you’re lucky enough for them to land on your blog and they’ve never been there before you. You’re solving a problem. So if they read through that all the way to the end and they don’t bounce off because you’ve been telling this great story.

You’ve been humble, you’ve applied all the right rules of content, and they get to the very end of your article and they say, “Wow, that is really cool. I just learned something and I’m going to go apply that.”

You’ve actually just made their day a little bit better. And what do you think they’re going to do with that content? You think there’s going to throw it out and not doing anything with it? No. They’re probably going to share it.

They’re going to probably tweeted out to their social media, or they’re going to actually do something with it. Maybe, later on, purchase your product as a result of having fixed their problem for them just through the content. Remember, it’s providing relief. Content that provides relief. And that’s the punchline. That’s the knight shining armor, or the cowboy riding into the sunset moment.

Louis:  The last part of your methodology is about being humble. Can you go through that and explain what you mean by that?

Kevin: There’s a couple of ways to be humble. One of them is the obvious we talked about in the early on is you have to focus on them, not you. The first step in being humble is recognizing, again, you’re not the hero of the story. They are.

So you really do have to get yourself in the proper mindset that you’re speaking to them. You’re speaking to an individual. If I was speaking to you one-on-one or I was talking to my own mother in my living room about a problem she’s trying to solve, I’m not going to be boasting about myself or what I can do.

I’m going to try to walk her through those problems. So that’s the first part of it. And then the other part of being humble –maybe a better word is humility — we live in a social world. You may be putting out content but people are talking about you online, on Twitter and in real time.

They might be commenting on your blog posts if you allow that. And they’re not going to be saying pretty things if they don’t like what they’re hearing. I mean, I’m not sure how you necessarily address people who write to you, Louis. And say, “I don’t really like what you said, and I disagree, or I think you’re this,” and it’s a negative comment.

It takes a bigger person to be able to address that and actually use that to their advantage and meet that objection head on. It takes a certain amount of humility to be able to turn that around for the better. And you will ingratiate your audience more if you actually are humble in the regard of, “Hey, I can accept this criticism and I can deal with that.” Companies need to do a better job of that too.

Louis: Yep, absolutely.

Kevin: Admitting when they’re wrong.

Louis: That’s actually a psychological bias, which we discussed a few episodes ago with Richard Stoughton. I hope I’m not butchering his name. But basically, we’re talking about marketing psychology and one of the bias is the fact that the more you are able to admit your flows publicly and make your mistakes, the more you’re trusted. Right?

Kevin: Absolutely.

Louis: Maybe you know this one.

Kevin: I do. I think it’s, I think it’s a big part of what’s missing. There’s a couple of examples too. I mean like, let’s face it, United Airlines could have done a better job with their content. After the debacle came out when that gentleman was taken off the plane, and they had video footage about that.

There’s all kinds of incidents that you can see. You can point to the big companies doing it. But there’s also small companies out there, there’s local businesses and neighborhoods, maybe a doctor. Look at what’s happened with Yelp.

I mean, if somebody doesn’t like the taste of your food, they’re going to say something about your restaurant. Restaurants, doctors, physicians, and local business people have an opportunity to turn that around and create blogs.

And meet in real time those objections and perhaps even do something on a public forum. You don’t have to call up your customer who’s talking about you on Yelp. You can actually address them and say, “You know what, anytime you want to turn this around, I’m happy to do something for you.”

Louis: Yep. I think we’ve covered most of your methodology in detail. I appreciate you going through it with me and what you do. I’m going to summarize it briefly so that listeners can remember and take notes. I know that’s something that they like when we do that.

So, please interrupt me if you feel I’m not doing justice to your thinking.

Number one: Don’t talk, just listen at first. Find places where people hang out so that then you can identify an angle that not everyone is focusing on, something that is kind of different, that hasn’t been heard before, so that you can earn the attention, which is number two.

Number three, use this knowledge to tell a good story. Try to focus on them, not you. Try to not to mention who you are, what you offer straight away and focus on them. And finally be humble, don’t pitch and try to teach instead of talking about your services straight away.

Kevin: Yes, you got it. You got it.

Louis: Great, so I’ve been listening at least.

Kevin: Thanks, Louis.

Louis: Right, I’m curious about one thing about you. You seem to have quite a driver about yourself or true to be quite passionate about your craft. You’ve been in the same business for like 18 years or something along those lines. What keeps you going? What events, if you have to pick one, what event made you who you are today?

Kevin: I’m always learning something from the people I encounter. I mean, it’s that human interaction. I think the digital world and the online world and the world of content that we live in. There are so many people seeking solutions to problems. It’s just fun being a problem solver.

I don’t know, I was always good at puzzles when I was a kid. I was great at math and geometry, and I loved being able to solve these things and think it through. And I often found myself as I got older. I became a public speaker, teaching financial literacy at one point in my career.

It was almost mathematical for me. Somebody would ask a question and I would have these numbers above my head. I would start to piece it all together in real time. For some reason, I was able to address problems and questions in real time in front of 200 people in a way that nobody else was. In a very human eye level way without speaking jargon, without being complicated.

For some reason, they got it. There was just something that I felt I had early on and I was able to scale that when I launched this business about 12 years ago and became a content marketer almost by accident.

I just felt like the more people got a sense of how to do stuff, the more problems me and my firm could solve for the people reading our content. That’s what feeds me. It’s the better I feel. There’s nothing more gratifying than looking at a piece of content that my team puts together or I helped write.

Or one of my folks on my team wrote and it’s a beautiful piece. It’s got great visuals and I know it’s going to get shared a thousand times for our clients. And they’re going to get something out of it and we’re helping them grow their business. I just think it’s content marketing is one of those rare businesses where everybody wins if you do it right.

Louis: I think that’s a good lesson right there in terms of doubling down on your strengths and identifying your strength for us and doubling down on them. Focusing on what energizes you instead of what drains you. I think what you described there is a testament to that.

Thanks again for being on the show. I have a few questions that I always ask my guests at the end of each episode. Here we go. What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?

Kevin: Well, it’s an interesting one. At the end of the day, I’m a capitalist, but capitalism is filthy and the capitalist apparatus rewards bad behaviors. That’s like the roots of your show in talking about why marketers suck. I think the reality is, is we know that not all marketers suck, and we’re trying to change that.

Especially in the world of content, the audiences are starting to demand education. And I think that the focus for companies, businesses, entrepreneurs and even personal blogs, You’re trying to solve problems and you’re trying to educate.

It’s really important to focus less on, “Hey, come buy my product.” Really focus on what you can do to educate the industry, or the world that you exist in and make it a little bit better place.

I know maybe that sounds a little unrealistic at times, but we really do have to create individual mission statements that go beyond just making money. I think the part of that is educating people and creating value for the audience that you’re trying to talk to.

Louis: What are the top three resources you’d recommend our listeners today? They could be anything, book, podcasts, conferences.

Kevin: Absolutely. Go out and find other blogs. If you’re entering this space for the first time or you need resources on how to be a better marketer, start perfecting the craft of communicating. I would actually be looking at anything from how to be a good comedian and deliver content through comedic voice acting classes.

You’d be surprised what you can get out of it. That’s the unexpected twist is you don’t have to learn how to be a good marketer by studying marketing blogs. You can actually go to outside resources like storytelling.

Or if you have a local Toastmasters in your neighborhood, it might be a good idea for you to learn how to create some speeches, which is essentially content and you’re trying to solve problems and speak about it.

Blogs, other people’s blogs, not necessarily in your industry, certainly social media. I definitely would be attending classes. I personally get a lot more when I actually see somebody else talking in the room and it’s sort of an interactive, two-way conversation.

Definitely be a part of those conferences. You can find a lot of great information and great classes at local colleges and things like that. Maybe that’s more than you asked for.

Louis: It’s all good, I like it. I guess that’s something that’s never been mentioned before, especially to comedian one. I’ve interviewed a comedian on the show who turned into a marketer — it’s true they have some spins on storytelling. And how to deliver a message very first that a lot of marketers could benefit from.

Kevin: Actually, that’s the key right there. Sorry to interrupt, but one of the things I’ve noticed about comedians more than anything is they are incredible storytellers. If they don’t get a laugh at the end of their story, you’re not that creative comedian, and it has to be condensed.

And one of the rules of content is what you think you should say in 10 words, you should probably say in three. They’re also masterful at distilling a story into just long enough to grab their attention, go through the story, and get the reaction that they’re after. If you really pay attention, that’s where I would be learning how to do some marketing chops.

Louis: I think you’ve forgotten one, the resource you haven’t mentioned. You’re probably too humble to mention. What’s the name of your book?

Kevin: The name of my book. I’m glad you asked, Louis. You should read my book, and it is called “Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human.” It’s on Amazon, it’s on Barnes & Noble. You should buy it.

Louis: If people want to send you an email to ask a few more questions or contact you to ask you more questions. Where should they go?

Kevin: Well, you can find me on LinkedIn, but you can ask me directly at info, I-N-F-O @t3custom.com.

Louis: Kevin, has been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Kevin: Hey, Louis. Thank you so much for having me.

How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers

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Insights from Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, David Darmanin and 6 other world-class tech marketers.

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