How to Solve the Problem of Problem-Solving
The air smells deep fried. You’re walking a gauntlet of carnival booths. Each booth has someone yelling at you, telling you how to spend your money. Chances are, none of them will get your dollar.
Welcome to the world of content marketing.
In an age where the average person consumes 74+ gigabytes of media every day, every day is a carnival of content for your audience.
There’s too much information, too many offers. But you still need to hit your sign-up goals for the month.
So you follow the audience down the midway, calling and wheedling and hoping they give up and throw darts at balloons for $5 a pop…
… when all they want is to find the bathroom.
The Problem of Problems
The biggest hurdle facing content marketers today is the problem of problems: we have a problem understanding the problems that drive our customers.
Good marketers solve customer problems with their product.
Great marketers solve customer problems with their content.
Creating the Go-To Blog
That may seem like a bold statement, but consider your favorite business blogs. For me, that’s Buffer, CoSchedule, and Hubspot. These blogs (and so naturally, these companies) have my undying loyalty, because any time I have a problem in their area of expertise, I can rely on them for a solid, detailed solution.
I start my search for social media answers on Buffer. Got a question about blogging or content marketing? CoSchedule. Inbound marketing? Hubspot.
And given the traffic these blogs see, I know I’m not the only one. This is the kind of brand loyalty the Software as a Service market craves—and the kind you can create with the right content.
The key to creating content that attracts the right audience to your brand is to become a problem solver. What does that mean and how can you implement it in your own content?
The first step to becoming a problem solver is to know yourself. What are your product’s strengths? What solution does your company provide? What are your employees passionate about? What is your audience passionate about?
Until you have a solid brand and a firm understanding of the problems you can and want to solve, your content runs the risk of coming across as trite.
Target a Need
Once you know who you are as a business, your next step is to go out and define the problem you are going to solve.
I think the CoSchedule Blog is an excellent example of this. CoSchedule offers an excellent editorial calendar plugin for WordPress.
Every time I have a question about blogging, I go to CoSchedule and chances are they have some ideas for me. I highlight this example for one particular reason: CoSchedule’s audience is “anyone with a blog.”
And yet they’re killing it.
(75k+ subscribers? Wouldn’t we all love to claim that list?)
Conventional wisdom would say that audience is too broad, but is it? Here’s how CoSchedule gets around the open-ended nature of their audience:
They target the need, not the person.
CoSchedule’s audience may range from entrepreneurs to authors to corporate content writers. But that doesn’t matter, because they come to CoSchedule because they want to make a good blog.
Instead of trying to target a job position or business type, try honing in on one single need, and build your content strategy from there.
For CoSchedule, this approach not only gives great reach for their content and product, but also means their posts are laser-focused towards solving problems. They have to be! The problem of creating a good blog is the linchpin of their content strategy. If they aren’t dedicated to solving that problem in every post, they’ll lose their audience.
Phrase the Problem as a Question
You know those days when the tech decides to simply not work, probably because it knows how much you need to get done? And you may or may not yell at your computer: “WHY WON’T YOU WORK, YOU PIECE OF SH*T?”
Your question just (colorfully) described your problem: my technology isn’t working and I need to find out how to fix it.
Humans love to ask and answer questions.
So when you’re defining your problem, try phrasing it as a question. You’ll find it a lot easier to start building content that solves the problem when you have a clear question to guide you.
The Keys to Becoming a Problem Solver in Your Content
To summarize the key actions you must take to become a problem solver in your content…
#1. Know Who You Are – as a blogger, as a business, as a person. You won’t be able to solve problems until you know yourself, and are firmly grounded in your strengths.
#2. Define the Problems You Can Solve. The world has a lot of problems. If you don’t pick one, define it, and hone in on the one problem you can solve, chances are you won’t offer any meaningful help to anyone.
#3. Target needs. Once you’ve defined the problems your company is capable of solving, use that knowledge to hone in on related and sub-needs that your content can meet. Use this to define and target your audience.
#4. Ask Questions. Do yourself and your content team a big favor by turning your Defined Problem and Audience Needs into a question or series of questions that will guide your content.
Just Do It
I know from experience that the hardest part of writing is getting started. So what can you do to start implementing these ideas in your own writing?
First, take some time to work through each of the 4 key steps above. Write these out in a journal, a Word doc, an Excel spreadsheet, a mindmap—whatever floats your boat. The most important part is that you write them down.
Think of each of these steps as a goal—the four corner puzzle pieces that frame a content strategy based on solving problems. No matter how you start, I highly recommend refining your notes into a document that you can keep nearby when you write.
Then, start writing. Start putting these principles into practice, and fleshing them out to work for your business.