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The Best Content Ideas Come From Customers' Nightmares

by Barry Feldman  |  
August 5, 2013
  |  4,395 views

Want to get frighteningly good at content marketing?

Take a trip with me to the dark side. Off we go... venturing into some scary territory: the human psyche. Who knows what we'll find. It could be creepy, but it has to be done.

You see, us content marketers are possessed by the wants and desires of our prospects and customers. It's our job to understand their dreams. You don't need an advanced degree in shrinkology to understand that fears play the villain's role when the lights are out.

What keeps your customers up at night?

If you've heard that one many times it's because the question is at the core of the marketer's quest. When the threat is revealed, the strategy for slaying it begins to form.


Let's look at few sleep deprivers in the consumer space. We'll say Annie's heads on her pillow, but her mind is busy:

  • How can I get those varmints out of my garden?
  • Why do my children keep coming down with the flu?
  • Where did I leave my iPhone?
  • What must I do to improve my backhand?
  • When will Mr. Right arrive in my life?

Clearly, Annie's your ordinary toss-and-turner. What about Danny? He's down for the night, but business woes are whirling around his brain:

  • How can find an assistant to lighten my load?
  • Why are my billable hours down?
  • Where are those forecasts I need?
  • What's gone wrong with the new business proposal?
  • When is the CEO going to get out of my face?

There's nothing abnormal about Danny, either. He longs for answers just like you and I do. By the light of moon, the questions often look like monsters.


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Barry Feldman is the author of SEO Simplified for Short Attention Spans. Barry operates Feldman Creative and provides content marketing consulting, copywriting, and creative direction services. He contributes to top marketing sites and was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. To get a piece of his mind, visit his blog, The Point.

Twitter: @FeldmanCreative

LinkedIn: Barry Feldman

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  • by JP Mon Aug 5, 2013 via web

    Thanks, Barry. I like how you hone in on the need to address customers' fears with marketing that speaks to their needs. And I'm really glad you pointed out the matter of cultivating needs our customers might not realize they have. There's something to be said for adding value to our customers' lives in unexpected ways.

    There's one thing I'd suggest you consider as you write: Keep in mind that gender-specific examples can be made without falling back on stereotypes. The fears that keep Annie and Danny up at night line up with common stereotypes for men and women, and it's this kind of thing that can alienate some readers - lessening the impact your content has overall. Keeping in mind the ever-diversifying roles and priorities of men and women is something we're moving toward more and more, and wisely so. Our content should reflect this.

  • by Rachael Drouhard Hammer Mon Aug 5, 2013 via web

    I found great inspiration in this article and already shared it with another teammate. 'Strive to Subscribe' is now written on my whiteboard wall as a reminder of what we're trying to create with our content. Thank you for the reminder on having empathy with our audience's search journey (their questions should be our answers). Your examples were valuable in that they stretched me to think a bit further than I would've normally about how to apply this concept to my job. Thanks for the post!

    To add another datapoint to JP's note below, I don't find myself alienated when gender roles are stereotyped in this way. We as marketers need to also remember that not everyone is meant to be a friend, a fan, a partner or a client. In a great TEDx talk, Erika Napolentano challenges us to Rethink Unpopular: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4DOJpB2I8o

  • by Gracious Store Tue Aug 6, 2013 via web

    Thanks for this post! I like the idea of "living in your prospects skin " and their questions being the brand's answers. Very well dais

  • by Amber Wed Aug 7, 2013 via web

    Well pointed on Barry. Only by understanding what they need and want can we create the best content. We need to step into our customers shoes and think like them.

  • by Rethinking Gender Roles Thu Aug 8, 2013 via web

    Although your core message has some great insights, I don't appreciate the part of your article about Annie and Danny - it's indirectly sexist and relies on old-fashioned gender roles. Men are not the only ones who worry about work at night. You've painted women as gardeners who bear children, love to chit-chat, have lots of free time for hobbies and think only about who to marry rather than any real business or career goals. Please rethink how you discuss what's important to the different genders before labeling them like this in your writing.

  • by Barry Feldman Thu Aug 8, 2013 via web

    Update, I may have had it backwards. It was Danny losing sleep over the kids and Annie with the business issues. Sheese. Anyone got a gender beef with the tennis example? That was Pat.

  • by Tamar Mon Aug 12, 2013 via web

    Barry, great post on speaking to your customer's needs. You nailed it - no one wants copy, they want results. Something in the digital sphere is giving them problems and you need to solve it. I'd love more examples of how you were able to create the need - especially for industries creating a completely new product.

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