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.

Their questions are your answers

That's the top line, bottom line, and every line in the content marketing house of horrors, my friend. We need to find these phobias. We need to deal with them.

How? We must unleash our brains on theirs.

We need to prod, pry, and then produce. And more often than we want to admit, the answers aren't going to be so obvious. The exercises may not be as simple as we'd like.

You need to dispense with the advertising mentality. It might be convenient to conclude a product you offer is the antidote to every problem, but such a strategy won't work in content marketing.

You need to live in your prospect's skin

The best way I can think of to explain the creative process of forging content ideas and themes based on the demons that haunt your prospects it to toss some scenarios at you. You'll get a beeline into my brain and hopefully get some gears turning in yours.

Scenario No. 1: Breath mints

Here we have a simple consumer product. The reason customers buy the breath mints is no mystery. Or is it? The obvious answer: fresher breath. Marketers dig deeper. Why would anyone care? Intimacy. Sweet nothings. More pleasant kisses. And, well, you know.

But remember, content marketers are publishers. Publishers can't settle for a one-time reader. They need subscribers. No one's going to subscribe to a blog or video series about minty breath. But what about dating? Sex? Romance? Love? I believe people will clamor for that kind of content.

Scenario No. 2: Book broker

I had a client whose business was an aggregation service for book buyers—a search engine for the most part. At his site, college students entered book titles or ID codes. The service presented bookstores that had the books in stock, prices, and ratings. Everything the student needs to get the book he needs at a good price.

Does buying books on the cheap keep the kid up at night? Maybe for one night a semester. Let's face it, if that buyer came by way of search, he'll be starting from scratch next semester. How would we hook the students for the lifespan of their college career? The blog must address the real issue: lack of funds.

Isn't this a common cry of college students? They're strapped. I suggested we create a blog and steady stream of content about scraping your way through school successfully: budget-minded ways to cook, entertain, travel, decorate, furnish, and live. Frugal University. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Scenario No. 3: Wi-Fi networks for hospitals

Here's another real-world example. My client has the most reliable, scalable, and powerful wireless network solution a hospital could possibly deploy. Lives depend on it. Hospital IT pros know this.

Would Wi-Fi challenges keep them up at night? Maybe for a while. Would they read about the subject faithfully? Maybe for a while. But what really causes these professionals nightmares is likely to be a long list of technology issues in the healthcare environment.

Publishing content about having the best equipped hospital strikes me a strategy with legs. Devices... apps... systems... administrative tools... healthcare trends. Now this is fertile territory.

Scenario No. 3: Online copywriting

Welcome to my content marketing strategy. I'm a copywriter. One challenge: who'd want to read about copywriting regularly? Copywriters, I suspect—my competitors. Next challenge: who wants to buy copywriting? No one. Is it realistic to think online marketers really seek copy? Nope. They seek results. Effective online marketing is what will make them rock stars on the job.

I've been doing this a long time, and no one's ever dialed my digits to place an order for words. The nightmare they had the night before was about something that wasn't working in the mesmerizingly complex and wide world of the Web.

Here's one more evil little secret

As marketers, we must not only strive to tap into those brain waves that strike fear and frustration but also nurture the nightmares. We need to present the problem and amplify it. Otherwise, it may not surface.

It's not as twisted as it may sound. We simply need to foster new needs.

Before the iPod, who knew we needed to pack 10,000 songs into our pocket? A guy by the name of Steve did. But, really, the problem he initially set out to solve was saving the dying recorded music business. Then came the task of creating consumer demand. The strategy became creating a have/have-not dichotomy. It's a spook story for the ages.

Think about these things. What do your customers fear? How can you tap into it? How can you help? How can you produce panaceas in the form of information?

Sleep on it tonight.

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image of Barry Feldman

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