The Thought Leader’s Secret Source for Compelling Content

My back was against the wall.

I’d paid $5000 to work with a world-class consultant, but I was totally unprepared for our phone call. That’s when necessity (more like desperation) became the mother of innovation. Little did I realize it, but I was about to stumble on the secret to creating consistent, compelling content that deeply resonates, engages in a way most content fails to do, and earns trust faster than I can devour a bag of Sour Patch Kids…all of that:

  • Without staring at the dreaded blinking cursor on the blank page
  • Without wrestling with the demon of perfectionism
  • Without desperately coming up with a half-baked boring idea.

“What have you got for me?,” my sales coach asked as we connected over Zoom.

You see, I was supposed to have written several emails to review with her, but with everything going on (and let’s be honest, due to a healthy dose of perfectionism mixed with a bit of impostorism), I’d put it off until it was too late. I started half making something up, half stalling for time when a light bulb went off and I decided to go for a Hail Mary pass.

“I’ve got it right here. One sec and I’ll paste it into the Google Doc,” I responded hoping she couldn’t sense the undertone of “oh $@!%” in my voice. I quickly brought up Facebook Messenger. Yep, Messenger. Scrolled back to a conversation I’d had with a colleague the day before, highlighted it, CTRL-C copied it (yes, I’m a PC person), switched back to the Google Doc, and CTRL-V pasted it.

“Here’s the first thing I want to work on with you.”

I braced myself for the response as I slipped back to Messenger to copy and paste two more recent conversations.

“Wow! This stuff is really good!,” I heard her say through my headphones.

Phew! Wait! Really?!

“I love this! It’s so raw and real! You can see how much what you’re saying is really connecting with her.”

It had worked!

So what was happening here?

Even though I hadn’t sat down to hammer out the assigned emails, what I had done was have several conversations with colleagues and prospective clients about the brand new workshop I was preparing to sell. To be honest, at the time I was probably using those conversations as an escape hatch from writing copy.

Ugh….copy. Is there anything less fun to do in business? Okay, maybe bookkeeping, but not much else. Yet when you think about it, what is the purpose of really good marketing and sales content? Your job is to “always enter the conversation already going on in the mind of your customer” as legendary copywriter, Robert Collier, said.

In other words, your content should be so relevant and resonant that it’s like you are reading their mind and even describing their pain, desires, and challenges better than they can. What better way to do that than to literally have conversations with your ideal customers and use the exact words and phrases that come from them? And what makes this even more amazing is that by having these natural conversations via Messenger, my inner critic took a backseat. After all, it’s just a casual chat.

The immediate replies and excited responses of my “audience” energized me. I didn’t overthink it. It was raw, real. I was able to clarify and expand in the moment based on their questions.  In a matter of 10-30 minutes (depending on the conversation), I’d written content that was as compelling and resonant as it gets, all without the usual pain I put myself through by “trying” to create “good” content.

With minimal editing, I could turn each of those conversations into any kind of content I needed.

So what is the secret source of compelling content that engages and sells in a raw, natural way pulling your ideal customer at ease and wrapping them in understanding and connecting with them through language that validates everything they are going through and everything they want to achieve with such empathy that they want to work with you right now even if it means paying a premium price? [takes a deep breath]

Facebook Messenger.

Well, that’s what it is for me. But really what’s important here is this…

Consistent conversations with your ideal customer Pay particular attention to the words they use. Capture the thing you say that resonate most.  Then “copy and paste” pieces of those conversations right into your content. A little bit of polishing and voila!

Whether it’s by phone, Zoom, in person at a conference, in a FB group, Skype, whatever…

If you are not regularly starting and capturing one-to-one conversations with your ideal customers, then you’re missing out on one of your greatest sources of content.

So how can you take action on this right now?

Set up a conversation today with a past or prospective client or customer. Talk to them about something you’ve been cooking up in your business to create value for them. Capture that conversation to use in future marketing and sales content.

What’s one of your favorite go-to methods for creating compelling content quickly? Share in the comments below.

The #1 Tool for Thought Leaders to Gain Attention & Earn Trust

What’s the #1 foolproof technique you can use in your marketing and sales content in order to dependably:

  • Get attention
  • KEEP attention
  • Evoke emotion
  • Offer empathy
  • Earn trust
  • Build influence
  • Inform AND entertain
  • And teach in a way that people will remember what you said?

Any guesses? The simplicity of the answer may surprise you: it’s storytelling.

But here’s the thing. While many understand the power of storytelling, most people aren’t doing it enough or they’re doing a half-baked job.

You’ll know a great story when you see one. It will:

  1. Speak truth
  2. Resonate with the audience
  3. Contain conflict
  4. Take a relatable character on a journey of transformation or realization

Here’s a SUPER simple way to do all of those things without even trying: pull stories from your own life.

I have a simple two-step formula that I use to come up with compelling stories for my content.

  1. Think of the point I want to make or lesson I want to share.
  2. Think of a story from my life that relates to it.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy! The more you do this, the more it becomes a habit. Soon enough you’ll be using what I call The Seinfeld Method. Seinfeld became one of the greatest living comedians and created one of the most popular sitcoms of all time by doing one thing: taking everyday experiences that everyone could relate to, and making them ridiculous.

  • “Did you just double dip that chip?”
  • “No soup for you!”
  • “I’m sorry. We can’t take this book back. It’s been flagged. It’s been in the bathroom.”

But you don’t have to be Seinfeld levels of funny for this to work amazingly well. Just start noticing and noting experiences from your daily life that you can use in your content. Don’t underestimate the power of even simple stories from your past or present.

One more thing. Your stories don’t have to be long. You can tell a great story in under 100 words.

Let’s take fast action to get results.

Think of just one brief story from your everyday life that you can use to make your marketing and sales content more compelling and effective. Take a shot at writing it out, even if it’s just a couple sentences long. Drop it in the comments !

Also, what’s one of your favorite Seinfeld moments?

How to Read Your Audience’s Mind

Relevance is a measure of how well your brand, messaging, and content connect with and speak to the top-of-mind pains and problems of your intended audience. This is vital if you are to gain their attention, earn their trust, and motivate them to take action and support your show.

Your content is operating in an attention economy where attention is the most valuable resource because it is the most difficult one to attain. Your intended audience only has so much attention to lend at any given time. Only a small fraction of what they are exposed to will even make it past the “spam filter” of their mind.

Primary Motivating Needs (Why People Will Really Pay Attention to and Support Your Work)

Because their time and attention are so limited, people won’t be interested in hearing your message until it clearly appeals to their self-interest. But what does that mean? How can we identify and describe your customer’s self-interest in a way that is more specific and meaningful when it comes to making strategic decisions for your business?

We’ve all heard about how important it is to emphasize benefits over features. But even benefits often fail to go deep enough.

What really motivates humans to take action is a desire to fulfill their most important needs. We all share common human needs that drive our daily behaviors.

For example, an iPhone has a long list of amazing features and benefits. But if you dig beneath the layers to understand the primary reasons a consumer chooses to buy an iPhone over other options available to them, it’s because they they see the iPhone as the best option for fulfilling specific needs such as belonging (because of the identity that is associated with being an Apple user) or connection (because of the myriad unique ways an iPhone empowers and enhances the user’s ability to stay connected to other people and the world). These are only two of the needs that potentially motivate an iPhone buyer.

The following is a list of the primary human needs that motivate our behavior. When you understand which of these needs are most important to your ideal audience, you can more effectively communicate how your content will help them meet those needs.

 

Love

Sex

Safety

Freedom

Belonging

Recognition

Connection

Competence

Peace and hope

Meaning and purpose

Mastery and growth

Shelter and sustenance

Fun and entertainment

Save time

Save money

Make more money

Reduce effort

Reduce stress, anxiety or hassle

Improve physical or mental state

Self-transcendence (contribution)

 

When producing content, focus on the needs that are most important to your ideal audience as it relates to your topic and message. This is something you’ll have to infer from conversations and interviews with the kind of people that make up your ideal audience. They won’t be able to explicitly tell you what needs motivate them most because they likely don’t think about their decisions in those terms.

Once you know what the primary motivating needs of your audience are, you can speak to those needs in your content. This will allow you to tap into the emotional core of your audience’s motivations.

There are two ways you can use the list of needs above. First, identify the top 3-5 most important needs that motivate your audience. These are the ones you want to speak to and emphasize most. Then go through the entire list of needs one by one and think about how your message and content can help your ideal audience to meet those needs in their life.

An Important Note About Needs and Manipulation

The concept of identifying, speaking to, and meeting needs with your business and brand is incredibly powerful. Developing your ability to do this is one of the most potent ways to elevate your ability to lead, influence, create value, and impact others.

It’s also very easy to communicate, market, and sell in a way that manipulates people’s desire to meet their needs. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this.

Whenever you choose strategies for marketing and selling, it’s important to ask yourself whether you are manipulating someone’s needs or fulfilling them in a healthy, life-promoting, and lasting way.

For example, I’ve seen sales campaigns for events or programs where there’s a strong messaging based on “not missing out” (FOMO) and “in crowd, out crowd” dynamics. This appeals to the need for belonging. It might motivate someone to buy and even give them a feeling of satisfying that need, for a time.

If the fulfillment of the need for belonging doesn’t last long past the action of buying, then the appeal to that need was in fact a manipulation. The the ends don’t justify the means.

Further Reading on Needs

When you are ready to go deeper into the topic of human needs and how they motivate consumer and listener behavior, I highly recommend this excellent article from Harvard Business Review, The 30 Elements of Value.

Finding Your Voice as a Thought Leader

As an entrepreneur with a goal of becoming an influential thought leader with a lasting legacy, it’s important to consider the body of work that you want to create.

The questions below will help you design your body of work. This is about you gaining mastery, growth, and fulfillment from your work while also creating the greatest possible contribution.

For each of the following questions, write as many answers as you can think of. It’s best at first to capture anything that comes to mind. Don’t edit yourself. This is about uncovering possibilities and innovative ideas.

  1. Recognition: What do you want to be known for?
  2. Opportunities: What kinds of opportunities and experiences do you want to enjoy?
  3. Achievements: What accomplishments, awards, or other milestones do you want to realize?
  4. Collaboration: Who do you want to partner or work with?
  5. Body of Work: What do you want to create? what ideas or value do you want to leave behind?
  6. Change: What change(s) do you want to create in the world (or your community or industry)? Are there behaviors, best practices, or ways of thinking that you want to transform?

Voice: Your Message and Perspective

In order for you to influence how people think and behave, you have to first earn their trust. Before you can earn their trust, you have to get their attention and keep it long enough for them to decide two things:

  1. Does this person have my best interests in mind – Likability
  2. Can this person’s content help me bring about my best interests – Credibility

We often assume that credibility is the most important of these two. However, research tells us that likability has more bearing on whether people want to listen to us.

Your voice is a reflection of who you are, how you think, and what is important to you. This is one of your greatest tools for demonstrating likability so that you can gain and keep the attention of your audience and earn their trust. Then you can influence and have an impact on the audience you serve. Without developing your unique and authentic voice, your message will fall flat and get ignored. It will be lost in the noise.

It’s important to understand that one for the primary reasons people will follow and support you is because of who you are, how you think, and how you make them feel. This is your voice in action.

When everything you do and say is founded in and congruent with an authentic voice, you will feel more invested in your work. Not only that, but you will feel more engaged and effective. When you use your authentic voice, people will respond in ways that are very energizing and fulfilling. This will further fuel your work. If you create content with an inauthentic voice, your creativity and motivation will wane.

Discovering and leveraging your unique and authentic voice can feel like a nebulous process. It’s not a checkbox that you tick off or a destination you arrive at. It’s an ongoing process that only moves forward by continually doing, creating, and sharing.

That said, there are a few specific things we will take a look at now that will help you understand and articulate important elements of your voice.

The 3 Whys

When you communicate a clear reason why your content exists, your audience will resonate more deeply with it. To help you do this, answer the following questions that I refer to as the “3 Whys.”

  • Why is it important to you to produce the content you do?
  • Why is your content important to those who see it?
  • Why is your content important to the world (or to your industry/community)?

Together, these three questions justify why the world is worse off if your content doesn’t exist. While that may sound like a grandiose way of thinking, it’s important to believe that you have something to say and that there are people in the world that need to hear it specifically from you. When they do, their lives will be improved to some degree simply by hearing your perspective.

When your audience understands why it is important for them to listen to you, they have a reason to continue listening. They know what the payoff is for investing their time and attention.

When your audience understands why your content is important to you, they come to understand that your motivations go beyond personal gain. This in turn gains their loyalty and trust.

When your audience understands why your content is important to the world, they gain a sense that by supporting you they are part of something that is bigger than them. This turns your content into a movement.

The “3 Whys” make for excellent content to include in your inaugural content. Even years down the road, people who discover you will want to return to your first content to discover where it started.

Your Origin Story

Your origin story is another powerful tool for demonstrating likability to your ideal audience. In a wider sense, storytelling is very effective at conveying your content in a memorable and impactful way.

Make a list of experiences, stories or anecdotes that have shaped your work and give it meaning. Here are some questions to help you.

  1. When did you first feel a strong desire to do the work you do now?
  2. What experiences have resulted in life lessons, changes in your world view, or ah-ha moments that now fuel your work?
  3. What are the biggest challenges you have been through in life? How have they informed your work or point of view?

It’s even effective to use these stories more than once. This ensures that more people hear them and integrate the underlying message into their thinking.

How can you integrate the 3 Whys and your origin story into your current body of content? If this inspires you to go create a new video, blog post, or podcast episode that will better allow your authentic voice to shine through, let me know! I want to see it.

How to Position Your Content as a Thought Leader

Positioning is how your content is perceived in the mind of your ideal audience and the marketplace. Positioning greatly affects how quickly your content, whether it’s a course, a podcast, or an ebook, will gain traction and produce results.

Ideally, you want your unique content to be positioned in the marketplace in a way that will attract your ideal audience, gain the trust of your ideal customers, and drive forward your most important business and thought leadership goals.

While you can’t ultimately control your position in the marketplace (because it’s based on the perceptions of others), you can certainly craft a content production strategy that will increase the chances that you’ll gain a position in the marketplace that you desire.

This requires being clear about what you want to achieve with your content, and how your content will serve your audience. Let’s take a look at the insights you need to uncover to help define a strategy that is in alignment with your desired positioning.

Positioning Venn Diagram

This diagram is from my Thought Leadership Business Model design process. It describes how I help my strategy clients plan and align the next evolution of their business model. We can apply this same approach to any content you create to find the “sweet spot”.

This is important so that you can:

  1. Stand out in the marketplace and gain attention
  2. Keep attention and earn trust so that your audience grows
  3. Support the body of work you want to create and the thought leadership goals you want to achieve
  4. Align with your unique vision, perspective, and strengths so that your content feeds your energy, fuels your creativity, and is fun to create!

Your ideal positioning falls in the cross-section between the three circles of the Venn Diagram. The most important elements to delve into first are those contained in the circles labeled You and Your Ideal Audience. We’ll dig into those next week!