Attract Raving Fans For The Long-Term: How To Create A Win In Every Post

How do you get someone to read your content and then keep coming back?

Having an audience that wants to continue consuming future content sets you up for success.

Your ideal prospect is checking their emails and browsing through their media platform of choice.

Then BAM. Your content pops up in their inbox or feed.

They begin consuming it. Then instinctively stop, scroll away, and exit the browser.

Eh… I’m just not interested.

It sucks when people unsubscribe, lose interest, or stop coming back to consume your content altogether.

You can never make another first impression.

And at the beginning of any relationship, there’s a higher risk that someone will drop off. There isn’t much investment involved yet.

That being said, if we don’t figure out how to get people to come back and engage with our brand, then we’re losing someone who could’ve been a true fan and long-term customer.

You could lose them forever.

Though it’s possible to get people re-engaged, it’s typically much harder once the bond has weakened.

If you want to build a strong audience, then it’s important to help your audience form a habit of consuming your content.

In this post, I’ll be investigating two main points:

  1. How to get people to consume your content and enjoy it.
  2. How to create a satisfying experience so that they form a habit around consuming your content… turning into a true fan.

Having a strong audience is a valuable business asset. And more specifically, the quality of that relationship to them.

And good indicator that your relationship with your audience is good and healthy is if they’ve formed a habit of consuming your content.

If they keep consuming it over and over again, week after week, then you’re in good shape.

This directly pours over into developing your business’ customer lifetime value and increasing retention rates.

The Tale Of Two Male Cichlids: Why Winning Reinforces More Winning

Image: Russell D. Fernald and Sabrina S. Burmeister

By creating a satisfying environment, you can facilitate small wins that reinforce desirable outcomes.

The African cichlid (Astatotilapia burtoni) naturally lives in Lake Tanganyika in Eastern Africa.

Within this species, there are two types of male cichlids. Let’s call them:

  1. Territorial Cichlids (“T” Cichlids)
  2. Non-territorial Cichlids (“NT” Cichlids)

The NT Cichlids aren’t the luckiest bunch of fish.

They’re subordinate. Since they don’t have much territory in the lake, they have a disadvantage in gathering food. And since they look dull and colorless, they aren’t an attractive option for reproduction.

In comparison, the T Cichlids have more territory. These dominant males have advantageous resources for food consumption.

And since their various fins and gill cover are dressed with brighter colors of yellow and blue, they’re an attractive option for the female cichlids. They have a reproductive advantage.

This has significant consequences for the NT Cichlid. Being both colorless and lacking territory means they aren’t in a good position to reproduce or gather as much food (compared to the dominant cichlids).

So with the T Cichlids hogging all the resources and acting more aggressive, it seems that the NT Cichlids are doomed and won’t live very long. Survival of the fittest.

However… there is one disadvantage for the T Cichlids.

One day a seagull comes diving into the water and scoops up one of these dominant cichlids.

Being so brightly colored with territory near the water’s surface makes them vulnerable to predators.

Suddenly, there’s vacant real estate in the lake!

For the NT Cichlid, this poses an opportunity.

This subordinate fish takes advantage of the vacancy and begins occupying this new territory.

And something interesting happens…

The rise in social status (more territory) is the catalyst for rapid behavioral, physiological, and molecular changes.

This subordinate cichlid begins to switch phenotypes!

Its various fins and gill cover begins to change physically. This once boring and dull-looking fish now starts looking bright and more attractive to the female Cichlids.

It becomes more reproductively active. And with its new territory, it’s in a good position for consuming food.

It’s winning.

Until, of course, another Seagull gets hungry.

We Naturally Want To Repeat Behaviors That Help Us Win

I originally heard the cichlid story from neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Ian Robertson.

This is an interesting phenomenon in biology.

When an animal has won a few fights against a weaker opponent, it’s now much more likely to win future battles against stronger opponents.

Success breeds success.

In his book The Winner Effect: The Science of Success and How to Use It, Ian Robertson explains how this also applies to human nature.

Winning produces neurochemical changes inside of you.

Specifically, according to Ian Robertson, “Winning increases the dopamine receptors in the brain, which makes you smarter and more bold.”

Winning and feeling powerful switches on testosterone in the brain and body.

Then testosterone turns on the neurotransmitter dopamine. And this is an essential component for stimulating the “reward center” in the brain, responsible for feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

But dopamine is responsible for much more than just motivation and “feeling good.”

Dopamine plays a vital role in learning comprehension and retention. Elevated states of dopamine help facilitate improved performance and heightened learning potential.

Winning is a positive feedback loop. The more it happens, the more motivated you are to pursue the behaviors that helped you initially win (reinforcing the feeling of satisfaction).

It’s like a performance-enhancing drug, except free and naturally available to all of us. When used strategically, this will help improve your skills, decision-making, and perceptual abilities.

It helps you become clear, focused, motivated, and more likely to take risks.

The inverse of the “winner effect” is when you keep losing.

When you keep losing, there’s a reduction of testosterone and dopamine in the body… decreasing your performance and intelligence.

Why would the body do this to us?

Well, there’s a payoff. One could argue that being more “submissive” prevents us from getting into future situations that could hurt us (or cost us our life) when we have a history of losing.

We see how this is valuable in more ancient times, but it oftentimes holds us back in modern society.

For example, experiencing this “loser effect” isn’t helpful when receiving constructive criticism. Unfortunately, many people can fall into the trap of interpreting feedback destructively and experience feelings of loss and failure.

If this is perceived as a loss, then your physiology will put you in an unresourceful state.

This winner effect is critical for habit formation. By winning, we naturally want to continue the behaviors that serve us.

Someone will only form a habit around consuming your content if you help them win and feel satisfied.

So I explained how this works with fish. But what’s an example of someone who’s benefited from this?

Mike Tyson’s Comeback: The Winner Effect

Ian Robertson uses Mike Tyson as an example of the Winner Effect.

Mike Tyson spent 3 years in prison. Before this, he was a boxing champion.

But spending all that time in prison made him a bit rusty.

He was in poor shape. And Frank Bruno was the Heavyweight Champion now.

How do you get somebody who’s been in prison for 3 years ready to face the heavyweight champion?

The answer: tomato can.

In the boxing world, a “tomato can” is an idiom for an opponent that you’re likely to beat. Their skills are much weaker than their opponent (in this case, Mike Tyson).

His first comeback fight was in August 1995.

Tyson would fight the Bostonian boxer, Peter McNeeley.

McNeeley was knocked down twice within the first couple of minutes.

First, a straight hook. Then a right uppercut.

The fight lasted only 89 seconds. Easy victory.

Next match.

His second comeback fight was against Buster Mathis Jr. in November 1995.

With about 40 seconds left in the third round, Tyson lands multiple right uppercuts and drops Mathias Jr. to the ground.

Next match.

Now it was time to face the Heavyweight Champion, Frank Bruno.

Less than one minute into the third round, Tyson dodges one of Bruno’s jabs and proceeds to deliver a 13-punch combination.

Tyson slaughters him. And it’s ruled a technical knockout.

His comeback is an example of the Winner Effect at work.

If you win a contest, the mere fact of winning will make it more likely that you’ll win a future contest (which is very motivating and encourages more action). 

If you want someone to form a habit around consuming your content, you’ll want to help them win.

Getting Your Audience To Form A Habit Around Consuming Your Content

When someone consumes your content, does it satisfy them?

Now let’s look at habit formation from the perspective of James Clear’s Model, which he shares in his book Atomic Habits.

In it, he shares the four laws of behavior change.

This is a simple set of rules for creating good habits.

Understanding and mastering each one will allow you to develop habits that serve your long-term success.

This is valuable for life personally, and it’s a useful tool for content marketing and business development.

What’s the purpose of marketing? Among others, it’s primarily concerned with persuading people to take action and behavior change.

So within the context of content marketing and business development, understanding how your audience and potential customers form habits is critical!

This is how you build a list of true fans. A true fan is someone who’s formed a habit of interacting with your business and brand.

They WANT to keep coming back and consume your content.

So if we want our audience to form a habit around consuming our content and interacting with our brand, how do habits form?

James Clear’s Habit Formation Model: 4 Laws Of Behavior Change

Understanding these four laws is essential if you want to motivate your audience to consume your content habitually.

Law 1: Make It Obvious

The first law of behavior change is to “make it obvious.”

This is where the cue for a habit is. It’s the trigger or catalyst for the action being taken.

If you make the cue more obvious in the environment, you’re making it more likely that an action will occur.

This is one reason why email marketing is so powerful. If you have someone’s email, you can send content directly to their inbox.

If your audience sees an email from you, it’s obvious that they’ll receive value when they click it (if you have a history of creating value).

Law 2: Make It Attractive

The second law of behavior change is to “make it attractive.”

If something’s unattractive, we’re not going to be motivated to act. Every perceived action has a payoff.

Some of these payoffs can be either effective or ineffective (eating a salad or a cheeseburger). Regardless of the choice, there’s a payoff for each.

James Clear explains this as a craving or desire that we have.

This is the purpose behind copywriting (and marketing in general).

As Al Ries and Jack Trout mention: “Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.”

For instance, if a headline is unattractive, we’re unlikely to click it and read the content.

If a headline clearly expresses the benefits and value of consuming the content, you’re more likely to click it (improving the open rates).

This law of behavior change has everything to do with “perceived value.”

People haven’t taken action yet. It’s the anticipation of value that they perceive they’ll receive IF they take action.

This is another reason why copywriters recommend focusing on the benefits, not the features.

Benefits are more attractive.

Law 3: Make It Easy

The third law of habit change is to “make it easy.”

This is where you take action, which James Clear calls the “response.”

As humans, we’re motivated to conserve energy. We’re going to choose the option that requires the least effort given our current level of skills, energy, and resources.

If we have to expend too much energy that we aren’t capable of exerting, we’ll avoid the action altogether.

In marketing, this is why it’s important to have a clear and simple call-to-action.

If the call-to-action is confusing or unclear, you’re making your audience think more (making it harder).

This creates friction and dissuades people from taking action.

Another application of this law is when you don’t cater your offers to the audiences’ level of investment.

If someone isn’t very invested in your brand or business, they’ll probably choose to conserve energy (instead of consuming tons of content from a stranger).

When I first started marketing, I created a giant lead magnet. It was a 13 lesson mini-course that would’ve taken someone many hours to consume.

For most people, this is a high level of investment. And the result?

No one finished it.

In other words, I made it too hard for them to invest in my content and brand.

Make it easy for your audience to invest and engage with you.

Law 4: Make It Satisfying

The fourth law of habit change is to “make it satisfying.”

It’s important to note here that laws 1–3 increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring to begin with.

Law 4 ensures that this behavior gets repeated (thus creating a habit).

In standard habit formation models, this is connected to positive reinforcement and the “reward.”

Once the newly-dominant male Cichlid began to get some satisfying results in its environment, it continued engaging in behaviors that allowed it to win.

This encouraged it to be more aggressive. If it were to become submissive again, it’d lose its survival and reproductive advantages.

Not only was it motivated to keep its territory, but it also rippled out into other benefits like more food and reproductive potential.

If something is satisfying, we’re likely to continue the behavior that originally produced satisfaction.

This is where the “winner effect” comes into play. When we start winning and begin feeling satisfied, we’re likely to continue the behaviors that allowed us to succeed (reinforcing a habit).

This also makes sense within the context of the content you create.

If your audience doesn’t find it satisfying or valuable, they probably won’t come back.

Since making something satisfying is how you get people to WANT to come back and consume more of your content… this will be our focus for the rest of the post.

Create Satisfying Content: Help Your Audience Win

Since we’re trying to have our audience form a habit of consuming our content, we want to make it satisfying (law 4 of behavior change).

Trying to force your audience to consume your content doesn’t work. It’s also not helpful to get upset if someone unsubscribes or ignores you.

People are busy. And it’s a big commitment to form a habit around consuming your content.

This is why I find it helpful to earn the right to be heard. We can do this by creating valuable content.

So how do you make it satisfying for your audience to consume your content?

The key is in helping them win.

You’ll want to create the “winner effect” in them so that they feel good and excited. This will tap that dopamine button in their brain.

They’ll want to come back and experience it again.

By helping someone win, you’re putting them in a more resourceful state.

This has clear benefits for your audience. And this also gives you and your brand an advantage.

Because how much content on the internet disappoints people? A lot.

So how do we create this “winner effect” in your audience so that they want to come back and consume more of your content?

Let’s look at three knobs that you can turn to increase your content’s value (and make it more satisfying).

3 Value Knobs: Content To Drool Over

Generating content that satisfies your audience requires an essential skill: value creation.

If you want your content to be satisfying, you’ll want it to be valuable.

Here are three areas where you can immediately begin increasing the value of your content.

1) Value Knob 1: Solve ONE Problem

I’ve found it more effective to focus on one theme or value proposition for a post.

Value is subjective and requires context. So it’s important to focus on one context at a time.

By adding multiple themes and contexts in one post, you create confusion.

What’s the opposite approach to this? A traditional college textbook.

Your professor tells you to buy it, and now you have to sift through the book to find the solutions to various problems.

In other words, “Here’s all the content you need, now go figure it out.”

Great content marketing takes a different approach.

Instead of dumping all your knowledge into a piece of content and expect someone to “figure it out,” you want to cater everything to ONE problem.

Start with one theme or value proposition, and utilize ALL your knowledge and experience to solve that one thing.

If you do this, your audience will be thinking, “Wow… they’ve spent all this time solving just one of my problems.”

This creates the foundation for the following two value knobs.

2) Value Knob 2: Aim for ONE powerful insight

Imagine a time when you’re queuing up a video or article that you’re interested in consuming.

It’s from one of your favorite content creators. So you begin consuming it.

Once you finish, the lightbulb goes off. Inspiration and excitement infiltrate your body.

You just learned something valuable that can help you.

What’s happening here?

After studying successful content creators, I’ve noticed that they have an uncanny ability to facilitate insight.

Insight surfaces when you learn something that empowers you. It’s extremely satisfying.

It occurs when you gain a deeper understanding of something.

Wyatt Woodsmall has a formula for learning: knowledge + experience = understanding.

Once you’ve figured out the ONE problem that you’ll be talking about, bring all your knowledge and experience to facilitate insight around it.

3) Value Knob 3: Clarity On The “Next Step”

If you’ve done steps 1 and 2, you’ve done most of the work to provide clarity for your audience.

And with this clarity, you’ll want to guide them to take the “next step.”

Here’s what I mean.

With the newfound insight you’ve guided them towards, how can they take practical action with it? How can they DO something with it?

This doesn’t need to be a huge action.

But it should be something pragmatic that they can implement in their lives.

If they have enough clarity on how to take action and you guide them towards implementing it, this is how you help facilitate a “win” for them.

And by helping them win, they’ll WANT to come back and consume more of your content.

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How Developing An Easy Content Creation Habit Leads To Huge Changes

Do you find yourself putting off content? Or do you feel like you don’t have enough time to produce quality content?

Instead of publishing something that’s “good enough,” maybe you take minimal action (or none at all).

There’s this fear that others will judge and label it “low-quality.”

I get it. You want to produce valuable content. There’s this inner critic that’s saying, “Nope, this isn’t good enough yet.”

But if you don’t get into the habit of publishing content NOW, how will you reach your goals?

In this post, I’m going to share:

  • Insights around establishing and keeping a content creation habit.
  • Overcoming perfectionism so that you can begin making actual progress.
  • Why small habits lead to significant changes.
  • How Beethoven’s habits made him legendary.
  • And what a Harvard Linguist can teach us about making a content creation habit easy.

This will empower you to create quality content consistently and use content marketing to achieve your business goals around growth and profit.

Overcoming Perfectionism And Its False Promise Of Progress

I started learning about entrepreneurship in 2013. I had just graduated High School and, for the first time, seriously asked myself… “What do I want to do in life?”

Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour-Workweek was my gateway into entrepreneurship.

And shortly after discovering him, I found this guy named Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn’s brand is all about “smart passive income.”

This idea was intriguing to me at the time.

My impression was that you could create stuff and passively receive income without having to do much work. It seemed like magic.

Now, obviously it’s not that simple. But as a kid transitioning into adulthood, this seemed pretty cool!

So I began consuming Pat Flynn’s content, starting with his podcast episodes.

I began at the bottom, episode 1.

Then during episode 15, he shared how one of the best ways to get started with passive income was article writing for revenue sharing sites.

You’d create content for the site. Then depending on how much exposure you receive (and various other factors), you could end up getting a bit of passive income.

The site he recommended was InfoBarrel.

Now, this was back in 2013. I don’t recommend InfoBarrel now (and Pat Flynn wouldn’t either). Medium is the top site for this nowadays.


Since I was young and the idea of passive income was appealing (and the allusive promise of quick money), I naturally gave it a shot.

I created a couple of articles. Looked at my dashboard. And said to myself… “This stuff doesn’t work.”

I was starting college. So I decided to give up on creating content and focus my energy on schoolwork.

I’d intermittently re-visit content throughout college and occasionally write on social media or in forums like Quora.

Again, no spectacular results surfaced.

It wasn’t until after graduating college when I started to see the error of my ways.

This was 2019 and 2020.

As I started to look at entrepreneurship and value creation more seriously, it became obvious.

If I wanted to become successful, I needed to be consistent.

The standard advice was, “you just need to be disciplined.” Hustle. 

Yes, this is true. But it’s a simple truth.

How can you ACTUALLY do it?

The answer came when I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode with Scott Adams.

Scott Adams has a popular saying: “Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”

After this idea marinated in my mind a bit, I realized the cause of my problem.

I was too focused on the outcome, which ironically prevented me from getting ideal results.

What I needed to do was focus on the system. In other words, I needed to build quality habits.

By focusing on the outcome, I was becoming too idealistic. Perfectionism.

In 2020, I became increasingly aware of this perfectionism mentality inside of myself.

I wanted to overcome it. So I did something that I was deathly afraid of at the time.

A 30-Day Facebook Live Challenge.

I had a small group and decided for 30-days to jump on a Live Video and just riff on a topic.

This did a few things:

  1. I couldn’t script out what I wanted to say because Facebook Live is more improvisational. You can have an outline or structure, but you can’t fully script it out in-detail.
  2. I had to show up every day, even if I wasn’t confident in the quality of my idea. And this helped me break through this “perfectionism barrier” holding me back from creating content consistently.

Once a habit is established and you gain more experience, your confidence naturally increases.

And you become less resistant towards taking action.

It’s validating when someone consumes some of my content and shares how it’s impacted them.

And I attribute any impact I have to the habits I’ve been able to establish.

Why Small Habits Lead To Big Changes

“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” — James Clear

There’s a species of bamboo that doesn’t grow much for 3–5 years. It’s barely visible.

During this time, it’s building an elaborate root system. But once its root system is established, it can shoot up to 90 feet in just 6 weeks.

Without its root system, this growth wouldn’t be possible.

I find this anecdote powerful for habit formation.

This foundation is your habits. And your habits set the trajectory for whether or not you’ll attain your goals.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains why small habits make a huge difference.

He emphasizes the importance of getting 1% better each day. In the short-term, growth isn’t noticeable.

But here’s what happens over a year:

1% better every day for one year: 1.01³⁶⁵ = 37.78

In other words, engaging in a quality habit every day can result in you becoming 37 times better by the end of the year.

Quality habits are the compound interest of growth and improvement.

How impactful can your content become if you got 1% better each day?

How would your quality of content improve?

And how would this impact your business success?

Great content marketing is a matter of building habits that allow you to consistently create high-value content … and leveraging this to grow your brand.

How To Create Permanent Change: Identity-Based Habits

The biggest challenge is keeping a content creation habit long enough to start seeing some progress.

I’m currently writing this article in January. It’s time for people to make “New Years Resolutions.”

But I can’t stop thinking about how many people will fall back into old patterns after a couple of months (despite their initial surge of motivation).

Now I’m not joking or poking fun. I used to do this, so I know this pattern all too well.

Unless you get lucky, success doesn’t come immediately. And even if it does… would you have the skills and resources to sustain it?

So to ensure that success is inevitable and sustainable, we’ll need to make a habit permanent. And then improve it over-time.

One of the biggest insights I had reading Atomic Habits was that permanent changes occur when a habit becomes rooted in your identity.

We typically want to get the results without having to change who we are as people.

It’s easier that way.

Imagine someone wanting to eat healthier. So they begin thinking of habits that’ll help them achieve this.

Maybe they learn some recipes. Get some supplements. Create a meal-prepping schedule. And any other method that supports a healthy eating lifestyle.

But despite having good intentions and cultivating a specific routine that allows them to eat healthier, let’s say they don’t see themselves as the type of person who eats healthy.

It’s not “who they are” yet.

If there’s a conflict between the habit they want to develop and their self-concept, then making this a permanent habit is unlikely.

This is like walking into a donut shop and asking, “What item on the menu is the healthiest?”

Someone looking for a healthy item to eat at a donut shop has an inner conflict between the actions they want to take… and how they actually themselves.

Every time you complete a habit, you’re casting a vote for the type of person you want to become.

And awareness of this is powerful.

Because now you can get to the cause (instead of fiddling with the effects).

Changing your identity is causal. It has a ripple effect. It can impact our beliefs, values, capabilities, behaviors, and environment.

So the overarching process for permanent change is:

  1. What result do you want?
  2. What type of person do you need to become for you to achieve this result?
  3. What actions and habits reinforce this identity or self-concept of yourself?

This is easier said than done. So if you read till the end, I’ll share a practical way to start doing this successfully for your content.

Beethoven’s Habits Made Him Legendary

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most influential composers in the history of Western music.

His achievements as a composer and pianist far outrank most artists of the classical music repertoire.

He wrote for wealthy patrons and also earned money from public concerts.

His accomplishments include writing 32 piano sonatas, 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 opera, and some ground-breaking string quartets.

How was he able to create so much value?? The answer is found in his habits.

Here’s a glimpse into his daily routine.

He typically rose at dawn and would prepare coffee for himself. He had a quirky habit of using exactly sixty coffee beans per cup.

He’d then be at his workstation till about 2 or 3 pm. He regularly went on walks outdoors to take breaks (which would aid his creativity).

After his midday dinner, he’d embark on a long walk, carrying a pencil and a couple of sheets of music paper in his pocket when inspiration struck.

Evenings were often spent with company or at the theater.

He’d rarely work on his music in the evening and would get to bed at a reasonable time (no later than 10:00 pm).

His daily actions reinforced the type of person he wanted to be.

He got 1% better each day. And the result?

Becoming one of the greatest composers of all time.

His habits, throughout his lifetime, made him a legend.

What Research Says About Permanent Change

How can we start (or improve) our content marketing processes so that online growth and profit are inevitable?

Here’s a common roadblock people face when creating content. Perhaps you can relate.

You get a surge of motivation.

The notion of using content marketing to build your business becomes exciting. So you go all in.

You spend multiple hours each day creating content. Maybe you do this for a couple of weeks or a month.

Suddenly… your surge of motivation begins dissipating. You’re not getting results fast enough.

Then all of a sudden, your motivation dies.


And your habit with it.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that one of the biggest bottlenecks for developing permanent habits is caused by it being “too hard.”

This is rooted in human nature.

We’re wired to conserve energy. And we’ll usually take the path that requires the least amount of effort.

In 1949, Harvard linguist George Kingsley Zipf proposed the Principle Of Least Effort. It’s also referred to as Zipf’s law.

Interestingly enough, the context of Zipf’s law comes from the study of linguistics. And it’s been extrapolated to other domains of study since.

Zipf noticed that the evolution of language followed this rule of least effort.

C.M. Millard, Author of A Biography of the English Language, explains this principle well:

“One explanation for linguistic change is the principle of least effort. According to this principle, language changes because speakers are ‘sloppy’ and simplify their speech in various ways. Accordingly, abbreviated forms like math for mathematics and plane for airplane arise. Going to becomes gonna because the latter has two fewer phonemes to articulate. . . . On the morphological level, speakers use showed instead of shown as the past participle of show so that they will have one less irregular verb form to remember.

“The principle of least effort is an adequate explanation for many isolated changes, such as the reduction of God be with you to good-bye, and it probably plays an important role in most systemic changes, such as the loss of inflections in English.”

That being said, James Clear proposes a simple solution when forming a habit.

“Make it easy.”

If you only post content once a month, it’ll be too challenging to create 5 articles a week. It’s not realistic or sustainable.

That’s kind of like expecting to take your car from 0 to 100 in a second. Not only is it unrealistic, but you also place additional and unnecessary stress on your car and its engine.

This is where a powerful tactic comes into play.

The Two-Minute Rule: Build Content Habits From The Ground-Up

James Clear recommends a tactic called the “two-minute rule.”

The basic idea is that you make a habit as easy as possible for your current skill and resources level.

Start with a two-minute habit. And improve from there.

Let’s say you want to read more so that you have more source material for your content.

Instead of reading an entire book in a week, start reading a couple of minutes each day first. Once this is a habit, iterate and expand on it.

The same thing goes for any aspect of your content creation process that you want to improve upon.

How can you make it as easy as possible?

If you’re like me, then you may have some objections to this. Most of my protests stemmed from the “all or nothing” approach.

If you go from exercising 0 minutes each day and then try to work out for 1 hour each day… you won’t last long.

It’s more productive to make the habit easy first. So instead of exercising for 1-hour daily, you could start with 10 or 20 pushups every day.

“But Colton, 10–20 pushups won’t help me reach my goals.”

You’re technically correct in the short-term.

And with a perfectionist mentality, you’re tempted to start with an ambitious habit. I speak from personal experience.

But the downfall to this approach is that you’ll never create a long-term habit.

A more productive approach is to focus on shifting your self-concept.

10–20 pushups may not give you the immediate outcome you want… but doing it every day will reinforce the identity of someone who exercises every day.

And once your identity has shifted, it’s much easier to iterate and improve your habit.

Being on the right trajectory is more valuable than fixating on the current outcome.

Now It’s Your Turn: Make Your Content Creation Habits Easy

Your content habits form the foundation for mastery.

1% improvements each day allow you to build your content creation skills.

And when used strategically, you can leverage this to build your audience and brand… generating more growth and profit.

This checklist will help you get started with content (or improve an existing habit).

  1. What result do you want? And how do you want the content to impact your business?
  2. How much content do you need to create every week?
  3. What type of person do you need to become to achieve this?
  4. What actions and habits reinforce this identity or self-concept of yourself?
  5. What’s the easiest way to start developing these habits right now? What’s realistic given your current level of skills and resources? Make it 2-minutes each day if you have to.

The goal of this checklist is to elicit some ideas to begin implementing a content habit now.

If the habit is too intimidating, perhaps scale it down a bit. Make it easier.

If the habit is so easy that it’s laughable, perhaps make it slightly more challenging.

What did you come up with?

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Content Marketing Success Is An Ambitious Blend Of Quantity And Quality

When utilizing a content marketing process to grow your business online, there are two forms of inputs to account for: quantity and quality.

Should you focus on creating tons of content? Or focus on high-value content?

How often should you produce content?

What’ll give you the most significant amount of success?

These questions create concerns that your content creation approach isn’t good enough or effective for driving business results.

In this article, I intend to help you shift this anxiousness into self-confidence.

The headline of this post implies the solution: it’s a blend of the two.

But blend them incorrectly (and in the wrong order), and you’ll receive sub-par results.

By the end, you’ll have a framework for producing valuable content by blending quality and quantity.

Over time, you’ll be able to generate more views, trust, and true fans of your content.

Quantity Alone Creates Unfulfilling Results

In August 2013, I started my first semester in college.

Filled with excitement, I was ready to explore this new world. I’ve always had an appetite for learning, so I was curious to experience “higher learning.”

Since General Education classes were required for credit, one of the classes I took was English Writing.

It was at an off-campus location, so I had to drive 45 minutes twice a week to get there!

I’ll never forget my professor.

He had us read challenging, mentally stimulating ideas from Montessori, Jung, Machiavelli, and other great thinkers.

It was hard. But it wasn’t overwhelming or impossible.

He didn’t require us to read through the whole book. We skipped around.

He picked sections that he thought would provide the highest quality learning experience for us, given our learning level.

I’d always come out of that class with some insight or improvement in my critical thinking skills.

It was effective because the priority was quality over quantity. Quantity played an important role, but it was done deliberately to enforce quality.

The number of writing assignments was instilled with intention.

Rather than assign meaningless assignments, each one focused on quality outputs.

After finishing that semester, I was excited about the following sequence of classes. My expectations were high.

But what I experienced next was sobering.

Classes became boring and uninspiring. Professor after professor would be dull and stale.

They needed to cover every chapter. Read every single lecture slide. Do every single activity.

The focus was on maximizing quantity. Quality learning didn’t seem to be a guiding principle in the lesson plans.

I quickly realized that my English Professor during my first semester set the bar high.

Truthfully, this was frustrating. And towards the final year of my 5-year period of being a student, I was mentally tuned-out of most classes.

I decided to go through the motions, do the minimum required work to get by, and eventually get my degree.

With the extra time on my hands from doing the “minimum required work,” I got back into self-education (something I stopped doing because of my school schedule).

I re-visited content from Tim Ferriss, Neil Patel, Pat Flynn, and many other entrepreneurs and marketers I felt created high-quality content.

And today, I find myself in positions where I share my knowledge and experiences with others.

You could say I’m on the other side of the learning aisle.

And I’ve discovered something interesting.

It’s tempting to focus exclusively on quantity.

If I’m honest with myself, there’s a payoff when you focus on quantity over quality (especially when I found myself teaching or creating content).

Focusing exclusively on quantity creates an illusion that you’re making progress.

You get to feel like you’re getting results. And since you’re not experimenting with different quality approaches… you don’t have to experience nearly as much rejection.

And it’s much easier to be judged by the number of outputs instead of the quality of your ideas.

Unfortunately, the success of some teachers is measured on quantity.

“How many students “passed?”

“Did you cover the full curriculum?”

“Did you finish all the classroom activities?

These are all important, to a degree.

But how would you measure a successful teacher by quality?

“Did the students learn?”

If the answer is no, then we’ve failed the students.

This is how it is in business. And this is how it is with content creation.

Quality is how you provide results. Impact.

Quality is directly related to providing value.

But there’s a paradox here.

I’m not going to admit that quantity doesn’t play an important role.

It does.

A teacher needs to put in the reps to build skills that create a quality learning experience.

I’ve come to learn that quantity as a “knowledge worker” should be a supporting function (not the focal driver).

So next, I’ll explain the nuances between how to leverage quantity and quality.

This will support you in developing content that actually helps your business grow and become more profitable.

If You’re Reading This, Then You’re Probably A “Knowledge Worker”

Whenever we have challenges or problems, our instinctual response focuses on adding quantity to solve them.

And this is largely due to our history as a species. For the longest time, manual labor (versus knowledge labor) was the primary working paradigm.

But with the rise of modern society, many jobs and career opportunities have shifted towards knowledge work.

Peter Drucker is considered the father of modern management thinking. He’s one of the most widely-known and influential thinkers in this space.

He coined the term “knowledge worker” in his book The Landmarks of Tomorrow (1959).

He shared how successful knowledge workers would be valuable business assets in the 21st century due to their ability to be highly productive and creative.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an entrepreneur, business owner, and/or marketer.

That makes you a knowledge worker.

When sharing his thoughts on productivity for a knowledge-worker, Drucker notes,

“In most knowledge work, quality is not a minimum and a restraint. Quality is the essence of the output. In judging the performance of a teacher, we do not ask how many students there can be in his or her class. We ask how many students learn anything — and that’s a quality question.

In appraising the performance of a medical laboratory, the question of how many tests it can run through its machines is quite secondary to the question of how many tests results are valid and reliable. This is true even for the work of the file clerk.

Productivity of knowledge work therefore has to aim first at obtaining quality — and not minimum quality but optimum if not maximum quality. Only then can one ask: “What is the volume, the quantity of work?” This not only means that we approach the task of making more productive the knowledge worker from the quality of the work rather than the quantity, it also means that we will have to learn to define quality.”

That being said, quality becomes the primary metric for success. Quantity then becomes the vehicle to deliver quality.

So if you’re trying to acquire results in a field that primarily requires your ability to think and utilize your knowledge, then a quantity-focused paradigm is ineffective.

And not only is it ineffective, but it’ll also actually bottleneck your success.

If we focus on quantity without much thought to quality, we can waste an unhealthy amount of time and energy. Before we know it, we’re overwhelmed and “busy.”

This is why Tim Ferriss says, “Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

This applies to our content marketing and business development.

Quality content moves the needle.

I once heard Michael Simmons refer to content as the new business card. And I agree.

So how do we generate quality content?

More importantly… how do we generate valuable content consistently?

Here’s the paradox of creating quality content: you need quantity to get there.

The Paradox Of Focusing On Quality

“Habits create the foundation for mastery.” — James Clear

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he shares an anecdote that originally comes from David Bayles and Ted Orland, authors of Art & Fear.

In it, he shares how Jerry Uelsmann — film photography professor at the University of Florida — split his students into two groups on the first day of class.

Every student on the left side of the room would be in the “quantity” category.

They’d be graded based on the number of photos produced.

At the end of class, he’d tally up the number of photos produced and give a grade:

100 pictures would be an “A.”

90 would be a “B.”

And so on.

The students on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” category.

They would be graded based on the excellence of just one photo. And they had all semester to make it as perfect as possible.

A near-perfect image would be graded as an “A.”

By the end of the semester, Uelsmann was shocked to discover that all the best photos came from students in the “quantity” category.

During the semester, these students were busy taking action. They experimented with various photography methods to improve the quality of an image and learned from their imperfections along the way.

The students in the “quality” category were stuck in theory-land. They sat around and developed theories for making their one required photo perfect.

This led to one mediocre photo.

This anecdote is extremely insightful.

If creating quality content is our intention, how do we get there?

We develop quality content by intentionally engaging in producing as much quantity as feasible and realistic for our current skill and resources level.

Another example of this can be found in a different creative field: comedy.

Comedy writer, speaker, and entrepreneur Scott Dikkers sums up this point in his book How To Write Funny:

“Quantity is the key to quality. By writing more, you produce a larger pool of raw material to draw quality ideas from. No writer writes only one joke that’s pure gold as soon as it’s written.

One of the myths of writing in general, and comedy writing in particular, is that a genius sits down and cranks out a perfect piece of writing in one draft, without rewriting, editing or proofing.

The best comedy writers write dozens and dozens — sometimes hundreds — of jokes, and then carefully select only the best ones to present to readers. They make it seem easy because they never show us all the bad jokes they throw away.”

As you engage in a consistent amount of quantity, you begin to develop habits.

And as mentioned earlier, “habits create the foundation for mastery.”

But there is a downside to developing habits solely based on quantity.

The Downside Of Taking Quantity To The Extreme

In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes:

The benefits of habits come at a cost. At first, each repetition develops fluency, speed, and skill. But then, as a habit becomes automatic, you become less sensitive to feedback. You fall into mindless repetition. It becomes easier to let mistakes slide. When you can do it “good enough” on autopilot, you stop thinking about how to do it better.”

How do you escape mindless repetition?

James Clear (and other learning experts) suggest engaging in deliberate practice and learning.

Psychologists and researchers define this as the process of “articulating and codifying” your experiences and knowledge.

In other words, you reflect on what you’re doing and what you’ve learned.

Examples of this are journaling, teaching someone what you’ve learned, etc.

This will help you identify minor errors and opportunities for improvement.

Content Creation Mastery Requires A Nuanced Approach

On your journey towards creating quality content that your audience will love (and grow your business online), we need a nuanced approach.

In the beginning, you’ll want to engage in quantity, similar to the students in Jerry Uelsmann’s class that performed at a higher level.

This establishes a habit. And this is the foundation of mastering content marketing for your niche.

But once it’s a habit, the next important thing to do is to engage in deliberate practice and learning.

This ensures you avoid mindlessly creating content that doesn’t evolve with your audience or niche.

Over the long haul, this process will lead to content marketing that’ll grow your brand and help you become more profitable.

Your Next Step: Begin Your Content Creation Habit

When I do resistance training workouts, I ensure that I’m doing as many reps as possible while keeping perfect form.

In other words, I’m aiming to maximize reps without sacrificing the quality of movement.

Similarly, we’ll want to develop a content creation habit without sacrificing quality.

Step 1: Quality — Set Your Intention

So to begin, you’ll want to set your attention on producing quality content to build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you.

That’s your intention. Your North Star.

Let’s start with a couple of quality-focused questions:

  • What’s the purpose behind your content?
  • What are you ultimately trying to achieve?
  • What results are you aiming to deliver for your audience?

This is similar to a teacher asking themselves, “Did my students learn?”

Once this intention is set, it’s time to use quantity to develop a habit.

Step 2: Quantity — Develop A Content Creation Habit

To develop a habit, use these guiding questions to help:

  • With my current level of skill and resources, what content creation habit should I create?
  • What action steps or routines must you implement to achieve your content creation goals?

This requires you to be honest with yourself. We’re all at different levels of competency.

I’m not going to lie to myself and say that I can produce 5 long-form blog posts a week.

It’s unrealistic.

So instead, I’m focusing on one long-form piece of content a week and then smaller forms of content to fill in the gaps.

In the same way, you’ll want to develop a habit that makes sense for where you’re at.

If it’s one short-form piece of content a week, great!

One video? Awesome.

A couple of social media posts? Fantastic.

Step 3: Once The Habit Is Formed, Use Deliberate Practice

By this point, you’ll be clear on your content goals (the quality outputs) and a realistic habit for meeting these outputs.

Once this habit is formed, it’s time to taking your content to the next level.

You can achieve this by reflecting and tracking your progress. Over time, you’ll find opportunities for improvement.

For example, perhaps reflection leads you to notice your storytelling abilities are weak.

Once you’re aware of this, you can begin implementing more quantity to develop your storytelling (until this becomes a habit).

And the process repeats.

By developing a content creation habit, you’ll build the foundation for mastery.

And if you can master a content creation process that works for your niche, then you’ll find long-term growth and profitability.

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Does Your Content Struggle To Keep People’s Attention? Read This…

“Behind every piece of bad content is an executive who asked for it.”

— Michael Brenner

Do you struggle relating to others?

Last week I wrote an article on making compelling content without sacrificing your authenticity.

Among other things, it touched on this idea of being relatable and why it’s so important for your brand and audience-building.

During the process of writing it, I had a conversation with a couple of friends. I was sharing my content idea with them.

I made a couple of complaints about how tons of marketing messages press on people’s fears and insecurities, leaving them feeling discouraged.

I generally feel that great marketing is educational and helpful. And there’s lots of marketing out there that triggers people’s fears, making them easy to manipulate for sales conversions.

But one of my friends reminded me of an important marketing principle, “Meet your audience where they’re at… not where you want them to be.”

Behind this principle is a philosophy towards helping people through your business.

“Give them what they want, and then deliver what they need.”

To help someone, you need first to gain their trust and attention.

And this is why relatability is key.

And we do this by meeting people where they’re currently at.

For this reason… every marketing decision is an ethical dilemma. Gain their trust and attention to help them! 

If that’s not your intent, then I encourage you to stop reading here.

For those still with me, let’s continue.

The Current State Of The World: Where Are People At?

Consider the current state of the world. Where are people at?

How are they experiencing life?

What types of thoughts keep popping up?

What emotions are they grappling with?

What’s going on in their environment?

Avoid the temptation to see what YOU want to see. Try putting yourself in their shoes.

There’s lots of fear and frustration. And there are also desires, dreams, and aspirations that they hope will improve their current life situation.

When you’re aware of other people’s thoughts, emotions, and physical environment (and you relate to them at that level), you’re respecting them.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was “hearing” you but wasn’t “listening”?

Instead of trying to understand you, they were waiting for their turn to speak. Doesn’t feel good.

If you’re only sharing your perspective on what’s going on, then you’re not respecting their experience.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your perspective! It’s a critical component to creating great content.

But there’s power in attuning yourself to their perspective.

It shows a level of empathy that says, “Hey, I understand where you’re at. I get where you’re coming from.”

So besides being a good person, how does this help your business?

It builds a connection with the person consuming your content. And once this connection is made, you have their attention.

And with this attention, you can guide them towards solutions that’ll ultimately help them (and help your business grow as a byproduct).

By attuning yourself to their perspective, you can create a bridge that leads them towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

If they aren’t connecting with your content, they won’t feel like they can trust you over-time.

And this will encourage them to ignore your content in the future (unsubscribing, unfollowing, or ignoring you altogether).

This will prevent you from building an audience of true fans.

IF you want to build a successful business online, you’ll want a strong audience.

For the rest of this post, I’ll share why this is happening and how we can practically get other people’s attention (and keep it).

The Psychology Behind Why Relatability Is So Important

As humans, we have this psychological mechanism called the “reticular activating system.”

This is a network of neurons in the brainstem that filters and mediates your overall level of consciousness.

In other words, if we have a thought or belief, we’ll selectively focus our attention on things that align with it.

As your brain consumes data from the outside world, your RAS filters this information to align with your existing thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc.

Let’s say you’re driving an Acura as a rental car. Whenever you return it, you’ll likely be aware of more Acura’s while driving on the road.

They were always there. But now, your RAS is filtering data to focus on what’s most familiar and authentic to your experience.

We all do this as humans.

If you’re dealing with a specific fear or frustration, you’ll tend to focus on it (or aspects of it).

In terms of marketing, if you’re producing content on “achieving your fullest potential,” but your reader is just trying to survive and “make ends meet,”… then it may not connect with them.

Their RAS isn’t prioritizing how to reach their full potential. They want to survive right now.

And this is okay!

Again, it’s important to respect where somebody’s at and to speak to them at that level.

And understanding this idea of “selective focus” will help you better attune yourself to another person’s perspective (making your content more relatable).

Popular Models For Helping Your Content Be More Relatable

There are multiple models that we can use to help us better understand others. I’ll touch on a few.

These models are NOT meant to be taken dogmatically. No model is 100% correct.

However, these models definitely bring insight into helping you relate to others.

Discovering What “Level” Someone’s At

Maslow's Model and Marketing

So the most popular model that most people are familiar with is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The typical visual that you’ll see is a pyramid.

I’ll relate them to everyday needs as they connect to business and marketing.

Physiological: At the bottom, you have physiological and more survival-based needs. Nowadays, in developed countries, you’ll find people here struggling with their physical health.

Security: If you go up a little bit, you’ll have security and safety-based needs. A popular aspiration here is making more money or acquiring wealth.

Social: On the next level, you’ll have love, belonging, and community. Many businesses are serving people at this level by helping them with their relationships in all life domains (dating, marriage, etc.).

Self-Esteem: Then you have self-esteem and self-expression. Many people here are driven by mastering skills, creativity, and other aspects of life to improve their status in society. A key characteristic here is “self-expression,” so it’s likely you’ll find a hobbyist or someone interested in learning.

Self-Actualization: And then up at the top, you have self-actualization. This would be aspirations for “reaching one’s potential.”

Depending on where somebody is at in Maslow’s Hierarchy model, they’ll be selectively focusing on specific types of needs they want to solve.

If you’re talking to somebody who’s focusing on self-expression and creativity, then they may not resonate much with marketing that’s all about surviving and “making ends meet.”

They’re on a different level.

And as marketers, it’s our job to discover what level someone’s at (and relate to them at that level).

Discovering Audience Motives: Stick-Spanking Or Chasing Carrots

Another model that I habitually use is what Eben Pagan would call the “Achieve versus Avoid” model.

I picked this one up while I was going through his coaching program, and it’s handy when attuning yourself to someone else’s perspective.

It’s rooted in the traditional “carrot and stick” motivation model.

Imagine a donkey being motivated to move by either a carrot or a stick.

If you place a carrot in front of the donkey, it’ll be motivated to “move towards” it.

If it’s getting whacked with a stick, it’ll be motivated to “move away” from it.

Moving towards something is about achievement. Moving away from something is about avoidance.

So we can extrapolate this idea and use it for human motivation.

By simply asking someone what they want to achieve and avoid, you’ll gain some valuable insights into their perspective.

And with this perspective, we’re more equipped for being relatable. 

Achieve = wants and aspirations.

Avoid = fears and frustration.

Relatability Is HOW You Bridge The Gap (And Get Attention)

Relatability Brides the Gap

I believe you have a message that can help people.

You have the knowledge, experiences, and wisdom that people would find valuable.

Perhaps you have a unique method or approach. Maybe just an idea.

Or it could be an idea that’s been around for a while. But you have an interesting way of sharing it (because of your unique experiences).

I call this authenticity. It’s a message that only you can bring to the world.

But here’s the reality.

If you’re not relatable, people won’t pay attention.

We have to earn the right to be heard by respecting another person’s perspective.

Again, the essence of what we’re talking about here goes back to a fundamental marketing principle, “Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.”

So how do we put ourselves in a position where people will pay attention?

First, create relatable content. This is something that your audience cares about.

Use the models above to start with what motivates them.

What do they value? What do they want? What are their frustrations?

What level are they at?

Use a compelling story. Connect with them.

Relatability is how you bridge the gap between sharing what you love and getting it to resonate with someone else.

What’s the opposite and less effective approach to this?

It’s first focusing on creating an authentic piece of content, product, service, etc.

This is basically having a “build it, and they’ll come” mentality. It’s this idealistic notion that people have nothing better to do than to consume your stuff.

I wish this were true. But it tends to be unrealistic.

Once this “relatability bridge” is built, they can walk to the side of authenticity. Now you have a platform to share authentic content (because they’re paying attention).

A great example of someone doing this is my friend Matt.

He teaches people how to transform their life with personality typing, cognitive functions, and much more.

But many people aren’t aware of how his content will benefit them. And only a small percentage of people are directly searching for that kind of content.

But he’s found a way to be relatable. For example, check out this video.

He uses Superman to get people’s attention. This helps bridge the gap.

It keeps people’s attention. Now they’re walking over the bridge.

And now he has a platform to share more about what he’s passionate about. Upgrading your life with personality type.

It’s a creative way to make a challenging topic relatable to more people.

Earning The Right To Be Heard

Have you ever read a book and just couldn’t put it down?

What about consuming content from your favorite thought leader and your eyeballs stay glued to the screen?

Consider why this happens.

And resist the temptation to say something along the lines of, “Because it’s great content.”

Though this may be true, dive a bit deeper.

From my experience, those pieces of content are not only valuable, but they resonate with me.

The content creator has found a way to attune themselves to my perspective… at least a piece of it.

They’ve found a way to be relatable.

Think about your favorite content creators, movies, or books.

How are they relatable?

I’ve even bought books because I resonated with the marketing message (though its quality was questionable).

They were able to attune themselves to my perspective. And they did this for a whole group of people.

That’s incredible.

Imagine if you could do this with your content.

When someone opens up your email, they keep reading.

They click a link. And continue to gain value from your content.

The key is in earning the right to be heard.

And we can do this by attuning ourselves to their perspective.

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Easily Make Compelling Content Without Sacrificing Your Authenticity

How do you create content that’s both engaging and compelling?

Alex Lieberman is the co-founder & CEO of Morning Brew, a daily business newsletter that has over a million subscribers.

During his final years in college, he decided to help students in the business department prepare for job interviews.

He’d always ask them what they read to keep up-to-date in the business world.

They all had similar responses.  Usually, they read some “dry” business journals like the WSJ because there weren’t many alternative high-quality options.

And Alex noticed a pattern.

Realizing that a younger generation would appreciate business content delivered in a more relatable way, he began creating a newsletter to help inform business students at his college.

Word-of-mouth spread fast. One would think that he had a master plan for developing his subscription base.

Quite the opposite.

In fact, when sharing how his co-founder and himself built Morning Brew, he admitted, “We went into it so naive [because we were finance people]; we basically created a product that we thought we would love.”

I think this is an important lesson when building our audience and businesses.

Many times, we get stuck trying to create content that we think other people would love.  We focus on relatability.

Relatability is important. But it’s only part of the equation.

Authenticity is also wildly important. Because without it, your content will lack passion. It won’t be compelling.

And if you aren’t creating authentic content, then others will begin to notice. They’ll lose interest over time.

And honestly… you’ll probably lose interest too.

I’ve heard similar advice from Michael Simmons.

“Don’t write for your role models. Write for your younger self. Your younger self wants what you’ve figured out.”

From personal experience, the sweet spot is content that’s both authentic and relatable.

Are You Creating Robotic Content?

For the longest time, I focused on being more relatable and put less emphasis on authenticity.  

It was useful for awhile. Empathy grew and I gained a stronger ability to put myself in other peoples’ shoes.

But as I double-downed on relatability (and disregarded authenticity), my content was lacking power.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my buddy Matt. And I was sharing where I was in my life and business.

I was telling him how I felt that my content was too “cerebral.” I tend to go deep into concepts, ideas & models.

And in that moment, I realized a pattern in my content.

Other friends of mine have made similar comments without using the word “cerebral.” Some have said it’s a lot to process.

Others have mentioned that some of my content can be “intimidating” to consume.

All of this was amazing feedback.

My lack of authenticity actually made my content less relatable.

I was trying to relate by directly explaining concepts and ideas. It was missing life!

Missing authenticity will impact your content in a myriad of different ways.

For me, this created very cerebral content. Sometimes even “lifeless” or robotic.

Looking back, I was a bit afraid to share personal stories and different beliefs, as they may have been unrelatable to certain people.

But I’ve learned that the most powerful content comes from a place of authenticity.  It’s what creates a connection with your community.

It’s how they begin to know, like, and trust you (key ingredients for building a brand and audience).

However, I want to mention that some people take this idea of authenticity too far. 

They use this idea of authenticity to disregard other people.  

“I feel like jumping on my desk at work and kicking all these important documents onto the floor.  It’s how I authentically feel!” 

This is authenticity taken to the extreme. Don’t disregard your audiences’ perspective.  It’s important to create authentic content that’s packaged in a relatable way.

Being Authentic And Delivering Content In A Relatable Way

Balance Your Content

I’ve been a student of content creators for some time. 

Not only do I enjoy consuming amazing content, but I love studying why their content is great.

I’ve noticed that it’s a combination of authenticity and relatability.  They’re not afraid to share their passions and stories about their life.

And they package it in a powerful, relatable way.  There’s usually a direct benefit for your life.

Who’s one of your favorite content creators? Do they have a good balance between the two?

A Common Block When Creating Engaging Content

Once you understand how content is fundamental to your online business success, you’ll begin asking the following questions:

  • What kind of content should I focus on? 
  • Should I create content that I’m purely passionate about? 
  • Or should I focus on helping others? Answering their questions. Solving their wants & needs.

I think a common trap is falling into black and white thinking… when you focus on either extreme and ignore nuance & balance.

Imagine a traditional weight scale.  There’s a fulcrum with a beam positioned on the top of it.  

On each side of the beam, you have strings or chains that attach to a plate.  

If you put too much weight on either plate, then one side will fall.

Balancing between authenticity and relatability is key.  This is how you create compelling and engaging content for your audience.

What Happens When You Refuse To Balance The “Content Scale”? 

Emphasizing any extreme is less effective than creating content that integrates the balance between the two.

You have a couple of scenarios.

Let’s say you just want to create content that you’re interested in. It’s all about you and your passions.  

If you don’t consider the relatability of it, then it’ll have fewer chances of connecting with an audience. This is detrimental to business success.

But on the flip side, if you’re creating content that only focuses on relatability, it’s going to lack power. It may come off “robotic.”

Let’s say you have a list of 20 or 30 questions that your audience has around a given topic.  But you aren’t interested in these ideas AT ALL. They don’t resonate.

If you only create this kind of content, you’re in danger of falling into the “people-pleaser” category.  

I’m not saying you shouldn’t answer your audience’s questions.  And I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on their problems.  

But there’s a fine line between creating relatable content versus being a lifeless content creator who only creates for validation.  Be careful not to fall into the latter.

Focusing on the extreme side of relatability may give you some results in the short-term.  But long-term, it’ll be hard to build a community of raving fans.  

The reason why is because building a strong bond with an audience is contingent on your level of authenticity.  

Your delivery. Charisma. Stories. Personality. 

Without this, they won’t get to know you.  

If they don’t know you, it’s hard to like you.

And if they don’t know or like you, then you won’t gain their trust.

Trust is how you build your brand and audience.

Going back to Alex Lieberman and Morning Brew, focusing on relatability (and disregarding authenticity) is kind of like reading a dry business journal.  

It’s useful. It’s valuable.  And it may get some readership for a specific niche of people who’ve already built a habit around reading it.  

But it’ll have a harder time building a strong connection with a community.

This is the genius behind Morning Brew.  The content is essentially the same as a dry business journal.  But it includes storytelling. Maybe some humor. And casual language.  

There’s a reason why their newsletter grew to over a million subscribers in just a few years.

If you boil this blog post down to its essence, what I’m ultimately saying is that engaging and compelling content comes from creating relatable content without sacrificing your authenticity.

So let me define both authenticity and relatability. This’ll empower you to start creating content that your audience will love.

Sharing Authentic Content

When I refer to authentic content, I’m talking about content that resonates with you.

It’s content that’s based on your current beliefs towards a topic and your personal experiences. 

It’s honest. And it could often reveal something vulnerable. 

It’s the process of making what’s inside of you transparent to the world.

As you can imagine, this is challenging for most people. Vulnerability is not an easy task.

But as someone once told me, it’s the future of business.

Let’s imagine you’re creating content on the vegan diet.

You’re sharing how it’s the best diet ever.  It’ll help you get in shape. Its great for your immune system. Etc.

But in reality, let’s say you’ve never tried the vegan diet.  And perhaps you secretly don’t believe it’s the best diet in the world.  

If this is the case, then you’re being inauthentic. 

You’re not being transparent with your content.

But if you truly loved the vegan diet and all the health benefits it brings, then you’re being more authentic.  

Your audience is smart. They’ll be able to detect inauthenticity.

And this is important because if you really want to build a tribe or community, then this is what draws people to you like a magnet.  

The process of being transparent will allow your audience to know, like & trust you.

At the end of the day, your content is meant to speak to other humans. We’re meant to build relationships.  And being inauthentic is going to hold you back from being able to build that strong relationship and connection with your audience.

Build Connection With Relatable Content

So what makes content relatable?

At the root, it’s about connection and empathy.

It’s content that your audience would find helpful and valuable.

It’s being able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and seeing their partial point-of-view.  It’s understanding their “map of reality” and where they’re coming from.

What do they want to achieve? And what they want to avoid?

So going back to the example above, let’s assume that no one in my audience actually cares about the vegan diet.  

Sure, nobody may hate it.  But imagine if I began ranting about the vegan diet and all its benefits. 

I’m guessing you didn’t come here for that.

No one is reading my content to gain insights into the vegan lifestyle.

An analogy, metaphor, or other creative storytelling devices could be relevant, but only if it aligns with the main topic (like I’m doing right now).

If no one cares, then it’s not relatable.  

If no one in my audience sees how the vegan diet can be used as a vehicle to accomplish their goals (or avoid pain), then it’s not relatable.

If I was passionate about this subject, then I’d need to find an audience who cares.

If it’s not relatable, then it reveals that you’re not attuned or tapped into another person’s reality and what they value. 

This is an important idea because the way to be successful in business is to understand how to create value for other people.

And being able to create value is contingent on being attuned to another person’s perspective. Empathy.

Checklist For Creating Engaging And Compelling Content

So how do we create content that’s both authentic and relatable? 

Once you have an idea for your next piece of content, I’d recommend using the following checklist.

Here are 5 guiding questions that’ll help you create compelling and engaging content:

  • Is this content idea something that you’re personally interested in?

It doesn’t have to be your life purpose or mission.  But you’ll want to at least be interested in the topic.  If you don’t care about it, then why should your audience? 

  • If you were writing this for your younger self, would they find it helpful?
  • How would your younger self find this helpful?
  • When would your younger self find this helpful?

These three questions will allow you to drill down on authenticity.  It’s largely rooted in your personal experiences and something you’ve personally found useful in your life.  

And finally, let’s look at building connection.

  • Is this content idea relatable to your audience?  Does this help them achieve what they want? Does it help them avoid what they don’t want? 

Feel free to use these questions as a checklist when you want to make sure your content is both engaging and compelling.

Building A Community Of True Fans

Imagine you were creating compelling and engaging content consistently.  

Your content was both authentic and relatable. And every week, you’d share tons of value with your audience.

And they found it so interesting and valuable that they ended up sharing it with other people.

They keep recommending it to their friends.  And their friends keep sharing it with their friends.

Over time, you build a community of people who love your stuff. They’ve gotten to know, like, and trust you.

True fans.

How would that impact your business?

How would that change your life?

How would it impact the lives of others?

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How To Make Valuable Content Without Being The “Industry Leader”

I’ll give you the biggest tip when it comes to content creation: Document. Don’t create.

– Gary V.

Ever feel like, “Who am I to share this piece of content?”

It’s interesting. We have this notion that we need to be at the top to create valuable content.

When starting my entrepreneurial journey, I’d cringe before pushing the submit button.

I felt like I was bragging and trying to give advice when I haven’t earned people’s attention.

Trying to position yourself as the top leader in your field may feel inauthentic… especially if you’re just beginning to climb the mountain.

It’s true. You may not be the top leader in your industry. 

But who cares? We all start somewhere.

I’ve learned that great content is in the delivery.

How are you positioning yourself as a leader?

  • Are you an authoritative leader that has all the answers?
  • Or are you a collaborative leader that brings your audience on a journey with you?

From my experience, documenting your process is more valuable than trying to showcase that you’re the best.

I’ve found that my content gets better engagement when I document in this way.

In the words of Gary V.:

“Documenting your journey versus creating an image of yourself is the difference between saying “You should…” versus “my intuition says…”. Get it? It changes everything. I believe that the people who are willing to discuss their journeys instead of trying to front themselves as the ‘next big thing’ are going to win.”

It’s not helpful to compare yourself to others (and then condemn yourself for where you’re at in your process).

Quite the opposite.

Accept where you’re at in the process towards your goals. Document. And make it transparent to your audience.

And you’ll notice that you’ll:

  • Gain more attention and momentum
  • Create more compelling content
  • Be more relatable

Documenting gets you out of this “imposter syndrome” paradigm. You’re no longer judging yourself for where you’re at.

You embrace it.

This gives your content more power and charisma because now you’re confident about your process.

What kind of leader does your content portray to your audience?

I Wish My Younger Self Knew This…

Right before quarantine lock-downs started, I was in LA for a business coaching event.

I expected to get the most value from the conference itself. But oddly enough, I didn’t…

The night before the event started, there was a business mixer to network and meet new people.

And I ended up meeting a very interesting woman.

She was a guest of someone attending the event and we chatted for at least an hour.

Professionally, she had done well for herself. And I could tell she was an affluent woman.

After talking for a bit, she says:

“You’re being fake right now.”

It caught me off guard.

At first, it was a punch to my ego.

“What do you mean I’m being fake??”

But since I was there to grow and didn’t want to come off as defensive, I tried being open-minded to what she had to say next.

She continued sharing that the future leaders of organizations aren’t going to be these stone-walled, stoic individuals. Those are the old days of business.

And then she said something that has stuck with me since:

“The leaders of the future will be individuals who can be transparent and vulnerable.”

As 2020 has carried on… I’ve slowly started to understand what she meant.

She wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings. She was being brutally honest with me. And looking back, I’m very grateful for it.

You see, I was putting on a front at that event. I was excited and nervous all at the same time (and probably a bit intimidated).

So I tried to conceal these feelings.

And as a result, I tried putting up a front and became inauthentic.

Many Of Us Do This With Our Content And Marketing

We put on a front because we think it’s what our audience wants to see (or we’re afraid of being vulnerable).

But this results in content that’s inauthentic. There’s a better way.

Yes, we should create content that our audience finds valuable.

But this should NOT be at the expense of being inauthentic.

Being A Self-Aware Role Model

How do children learn and develop?

If you observe them, you’ll notice that they observe others.

And if consistently exposed to a set of behaviors, there’s a high probability that a child will adopt these behaviors.

There are interesting theories that explain this, such as the discovery of mirror neurons.

But this idea has been shared within entrepreneurial circles for years.   You’ve probably heard the Jim Rohn quote, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

But given the nature of social networks, you’re influenced by much more than these five people.

Learning by modeling others doesn’t stop when we become adults. This is why people join masterminds, get coaches, expand their network, etc.

Perhaps you’ve benefited from adding a new relationship into your life.

I Once Heard Eben Pagan Talk About This Idea Of Being A “Self-Aware Role Model.”

The basic idea is that your life becomes your marketing.

In essence, you ask the question: “Who do I need to become so that my ideal customers are drawn to me?”

Rather than try to put on a front, you ARE that person. No need to “fake it until you make it.”

And here’s the key.

You make this transparent through your content and marketing.

This creates authenticity.

A common objection to this is, “But what if I haven’t become that person yet?”

This goes back to Gary Vaynerchuck’s recommendation for creating content: document your process.

By sharing your insights and learnings within YOUR process, you can create true fans for the long term.

Sharing your process is valuable.

This is an effective strategy when you’re not the leader in your given industry. And even if you were, you’d still benefit from this approach. 

I mean, look at Gary V.  He’s at the top and swears by this method.

You don’t need to be Tony Robbins, Amy Porterfield, Tai Lopez, or anyone else who you perceive as being near the “top” in your niche.

But similar to what that affluent woman shared with me: This approach requires vulnerability and honesty about where you’re at in your process.

Putting on a front may bring some people into your funnel, but it’s short-term thinking.

What happens when you can’t keep up that front?

And from my experience, it’s way less fulfilling and motivating.

How can you start becoming a self-aware role model through your content?

Rocketship Content: Are You Going Places?

So how can we begin creating content that’s authentic and valuable even if you’re not the industry leader?

We’ve all seen content that makes us cringe.  Perhaps it’s the person on your feed who’s always sharing motivational quotes about “hustling.”  

Or perhaps it’s the person that’s talking about the same health shake or nutritional product (making it clear that they’re an affiliate for the business).

If this is you, I don’t mean to be harsh.  

You might need to hear this message more than anything else right now.

What makes this type of content different from authentic content that documents your process?

The answer is found in the following question:

Are you a rocketship or driftwood?

A rocketship has a clear purpose and is embarking on an ambitious endeavor. Maybe it’s going to the moon.  But it may not be on the moon yet.

If it’s moving “in-process” towards the moon, then it’s good enough.

Now driftwood has opposite characteristics.  It floats around and doesn’t go anywhere. It’s stagnant.

So if you’re a rocketship, you have a clear vision and purpose.  You’re ambitious.

If you’re driftwood, perhaps you’re stagnant.  You’d lack a vision and may find yourself creating content that you think your audience wants without aligning it to your goals.

The distinction between the two is that being a “rocketship” implies that you have a higher purpose for your content.  

And notice earlier how I said, “it may not be on the moon yet.”

You don’t need to be the top industry leader to create valuable content.

Once you’re clear on your vision for your content, the next step is to begin moving towards that goal.

Now you’re on your mission.

And finally, all you need to do is make this process transparent to your audience by documenting it.  That’s your marketing.

You don’t need to be on the moon to have valuable content to share.

What If You Had A Catalog Of Valuable Content?

Imagine Steve Jobs documented his journey.  Yes, you can read his story or watch a movie about his life.

But imagine he personally documented more of his journey.

More of the ups. The downs.  The triumphs. The losses.  And the lessons and insights learned through all of it.

How cool would it be to consume that content? To see his development and process.

Here’s the thing…

That’s who you could be.

You may not be where you want to be right now.

But imagine when you get there and have this catalog of awesome content.

And as you pick up momentum, you’ll begin gathering tiny wins and successes.

Allow your audience to experience your story.

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Becoming A Versatile Content Creator (Avoid This Common Approach)

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

-Winston S. Churchill

Why do most content strategies fail for online business growth?

I was on a group coaching call with a handful of entrepreneurs.

Someone was sharing how they were afraid to choose the wrong niche. They didn’t want to make a “bad” decision.

They didn’t want to be 5, 10, or 15 years in the future and regret it.

From their perspective, the decision they made now would be judged by their future self as either “good” or “bad.” What they did in the present would define them in the future.

We all do this, right?

Sometimes we feel paralyzed to act RIGHT NOW because… what if it’s the wrong decision?

When we approach our niche and content from this perspective, then we’re treating it like a product.

I’m defining “product” in more general terms here.

In this case, I’m talking about a “non-living” thing with fixed attributes that don’t change over-time.

By this definition, a bicycle would be considered a product. It’s a non-living thing. It has fixed attributes that solve a specific problem (two-wheeled transportation).

But your niche and content aren’t products. They’re a process.

The deeper and deeper we dive into any given topic or niche, our ideas will evolve along with it. This makes it a living thing and an ongoing process.

Most content strategies fail for online growth because they’re treated as products.

It’s approached as if there’s a “final solution.” As if all your content challenges converge into one solution that’ll solve all your needs.

But if we treat content this way, then we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

I’m going to share two types of problem-solving approaches that people take towards their content.

And I’ll be sharing how one of these approaches will ruin your content creation process.

Two Problem-Solving Approaches For Content

E.F. Schumacher wrote an interesting book called “A Guide For The Perplexed.”

And in it, he shares that in the grand scheme of things… they’re only two types of problems in the world:

  1. Convergent problems
  2. Divergent problems

Let’s define both, then talk about how they relate to content creation.

Convergent Problems

Convergent problems “must be solved” AND “can be solved”.

The example I used earlier is a bicycle.

When trying to solve the problem of two-wheeled transportation… you have a handful of choices. And you can eventually “converge” that problem into a final solution.

In the words of Schumacher:

“With a convergent problem, as we said, the answers suggested for its solution tend to converge, to become increasingly precise, until finally they can be written down in the form of an instruction.

Once the answer has been found, the problem ceases to be interesting: A solved problem is a dead problem. To make use of the solution does not require any higher faculties or abilities — the challenge is gone, the work is done.”

But not every problem “must be solved.”

It’s impossible to fully solve some challenges. At least not in the way you think.

Divergent Problems

Then we have divergent problems.

This type of problem has no “final solution.” It doesn’t converge into a single resolution.

These types of problems diverge. Multiple solutions become available, and you’re left with figuring out which path to choose.

Schumacher uses the educational system as an example.

What’s the best approach for helping people learn??

Of course, you’ll have your own opinion on how education should be. But others will have different opinions based on their partial point-of-view.

There’s no precise answer. Just the best possible choice based on our partial perspective.

And in theory, there’s always a “better” choice. We can’t converge the issues of education into a single solution.

And since divergent problems create “choice potential” at any given moment… it becomes a process (not a product).

Characteristics Of Both Convergent & Divergent Problems

problem solving content creation

Convergent problems are “non-living” things and make up simpler systems. Divergent problems are “living” things that result in complex systems.

Convergent problems can be solved and result in a final product. Whereas divergent problems have no final solution… but multiple pathways that lead to more-or-less fulfilling outcomes (making it a process).

Since divergent problems are living systems, they usually occur when you’re dealing with interpersonal relationships.

If it involves another person other than you… then it’s most likely divergent.

This happens because systems become increasingly complex once people start engaging with it.

To make my point, do you consider your relationships a “product” or a “process?”

Are your relationships fixed? Or are they dynamic?

Do they stay the same? Or do they evolve over-time?

Content Creation & Divergent Problem-Solving

As you may have guessed, content creation is a divergent problem.

Treating your content creation as a “fixed product” that converges into a single solution will weigh down your business.

The purpose of content is to share it with others to develop and grow a relationship.

But there is no “precise solution” for accomplishing this.

Why? Because it’s a process.

Your choice potential is endless. You can create content on many different topics that target different audiences.

The key is in discovering the best type of content that resonates with a specific type of audience. And even if you figure that out, it’ll still evolve (as is the case for any complex system).

There’s no right or wrong. Just potential choices that create more-or-less fulfilling outcomes over time.

The only way to “solve” a divergent problem is by becoming more versatile. This’ll improve your capacity to make better choices depending on the context.

As a side note, this is the whole purpose of expanding your vocabulary.

It gives you the ability to use more effective communication regardless of the context.

You can resonate with people who use more “sophisticated” words. Or you can resonate with people who don’t use jargon and want simple explanations.

Your vocabulary becomes versatile.

Here’s another analogy of why it’s important to expand your versatility.

A Key Characteristic Of Top Athletes: Expanding Your Capacity To Choose

Let’s use sports as an example.

Back in High School, I played lacrosse. And I would watch videos on how to improve my skills (so that I could use them in a game situation).

If I studied one move and tried to use ONLY THAT ONE MOVE in a game situation, do you think I’d perform well?

What if I executed that move perfectly?

I mean, it might work in some situations. But overall, I wouldn’t be effective.

And here’s why.

During the “process” of the game, there’s a large number of choices I can make. And that one move is just ONE CHOICE.

When you add multiple people (teammates and opponents), you’ll want a wide range of choices at your disposal.

Different moves. Techniques. And styles of playing.

Great sports players are said to be versatile because they have a wide arsenal of choices they can make. And given any specific situation in a game, they can make a dynamic choice to create the best possible outcome.

Becoming A Versatile Content Creator Will Lead To Business Growth

As I mentioned, content is a divergent problem.

And the best way to navigate this type of problem is by becoming versatile.

In content creation, this is a matter of producing tons of content.

Watch the feedback. Iterate. And repeat.

That’ll give you lots of reference experiences. And with it, various content choices that you can execute.

And over-time, you’ll gain a nuanced understanding on:

  1. What type of content to publish
  2. How to best deliver it

You’ll start seeing patterns for what your audience loves.

And with this information, you‘ll be able to create content that resonates with your audience and grow your business online.

How can you start becoming a versatile content creator?

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