Where to begin?
Starting a blog post could be a drag, even for experienced writers.
I have written articles for clients in many different industries (and have to make data analytics and the likes sound as captivating as Game of Thrones.)
Staring at a title or a bunch of keywords won’t get you very far.
To get the gears turning, I ask my clients a series of questions to understand what they want to communicate.
You don’t have to put the answers word-for-word into your blog posts.
They’re designed to help you articulate why you’re writing what you’re writing and why your readers should read your stuff:
(I’ve got a secret weapon question for you at the end.)
1. What are the challenges the ideal audience faces in terms of [ topic/keyword ]?
You have chosen to write about a topic. What aspects of it are relevant to your readers?
Now make it real. Tell a story. What are some real-life scenarios your readers get into when they face the challenges?
How do they talk about it?
So often I see experts “editorializing” the problems – mincing words, using jargon.
So much so that the audience doesn’t even recognize that it’s the problem they’re facing.
As a result, the content just gets ignored because they don’t see the reason for reading it.
2. What desired outcomes are these challenges preventing them from achieving?
It’s not Sudoku time. Your readers aren’t solving their problem for the fun of it.
They want to achieve something. What’s that?
3. What solutions have the audience tried and why didn’t they work?
This question can help you figure out why you’re different.
If you dish out the same old same old you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Your readers’ have tried some solutions and they didn’t work (otherwise they won’t have the problem anymore and won’t be reading your post.)
They’re frustrated. They want to know you aren’t giving them the same stuff that didn’t work for them.
In fact, you can dig into why other solutions don’t work – there’s a treasure trove in there.
Maybe they’re looking at the issue all wrong. Maybe they’re missing a key piece of the puzzle.
Rant on… you may find the point-of-view that is your unique selling proposition.
4. Do they have any misconception that prevents them from achieving the results they want?
Another treasure trove of ideas can come out of this question.
You have to put your readers on the same wavelength before they can be receptive to your ideas.
Is their mental model (how they see the world) allowing them to see why your solution will work for them?
If there’s a knowledge gap between where they’re at and where they need to be in order to grasp the value of your solution, you have to bridge that gap before anything else can happen.
5. What do they want to see happen instead?
Now make it real.
Don’t give me broad-stroke or vague descriptions like “living to their fullest potential.”
What would they think, how would they feel, and what would they do when they’re “living to their fullest potential?”
You don’t know your audience until you can paint that picture for them.
Then they’re yours when you can articulate it better than they do.
6. How does your solution help resolve their challenges so they can achieve the desired outcome?
Simply put, why should they care about what you have to say?
“I don’t care about your solution. I care how your solution addresses my problems and challenges.”
It may be clear as day to you but do us all a favor – don’t make your readers work for it.
If you start with talking about their challenges then close the loop by giving a (re)solution to each.
I don’t like cliffhangers.
7. Do you have stories, stats, and examples?
Show, don’t tell.
Ground your content. Make it real.
Jon Snow can talk about White Walkers all day long but it wasn’t until Dragon Mama saw them with her own eyes was she completely on board with sending troops.
(SHE’S HIS AUNT!!!! OH NOOOO!)
8. What’s the call-to-action?
“I dig your stuff, where do I go from here?”
If you’re using a piece of content to market a specific product or program, you may want to determine the CTA first and reverse engineer the content to make sure it flows smoothly.
Otherwise, you can let it flow and see where it takes you. Personally, I prefer something more organic.
Now, the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:
I don’t dole this one out for my corporate clients but it’s critical if you’re the face and voice of your business:
Why do YOU care?
Why do you care about this topic, this audience, and creating a solution for this audience?
Not like you have to write a dissertation to answer this question but if you have clarity on this all your contents will be much more focused.
The golden thread will appear even if you write about vastly different topics.
The answer will put you on the side of your audience.
And the energy behind the words will make your content relatable and convincing.
Here’s the good news.
There’s no right or wrong answer and nobody is grading you.
You just have to be honest with yourself so whatever you write has the right energy to it.
When you go through this exercise a few times you’ll internalize the process so it’s not as clunky as it seems.
Still confounded by this content marketing and blogging business?
Fret not. I’ll write the damn thing for you.
Ling Wong :: Intuitive Brainiac | Creativity Mentor | Copywriting Alchemist. Author of Copywriting Alchemy: Secrets to Turning a Powerful Personal Brand Into Content that Sells.
Through her unique blend of marketing coaching, Content Experience Design and copywriting process, she helps the maverick-preneurs uncover, articulate & transform their WHY into content that connects, resonates and converts — by way of an intuitive yet rigorous iterative process born out of her Harvard Design School training and 15 years experience in the online marketing industry.
Ling is Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, and Email Marketing certified. Through her writing engagements with various SaaS and marketing companies with the goals of driving organic traffic, building readership and increasing conversion, she’s well-versed in topics including online marketing, content marketing, eCommerce, conversion, UX, social media marketing, and more.
She helps coaches, consultants, service professionals, solopreneurs and small businesses apply these best practices to their specific business models and circumstances.
Ling is an avid cyclist with OCD (obsessive climbing disorder,) runner and chocoholic.
Access her Content Marketing in Plain English webinar series here.