The Surprising Effectiveness of Bad Content
Imagine you’re dealing with a specific problem in your house, and you need someone to fix it. You need new countertops. Your shower is leaking. Maybe it’s time to replace a major appliance.
Whatever the problem, you—the customer—have a specific need to be filled. Either you’re going to look for someone to take care of it for you, or you’re going figure out how to do it yourself.
So where do you start?
My guess is you head to Google, where you’re either searching for “company that does X in my neighborhood” or “how to do X.” And, with 9.9 million business in the US, there’s bound to be enough for you to choose from to get the job done.
But for you—the business owner—that makes for some serious competition.
So, switch mindsets for a second and imagine you are the company that makes and installs countertops, fixes leaking showers, or replaces major appliances. How do you get that potential customer to pay attention to you considering all their other options?
You put out content—yes, even if it’s bad—that’s focused on how best to help people looking to solve a problem you’re an expert in.
Disrupt, or Be Disrupted
There are millions of distractions out there. Seriously, you can get on your phone to intentionally look something up and end up watching cat videos for hours—before you realize you’ve forgotten why you got on your phone in the first place.
As of May 2019, 500 hours of video are added to YouTube every minute. As of October 2019, 6,000 tweets are sent every second. As of January 2019, there are 600 million blogs on the internet.
That’s a lot of content. You’ll never be able to consume it all.
Content is key to connecting with customers. If none of it is yours, directly helping your potential customers find you, they’ll find your competitors instead.
Don’t let that get you down. Instead, do something about it. Sit down and get shit done. Remember, if you treat your customer like a human being, your content—however bad—will still be found, helpful, and fulfill a specific purpose in your business funnel.
How To Be Found
No one is searching for you directly. How can they when they don’t even know you exist?
Instead, they’re searching for, “How can I fix my leaky faucet?” or asking their neighbors for recommendations of companies that install countertops.
So how can you get them to move from ignorance (not knowing about you) to knowledge? How can you set them on the path to hiring you, purchasing from you, or recommending you to someone else based on a positive experience? How can you help them start the journey that may or may not result in a direct sale, but could later on?
The short answer is to figure out what your customer needs (i.e. what are they searching for on Google that you can do for them). Once you have an idea (or a dozen), create content around that topic so that they find you easily and trust that you know what you’re talking about. Then wrap it up with a nice CTA bow that leaves them feeling great about the experience.
None of that has to do with a sparkly website, by the way.
It has everything to do with using your content (again, however bad) to treat your customers like the heroes of their own stories they believe themselves to be. Because let’s be honest: we all like to be treated like heroes, and we’re more likely to work with people who get that.
You Must Start Somewhere
No one is perfect at something the first time they do it. Even Mozart.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought Mozart was born playing symphonies. But, actually, that’s far from the truth. According to research by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, Mozart used deliberate practice to become an expert. He wasn’t writing sonatas in a diaper. He had to work for it, just like you and me.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Steve, that’s Mozart. This is me we’re talking about. I’m a (insert-job-title-here), not a writer.”
I get it. I know you feel like you have to be perfect at writing or designing or video producing to create content. Why? Because when we put ourselves out there, when we show our flawed attempts at writing or video production to promote our businesses, it’s intimidating. We compare ourselves to those who have been writing or creating videos for decades. And we think our meager attempts aren’t good enough.
But here’s the thing. What you see as “not good enough,” customers see as “exactly what I needed.” We forget that our customers want the answers to specific problems, that they’re more likely to care about getting the answer than the quality of the videos or blog posts that give it to them.
There’s a quote in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that resonates with this idea: “‘But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?’ Yes…the same age you will be if you don’t. So let’s start.”
The only thing standing between you and good content is the willingness to produce bad content along the way, or rather, the time it takes to learn how to improve upon your bad content. If you don’t start, you’ll never get where you want to go.
Remember: everyone starts somewhere. Even lil’ baby Mozart.
Being Bad Helps You Get Good (Eventually)
So where do you start? I’d start with a blog. Writing a blog post every week gets you in the habit of writing. It takes 66 days, or more than two months, to ingrain a habit. Until that time, we must make a conscious effort to actually do what we say we want to.
“Practice makes perfect” may be a cliché, but it’s built on a specific principle that you have to practice in order to get better. Many people want to practice in the dark and release only their perfected content, but that’s merely putting time between you and your first sale.
How long can your business last before you’ve made any money? My guess is around five years, given that half of all businesses fail after that time.
Not only that, but your competitors are using that same time to connect with your potential customers. They don’t fear looking dumb or making a mistake and neither should you.
It’s called a Minimum Viable Product for a reason.
So don’t let your fear of failure keep you from reaching success. You’ll get better over time. And your customers will help you shape that product during the process of learning to make it better. If you keep your struggle in the dark, you’re less likely to do the work and more likely to create content that doesn’t resonate no matter how pretty it looks.
The point is that you have to give people searching for you something to find. They won’t care how bad it is if it solves their problem and treats them like a human in the process.
The Benefits of Being Vulnerable
There’s value in showing up on the page/screen/podcast. Even if it’s not perfect. Especially when it’s not perfect.
Not only does bad content help people find you (which, they’re trying to do every day), but because, when you mess something up, or write poorly, or create a low-quality video, that proves you’re human. In many industries, being human endears your customers to you. It makes you seem approachable.
Your goal is to connect to human beings (even if you’re B2B, humans still run those businesses, right?). What better way to do that then as a human yourself?
So get off your butt and get started. Create content that helps them solve their problems. Even if it’s “bad” (and we didn’t even get into the subjective definition of what’s bad and how we’re more critical of ourselves than of others), your customers still want to find you. They need your help to solve their problems, be it a leaking shower or something entirely different.
Your content won’t be bad forever—unless you keep putting it off.
If you’re completely lost or overwhelmed about how to get started, let’s talk. I’ll get to know your business and help you create a content marketing strategy that will resonate with customers—without adding extra stress to your overloaded plate.