For talented content marketing teams, churning out great content isn’t hard. Creating something that’s interesting and informative and worthy of consumption is the easy part.
The hard part – the one that differentiates truly effective content marketers – is harnessing that pivotal ability to move, to persuade, to inspire action. We all know content marketing to be a long game, which involves building an audience, developing trust, and empowering customers to reach the right decisions on their own. But it’s in that final step where the true business impact of content marketing is seen, or (too often) unseen.
If we can’t articulate our solution and the problem it solves, in a relatable and resonant way, we fail. The bottom line is the bottom line. This crucial linchpin of the content marketing machine deserves deep and continual reflection from those of us in the field, and so we felt it was worth revisiting a particular metaphor laid out by Jay Acunzo in the final episode of our BIG Simple webinar series.
The “Green Smoothie Problem” is very instructive when it comes to communicating empathetically and influentially.
What Is the Green Smoothie Problem?
I recommend watching the short video snippet below, excerpted from Episode 4 of The BIG Simple with special guest Michael Brenner, to get the full picture from Acunzo:
To recap, here’s the premise…
Acunzo summarizes the Green Smoothie Problem succinctly: “We share our ideas. And they don’t care.”
This is where the smoothie metaphor comes into play: If you were to offer someone this strange-looking green drink, and they’ve never had one before, they will likely either anchor their initial assessment to preconceived notions (i.e., “That looks like one of those wheatgrass drinks, ew” or “That looks like my kid’s sugary green juice”) or they’ll look for external affirmation.
Neither of these outcomes are necessarily beneficial for content marketers. If you want to change someone’s perspective, and move them toward your solution, you don’t want them falling back on the same mental shortcuts that have prevented them from doing so in the past. (After all, if their preconceived notions and external influences are guiding them toward your company, they’d probably already be a customer.)
So how can we alter the framework of an argument to make it more impactful?
Eliminating the Information Disadvantage
There’s a reason the lede (intro/opening) is considered the most vital part of a content piece. Given the level of competition for attention today, if you can’t catch someone right away, you’ll lose them.
The same is true of pitching products, and that’s why the “me first” approach, leading with your solution, is often misguided and ineffective. When doing this, we tend to make assumptions that create an “information disadvantage,” wherein there lies a disconnect between the way we present information and the way it’s understood.
This brings us back to the fundamental crux of Brenner’s talk on the webinar episode: Don’t sell your ideas; sell why your ideas should exist. Or, in the scope of this discussion, sell why your product or solution exists.
When we’re trying to to connect our solutions to the problems and pains they address, we’re not always (or even usually) best served by working backwards. Instead, content marketers should be seeking to walk a listener/reader/viewer through the journey from their current state to their desired state, through their own lens. If you’ve done the necessarily groundwork to truly understand your audience, this kind of empathy should start to come naturally.
So in the Green Smoothie scenario, Acunzo offers an alternative to, “Here’s a green smoothie, wanna try it?” Instead he acknowledges something about the audience’s desire (“You mentioned last week you wanted to eat healthier”) and their pain point (“You also said health drinks tend to be gross”), then lays out the ingredients in the smoothie, with specific detail around why they’re all included. Finally, he ties it to their specific situation (“We have a blender down the hall so this is really easy to make”). Only THEN does he suggest trying the green smoothie.
At this point, Acunzo contends, the person on the other end will have one of two reactions:
1) They’ll drink the smoothie, OR
2) They’ll decline, but they will have a tangible, specific reason for doing so
If someone says they’re not interested in green smoothies, there’s not much else you can do to convince them. If someone says they’re just really not into kale, you can adapt your message, or tweak the offering for greater appeal.
Applying This Model to Your Content Calendar
How might we incorporate these principles operationally into our content strategy and day-to-day planning? In many ways, it’s just a matter of rethinking the way you structure and present persuasive content. But at a higher level, you might consider tailoring your editorial calendar to build up these kinds of narratives.
For instance, you could run a progressive series of blog posts clearly outlining the problems or challenges at play, and the circumstances of your audience, ultimately leading up to the unique and unmistakable ways in which your solution helps them solve it. (Not the way you solve it. You’re not the hero, they are. Always.)
You could also get more granular with audience segmentation, orienting specific content toward distinct subsets to address particular holds-ups or reservations. If you’re selling green smoothies, you might have one blog post aimed toward the kale-hating cohort, and another aimed toward people who perceive smoothie creation to be too time-consuming or inconvenient.
A Perfect Blend for Compelling Content
Executing a sophisticated, strategic content marketing plan like this can be difficult when you’re running a large team with multiple campaigns and initiatives in play. The content calendar within DivvyHQ makes it a lot easier by streamlining, organizing, and coordinating your efforts.
If you feel like your team isn’t producing excellent, impactful content with the desired efficiency, we’d love it if you gave us a shout. We’ll be happy to discuss your specific situations and needs, then figure out if DivvyHQ is the right fit.