Write how-to posts. But the audience for how-to posts is inherently different from the audience attracted to other kinds of posts. And they may or may not be the kind of people you want to attract. The problem happens when we have a mismatch between the content type, the audience it attracts, and the ideal customer for the business. So how did I manage to attract an audience and email list, the majority of whom were not interested in what I was selling? Should you write how-to posts? The case for why This isn’t to say you’re never going to write another how-to article, because that’s just not true. It also helps position the author (or brand) as an expert, with important knowledge and opinions to share. Rather than just following a trend or writing what comes most easily (and I’ve totally been guilty of that), you must start with your goals to create a content marketing strategy that actually works, and match the type of content with the audience you want to attract. Do you write how-to content for your business?
“Write what you know.”
It’s an old adage you’ve probably heard before. And many bloggers and content writers have taken it very much to heart — myself included — and interpreted that advice to mean, “Write how-to posts.”
I like to share what I know; I like to help people (and I like to be seen as the expert). So it’s no surprise that I’ve written a lot of how-to posts.
But relying on what I’m comfortable writing doesn’t always take the intended audience into account. And keeping the audience in mind for your content is vital, because getting it wrong can mean wasting a lot of time and attracting a lot of the wrong people.
The problem with how-to content
For a while, the prevailing wisdom in blogging-land seemed to center on being the expert; be useful and people will want to come to your site and read your content. And the best way to be useful? Write how-to posts.
In addition, a lot of hype in the last few years centered around creating “content upgrades”: mini lead magnets created for a specific piece of content that would drive email opt-ins. Naturally, this strategy lent itself to creating worksheets and guides — and those are easiest to produce with how-to content.
There was also a certain amount of advice that posts that answer specific questions (like “how to hang a picture frame”) would do well with search engines as long-tail SEO became more popular to target.
All of this is still true — to some extent.
But the audience for how-to posts is inherently different from the audience attracted to other kinds of posts. And they may or may not be the kind of people you want to attract.
How-to content attracts a very specific subset of any given audience: those who want to know how to do something. (Duh.)
Often these people are independent, born DIYers, who like to figure things out on their own.
And that’s awesome — if your ideal customer includes those people, and you have something to sell them.
The problem happens when we have a mismatch between the content type, the audience it attracts, and the ideal customer for the business.
Several years ago, when I decided to make the shift from focusing on selling products to selling services, I polled my audience to find out what percentage of the people on my email list were interested in products versus services.
The vast majority of my subscribers liked the many (MANY) do-it-yourself templates, worksheets, etc. I had been providing along with my how-to content. They said they wanted similar types of products. Only one percent of the respondents said they wanted strategy or writing services from us.
But the majority of what I wanted to sell — what I’ve always sold — is a service.
So how did I manage to attract an audience and email list, the majority of whom were not interested in what I was selling?
Pure talent, my friend. Pure. Talent.
Actually, it happened because I had focused solely on the metric of growing my email leads — and the how-to posts with content upgrades did that admirably. But I hadn’t considered what kind of audience I was attracting with that sort of content.
Were they interested in content marketing strategy? YES! Were they interested in hiring me to do it for them? NO.
And I’m not alone in this problem. As I’ve worked with lots…