You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed, and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
No, this is not going to be a post about what kind of bloggers Morpheus, Trinity and The Architect would be. That would be cute, but not terribly useful.
But I will use Neo, Agent Smith, Spoon Boy and Persephone as symbols of a different type of matrix. A matrix that allows you to see things for what they really are and become more effective.
I’m talking about the kind of communication matrix you build when you work with a pricy consulting firm. It’s abstract, but when you sit down to fill in the abstractions, you’ll find that this “30,000 foot view” helps keep you on track. It shows you exactly where to focus your attention to get the best payoff from the time and work you put into content marketing.
Before you can build your own matrix, you need to know two things: what you’re good at and what’s important to your customers. The best way to find both sets of answers is to ask your best current customers. Use an online survey, or just watch blog and forum comments coming from the people who are your biggest fans today. (Triple bonus points if those individuals currently buy something from you.)
Your matrix has four quadrants. Everything you do with your blog and your business goes into one of these sectors. To make them easy to remember, and to shamelessly exploit a pop culture reference, I’ve given each quadrant a name from the Matrix movies.
Good and Important / Neo
Neo items are things you do well and that are important to your customers. (Not things that are important to you.)
The Neo sector is where you’ll find most of the material for your content marketing. Spend most of your time talking about what you do well and what matters to your readers.
Do not, however, thump your chest and brag about how wonderful you are.
Instead, tell stories that show how you’ve helped your readers with what matters most to them. Take deep dives to explore benefits that are especially relevant to your content community. Create case studies for each type of customer you serve, and show specifically how your product or service benefits those customers.
In case you’re wondering, yes, you’re going to repeat yourself. That’s fine; strategic repetition will help your message sink in. About 80% of your content marketing should touch on the Neo quadrant.
Bad and Important / Agent Smith
Agent Smith items are things you don’t do very well, and that matter to your customers.
What you do communicates much more than what you say. When you’re confronting Agent Smith, you have to communicate by taking action.
In other words, fix the problem.
If you have a great product but your fulfillment house can’t manage to get it shipped to your customers, that has to be fixed before you can move forward. If your t-shirts look great but the color bleeds in the wash, make it right before you try to sell any more.
Know when communication is not your problem. Never, ever try to “spin” your way out of an Agent Smith problem.
Don’t pretend you don’t have Agent Smith issues. Everyone has Agent Smith issues. Be transparent, address them frankly, but most important, get them corrected.
Good and Unimportant / Spoon Boy
Spoon Boy items are things you do well, but that don’t actually matter very much to customers.
There are some things you’re really good at. They might even be essential to running your business well. Maybe your Web site loads amazingly quickly and your shopping cart is state of the art. Maybe your business model offers terrific profit margins. Maybe your manufacturing process is the coolest thing since the invention of the assembly line.
Customers don’t care. They might notice if it’s awful, but mostly it’s not on their radar.
If you talk about Spoon Boy items at all, don’t make your communication too visible. It’s fine to put information out for customers who want to know more, but don’t waste prime real estate. The people who care will dig to find it, and no one else needs to be distracted by it.
Bad and Unimportant / Persephone
The Persephone quadrant covers things you don’t do well, and that are not that important.
Surprisingly, Persephone can actually make herself very useful to you. You have three options with items in the Persephone sector: you can use them as confessional material, you can fix them, or you can quit doing them.
Persephone items make excellent “confessions” to build trust. Nothing creates better rapport than confessing to a fault that your customers don’t care about. For example, if your ebook formatting looks like a third-grader did it, address that right up front. Make fun of yourself a little, and “warn” customers that you’re not going to win any design awards. You get points for not being a self-congratulatory blowhard and you cut criticism off at the pass.
If you feel like it and it isn’t too hard, you can also correct Persephone items to show you’re working on yourself. Again, this shows modesty and a willingness to admit you’re far from perfect. These are very likeable qualities, and likeability is always a plus in content marketing.
Just make sure Agent Smith has been dealt with first. Nothing is more aggravating than a company that fixes trivialities and leaves the major rage-inducers untouched. (Hello, telecom industry.)
Finally, look over your Persephone quadrant every once in awhile to see if there are tasks you should just quit doing altogether, either because you outsource them or because they don’t need to be done at all.
Take the red pill
This matrix is almost completely useless in the abstract. But it’s insanely useful when you actually fill in the blanks.
This is a lousy time to try and make money in a blue pill fantasy land. You need to learn to see your business as it really is. Get real about your marketing, your business, your content and your customers.
Identify what you’re good at and what you aren’t, and what’s important and what isn’t. Until you know those four things, you won’t be able to shape your content marketing to get the greatest possible benefit–for yourself and your readers.