[NOTE: This is the third in a series of posts exploring the topic of entrepreneurship. While my focus has and will continue to be on Facebook ads, I have plenty to share about what I’ve learned while building my business.]
Last week, I took you through a 17-question exercise to help you find your entrepreneurial purpose. While it may not have provided a clear vision for your content or product, it helped clarify strengths, weaknesses, what is important to you, what you aren’t willing to do and more. It’s the necessary groundwork.
Today, we’re taking the next step. I am going to take you through yet another exercise (not 17 questions this time!) that will help you isolate your topic of expertise.
Ready? Let’s begin…
The Importance of Content Depth
Before we get started on finding your content focus, I want to stress how important it is that you find a focus with depth. While this is especially true for info products, it’s dangerous to assume it’s only true for that industry.
When your focus has depth, it provides endless opportunities to answer questions. You have no shortage of ideas for writing articles, recording videos or creating other types of content (ebooks, webinars, podcasts, etc.).
You must embrace this. With depth, you are given many chances to show your value. Your potential customer has more problems that you can solve. This makes it infinitely easier to write articles and create products.
Do not underestimate the value of free content. My business is a prime example of that. I spent the first two years of this website writing — a lot. I wrote more than 600 articles during those first two years.
It’s not that difficult to connect the dots between that content creation and my success today. Each new blog post was an experiment. Who embraced it? What content was ignored? What attracted the most comments and traffic?
That content creation period helped solidify my expertise and area of focus. It resulted in high levels of traffic (more than 18 million page views). And that traffic led to an email list of more than 150,000 people.
And of course… With that much traffic and an email list that large, I am at a sufficient advantage — an “unfair” advantage — when it comes to selling products. So many entrepreneurs underestimate this.
I want you to create content. I’ve seen how important it is. However, don’t feel like it needs to be a blog post per day. That may not be your strength. Maybe it’s video. Or podcasts. Or something else.
But you must find a topic that has depth.
Narrow Your Topics
During that 17-question exercise, there were a few questions that would help reveal quality topics for a business focus:
1. What Am I Good At?
3. What Am I Knowledgeable About?
4. What Do I Love to Do?
11. Whom Can I Help?
12. What Problems Do They Have?
To a lesser extent, the other 12 questions could also help lead you to your topic. But these five questions, in particular, should provide your primary inspiration.
With your answers to these five questions in mind, now consider these questions:
15. What Lifestyle Do I Desire?
16. How Important is Money?
If you desire a life of wealth and luxury, you can cross off any unrelated topics. You won’t be starting a non-profit. While I have tremendous respect for the non-profit world (and worked in it), you won’t be happy there if your lifestyle desires don’t match up.
I can use my path as an example. Once I was laid off in August of 2011, I anguished over what I should do next. As I started writing blog posts on these pages, I experimented with topics related to non-profits, small businesses, personal use of social media, and general social media marketing.
While I certainly could have helped people covering these topics, they did not match my lifestyle desires. I did not require wealth and luxury, sure, but I did desire a life of freedom without financial worry.
It took me some time — about a year and a half, really — but it finally occurred to me: Why would anyone pay me for my content, product or service?
I was focusing on non-profits, small businesses, and people looking to spend — in most cases — as little as possible on marketing. So why would they pay me?
That’s when I made the move to focusing on Facebook ads. Not only Facebook ads, but “advanced” Facebook ads. Why? Because those most advanced in Facebook ads would be those most likely to have high advertising budgets. And if they had high advertising budgets, every advantage was extremely valuable.
I became that advantage. And since this was now my target audience, it was easy to make a difference for someone that would result in hundreds or thousands of dollars of value for them.
So think about this. If money is very low among your priorities, it’s not as big of a deal. But otherwise, make sure that you can make a difference for the people who can afford to buy something from you.
While that sounds brutal, this is critical to your business success. Otherwise, you will forever overdeliver, overwork yourself, and undervalue your services.
With that in mind, start weeding out topics that aren’t a fit. For me, I love baseball. I love to coach baseball. If I were to create a business around that topic, I’d need to focus on people who invest money in that area.
So that would probably be parents of travel ball kids — where a single season often costs multiple thousands of dollars. And while that’s interesting, it’s nowhere near the market of advanced Facebook advertising — people who can easily spend that much or more per month.
In my case, I wouldn’t consider Facebook ads a passion. It’s something I’m good at and knowledgeable about. So keep in mind that your business and your passion will not always line up, and that’s okay.
What Are Components of the Topic?
We’ve narrowed your topics. It’s quite possible that you still have several candidates. Hopefully, you’ve cut it down to two or three.
Now we want to find that topic or topics that have the most depth. As discussed at the top, the topic with the most depth gives you the most opportunities for content and products.
When I refer to components, I’m talking about the ways you can slice and dice your topic. So here is a starting list of components around the topic of advanced Facebook ads:
– Power Editor
– Business Manager
– Website Custom Audiences
– Facebook Pixel
– Dynamic Ads
– Engagement Custom Audiences
– Lead Ads
– Ad Reports
– Audience Insights
See how easy that is with a topic of depth? I could do this all day.
I could do the same thing around the topic of travel baseball:
– Coaching Strategies
– Team Finances
– Creating Lineups
– Playing Time
– Organizing a Practice
– Booking Tournaments
– League Play
– Indoor vs. Outdoor Practice
– Involving Parents
– Daddy Ball
– Contracts for Kids, Parents and Coaches
Once again it’s a topic of depth. It’s easy!
What Are Questions Asked About Each Component?
Now we’re going to put your topic or topics to the test. This next exercise not only challenges you to find the depth of the topic but also exposes just how much you know about it.
If you don’t know Marcus Sheridan, I strongly recommend you get to know him. My approach was inspired by his teachings. Marcus is a big reason for my success.
When it comes to SEO and writing content, his secret is simple: Answer the questions of your customers.
Maybe you don’t have customers yet. That’s fine. But answer the questions of your potential or imaginary customers.
That is ultimately the secret behind my blogging strategy. I don’t care about keywords. I don’t have any true SEO strategies. I simply think about what it is my customers and potential customers are asking, and I answer those questions with a blog post.
Something I learned along the way was to keep those questions simple. Originally, I’d try to answer 20 questions in a single blog post. I’d attempt to answer all of the world’s problems at once.
But that did no one any favors. By focusing on a single question — a single problem — you make the purpose of your blog post clear. It’s great for someone searching for an answer. And it gives you more chances to create more individual pieces of content.
Above, we broke our topic down into components. Now, dissect each of those components. What are the guts of each component? What causes confusion? What causes frustration? What might people not understand?
What are potential customers asking about it?
If you’re an established business, this is easy. You should know what your customers are asking. But if you’re a new business, you need to get more creative. You research, observe, or simply imagine what they’re asking.
Let’s focus on the Targeting component of advanced Facebook ads. Here are some potential questions:
– What are different ways to target with Facebook ads?
– What is the best way to target with Facebook ads?
– How do you target your website visitors?
– What are different ways to target your website visitors?
– Is interest targeting effective?
– How does cost per action differ based on your audience?
– What size audience should you target?
– What are Lookalike Audiences?
– How does audience size impact bidding strategies?
– How do you target your current customers?
– How do you target if you’re starting from scratch?
See? We’re just looking at one component, and the ideas come easily. Each one of those questions is a potential blog post or piece of content (video, ebook) by itself.
For which components can you write the most questions? How confident are you in your answers?
These are questions you need to ask yourself to finalize your topic.
Creating lots of content is a great way to experiment. It helps you understand what generates interest and what gets ignored. It also helps you determine what you actually enjoy writing (or videoing) about.
If you have multiple topics that are closely related and you can’t choose which direction to go, feel free to cover them all in the early going. That’s what I did here.
But if the topics are vastly different, why not create multiple websites? It may be more work, but it’s a great test to help you figure out which direction to go.
Ultimately, never forget that traffic isn’t your only priority. I was blinded by that early when I was getting high traffic to blog posts about things like personal Facebook privacy. The traffic blinded me to the fact that the attention wouldn’t lead to business.
Always be conscious of what could ultimately be a deeper piece of content. What would provide enough value to be offered in exchange for an email address? Or for money?