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From Example to Category 🙏 Content Heaven

Alan Wanders
Alan Wanders
Hi everyone,
This was the week I finally admitted to myself that I’m allergic to IPAs, a terrible blow for any 30-year old white guy.
It was also the week that I read something interesting on why we struggle to differentiate between specific examples and the categories these examples belong to.
I’ll talk through why understanding our brains’ inability to manage this distinction is a really important part of doing content right.
But first I’ll introduce a fake footballer called Palindromi to show you what I mean exactly by “examples becoming categories”.

Palindromi, the Italian footballer
Artist's impression of the great, fake Palindromi
Artist's impression of the great, fake Palindromi
OK, picture this.
You’re not a football fan, but the World Cup is on the radio. Italy are playing England. An Italian called Palindromi makes an important goal-line clearance. You barely notice.
As Palindromi makes a few more key plays you start to pay attention. The post-match pundits claim he won Italy the match. Though you still just imagine Palindromi as a ‘standard footballer’, whatever that means to you.
A few days later you read an interview with Palindromi in The Times. You see his face and learn about his family history, and you start to think of Palindromi as a specific individual, not just the stereotype of a football player.
Four years later you’re listening to Italy play England again. Palindromi has retired, but every player brings him to mind. He has become your lazy stand-in for ‘Italian footballer’, or just ‘Italian’ or ‘footballer’, depending on how many Italians and footballers you know.
What just happened?
Through repeated exposure, in your mind Palindromi transformed from being a stereotypical example of an unknown footballer to being the ‘footballer template’ you used as a stereotype for lesser-known footballers.
The example comes from this book. Recommended if you have a spare 3,000 minutes.
The example comes from this book. Recommended if you have a spare 3,000 minutes.
Content marketers are Palindromi-makers
There are roughly four stages in Palindromi’s journey from example to category.
Here’s a real example of how that journey looks for a business wanting more leads. I worked with Nest Performance to help shed their skin as a generalist performance marketing agency and become the paid social agency for ecommerce.
Put yourself in the shoes of an ecommerce founder for this next bit.
Stage one: Nest Performance exists, but you’ve never heard of them before.
Stage two: You’ve heard the name ‘Nest Performance’ before, but you don’t know where from. If you searched your inbox, you’d find cold outreach from Nest. Although you opened the email, you basically forgot about it because the outreach felt generic.
Stage three: You notice Nest Performance are now the paid social agency for ecommerce. You spotted their post on Linkedin where they announced exactly that.
Stage four: Damn. Your team keep sharing Nest Performance case studies with impressive campaign stats from the work they’re doing with your closest competitor. Maybe you should have got in touch sooner.
Stage five: Time to find a paid social agency. You compare every agency on your shortlist to Nest Performance, so why not just go with Nest?
Getting as many prospects as possible to stage five is Nest’s goal. But what does the benefit of achieving that look like in real terms?
Within a year of rebranding to ‘the paid social agency for ecommerce’, Nest grew the value of their sales-qualified pipeline 5X. They received referrals from people they’d never spoken to before, all because they got ecommerce businesses to think of them first.
Be honest - Could you become a Palindromi?
Becoming a Palindromi or a Nest means being specific about what you do and showing that you can do it remarkably well.
Being specific about what you do = Messaging
Showing you can do it remarkably well = Content
The biggest danger here is that many businesses overplay their hand by refusing to niche down, making it really hard for their prospects to understand what they do remarkably well.
This isn’t a content-level or even a marketing-level decision. It’s a decision that’s written on the first line of the first page of your business strategy.
So if leadership don’t budge, maybe you should find somewhere your content efforts will be more effective.
👉 Over to you
Thanks for reading! Now you’re done there are two ways you can help. Either would be amazing.
  1. Forward it on to someone who you think would like it
  2. Reply and let me know what you thought of it
Thanks, and see you in two weeks!
Alan
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Alan Wanders
Alan Wanders

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