When people ask me what’s the one thing they should focus on to grow their business, my answer is always the same: Content. Create content and lots of it.

The other day I was asked a follow-up question from a friend, “What sort of content should I create?”

We were having dinner at the time so I grabbed the serviette and drew this.

Yes, it’s a Venn diagram. Let me explain.

The Left Circle: Your View

The left circle includes all the stuff you want to say.

This might include things like your unique selling proposition, your founding story, your list of clients, or the fact that every product you sell is made by hand. Whatever it is that you want to say, it’s all represented by the big circle on the left.

I estimate that 95% of marketing content today falls within this circle on the left.

These posts fill our news feeds. They’re always about the company, rarely about the customer, and they’re usually super-boring.

Why do most brands do this?

Maybe it’s because so many people approach social media in sales mode. They view social as a distribution outlet for their press releases. They’re pushing out content that they want everyone to know. It’s about features and benefits. The problem is that most people just aren’t interested in that.

It’s easy to see why so many people are locked in sales mode. For nearly a century, advertising has been the dominant way we marketers communicate. We allocated huge sums of money to make an ad and then we coughed up more money to run it on TV, newspapers or outdoor. We usually had one shot to make the sale so we made sure we gave it our best shot.

But those days are gone. These days, we can produce and distribute so much more content, and cheaply.

We don’t need to rely on one ad, we can make hundreds.

We need to stop selling, and instead focus on creating content that adds value to our customers that will lead to a sale further down the road.

If marketing is about building relationships, ask yourself: Would you rather have a relationship with a friend or the used-car salesman that tries to sell you something every time his lips move?

As a brand, we need to approach our content trying to be a friend for our customers. And what do friends do? They share content with us that they think we would enjoy. It’s that simple.

The Right Circle: Your Customers

On the right, we have another circle. This circle represents the content that your target customers actually want to see.

Most of it has absolutely nothing to do with your business or what you’re selling.

The topics that fall within this area are limitless. It might be content about sports, the news, the weather, cars, rockets. It’s literally anything that’s interesting for your target customer.

The Sweet Spot: Where The Two Circles Intersect

There’s the obvious space where the left circle and the right circle overlap. It’s when the content you want to make actually aligns with what your target customer wants to see. It’s the shaded area in the napkin.

If you can land your content in this area, you’ll be hitting home-runs every time.

But my experience is that this shaded area represents a very narrow window of opportunity. While you might land some content here, there’s not a lot of stuff you can say about yourself or your businesses that your target audience are interested in. (That might be hard for some to read but it’s true.) No-one really cares that much.

Focus on the Right Circle

The more important takeaway from my napkin plan is this: Focus your content within the circle on the right. Not just the shaded area, The Whole Right Circle.

I’ve even coloured it in yellow to make the point.

Your job as marketers in 2019 is to discover what’s interesting for the people you’re trying to reach and then produce as much content as you possibly can around these topics.

I explained this to my friend, and his reply was this:

“But Dan, we’re trying to sell our services and most of the content that sits in that circle has nothing to do with what we do. Surely that’s a waste of time and money?”

It’s not. It’s an investment in your future. Here’s why.

When you make content that’s adding value to someone you’re trying to reach, you’re building your reputation and a relationship with that person.

For example, a Sydney law firm publishing a video about the Matildas (Australian Women’s Soccer Team) that has nothing to do with its legal services is going to connect with a CEO of a business who happens to be a fanatic fan of women’s soccer. It also makes that law firm feel more human. And more importantly, it builds a relationship with that CEO because you’re not trying to sell her anything. You’re acting like a friend, not a salesperson.

Conclusion

When you create content that brings value to the end consumer, you build your reputation and a real relationship with them. When you entertain them, or teach them something, their experience reflects favourably on your brand.

Every piece of engaging content leads to more visits to your website, Instagram profile, or whatever asset is linked into the back end of that piece of content. That’s because we humans are curious creatures. We see something we like and we’re intrigued. We want to know more, so we click to learn more about you and your business.

My thesis here is that it’s far more effective to let someone discover you for themselves through your content than to try to ram your sales pitch down their throats.

This is the art of selling, without selling. It’s using the power of the modern digital landscape to develop relationships with people, at scale, by producing content that they actually want to see.

Everything that’s good for your business in the long run, lives in the circle on the right.