Ah, curiosity. That which killed the cat.
It has also been the death of many a human, literally and figuratively. Cast your mind back to imagine the first person who discovered poison ivy. Or the first person who tried eating magic mushrooms and thought he could fly. Without curiosity we wouldn’t have invented aeroplanes, or electricity, or come up with technology driven social-solutions like personalized medicine or extended reality (XR).
Most marketers will tell you the root of what keeps us awake at night is curiosity. (Trust us, we’ve asked a 100+ to small business founders and marketers, in our podcast The 4 am Report, and asked them our ‘hook question: “What keeps you up at night?”.
Good marketers MUST consume content so that we can deliver content.
We read everything from fiction to news to social articles, history and random sh*t on the web… and use that to draw metaphors, tell stories and find references to add value. It’s by consuming content that we can find the weird comparisons we use to create those oh-so-compelling headlines (like the one we used to make you open this 😊).
Curiosity is usually served best with humour, wit or charm.
Don’t be click-baitey.
And if you make a promise in your headline, deliver it in the piece.
There’s just no two-ways about that kind of thing.
If that sounds like a lot of work, fear not, I have a few powerful frameworks for you today.
Conversations fuel curiosity
Much as we like to call ourselves introverts, over here at c+p digital, since the start of the pandemic (rather ironically) we’ve had to get more comfortable chatting with people; a lot of people!
People who want help with something,
people who want to do business with us,
people who want advice, or introductions or chat about the weather or the market!
I’ve honestly chatted with more random strangers on the internet the last 18 months than ever before in my life. It was anxiety inducing. But I did it anyway.
I leaned way into my adventurous side.
Reminded myself that I’ve moved 16 times in 21 years. (Once cross atlantic).
And I reminded myself that I’m that girl who once accepted a free ticket to party in a different country, and once on the plane had a freak out about what the expectations might be in return for this all-expense paid shin-dig. (It turned out to be nothing. I made a great friend – several actually – and I learned how to work a bit more on my trust issues, so overall a stellar example of leaning in, and it makes me laugh and just do it!)
I gotta say all my curiosity begins with these conversations.
What are the top 3 places that the input comes in for me?
- Conversations with clients, referrals, prospects, students and friends (both from within and outside the industry)
- From these conversations (and introductions from them ++) come podcast interviews that help me get much deeper with my curiosity
- Books, courses, thought leaders and other resources that these circles recommend
Why find time for curiosity (ie: informing yourself)
I’m going to give it to you straight.
Time is never the issue, prioritization is. And with a million things wanting to be prioritized, putting curiosity first is not easy.
Keeping that curiosity alive is a key part of marketing for me. Any strategic ideas or creative ideas start with and looking for sources of inspiration, which will come from consuming other people’s content.
Our best ideas are often sparked by seeing what other people are doing. Not taking that idea and copying it, just being inspired by it. Using it as a way to trigger a thought, and say, ‘Well, what if we did this with that…?’”
It’s the reason most creative and strategy briefs ask early who your competition is (if not direct, is there a reference that has achieved what you’re looking for in a different category)?
Side note: people who can give me 3 URLs – with no caveats – in response to my question, ‘who is your competition?’ are my personal heroes. Good job!)
Curiosity drives human behaviour. It’s what drives psychology and even marketing. It’s what makes us click, or read, or forward something to a friend or team member.
Without curiosity, there probably would be zero consumption of content at all.
So, marketers who ignore people’s desire to find out things, to be entertained, do so at their cost. SurveyMonkey, an agile research software solution, identified the two top characteristics needed for companies to successfully navigate the pandemic in their Adapting in Times of Crisis 2020: curiosity and agility.
72% of employees at companies that value using creative ways to adapt to change have been able to meet customers’ needs during the pandemic,
compared to just 44% of those that stick to tried-and-true methods.
The how of prioritizing curiosity: my process of finding time for curiosity
Ok so you’re down. You want to consume content meaningfully and use that to build a voice for yourself and the company/brand you represent. How do you find time for it?
Here’s my finding time for curiosity math!
In 1 week these are the things I do (pretty consistently – I’m good like that. It gets more efficiency in 2-3 months. Read on.)
- Podcast recording (creation) x 2 per week (45 mins each) – 1.5 hours
- Podcast guest/virtual speaking/attending a virtual event – 1 hour
- 1:1 calls (not sales calls) x 2 per week (between 45 mins – 1 hour) – 2 hours
- Reading (I’m doing poorly here) – 1 hour
- (I ‘read’ on audible at 1.5 speed and keep 3 books on the go – 1 business, 1 marketing, 1 life/fiction – and I switch between them. I read on the weekends in the mornings. The average book is between 3.5-5 hours at this speed. I can’t keep at it for long, so I split it into 2 x 30 mins slots on Saturday and Sunday at a minimum. I often read more. I aim to finish 2-3 titles in a month – prioritizing my work reading.)
- Consuming content on LinkedIn – 5 hours
- (This is the biggest chunch of consuming time – I read articles, connect with people, have meaningful conversations in the DMs, scout for podcast guests for the 2 shows I co-host, check out content from clients -make sure the wheels are turning, and also content from competitors because everyone (good) teaches.)
- Consuming content on YouTube – 1 hour
- (I’ve broken this up because this is kinda my personal space. I’m not on Facebook or IG, and I haven’t had cable TV since 2008, so this is where I score my long-from entertainment and inspiration. I tend to seek blogger style lifestyle videos, food ideas, home organization, gardening, DIY fixes for various problems with our suite of tools and software, comedy – and from this esoteric set of superb long-form creators I gain sh!t tons of inspiration.)
- That is a total of 11.5 hours (of my 35-40 hour work week) that I dedicate to curiosity.
- It’s important to note that these 11.5 hours a week are over and above the time I spend researching for specific client projects, or research discovery ahead/after taking 1:1 sales calls.
- (There’s eventually a lot of overlap which is when the ‘flywheel effect’ sets in. But first, I’d expect to set aside ½ your week on discovering and getting your voice heard if becoming meaningfully visible with your expertise is your goal)
Once you’ve informed yourself, then what?
You’ve got to let that knowledge flow.
This becomes the basis for your content calendar to constantly show up in the channels of your choice. (presumably where your ideal client types hang out in at least 1 instance)
I focus heavily on 3 channels
- Podcasts (you see the overlap already? By chatting with our guests, and going on other people’s podcasts, I’m already drawing on examples etc from my time devoted to curiosity. Use snippets from this for 2. And 3.)
- Email (we have a very small, but highly engaged email list that grows very slowly with a superbly low rate of unsubscribers. I spend a lot of time writing specific emails for this list. This is where a lot of our actual business conversions happen. For reference, our deal values start at $20K Canadian in annual recurring revenue and up. So this is a place my time is well spent. The efficiencies are gained from using a lot of material from transcripts of various shows/events/meetings (the search bar within documents is my friend for scanning quickly, that said, it still takes time and skill to execute).
- LinkedIn (it helps to break down any large body of work and focus on distribution: put out smaller snippets in various formats, consistently. If the number of people who listen to your podcast is X, the number of people who look at snippets, emails, social posts and engage, or listen to your narratives and stories in various meetings is in the range of 15X. So don’t despair if your vanity metrics look low on social media/your podcast hosting platform in the early stages.)
- Remember, you ABSOLUTELY have to show up and comment on other people’s material when there’s an overlap with your pillars of content. This part is even more non-negotiable than creating anything from scratch. Often the best content comes from something you said in response to someone’s thread.
A case for being entertaining – or edutaining, or less boring at the very least!
Level 1 on entertainment mastery in content is what many marketers are already practicing. Storytelling. Make that mainstream. And tell more and more compelling stories.
To do that, to be a good storyteller, you have to know your audience.
Take a stance with how you present yourself and steer clear of hyperbole (unless it’s your brand voice). Engage with audiences as an actual person, (and that means honestly and openly)
The curiosity you’ve made space for and set yourself up with it will help you make the right references and analogies that will grab, and retain, interest in your content.
Once you’ve learned to work relevant stories and examples into your meetings, interviews, emails and social posts you can experiment with a lot more by way of entertaining literary metaphors.
Default to personal brands
We’ve talked so far from the perspective of one person: whether founder, or marketing lead, or alternative executive. That’s usually where the impact happens. While corporate profiles can perform well, the examples are rare and a lot of work. Lean into your talent instead.
Get your leadership peeps on LinkedIn. In person events and networking ‘in real life’ are few, far-between, and intimidating for the introverts among us.
Meeting new people or getting your marketing messages seen and shared today relies on digital relationship building at a 1 one 1 level. Whether you’re being forced to go back to work or being empowered to choose a happily hybrid/virtual environment, KNOW that connecting online is non-negotiable in 2021 and beyond.
Plan and allocate resources to your personal brands
Have a selection of your best content ready in an ongoing document that reflects 2-3 pillars you want to be displaying your (leadership’s) expertise with. It’s important to have things prepared because when you see something online (especially on LinkedIn that you can speak to and want to comment on, if you’re tackling it ad-hoc and new to thiis, it can be easy to get lost in the stress of, ‘What can I say that’s smart + gets me noticed + concise + not spammy?’ That can be exhausting!
If you want to take the visibility to the next level, beyond just words on comments, and if your your firm allows, get help with video, graphics etc – and collaborate with other people who serve the same audience in complementary ways.
If not you have 2 options:
- At the very least, use free resources from other creators in creative commons like memes, GIFs and videos
- A more evolved approach would be to get yourself on a bunch of podcasts and virtual talk shows as a guest and then share the materials they provide. (If you go this route, you will need to set out 1-2 core ‘keynotes’ with your key perspective and a plan that people can use. This might take some effort up front, but is so, so worth it.)
Use the resources you have to to drop into relevant conversations (and not in a blast’y way – only after you’ve dipped your toe in).
Here’s how I might do it. Let’s say there is a conversation on podcasting – I’ll go and join it. Maybe someone’s talking on LinkedIn about the ROI of a podcast, so I chime in and comment. Like, ‘Oh, actually, we worked out an interesting way to measure ROI beyond just the numbers, a more qualitative, emotionally intelligent way to measure the ROI of our podcast!’ Then copy and paste a little bit out of that blog, (because you’ve already written about it!) you take some of those key messages from the piece, you contribute to the conversation, and stays natural and organic, but you’ve prepared like f^ck to get to that point.
That’s how you have a much more evolved, intelligent way of striking up conversation, as opposed to just being one-sided.
The bottom line? Be a human being – even with your marketing and self-promotion. And remember that there’s another human being on the other side.
- Read, listen, educate yourself on your tropic and fall in lovee with the work of a few people who have done it well, whether in your category or not
- Make a case for finding the time to consume content meaningfully and stick to your commitments
- Create/focus on a few platforms and infrastructure to let your knowledge and expertise flow and shine
- Remember we’re all human, and humans right now respond better to low stress, smile inducing, easy-on-the-ask communication
Ps: if you’ve read and enjoy “The Other EQ” column on how to be a lot less boring in marketing, please consider helping me pay for the publishing of my FIRST book. It’s called The Other EQ: Brand Entertainment quotient – how to find it, keep it, and use it.
Yes! I’ve been writing for 20+ years, for myself and countless others, and finally summoned up the never to write a BOOK. It will be ready in the fall, and I will send a copy to everyone who contributes, regardless of amount. Please note that I chose Patreon for the creator platform to raise these funds. It’s been set up as a monthly $10 fee, if you sign up, you can cancel at anytime including after your first month. Any amount you choose is appreciated!).