Let me tell you a fascinating story about John.
He’s a fictional character but a good example of the type of people I help every day. In fact, if you pay close attention, you might realize you relate to him in more ways than one.
John is a developer. He writes code day in and day out for a large company.
What John might lack in overt marketing skills, he makes up for with an ongoing list of small side projects. He spends hours of his free time building small code snippets and software. Then, he makes them free to download on the popular code-sharing site GitHub.
One day, John wakes up to hundreds of emails in his inbox — job offers, questions, and positive feedback all yell at him through his still-groggy eyelids. He might not be on his third cup of coffee yet, but John is smiling wide.
However, he isn’t surprised by his now-packed inbox; it was just a matter of time.
So, what really happened?
Recently, a big-time developer noticed one of John’s code snippets and decided to share it with his own audience.
This led to thousands of visits and additional links to John’s work, which exposed him to a larger audience, drove traffic to his website, and then resulted in a plethora of potential clients, fans, and leads.
John simply utilized content marketing in a fundamental way:
He provided free solutions to common problems.
Content marketing is more than just writing
Content marketing and copywriting are certainly a powerful combination.
But you can also find content marketing in unlikely places — produced by people who don’t touch the marketing department of a company.
When you offer a free solution to a problem and invite further dialogue by providing a way to contact you, you have the possibility of attracting previously unattainable business opportunities.
And this illustrates one wonderful truth: content marketing strategies can be applied by anyone.
How problem-solving creates profitable opportunities
While the above story of John the developer is inspirational, it might be difficult to understand how it relates to you and your own endeavors — especially if you’re not a developer!
In light of that, I’ve broken down this principle into three steps. Use this process to leverage content marketing to your advantage and grow your audience.
Step #1: Seek out problems
First, develop a list of problems you know people struggle with.
You could survey customers, run polls, or research your target market.
But there’s another tried-and-true method: take note of the problems you face each day.
I know, you’ve already got 50 problems in mind. It seems we humans have a surprisingly efficient ability to complain.
Once you’ve clearly defined a problem, ask your audience for feedback — even if that’s just your family members.
Here’s an example:
So, the first thing I did was jump on Twitter and tweet out a poll. I asked if anyone would find the idea useful.
The answer? Eighty percent thought the idea had already been done.
Sure, my idea was likely not worth pursuing — but I got instant feedback and saved myself a lot of trouble.
Keep doing this, all the while keeping these ideas in a safe place. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon a few problems that get a resounding, “Yes, please!”
Step #2: Eliminate the expensive and time-consuming
The second step is to review your new list of problems and decide which ones you have the ability to solve.
Throw away the ones you don’t know how to solve (or save them for later) and create a revised list with the ones you do know how to solve.
With this process, you need to decide which problems you can solve absolutely free of charge.
At this point, you might be thinking about all of the free time you don’t have to produce free solutions.
But if you are strategic and smart with your time, you’ll be surprised by the value you can provide — it just takes focus and diligence.
Now, select one problem that:
- You have the ability to solve
- Doesn’t require an unreasonable amount of time and resources to solve
- You can give away for free
This will be your baby. You’ll nurture it at every free moment you can spare. (I have three hours before work every morning dedicated to side projects like my newsletter for web designers.)
This problem, which you hate, should now be your favorite thing in the world.
Step #3: Solve the problem and provide the solution for free
Developing a solution to your problem is the shortest step in the process but undoubtedly the hardest and most crucial.
Solving problems is hard. Solving problems with excellence is even more difficult, as any entrepreneur will tell you.
But solving problems is the essential ingredient to success, and the quality of your solution will be what markets your capabilities.
Finally, once you’ve solved the problem — and double-checked that the solution is excellent — you’re ready to provide it for free.
With this process, don’t ask for anything in return, but don’t be a stranger either — always offer ways to connect and an easy way to get in touch with you.
Remember the inviting further dialogue part I mentioned earlier?
Make yourself available. Inviting further dialogue is your call to action.
Content marketing anyone can do
By following this system, you not only benefit your industry and community, you will also indirectly build authority.
John was just a typical developer before that morning of email bliss. He was regarded as the “company guy,” rather than a content marketer or entrepreneur.
Yet, over time and as a result of consistency, prospects recognized him as a trustworthy resource they wanted to do business with.
By following this process again and again, you’ll not only benefit everyone who cares about the problems you can solve, you’ll also gain loyal customers who trust you. They’ll respect you, support you, and market your expertise and products for free for years to come.
The best part of it all? Absolutely anyone in any industry can do it.
You just have to start.
Additional reading: If you found this article useful, you may also like How to Decide Which Content to Sell and What to Give Away for Free.