Feeling uncertain, indecisive or even paralysed about what to write about in your marketing often comes down to having an unlimited number of options available to you.
When you have the freedom to choose any topic in the world to focus on – as most small business owners do – deciding on one thing becomes significantly harder, not easier.
If you’re not careful, you can spend so long trying to figure out what to do that you end up getting nothing done at all – then repeat the process all over again the next time you sit down to make a start.
Time spent agonising over what messages to put out into the world is wasted time – and no small business owner can afford that!
Break through the roadblocks by putting limits on yourself
One of the best ways for helping you get your writing productivity back into a state of flow is to tighten the boundaries around what you will and won’t talk about. In effect, to give yourself a brief that clearly defines what topics are permissible for your business – and excludes all others.
The thought of establishing rules about what you can and can’t do in your own business might seem counter-intuitive, but in practice, giving yourself a tight brief works wonders when you’re struggling to settle on a single idea so you can bring it to completion.
Putting boundaries around the topics that you will and won’t write about in your marketing is the grown-up equivalent of saying to an indecisive toddler, ‘You can wear the blue one or the green one to kindy; which one will it be?’
Content pillars are the missing link
If you’ve been struggling for ideas, stop trying to decide on the single topic that will be the subject of your next piece marketing material, and instead take a step back and think more strategically.
What are the broad themes that the majority of your marketing should be focused on in order to meet your business objectives?
These themes are known as content pillars, and like the pillars that give structure to the walls of your home, they’re purposely designed to do the heavy lifting of your marketing and to give you a framework to build everything else on.
Since they define the key themes you actively want to prioritise in your marketing, your content pillars make the decision-making process easier by funnelling your ideas down previously defined paths.
At the same time, knowing what your content pillars are and why they’re important for your marketing goals tends to speed up your output and make your writing more creative, focused and effective.
The goal here is not just to move from idea generation to execution more quickly, but more importantly, for your overall marketing output to be laser focused on the topics that will enable you to reach your business goals.
How many content pillars do I need?
For most small businesses, a selection of five or six content pillars is more than enough to build an engaging and interesting body of marketing material on.
Once you’ve identified your pillars, you should find yourself with ample ideas for content for your social media, blog posts, email newsletters, podcast appearances and whatever other marketing you’re doing.
Simply rotate through each of your pillars on a regular or semi-regular basis, and over time you’ll be highlighting all the main focus areas that you want your business to be known for.
What should my content pillars be?
Every business is different, and only you can determine the content pillars that are most appropriate for yours, but here are some ideas to get you brainstorming:
- Your business vision and values
- The people in and around your business (including yourself, your team, your customers)
- Educational topics about your product or service, how to use it, or what to do to get the best out of it
- Behind-the-scenes posts about how your process works, where your materials come from, what’s involved in making your product or the environment that it’s created in
- Inspirational posts that show your target audience what’s possible for them
- Thought leadership, where you showcase your ideas or comment on industry trends and development
PRO TIP: You don’t need ALL of these topics as your content pillars – just choose the few that are most relevant for you, then narrow the themes down even further so they’re as focused and specific as possible. For example, you might decide that your educational posts will focus only on your two hero products, or that you’re going to make customer success stories a core pillar of your activity.
Write it down!
Once you’ve arrived at your list of content pillars, WRITE IT DOWN and put the list somewhere where you’ll be able to refer to it constantly. That way you’ll be able to use it to help stimulate your thinking and to reject any ideas that don’t fit your strategy before you waste any time on them.
Do you work with content pillars in your marketing? How has it helped you, and which pillars do you consider most important?