A Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy (Useful if You’re a Visual Thinker)

The more I dive into content strategy, the more it reminds me of the Rubbermaid storage containers I have in the middle and bottom drawers in my kitchen. 

The big drawers. 

The ones where lids and sippy cups go to die (but occasionally come to life again when I’m in the mood for Spring cleaning.)

But stick with me here…

Rubbermaid Containers and Trains as Marketing Metaphors

Imagine that your content strategy is a collection of empty containers.

Now, imagine that it’s possible to rearrange them into a variable series of steps that will give you the choo-choo train effect… a series of steps that systematically take your lead all the way through the buyer’s journey.

To them, the journey will feel smooth because it was thoughtfully laid out.

But underneath it all, you know that there were many times when you rearranged the cars on the train and rebalanced the load in each car to get the best effect.

Now, here’s the part that’s fascinating to me as a direct response copywriter… 

Early on in the development of a content strategy, all the cars on the train are empty. 

Why is that interesting?

In direct response, we focus on the Big Idea. Every idea must exist and it must be big enough to carry the whole promo.

In that case, the idea is the thing. The container it travels in is less important.

How an Empty Container Can Beat a Big Idea

But what if your container carried the weight of the Big Idea?

Is there ever a time when a small idea can beat out a Big Idea?

Yes, there is.

It’s all in the strategy.

Big Ideas have to be concepts that people have never seen before or old ideas presented in a new way. So, the burden on a copywriter to create ideas of that magnitude is high.

And just because the idea is BIG, doesn’t mean it will resonate with the audience.

That means you could create a big, never-seen-before idea that’s a huge miss.

(If you’ve ever met someone who invented a brand new product… and then discovered the market didn’t want it… then you know what I mean.)

So what if you did this instead…

First the Container, Then the Order on the “Tracks,” Then the Big Idea

Grab the Rubbermaid containers out of your metaphorical kitchen drawer… rearrange them until they make sense on the train track of your marketing campaign… and then fill the containers with your ideas.

Remember, the ideas can’t be huge because the containers aren’t that big. 

And you don’t want to unbalance the load across your train track anyway because overwhelm is a #1 reason people leave your marketing funnel.

The Takeaways

Since you went down the path of mixed metaphors with me, here are some actionable takeaways:

1- A well-executed small idea can be more powerful than a Big Idea.

2- Structure matters.

3- Structure is flexible.

4- Think of your content strategy as the empty container… a defined space for your ideas.

5- Think of the content as what goes in the container. You can put lots of different things in the container and they’ll still be understood by your audience as the core substance.

6- Trains are useful metaphors because ideas need to be structured, in the correct order, and also in motion… preferably according to outside power, time tables, and the needs of the passengers.

(Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash)

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