Winning the Content Game

(Listen to this post, here.)

Amazon doesn’t know it, but its delivery drivers are unwitting participants in a game that my son Evan and I have been playing for the past several months.

Here’s how it works…

Like most of us, Evan orders a lot of things on Amazon; he might get two or even three deliveries in a single week.

And Amazon, you may have noticed, now has its drivers take pictures of the packages after leaving them at your door. The pictures appear with the delivery confirmation emails.

Since Evan shares our Prime account, when packages are delivered to his house in Memphis, the photos come to me here in Boston.

Initially, it was just a fun way for me to see his house in near real time.

Rain, sunshine, even last month’s freak Memphis snowstorm, whatever the weather or time of day, I get a little peek into what’s going on with him (one time, I could even see him sitting inside).

About six months ago, though, I had an idea. I said, “Hey Evan, how about you leave a note with a message for me at your front door, so when they take the picture, I’ll see it.”

And so the game began.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, it has yet to work even once. Either they leave the package off to the side, or the photo is too small, or whatever. But we keep trying.

My favorite part about all this is that the drivers, while an essential part of our game, have no idea that they are even playing. They are just doing their jobs – the note-sharing part is strictly for our benefit.

Interestingly, that’s more or less what’s happening when people like you and I share content in the course of promoting our respective businesses: The consumers of our content are playing a game, they just don’t realize it.

Here’s what I mean…

No stranger subscribes to our newsletter, listens to our podcast, signs up for our webinar, or pays attention to whatever we post on social media, because they have an interest in us. They are there for what they hope will be valuable information.

So, step one in creating any kind of business content is to make sure it’s useful to whomever you are trying to reach.

That may seem obvious, but lots of people and companies (I won’t name names) are more interested in sharing content for the purpose of patting themselves on the back and/or showing off how smart they are.

Those aren’t necessarily bad things on the edges, but the starting point is “useful” – something that will help readers/listeners live their lives or do their jobs better.

But here’s where the “unwitting participant” part comes in: Readers and listeners are there for what’s useful. But our goal is not the same; we are playing a different game.

We provide that useful information with the hope that, over time, we will build trust, familiarity, and comfort in referring to or working with us.

After all, none of the information we possess is either unique or scarce. Every problem situation or question you can think of is already covered by Google, whether that’s “How to run an effective Zoom meeting,” “How to throw a curve ball,” or “Why do I sweat so much?” (asking for a friend).

All of which means that if you’re just providing the “useful,” and leaving out the things that build trust and likeability and all that other “soft” stuff, you may have readers, but you won’t have clients.

So make sure you are…

… sharing personal experiences and stories.

… taking a position and expressing a genuine point of view (even if some people disagree).

… responding to comments and questions that your content generates.

… losing the corporate speak and using words favored by actual humans.

Here’s the bottom line.

There’s an old joke about how people choose a town in which to live: “They come for the schools, but they stay for the bars.”

In other words, initially, it’s all about cold, hard, objective facts. But over time, what makes a town feel like home are the people you meet along the way.

To play the “content game” well, you also need to give people what they are initially looking for – useful information.

But don’t stop there. Your real objective is to help them feel at home, with you.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you throw a curve ball?
  2. How did you choose the town in which you live?
  3. What’s the largest thing you’ve ever had delivered to your home (extra credit if it’s your spouse).

Share your answers below…

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23 thoughts on “Winning the Content Game

  1. Stacey Shipman

    1. Physically? No. Verbally, I’ve been known to throw one here or there.

    2. Location/price of house

    3. Refrigerator I think.

    Bonus: I’ve been contemplating what’s truly “useful”. For me I like engaging in conversation, less interested in “5 ways to do something.” But then I’m biased towards conversation. Curious what others think.

  2. Therese Lentz

    I love how you shared a personal story and then tied it into the information you would impart. I mean, you always do that, but it’s especially perfect today. I’ve been following your example for a while now and it’s working. So grateful I’m on your subscriber list. Thanks, Michael

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Glad it works for you too, Therese! I’ve been carrying that story idea around for several weeks but could not figure out how to relate it to something useful until a couple of days ago. It’s always nice when the flash of insight finally arrives!

  3. Daisy Curtis

    The bridging sentence is:

    We provide that useful information with the hope that, over time, we will build trust, familiarity, and comfort in referring to or working with us.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Actually, I think it’s this: “Interestingly, that’s more or less what’s happening when people like you and I share content in the course of promoting our respective businesses.”

      I think of it as the place where the story ends, and the “business insight” begins. It’s like a bunch of stones in a stream that the reader crosses to get from one to the other.

  4. Mark

    1. No, no curve balls in my limited arsenal of throwing abilities.

    2. Affordability and location.

    3. 5 palettes of field stone to build a stone wall. 2nd largest was a 500 pound slab of granite to make a hearth for my fireplace. Moving that inside was a real adventure.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      It would seem you appreciate heavy stone, Mark! I’m glad I was unavailable to help you move that fireplace.

  5. Kady Hommel

    1. Absolutely no curve balls thrown, ever BUT I can offer up a nasty slice serve on the tennis court every now and then. Usually by accident.
    2. Rocky Mountain high – and the chance to return to my roots.
    3. Nothing especially large here, but I did just see photos of a new hot tub being delivered to a friend’s house … by crane.

    As ever, delightful story and observations. Thanks!

  6. Sherri

    Hey Michael, great post
    Here are my answers…
    1. No I’ve never thrown a curve ball, but I’ve had plenty thrown at me.
    2. I live in my ex-husband’s home town. Too many friends to leave here now (and I kinda like it)
    3. If you mean by Amazon it would be the hood of a car. Otherwise it would have to be 2yards of dirt (that’s a lot more than you think!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      The hood of a car? I didn’t realize you could just buy that, let alone have it delivered. And I hear you on the dirt – nothing better than when you are shoveiing that last little bit since at first the pile seems to hardly shrink at all!

  7. Alan

    All of which means…

    !. Yes, but it never fools the batter
    2. In-laws lived here (happy wife, happy life, right)
    3. A shed (not via Amazon… does that count?) It was bigger than my wife.

  8. Judy Hanlin

    Love your writing Michael!
    1. No, I throw like a girl. Wait, I am a girl so it’s ok.
    2. Elementary school at the corner (42 years ago)
    3. Largest Amazon delivery (since you’re a fan) Air Hockey Table.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      We lived close to the schools too when our kids were little. Hard to beat, given how much back and forth there is!

  9. Barb Gerron

    Can you throw a curve ball? YES

    How did you choose the town in which you live? Goldilocks method. Small, but not too small, some land but not too much, a few franchise businesses, but not too many, not too far from a big city, but also not too close. We found it, and we’ve been here for 21 years next month.

    What’s the largest thing you’ve ever had delivered to your home (extra credit if it’s your spouse). probably bunches of bricks and mulch for our many landscaping projects

  10. Hayley

    Just seen the link to this in today’s email. Appreciate how you reply to everyone even if you’re never going to get money from us, like your groupie in NZ.

  11. Patrick Bryant

    * Can I throw a curve ball? In my dreams, maybe.
    * I live here because a six-month consulting contract turned into six years and I got tired of commuting home-to-here-to-home (four-hour drive) and living in an extended-stay every week.
    * The largest thing ever delivered to me was a massive swing set my wife purchased for our grandkids. She didn’t pay attention to its size when ordering it – it simply looked good. It arrived on a flatbed truck, had to be offloaded with a forklift, and took three days to assemble.


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