I arrived at my office yesterday morning as always.
But I kept on going, until I drove eight more miles, wandering aimlessly through my little town.
Why? Because the odometer of my 2013 Ford Focus read 99991, and I wanted to see it when it reached 99999.
I knew I’d forget to look if I didn’t make a deliberate effort, so I drove around until I reached this impressive milestone (see photo).
I’m quite pleased that my car has fared so well with few needed repairs, despite enduring many New England winters and the occasional visiting clutch-riding child.
Pleased, but not surprised. That’s because before I bought this car – my second Ford Focus in a row – I asked my mechanic what he thought about my buying another.
His answer was immediate: “That’s a simple car. It’s easy to fix and there are few surprises.”
Notice that he didn’t have to stop and do any research. He didn’t have to consult with anybody else. He barely had to think about it.
In the blink of an eye, he synthesized his experience repairing other Ford Foci, the contrast between these vehicles and the others that he sees every day, and whatever information or data comes to his attention as he goes about his work.
From there, he boiled out the most salient points for my benefit: “simple,” “easy to fix,” “few surprises.”
Could I have done some research and come to the same conclusion?
Maybe. But it would have taken me a lot of time; I would be unsure which information sources to rely on; and I would never really know if I had uncovered the on-the-ground, real world truth.
And that, my clutch-riding friend, is what being an expert is all about.
It’s also precisely the kind of insight that you should be sharing in your newsletter, blog posts, podcasts, presentations, etc. (I wrote “etc.” at the end there because I couldn’t think of another example.)
Insight, Not Information
I work exclusively with established professional service providers – financial planners, executive coaches, consultants, attorneys, cybersecurity experts (hi Rob) – all people who are very smart and very experienced.
And so when we consider topics for their newsletters, I’m always encouraging them to talk about things that highlight their experty-ness.
In practice, that means trying to avoid two things:
#1. Topics that are easily Googled.
If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that in addition to being extraordinarily funny, I am big on keeping things simple. But simple isn’t the same as obvious.
For example, explaining to me how to change the oil on a 2013 Ford Focus may be useful, but it’s entirely fact-based. I don’t need to read your newsletter for that kind of thing – it’s just a google away.
Instead, choose topics that require a depth and breadth of knowledge within your profession – the kind of things an outsider (i.e., your prospective clients) can’t easily figure out for themselves.
In this made-up example, maybe it’s the best type of oil to use based on the age of my car and the part of the country I live in. Or whether I park in a garage or outside. Or the fact that I make lots of short, daily drives and few long ones.
It’s less “how to” and more about tradeoffs, considerations, and counterintuitive ways of seeing things.
#2. Topics that an equally credentialed, but novice professional in your field could address.
If you’re an experienced attorney, chances are, the newly-minted law school grad who took the bar exam yesterday remembers more straight up legal facts than you do.
But … what he or she doesn’t yet have is perspective.
For example, when I started my business, I assumed I needed a lengthy, iron-clad contract for my clients. You know, to protect my interests.
Thankfully, my then (and still) attorney, Marijo McCarthy, threw cold water on the idea:
“If you put a contract in front of a prospective client, not only will this slow things down, they are going to get their own attorney involved. You’ll end up spending time and money on me before you’ve earned a dollar.”
Instead, she suggested that for my specific type of work (it would not apply in all cases), all I needed was a simple “agreement” – one that lays out payment amounts, timing, and deliverables, but that is free of legalese and not at all intimidating. Twenty years later, I’m still using that same simple document.
Like Marijo and my car mechanic, you, too, understand lots of things that those who entered your profession recently do not.
You know how the pieces fit together. You know what matters and what doesn’t. You know who to call, what to say, and how things really get done with clients, partners, vendors, and others.
It’s that kind of insight that separates you from the beginners. And so, as much as possible, that’s what you want to be talking and writing about when you create content.
Here’s the bottom line.
I’m the first to admit that half the benefit of creating and sharing content regularly – in any form – is that it reminds others that you are still alive and still in business. That’s valuable.
But the other half is about quality.
Your job is to choose topics that demonstrate to readers and listeners that you know more than just the facts and the rules – that you have actual insights and perspective.
It’s more valuable to readers/listeners, which makes you more valuable to them.
- How many miles do you have on your car (extra credit if it’s a Ford Focus)?
- Do you ever write “etc.” when you can’t think of anything else to say, write, share, etc.?
- Where do you find your best content topics?
Share your answers below…