I’ve already written about how much I love podcasts. For my money there?s no other medium that is better for informally teaching you actionable, useful skills in your field. I’ve used them to learn about two fields, and the other day the point was drastically reinforced for me.
I was in the car, on my commute. I was listening to Louis Grenier’s Everyone Hates Marketers podcast, to the episode titled “How to Start a Marketing Agency (a Practical, No-Bull Guide)” with David Baker. It was a very interesting episode, but one bit stood out. And what was most amazing for me—and why I love podcasts so much—was that the one bit wasn’t even a topic of conversation.
It was just something David Baker said, when speaking about how he would start out generating content designed to bring consumers to him, rather than go looking for them.
“The world has really turned more to an inbound world. We’re not picking up the phone and dialing these people like we used to in the past, beating the bushes, trying to stir up opportunity, we are going to generate insight that will draw them to us.“
Did you see it? I know, it’s one of those super obvious things you should (and maybe you do) already know.
Not content. Not stories.
I stared like an idiot out the windshield while I drove, processing that simple statement, because it was so obvious and brilliant.
Merriam-Webster defines insight as “the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively.”
Seeing intuitively. I like that.
(sidebar: when you go to David Baker’s blog, it’s not called a blog. It’s called insights. I’m so stealing that. It’s brilliant.)
But What Does it All Mean?
When you’re first starting out, whether you’re starting an agency or promoting a book or just “building your platform”, everyone tells you to blog, or post on social media, or make YouTube videos. “You just need to create content and get yourself out there,” they say. “Your tribe will find you!”
And most of us do it. We don’t have any idea what to write about, but we saw a guide online that told us we have to blog twice a week, so we come up with 300 words about how sad we were dropping our daughter off at school or 500 words about how we chose the character names in our book.
Then we sit back, load up the realtime view in Google Analytics, and wait for the traffic to roll in.
A few hours later, we’re sad, depressed, and doubting our entire life.
(Okay, maybe that was just me.)
I think David Baker’s offhand insight about insight (see what I did there?) is the key to all of this.
Very few people are so bored they will just troll around the Internet reading about the boring minutiae of anyone’s day. They can watch cat videos on YouTube, or endless movie trailers, or lose three months of their lives in Netflix.
What we need to be doing is generating insight, and delivering and sharing that.
There’s a reason the default response to “what should I write about?” is always “write what you know.” That reason isn’t because you know everything about something and just need to download it to your blog as if it were Encyclopedia You.
You write what you know because you understand something. You know the things the lay person does not. You have insight into the process of that thing, or experience with the likely pitfalls, or an amazing success story that you can deconstruct for people.
You can see that topic intuitively.
Okay, but What Does it MEAN to Generate Insights?
Put most simply, tell people who are interested in a topic the things they probably don?t know. Insights don’t have to be huge, world-changing things. Let’s look at an example.
Today most everyone knows you can write and publish a book on Amazon, for free or the next thing to it. And most everyone knows that more people buy books on Amazon than anywhere else in the world.
It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
You have a book. On Amazon. Where people buy more books than anywhere else. It’s a match made in heaven.
Except, here’s where the insights come in, because if you’ve already published a book on Amazon, you know:
- Free means there are literally millions of books being published every year, which means?
- … your new book is the needle buried in the stack of haystacks that is the Amazon marketplace, which means?
- … you need to find a way to stand out, or?
- … you need to find a way to drive people directly to your book, and not to Amazon in general.
Many content marketers (bad ones, or if we’re being charitable, inexperienced ones) sit down and think “I can talk about how easy it is to publish on Amazon, and how many people shop there.” And you could.
Except those are the things people already know, so you’re not providing insight. You’re regurgitating information.
That’s not your job. That’s Google’s job. And trust me—Google is better at that than you are.
What Google can’t do, what only you can do, is address those bullet points. Insight, in this space, is evidence on which strategies and tactics actually drive readers to an Amazon book page, or what on-page keywords in your product description get your book into the correct bookselling categories.
To create insight you want to present the inner nature of your topic. You want to provide information no one else can provide, or put that information in a context no one else can set.
That’s “seeing intuitively.”
That’s “writing what you know.”
That’s how you create content people actually want to read and share. Barry Feldman has long been a proponent of the idea that your website is a mousetrap (to capture and convert readers into consumers) but your content is the cheese (the bait that captures their interest and bring them into your website).
Insight is the most delicious cheese.
How Do I Recognize Insight When I See It?
Knowing insight is simple. You feel it. It’s that a-ha moment where something clicks, because the piece you were missing falls into place.
For me, it was listening to Everyone Hates Marketers and hearing David Baker drop an offhand comment. Not even a comment—just a simple, conscious choice of noun.
Something clicked in my brain.
Suddenly it made sense.
That’s the emotion you’re looking for. Think back on the times when you’ve experienced that sensation. Think about when that one person explained it in just the right way.
It doesn’t matter your industry or topic. Every topic, every career, every hobby, all of them have arcane, user-only knowledge.
Potters know which glaze works better than another.
Plumbers know which clogs take Drano and which ones require a snaking.
Investment bankers know which stocks perform reliably and which ones are a risk.
You know something that I don?t.
That’s your insight.
It’s up to you share it.