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How to Stand Out in an Overpopulated World of Content Marketing Experts

Search for “content marketing expert” on Google and you’ll see 614 million results. A search on “content marketing expert blog” returns 177 million. Even a search on “cuddling expert” returns 5.23 million results.

Who knew an expert in cuddling was even a thing? Well, it is.

What’s the problem with being an expert? There are too many.

Caroline Nuttall of Advantage Media|ForbesBooks and ForbesSpeakers covered expert overpopulation in her Content Marketing World presentation, Stop Generating Leads, Start Driving Demand for Anything You’ll Ever Sell.

“We are building expertise in a world overpopulated by experts,” Caroline says.

Visual representation of expert overpopulation

Caroline created the Amplify Matrix. The x-axis goes from “accepted” – things generally recognized or believed – to “challenged” – things questioning conventional wisdom.

On the y-axis, how-to advice is on the bottom and how to think or things that actively form a new approach is on top.

Caroline plotted some sessions from Content Marketing World into the matrix:

Notice that most sessions fall in the quadrant labeled “Expertville.”

“I’m not knocking this content,” Caroline says. “This is good, useful, valuable content and these people are great speakers, but there’s two massive problems with Expertville. One is, it’s crowded, and because of the overcrowding, your content becomes a commodity.”

The second problem is that if you explain the how-to’s well enough, your audience no longer needs you. They’ll say, “Hey, thanks for the tips and tricks. I can do this.”

Now, look at the upper right, “Land of the Visionary.” Only two sessions are there. “It is far less crowded. By default, you are unique because nobody has the exact same vision as you,” Caroline says.

Visionaries get their audience to say, “Hey, you’ve got me rethinking my strategy, my approach. Maybe my entire business model. I need to learn what you’re talking about. Tell me more.”

While her demonstration illustrated event-related content, the Amplify Matrix applies to any type of content.

How can you get your content into the Land of Visionary? Caroline recommends three things:

  1. Be an authentic investigator.
  2. Aerate your findings.
  3. Amplify what works.

Let’s cover each one in detail.

Be an authentic investigator

Caroline shared the story of Derek Snook. When Derek entered the workforce, his mission was to help people. A conventional route to fulfill that mission would be to join a nonprofit. But Derek first asked, “Can we ever really solve people’s problems from a distance?”

To answer that question, he moved into a homeless shelter where he met hard-working day laborers. He then asked, “How in the world is a hard-working day laborer homeless?”

To find out, Derek became a day laborer. When he quit the thankless, back-breaking work, he discovered an issue: The staffing agency took a 50% cut. If the contractor paid $15 an hour per person, the agency kept $7.50 and paid $7.40 the day laborer for each hour worked.

“Derek saw an opportunity to give the day laborer more of an opportunity to get ahead,” Caroline explains. “So he launched a day labor staffing company called IES (In Every Story) and overnight he increased wages by 30%.”

Derek went on to give an inspiring TEDx talk and publish a book, The Definition of Success: What Living Homeless Taught Me.

As content marketers, we think we know our audience. But Caroline says, “Can you ever say that you really have truly walked in your audience’s shoes? Have you ever become homeless for your audience?”

Derek knew his audience well because he became the audience.

“When we live the story and we explore questions over answers, we uncover deeper problems. We become authentic investigators,” Caroline says.

Aerate your findings

As a stand-up comedian, Josh Gondelman got his start at open mic night at Sally O’Brien’s, a pub in Boston. He would perform five minutes, go home, review what worked, and return the next week.

One year, the host of open mic night stepped down and Josh took over. Now, Josh had 30 seconds of stage time every 5 minutes.

“He would use this time to test the little joke, see what’s working, what’s not working. Then he’d go back five minutes later and he’d refine it. This allowed him to really develop things very rapidly. So by the end of the night, he had some really great stuff that worked,” Caroline says.

One night, Josh tested a “modern Seinfeld” joke as if the comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his TV show were still on the air. It was a hit, which led Josh to launch the Modern Seinfeld Twitter account.

Josh continued to rapidly test his modern Seinfeld jokes. He knew they were working because he was getting great feedback. Conan O’Brien invited him on his show and Josh got a job writing for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He won an Emmy. Josh published a book and comedy albums.

“When we share our imperfect ideas, we build a trench audience and that creates a rapid cycle feedback loop, giving us superpower insight. We get that through aerating our ideas,” Caroline says.

Amplify what works

Larry Smith was once a big-thinking publisher with big ideas. He wanted to sell large advertising campaigns and get VH1 (the original sister cable channel to MTV) to underwrite shows he conceived.

In 2006, he and Tim Barko founded Smith Magazine and later that year Larry’s path to success wasn’t about going big. His next step revolved around a famous six-word poem: “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”

Larry asked readers to submit their story in six words to the magazine’s website and on Twitter. The next morning, he awoke to 7,000 emails, including one from Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, co-founders of Twitter.

Larry was stunned. Realizing it was one of the most successful things he’s done, he leaned into it. He branded the concept “Six-Word Memoirs,” relaunched his website around it, and secured a trademark for the tagline, “One life, six words. What’s yours?”

“Pretty soon, celebrities started sharing their six-word memoirs and we all know what happens when celebrities start sharing things, publicity goes up,” says Caroline.

Those big ad dollars Larry coveted from big projects? They were finding him as he worked with the Tony Awards, MINI Cooper, and Honest Tea on six-word advertising campaigns. He partnered with schools and nonprofits, and launched Six Words Live, where people got on stage to share the stories behind their six-word memoirs.

Larry created products based on the concept, such as board games, T-shirts, calendars, and books. He may be the only person to turn six words into eight books.

“Larry speaks all over the world, inspiring people and talking about how he sparked a global phenomenon in six words. When we simplify, we get traction by magnifying the right things. We’ve got to amplify what works,” says Caroline.

Your journey: Are you ready?

To recap, the journey to the Land of Visionary encompasses these three things:

  • Be an authentic investigator.
  • Aerate your findings.
  • Amplify what works.

Caroline shared the stories of Derek, Josh, and Larry. Now, it’s your turn to be the star of your story.

I’ll practice one approach rather than do all three at once. I love the “authentic investigator” concept and will think of ways to immerse myself in my customers’ or audiences’ worlds. Walk a mile in their shoes. “Be them,” like Derek did living in a homeless shelter rather than “being with them.”

How about you?

Which of Caroline’s principles connects most deeply with you and how are you planning to adopt them? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s an excerpt from Caroline’s talk:


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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute