We used to be awfully good at being curious.
Why is the sky blue? Water wet? Daddy snoring?
How did the baby get into Mummy’s tummy?
What does God look like?
When we were little our questions were cute but as we grew, our need to know got more personal and morphed into the dreaded nosiness. Why is that man fat? What’s growing out of that lady’s chin?
We learned that asking questions was to be avoided. As teenagers and then adults, we had a deep-seated fear of looking as if we didn’t know the answers – we avoided questioning even when we really needed the answers.
If we want to succeed at content marketing, it’s time to relearn the value of curiosity and unleash our questions once more.
Curiosity underpins content
Creating great material that your customers will want to read, offering them information that can be useful and inspiring them to make changes in their lives – it all becomes easier if you get curious on their behalf.
As a creator of content, you are most effective when you are writing for your audience and not for yourself. Obviously you’re doing it for your own purposes – content marketing is a way of bringing people to you, gaining their trust and strengthening your credibility with them. But it’s most effective when you have their questions foremost in your mind, not your own goals.
Find out as much as you can about your customers. Ask questions to learn about their lives. When they answer, make sure you listen and remember. Steven Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, hit the nail on the head with habit five – seek first to understand, then to be understood.
“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand – they listen with the intent to respond.” – Steven Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
It’s about you as well
Being interested in your customers is only part of it.
It’s okay, in fact it’s great, to be curious about yourself as well. Not just asking questions but also reflecting on what you learn.
“Until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.” – James Kouzes and Barry Posner, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It
We typically save our self-examination for the end of the year but staying curious all year round gives us the chance to witness ourselves in all manner of situations, not just with the benefit of hindsight. Maybe there’s room on your Christmas wish list for a beautiful notebook, that can inspire you to keep track of what you’re learning from January right through to December.
Follow white rabbits down strange tunnels
It was curiosity that led Alice into Wonderland, and it can take us to unpredictable places as well.
But like Alice, we have to leave our well-trodden path and venture into places that don’t appear at first to hold much for us.
There’s little benefit in always reading, watching, listening to the same material as everyone else in our field. That just leads to a continual recycling of the same ideas and arguments as everyone else. It’s when we get curious about other fields and other ways of doing things that we are truly growing as content creators. Contrarian thinking is what really stands out – and to do that, we need input that will spark new thinking, not reinforce old ways of doing things.
If you usually read books about business leaders, try biographies of leaders in other fields such as sport, science or mathematics. Pick up some photography based coffee table books about art, music or even deep space. Listen to classical radio instead of your usual marketing podcasts.
It doesn’t really matter what or how. The act of being interested, being curious, will open the way to a new year of new thinking. I hope it’s the right shade of brilliant for you.