The frugal writer’s guide to making content work twice as hard
Here’s a secret for you. You don’t just get one shot when you write an article. Your idea has the potential to extend far beyond that initial post.
When I first joined Customer.io, I struggled with how I’d come up with original content for every blog post, email education course, and presentation I envisioned for our marketing strategy. I was overwhelmed by the stress of generating all that material.
The fog cleared when Colin explained that it would be better to write one great piece of content, then adapt it to other places later. All I’d have to do is recycle my work.
That sounded much more manageable than writing everything from scratch.
It pays to be selective with your time, dedicating your resources to creating great ideas. Recycle those ideas, and you could double the life and influence of each piece of content you create.
Reusing content will save you time and resources while still raking in the marketing wins. Here are some strategies I’ve learned that will help start making your content work overtime.
When you write, try to get three uses out of each idea
When you’re brainstorming for an article, consider how your idea can extend beyond your blog. For each idea, we try to make sure it can at least be used in the following ways:
- Once in a blog post
- Once in an email course
- Once in a presentation (or class)
If you can do this for every idea or article you write down, your pool of available content will grow exponentially.
Repeat your ideas to establish expert knowledge of a topic
You might be a little skeptical about sharing the same content multiple times. But it’s unlikely you’ll have the same audience each time you share an idea. And even if someone has heard the idea already, they’re more likely to sit there nodding in agreement than get upset.
Great content producers repeat ideas all the time. Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, says it best: “Nothing is original.”
Every idea is influenced by ideas before it. If you can recognize ideas worth repeating and express them articulately, people will like your content so much they won’t care if they’ve read something similar before.
When you have several resources covering the same topic, you establish yourself as an expert. Copyblogger has tons of resources covering all aspects of copywriting. Their vast wealth of available resources makes them seem more trustworthy than blogs with less to offer.
To establish a reputation, you have to prove you know what you’re talking about.
Repeat your ideas, many times and in many places, and people will be loyal to your expertise.
Recycle content to reach new audiences
Reusing content also extends the reach of your material. Make your information available in more than one space and it will be easier for people to find you.
For example, you might have a great piece of content in your documentation that could also be valuable as part of an email course. You could deliver the same advice to two different audiences by having the content available in both places.
Recycling content also boosts SEO. When you have multiple pieces of content on the same topic, you’ll generate more opportunities to target specific keywords.
If you have a higher keyword rank, your site is easier to find in organic search. A higher rank leads to more traffic, which leads to more readers and more potential customers.
Find a cycle for re-using your ideas
Our content cycle has gone something like this:
Research–> Blog post –> Email Education Course –> Presentation (or class)
For example, one of the earliest things Colin ever wrote about was the “The Lizard Brain and email”.
After it was published, there weren’t a lot of new people discovering the post on their own. To extend the reach of the post, Colin re-used it almost verbatim in an email course on copywriting.
When Colin was asked to do a General Assembly class on copywriting, the same idea seemed important to share. But to hit the point home, Colin added a quote from Seth Godin:
Later, he used some different slides from his class to supplement content we had on the blog. Everything came full circle, but we had four unique items of content to share with our readers, with only one idea.
Repurpose user questions into effective documentation
As our customer success engineer, Diana has to recognize when an individual’s question might be useful to our entire community. When she notices some topics are becoming common, she turns her answers into documents on our help page.
Anyone with the same question can find it on their own, and we’ve been able to scale without overwhelming Diana with common questions.
Most of tutorials that Colin filmed have also been turned into documentation on our help page. While the video content is great for first timers, it’s not the best resource for people who are just trying to look up a quick tip. Having both options available makes it easier for customers to find the information they need, in the format that works best for them.
Use email courses to bring new customers up to speed
The lessons in any course can be repurposed from a blog post, a webinar, or a presentation. As long as the material connects in a cohesive way and still delivers educational value, you should reuse content you’ve already spent hard work on.
A course can be a great way to get new users the information they need to make a commitment to your product. By sending them useful advice directly, you save them the trouble of searching through your archives for relevant posts. And making customer lives better only builds more loyalty.
Repetition helps people know what you stand for
Most great writers and speakers have just a few ideas they write and talk about. It’s the repetition that makes you associate Malcolm Gladwell with the ideas from his book “The Tipping Point,” or Simon Sinek with “Why your business exists”.
What about the ideas in your company? What are the core areas that you focus on and how can you use the content you’ve written in new ways to clarify your message?
If you aren’t recycling your content yet, here’s a little assignment. Pick five related articles from your blog and take twenty minutes to outline a hypothetical email course. I guarantee by the end, you’ll have the makings of a successful piece of content you can use for on-boarding, with only a little effort.
Please share your content re-use stories in the comments below.