Game-changing content can catapult your business to the next level.

For your brand to become a truly standout success, and operate in a space where your competition is as limited as possible, you need to become a true category leader.

As the business world grows and diversifies there are many opportunities to position yourself at the forefront of a distinct category (or sub-category . . . or sub-sub-category) with which you can become synonymous and that helps define you in the marketplace.

The benefits of this are obvious – very little competition, simple and powerful brand messaging, etc. – but what isn’t quite so obvious is how to get there.

OK the title is a bit tongue in cheek; the approach discussed in this post isn’t really a ‘secret’, let alone ‘THE secret’ – but game-changing content can really propel your business to the forefront of your sector if done well.

What is game-changing content?

It’s not necessarily just a great blog post, attractive Instagram picture or entertaining new podcast – game-changing content is a much bigger proposition.

It is a significant piece of work that is markedly different from the sort of material that your competitors are producing. It’s a resource that solves a problem, and approaches it in a more detailed, thorough, entertaining or professional way than anything else out there.

Game-changing content can also become a product in its own right. Take 37signals for example, the creators of popular project management tool Basecamp (which they are now known as).

The company provided web design and other services for a number of years before creating their breakout software. However, prior to this made a piece of truly game-changing content in the form of a 45-page report on ecommerce search engines that they actually sold online, and which helped position their company to become a category leader.

This whole story is told in more detail by the (peerless) Amy Hoy at Stacking the Bricks, but it serves as a really good example of game-changing content.

The elements of game-changing content

So what are the defining factors of game-changing content? What should it contain? While there is no single prescriptive recipe the following elements should all be considered for inclusion:

  • A big, clear idea – this is non-optional. Game-changing content needs to be based around a clear and ambitious concept – not traditional, well-worn wisdom.
  • Facts and figures – to make a compelling case for a new paradigm in an industry (particularly in b2b) you’ll need proof. Game-changing content demands research and quantitative insights wherever possible.
  • Multiple voices – in a similar way, reflecting the expertise of multiple people (from within or without your business) can add more credibility and value to game-changing content. This is something to think about in your general content marketing and strategy too.
  • A point of view – game-changing content can’t be vanilla. It can’t be all things to all people. It needs to take a stand, stake a claim and generally have a specific point of view that is worth listening to.
  • Inspiration for action – a game-changing piece needs to motivate, facilitate and inspire the reader to act. Even if that action is as subtle as to think about the industry in a different way – you need to get results by encouraging readers to actually do something.

This list isn’t all-encompassing, there are many other characteristics that game-changing content could have, but before it all gets too complex and abstract, it’ll to help to look at some specific examples.

Examples of game-changing content

You’ve already been introduced to 37signals and how they broke out from the web design service provider crowd by creating a report. Here are three more examples of game-changing content from different industries:

The manifesto – Chris Guillebeau is a blogger and author who has built a career on helping people live unconventional lives, and . . . um . . . travelling to every country in the world (seriously – check it all out on his website). Back in 2009 Chris created a game-changing manifesto that explained how he was able to build a brand online through writing in order to comfortably support his lifestyle in less than a year. It was called 279 Days to Overnight Success (and is well worth a read), and it helped propel Chris to the forefront of a category of online thought leaders in a way that dozens of blog posts could never hope to achieve.

The recipe – Dave Asprey is a self-proclaimed biohacker and author. He is famous for creating the Bulletproof brand – a diet and lifestyle company for people interested in optimizing for high performance. He is now said to be worth $20 million. A large part of Dave’s success has been down to Bulletproof Coffee; a recipe for coffee involving grass-fed organic butter that is based on a drink he was given in a Tibetan monastery. Dave perfected the recipe for his version of the drink and posted it online several years ago. It was a runaway success, and Dave has been able to build a very successfully company based, in part, on his piece of game-changing content.

Note in this example that although the piece of content was relatively small (a single blog post presenting and discussing the recipe) a huge amount of work went into perfecting the recipe, not least trekking up a mountain in Tibet! This is the sort of dedication that game-changing content might demand from you.

The viral video – always remember that you cannot manufacture or guarantee virality. But when it does happen, it can be a game-changer. In 2014 Stephen Cronk from Mirabeau Wine created a simple video showing how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.

It’s less than a minute long but is well branded and entertaining and Stephen credits this video with having a huge impact on his business. At first glance this might not seem like an example of game-changing content, and it is on a smaller scale than the others in this section, but the video does reposition Mirabeau Wine from being ‘winemakers’ to being ‘interesting and entertaining winemakers’ – and that is a sub-category that they can become a leader in.

How to build a talent strategy using game-changing content

Becoming a category leader is about more than your products and services, it also relies on an effective talent management and development strategy. If you don’t have the right people, you can’t dominate a category.

When planning your game-changing content pay attention to how it can be used to help support your talent strategy.

Perhaps you can add a simple call to action encouraging people who are interested in working with you to get in touch, and it can certainly be linked to on your recruitment pages to give prospects a clear idea of where you stand in your industry.

It could even form a part of the recruitment process – applicants could be given the content, asked to read it, and then be quizzed on it during interviews; to get their opinions on your sector as much as to test factual recall.

A real game-changing piece of work can help support you in attracting talent in multiple ways, and this compounds the benefits it brings to your business and helps ensure your longevity as a category leader.

How to make your own game-changing content

Hopefully you’re now convinced that this is a good strategy – but how exactly do you go about it?

#1 – Pick a category and define ‘leader’

Well, first let’s examine what category you actually want to lead in, and what being a leader actually means to you.

For the most part this would mean more sales (and that should definitely be part of the definition) but more sales of what, and from who? Think about what you actually want to become known for and exactly what type of client you want to serve.

#2 – Define your position

Next you need a topic and an opinion. This is about making a decision on what message you need to get out into the industry that will propel your business into a place where you have virtually no competition (or are so far ahead of them that they hardly matter).

You already know your category and what it would actually mean to lead it – now come up with a clear idea about how you could get there by standing out.

Doing OK so far? This stuff isn’t easy I know, but we’re not looking for marginal gains here – this is about changing the game, and that takes something big.

#3 – Choose a content format

Right – so now you know the category, the ideal result, the topic of the content and the opinion or position you will express that is going to make you stand out. Next you need to decide on the format.

Online content only comes in four major formats:

  • Written text – from tweets and short blog posts to books and extensive reports, text is text is text.
  • Video – whether a 1-minute “viral” clip or a 10-part training course of 2-hour long videos.
  • Audio only – podcasts, radio shows and similar output. An animated audio clip would overlap audio and video too – and who likes labels anyway!
  • Images – though it is unlikely that images alone could convey enough information to help you become a category leader, maybe a collection or portfolio could.

Pick what format would work best for your goals, skills and resources, and then move on to the next step.

#4 – Do the research

Next comes the real work. As has been mentioned, game-changing content is usually well-researched and contains enough supporting material to make a really strong case.

But that’s not the whole story.

It is also important to research other significant pieces of content in the industry and ensure that you are creating something different and better. You don’t become a category leader by sharing the same opinions and information as other people in the area – you need to stand out.

Once you have a good idea about the lie of the land, and have tweaked your plans so that you can create something better, do the research needed to make your content really game-changing. Look for both the expected sources (the minimum needed to make a cohesive piece) and the non-obvious ones – things that can give you unique insight.

Or, even better, carry out your own primary research by surveying or interviewing experts, or collecting data in another way. Now that’s a real category leader’s approach!

#5 – Start creating, but consider distribution

Chances are, this is a major piece of work that will take time – so get going! Make an outline, start writing, put your thoughts and ideas down on paper and start drawing connections between them and your research.

Game-changing content needs to be high quality, so take the time and make the necessary investments needed to reach it. Becoming a category leader means actually leading – doing something so well that others follow; and you can’t do that with something that isn’t up to scratch.

But also plan your distribution strategy for when the content is complete. This could involve the following:

  • Picking specific distribution channels to deliver your content on,
  • Developing a launch plan of advertising and outreach tasks,
  • Starting to build a pre-launch email list,
  • Beginning to blog and discuss your forthcoming game-changer (sharing snippets, quotes and extracts), and
  • Developing a list of outreach targets – people and websites that can help you spread the word upon launch.

Putting some thought into how you will promote and distribute your content once launched will make it far easier to deploy quickly – and it might even help you build a better piece of work.

#6 – Build a funnel

The final step is to make sure that your new piece of rockstar content really produces results for your business. And you do that by building a funnel.

Why does this matter?

Well otherwise what’s the ROI? Where’s the proof that all this was worth it? How can you learn and grow if you aren’t collecting data that actually means something to your business (i.e. leads and sales instead of fans and followers)?

To get this data you need to build a funnel – a logical progression of user actions and pieces of contact that turns a reader into a fan, a fan into a prospect, a prospect into a solid lead, and a lead into a sale.

The simplest way to create a funnel is to ensure that there is a value-added next step, with a clear call to action, at the end of your game-changing content. And the value-added bit is important.

Think about what the reader would want to know next, what other pieces of information they would need to actually use your advice, what other resources or details can you give them?

Then consider at what point you would like them to engage with your company and ensure that you create content at each step of the education process; and have a clear method of converting the content consumer into a prospect (such as a no-obligation call on how the advice can be used by them).

A funnel is a means of collecting evidence that you can use to optimize content and functionality on a website – its a big topic that we’ll return to in the future.

In conclusion

As a final example (to a lesser extent) Brian Dean creates game-changing content in a process called the Skyscraper Technique – an end-to-end SEO approach designed to build traffic for a specific target keyword – which is highly recommended for content marketers.

An ambitious and category-defining funnel could involve deploying the Skyscraper Technique for multiple pieces of standout content that link to the game-changing piece, and then have the reader move through steps in a funnel until they become a customer.

OK that might be a lot to ask for many businesses, but I’m sure that with enough effort and a focus on a specific topic, you can create game-changing piece of content and a funnel that positions you as a category leader, and brings some serious business results.

Good luck!

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How to Become a Category Leader: the Secret is Game-changing Content

Also published on Medium.

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