cf #60: how to market to a platypus
You are reading contentfolks—a fortnightly blend of sticky notes, big content ideas, and small practical examples. Thank you for being here! ~fio
The first time I saw a platypus, I became an exploding head emoji → 🤯
The platypus looks like a bunch of different species stitched together. It has the webbed feet and fur of an otter and the bill of a duck, the side legs of a reptile and the paddle-shaped tail of a beaver. It lays eggs like a bird but makes milk like a mammal, it’s venomous like a viper and electroreceptive like a shark.
The platypus, in other words, is a remarkably weird creature—and also, if you trust me, an excellent metaphor for your content marketing audience.
The platypus doesn’t care about labels, and neither does your audience
Scientists make sense of the world by grouping and labelling things based on shared attributes. For example, they sort all animals into six classes (e.g. reptiles, amphibians, fish, etc.) and have specific criteria to determine who belongs where.
Every once in a while, however, they meet an unclassifiable animal1 and end up spending significant amounts of time figuring out where to put it. It took scientists decades to determine whether the platypus was even real, never mind deciding if it was a bird (no) or a mammal (yes).
Meanwhile, the platypus doesn’t care about our classification systems! The platypus has some jobs it wants to get done, like finding shelter and fending off rivals, and goes about its life without ever thinking about labels…
…which is exactly what happens with our content marketing audiences.
As marketers, we categorise the market around us to make sense of it. We group people based on shared attributes like position in the funnel (e.g. awareness, interest, consideration stage) or likelihood to convert (e.g. marketing- or product-qualified lead), then invest our resources and effort into engineering content marketing machines that match these abstract categories.
But much like the platypus, our audiences don’t care about any of that! Nobody comes to our websites thinking “I’m an MQL and need some TOFU-awareness content:” they come because they have a job they need to do and need some help, guidance, and/or inspiration to do it. Everything else is a labelling system we created—they don’t care about any of it.
How to market to a platypus
What are you to do with this insight? To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you go to work tomorrow and set your TOFU/MOFU/BOFU or MQL/SQL/PQL classification systems on fire.2 But you might face the fact that people don’t fit neatly into the marketing categories we design, and they certainly don’t act as linearly as we wish they did, and re-think your content approach accordingly.
For example, here are some actions you can take:
Make a habit of running or watching 1-2-1 customer interviews to understand how existing customers think about the problems or jobs that led them to your product
Use research tools like SparkToro, Ahrefs, and even good ol’ Google to go down long research rabbit holes and determine where your existing and potential customers hang out
Then go and spend time there! In my case, I’m regularly checking Twitter threads, Reddit posts, email-related Slack channels, and software review pages to see how people talk about our product and the issues it solves. Your places might be different, but the logic is the same
Shift your thinking away from funnel or conversion stages (which is something you care about) and towards jobs-to-be-done (which is something your audience cares about)
Publish and distribute product-led content that showcases your product in action as much and as often as you can
🔥 pro tip: just because someone is already a customer, it doesn’t mean they know about or use 100% of your product’s functionality. When done properly, your product-led pieces can help existing customers discover new features and also convince potential ones to give your product a try—despite decades of marketing gurus trying to convince you otherwise.
Anything else should I add to this list?
This is probably one of the weirdest detours I’ve taken while writing a content marketing-focused newsletter.
…although, when you think about it, wouldn’t that be grand? Imagine a world where you spend half of your time talking to existing and potential customers to learn what they need and how they found out about you, and the other half creating content that addresses their jobs-to-be-done + distributing it effectively across the right channels. I think we’d all collectively make better content and be more content (with the accent on the e) too.