All, Audience Research, Content Marketing, Content Tips

Leonardo’s Drawings: An Enlightening Exercise in Understanding Your Audience

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By the end of his life, Leonardo da Vinci had drawn thousands of sketches on the human body, horses, plants, architecture, engineering, maps, forces of nature – anything that captured his imagination.

500 years later and these drawings give us one of the closest and clearest looks into the Renaissance master’s mind.

Leonardo self portrait
A presumed self-portrait of Leonardo from 1512. He died in 1519. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

To celebrate his artistic and scientific achievements, the Royal Collection is showing 200 of Leonardo’s drawings at Buckingham Palace. So, as anyone on the other side of Green Park would do, I hopped on a bike and went to see the drawings in person.

After admiring the genius’ sketches and detailed observations, the biggest thing that stood out to me was how Leonardo saw and studied the natural world: he didn’t see art and science, painting and technology as separate spheres but as equal parts of the whole.

Which comes as no surprise then that he worked across sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, geometry and more.

Leonardo even left his mark on, you guessed it, content marketing!

A Collective View of the World

By seeing the similarities in different fields of knowledge, Leonardo took a collective view of the world. He embraced correlations and spotted connections between things that seemed separate on the surface.

For instance, when it came to painting, Leonardo didn’t see it as merely an art form; he considered it a science. A painting he thought “should be a rational, objective depiction of natural effects.

Inside the exhibit at Buckingham Palace.

That’s certainly one of the reasons he obsessed over proportions, drew muscles, tendons and ligaments from every angle and described the movement of water in meticulous detail.

Through his drawings and notes, you begin to understand that Leonardo never just looked at something and jumped onto the next. He made observations in the context of nature and the world around him.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

His subject’s drapery is so realistic it appears to glide across the ground and the rivers in his maps seem to spread out like veins in the body.

The presence of nature is never lost in his art. The natural world, however, is what fuses his work together and makes his creative and scientific contributions invaluable, even five centuries on.

A Unified Approach to Content Marketing

As content marketers, our goal is to connect with people in a meaningful way. We want to share knowledge and expertise with others in hopes of making their lives better.

Everything we research, plan and create for a business is based on one thing – audience. Their readers’ wants and needs, passions and fears. Because the more we understand the audience, the greater (and longer-lasting) the impression we can have on them.

In other words, a company’s audience is what powers and unifies any effective content marketing strategy.

Your audience is to content marketers what the natural world is to Leonardo da Vinci.

Follow in the artist’s footsteps and think of your content, product or service and business channels (store, website, social media) as equal parts of the whole. They are all working to serve one thing – your audience.

This unified approach to content marketing will only make your customer relationships stronger. Because when you build a product that matches your prospect’s needs, create content they can relate to and provide a positive experience across platform, you are putting your audience first and giving them another reason to trust your solution over someone else’s.

Last Thought from Leonardo

Keeping your audience top of mind will also help guide future content creation and business ideas.

If it serves your customer, then it is worth pursuing.

Focus on the solutions that benefit your audience the most and organize your content and resources from there.

As Leonardo looked for answers in nature, you can find the answers in your audience.

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing

Why French Cuisine is Good for Content Marketing

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“[T]hey know what to do with every scrap of hoof, snout, entrail, and skin … Because they grew up with that all-important dictum. Use everything! (And use it well.)”

This is how Anthony Bourdain describes the French style of cooking in his book, A Cook’s Tour.

I picked up his collection of food and travel tales before my last plane trip and have since been reliving his fearless and much-missed spirit through his writing.

He brings up French cuisine when talking about creating magic with food. To him, these classically-trained chefs are experts of taking the most unglamorous ingredients — “boiled tongues, tails, bones, and cheap root vegetables” — and turning them into something delicious, like pot-au-feu.

Not unlike how content marketers strip down a business’s purpose, down to the core, so that they can then reconstruct its message in many different meaningful and relevant ways.

Because when done right, content marketing doesn’t appear as a business-driven message at all, but as a story you want to read, a song you want to sing, a feeling you want to have.

So how do you go from a word or an idea to captivating someone’s attention and evoking emotions? Like the French, start with the basics and build from there.

know the exact ‘ingredients’ of your business

What does your business do for its customers that is better and distinct from the competition? In other words, what are the main elements that go into your company’s special sauce?

mixing ingredients
What ingredients go into your business?

Is your product or service easy-to-use? Eco-friendly? High-quality? Backed by research?

Once you know the essential components of your business, then you can begin to shape your brand’s point of view and unique approach to a particular problem.

This thorough understanding of what goes into your offerings will make it much easier to create effective landing pages, start a conversation on social media and focus your e-newsletters.

keep it simple (especially when the idea is complex)

Remember, as Bourdain points out, you have to start with “scraps and trimmings and fat, ground up and seasoned” to get pâté.

In marketing terms, that is to say, if you are trying to communicate a complicated concept to your audience, there are always ways to break it down and reconstruct it so that your customer not only understands the message but can also relate and empathize with it.

Marketers can do this by being empathetic themselves, trying their best to absorb the pain points and desires of your prospects and customers.

By putting yourself in their shoes, you can more easily see what questions they might have and what problems they are seeking to solve. Then, tell them how your business can be their solution in a clear and to-the-point way.

Talk to them, person to person. And tell them what to do next.

Which leads me to tip #3…

use your words — in a myriad of different ways

Your underlying message will remain the same for the most part (e.g. we’re credible, we’re classic, we’re dedicated, etc.) but how you present it will vary in every context.

On a landing page, for instance, you’ll have a headline, subheadline, copy and call-to-action to convey your message. This checklist will help make sure your content is easy to read and understand.

Creating a post for social media, however, will take on a different tone and appearance. It will be conversational in style, shorter and visually engaging.

There are lots of other content types that your marketing strategy will include and therefore lots of options when it comes to putting it together and sharing it with your audience. Sometimes fewer words will work better, or a graphic or a series of newsletters.

What’s important is how you decide to tell your business’s story (hint: follow the French’s lead to create something truly special):

Those shrewd and wily French toiled mightily over the years, figuring out ways to make just about everything that grazed, creeped, swam, crawled, or hopped, and every growing thing that poked through soil, rotted on the vine, or hid under dung, into something edible, enjoyable — even magical.

All, Content Creation, Content Tips

For the Love of London: What This Content Creation Venture Has Taught Me So Far

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Keep laundry and other chores on Sundays.

Set alarm clock (and get up) on weekdays.

Grab a newspaper from the tube station every day.

This sounds more like personal to-dos than work ones, doesn’t it?

That’s because ever since I decided to go it alone and start my own content creation business, I’ve had to put my personal life in check. And make myself follow a routine so I won’t do everything humanly possible besides work and end up having regular freak-outs.

Taking the leap

About a year ago, I was on the fence about moving to London.

Then, I just went for it.

There was only one catch — I had to come up with a business plan and show that I was serious about my proposed freelance venture through letters of recommendation and sufficient funding.

With the help of a lawyer, massive support from my family, friends and colleagues, and a bit of luck, I was granted an entrepreneur visa to legally live and work in the UK.

*cue the fireworks*

The bumpy beginning

After two months of sorting out legal documents and making my content creation business “official”, went live!

At the time, I was energized and ready to take on anything. My website had the essentials (background info, published work, my writing and marketing services), but the truth was, it wasn’t giving people in search of content solutions what they needed.

Referrals from colleagues afforded me the opportunity to meet with and pitch a few businesses on content marketing. That was a start!

Plus, something had to come out of all this cold-emailing.

But, nothing did.

My impatience was getting the best of me and I had too much time to think about what I was doing wrong.

It was deflating, absolutely. But this wasn’t going to be the end of my London dreams.

Learning my way

Instead of feeling my way through this black tunnel, I learned my way.

I signed up for Copyblogger’s advanced course on content marketing and am now one of their Certified Content Marketers.

I put my new video skills to test (thanks, Xanthe!) and started creating short films for Instagram.

I became fascinated by Shakespeare’s Globe and the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, researching and writing articles on both.

Tennis, our family’s favorite sport, became my next subject of interest (thanks to my brother’s business, Zen Tennis!)

In between everything was endless hours of reading entrepreneur, small business, freelance, content marketing advice online and in print. As a matter of fact, I’m in the middle of my favorite writing book now — Ann’s got content jokes, I love it.

All the while, I have listened to my family and friends. Because there’s no way I would have gotten this far without them.

Taking the lead

Then, sort of all at once, things started falling into place.

If you would’ve told me six months ago that three of my proposals would be accepted in one week, I would’ve laughed. And cried from happiness.

But, that’s how it happened.

Of course, all of my solo-business troubles have not magically disappeared, however, those troubles are slowly turning into mini-triumphs.

After months of second-guessing myself, tirelessly updating my site, gradually getting used to a home office and fixating on the negatives rather than the positives (sorry, Mom!), I am very excited to be officially producing content and marketing strategies for other businesses.

It’s liberating really, to collaborate with other people and help tell their company’s story while growing their brand and mine at the same time.

This new job ain’t so bad after all.

*knocks on wood*

Onward I go

Looking ahead, far into the distance as this is only the beginning, I plan to remember where I started.

I will continue to learn my way through creating quality content for other people.

I will let my interests lead me and fascinations intrigue me.

I will read, listen to and follow the teachings of pioneers and intellects.

On paper, my business may only consist of me, but so far, its success has been based on many amazing people, countless experiences and lots of inspiring stories.

Here’s to meeting, making and telling much more!

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

3 Compelling Content Ideas to Win Over Your Audience’s Heart


The last bite of seafood pasta had been twirled onto my fork and finished off.

None of us wanted to leave this restaurant, its beachy, open-air construction built right into the cliff.

To remember it, we took a photo with the very friendly staff before saying ciao and grazie. It was a 30-minute walk back to the ferry, but just as we were leaving, our waiter said, “No, no, why don’t you take our boat back to the main beach? It’s a three-minute ride and free for people who eat at the restaurant!”

My friends and I quickly exchanged glances, all thinking the same thing: No way! They are SO nice here, this is the best restaurant in Capri!

And just like that, they won our hearts over. Their free shuttle saved us time and energy, which after walking everywhere on our trip, was very much appreciated.

restaurant photo
My friends and I with the wonderful restaurant staff!

For them, it was a small gesture to show how much our business meant to them, and for us, it made us feel like queens of Capri.

The restaurant’s complimentary boat ride is also a great example of how your website should interact with your own prospects and customers.

You want to leave a positive, lasting impression on your visitors and one way to do that is to give them something for free that will help them, or their wallets, out.

Here are three ideas for giving your website that little something extra. Because little things can go a long way and have a powerful impact on your audience.

1. A downloadable freebie

Don’t you love when you go to a website and they give you something that you can actually download, print off and use? It feels like you’ve been let in on a secret and since it’s free, you think you’ve hit a mini jackpot.

And it’s not just your audience who is gaining something. A lot of the time, these freebies are given in exchange for an email address, so if someone does download your cheat sheet, recipe or city guide, you will have a way to communicate with them in the future. To offer them similar solutions.

Think about what makes sense to offer from your brand’s perspective and create something they will enjoy and get good use out of. For instance, you could give them:

  • A  template or checklist for doing X (editing your own photos, writing a novel, etc.)
  • A calendar of events that pertain to your company’s industry
  • An e-book or professionally-designed document that compiles helpful information on one topic into a downloadable PDF

2. one-time purchase offer

You’ve probably seen this on e-commerce sites before, but another way to entice your customer to buy your product is to offer them a discount.

Depending on how and when you would like to offer this on your site, it could come in the form of a “new member discount”, a percentage off their purchase for a limited time or free shipping.

This can also be a win-win for you because if visitors have to sign up for your newsletter in order to receive the discount, then you will have their email address and access to their inbox. If this is the case, consider mentioning the discount next to the newsletter signup button on your site. More on how to successfully do that here.

3. expert knowledge or advice (with no price tag)

Using different mediums and channels, you can get really creative with this one.

There are many ways you can share valuable information with your audience, but some of the most popular and engaging solutions include:

  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Blogs
  • Live-streaming (i.e. Facebook Live, live stories on Instagram, etc.)

The cool thing about podcasts is that they attract people who genuinely want to hear more from you and your brand. They actively choose to listen to your show because they are interested in your specialized topic.

Separately, I watched a video recently where vlogger Thomas Kuegler said one of his followers got to know him way better after watching one or two of his videos than she did after reading his articles for a year.

That’s a pretty big impression and a reminder of the kind of impact video or live-streaming can have on your community.

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced that blogs are good for business, think again. There are many benefits of blogging, from increasing traffic to building your authority and trust with readers.

Sure, blogging or discounting your product may not be as glamorous as a free boat ride across the Isle of Capri, but it will have you feeling like a million bucks when customers start raving about your company.