Start as close to the end as possible

For anyone who struggles with coming up with topics for their content marketing, I can relate.

If my count is correct, this is my 73rd newsletter since the summer of 2020 when I began writing The Strategy You Want.

For anyone who struggles with coming up with topics for their content marketing, I can relate.

I'll admit, it's not always easy to write these. They can take anywhere from four to twelve hours to complete, and they require me to stretch and grow with every edition.

But that's the primary point I'd like to make today: Even if nobody actually ever read these, they'd still be worth writing.

Which means I don’t have to worry about the stats. I don’t have to obsess over open rates or views.

Because getting better doesn’t necessarily mean getting more popular—it means getting more correct, more clear, and more original in my thinking.

And I encourage you—implore, even—to find a marketing tactic you can do that works for you even if nobody sees it.

Do something that’s good for you, that grows your skills, stretches your abilities, and grants you new experiences.

As high performance sports psychologist Michael Gervais wrote, “Remember that growth and learning take place when you're operating at the edge of your capacity.”

I knew that I knew something about strategy when I set out to start this newsletter, but did I know that I'd have at least 73 original ideas on the subject worth sharing?

Probably not, and yet here we are.

Because every newsletter I write spawns five more—every point I make requires more discussion, more thinking, more investigation, more clarification.

In many ways, this newsletter makes itself—I just have to write it down.

So how do I actually write it, and how could it help you create your own content? As Kurt Vonnegut wisely said, “Start as close to the end as possible.”

The first thing I do is identify the problem—the “struggling moment” in Bob Moesta’s words—that I know my ideal reader is likely to face in their marketing life, like struggling with topics for their content marketing.

And then I identify the final, singular point I want to share with them, like that they should try to create content that works even if nobody sees it.

That frames the beginning and the end—what's the problem, and what's the solution?

Next, I look for insights in the database of 3,400 or so quotations, frameworks, and concepts I've amassed over the years.

I try to find quotes that illustrate a particular point, have a clever way of phrasing an important idea, or that just delight me in some way. Those are added to my outline, between the introductory problem and the final concluding point.

Then, I start the physical act of writing. Connecting the points together, cohering them into a singular focus, and creating new mental models and phrases I can add to my stock of original concepts.

Once a first draft is complete, it requires dozens of revisions to realign ideas and focus the prose until each idea flows as naturally as possible into the next.

And then I sleep on it.

I never publish anything the day I make it. I’m too caught up in it—either in love with the way I’ve worded something, or too fired up about the concept to know whether I’m being clear. So I sleep on it and make more edits in the morning, or occasionally scrap it entirely (like I did this week) because it wasn’t a point I wanted to stand behind.

And then I publish. I hope for good feedback, but I try to remember that the most important audience is myself.

Am I proud of it? Did it stretch me and cause me to grow? Did it answer the question it posed, and did it provide something useful for the reader to do or think about?

I don’t think about the results of each edition, I think about the result of the newsletter as a whole.

A few years ago, I was doing every kind of marketing for every kind of business. At the end of this year, I can proudly say all I do is read, write, and speak about strategy.

I'm running the business I'd hoped to run when I first imagined what my future could be like—though never imagined possible—because of this newsletter.

“Strategy is the structure to work efficiently to get what you want,” might be the most important thought about strategy that I've ever had.

And it’s a direct result of writing The Strategy You Want every week, and it would have been worth writing even if nobody else had ever read it.

Because I could then read it. I could then build upon it and grow along with it.

That this newsletter is my single largest source of new client leads is a bonus—the biggest reward is the thinking it continually inspires.

And so I want you to think about how you could reinforce your marketing position with your ideal audience in a way that makes you better, even if the public never sees it.

Is it a podcast? A blog? A newsletter? A YouTube channel? A series of TikToks? Or is it something else entirely, something you’ve been afraid to try because you’re worried about how it will be received?

Forget about everyone else and think about what you need to learn. Where you need to grow. Where you want to end up with your business.

And think about the marketing you could do that could help you get there, even if you’re the only audience for it.

Where could you be developing your craft, refining your skills, and putting yourself out into the world and holding yourself accountable to constant, daily growth?

Because the fact of the matter is, that’s also the marketing most likely to work for your ideal audience, too. Because it’s brave, it’s bold, and it’s at your edge.

Which is where people need you to be.

The boring old best practices have already been covered by everyone else. Your audience needs your unique insights and your most groundbreaking thoughts.

And it’ll help you as much as it will help anyone else.

As behavioural scientist Katy Milkman wrote, “Giving advice to others tends to help us.” Because “after offering that advice to others, we feel hypocritical if we don't try it ourselves.”

So find yourself a marketing tactic that could push you into new territory next year.

And create marketing that gives your most powerful advice to the audience that needs it most—you.

Forget about where you are. Figure out where you’re meant to be.

And start as close to the end as possible.