What Indoor Gardening Can Teach You About Creating Valuable Content

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I have a confession.

Right now, in the upstairs of my house, I am keeping more than 50 houseplants.

It all started with this Gollum Fingered jade plant.

I bought my first plant in New Britain, CT and later that year moved to Albany, NY. Up until this point I hadn’t successfully kept a couple of cacti alive.

In that year, I almost killed the plant several times between the move and having no understanding of how to take care of my charge.

That’s a common theme with houseplants. As you take care of a plant, you almost kill the plant. You also completely kill many plants.

From each near-death or death experience, you learn something new about lighting, water, or pests. It’s invigorating and stressful. Now multiply that by about 50ish plants.

Each has the ideal window they’d like to be set in. Sometimes that window isn’t one you have in your house. They each have an amount of water they want on/around them at any given time.

I like to relate growing plants with growing just about anything else. Building skills and growing plants relate well. As does growing particular B2B content ideas and growing plants.

If you go back and read what I wrote before but apply it to an idea for content. To grow a piece of content, you must start with a small idea and build value into it. That value grows as a result of the presentation, promotion, its placement, etc.

That might mean making an image post for social media on a subject. If that does well, you write a short blog post about it. If that does well, you write a longer blog post. Then you might create a video or a white paper. Eventually, you might work all the way up to a webinar.

As you read on, you’ll see how creating content that grows as its reach builds is just like growing plants.

LIGHT EXPOSURE

Unless you’re an artist, have a cat, or grow houseplants, you probably don’t pay much attention to the way the sun moves around your dwelling.

But, as the sun circles the planet, the amount of light that pours through your windows is always changing.

Certain plants want to feel the sun directly on their leaves. Others prefer bright, but indirect light. It’s all about location.

For content to thrive, you must put it in a position where it will be discovered by the right people. Their attention is what gives the content the fuel to grow.

You need to carefully select the place that your content will get enough light. For plants, it’s all about distance from the window and how much light shines in. For your content, you want to make sure that it resides in a location that is familiar to your audience.

That way, they get the right light from the right sources. One of the most common killers of plants is not enough light. If you produce a piece of content and put it in a dark corner of your website, no one will see it. That’s like putting a plant that wants bright light in a windowless bathroom. No exposure and the content will never be seen.

You have to find the right space(s) for your content. Figure out what hashtags you’ll use on social and how to gather email addresses of those interested in your offering. It might take some shifting around at first, but you’ll soon find the ideal placement where time spent and value correlate.

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CONTAINER

Container size has to accommodate the size of the plant. The correct container size ensures it grows properly.

I like to think of the format of the content as the container. The more involved and ambitious the format, the larger the pot will need to be. And, of course, the size of the container can always be changed later.

You can “plant” a lot of content ideas by presenting them in basic formats, maybe an image or discussion question on social media. If one idea takes off, you can move the idea to a more involved content format – a lengthy blog post, for instance. From there you can continue scaling up to match the interest.

The next step might be an ebook or a video. That’s an even larger pot size. A webinar would be even bigger.

The important thing is the format of the content has to match the container. You can’t put a plant with smaller value into too large of a pot, or it won’t be able to stand up to the attention it gets from the promotions. And, likewise, you’re wasting potential by keeping a growing plant stuck in a small pot.

Another point to consider is that pots get more expensive across the spectrum of tiny to unreasonably large. You may not be able to afford to put every plant into the largest possible plant, just like you can’t necessarily afford to make every content idea into a webinar. Invest in the plants, or content, that has the best chance of growing.

If you choose the right ones, you’ll be rewarded with large and impressive plants. These big potted plants are the ones people want to see. The same goes for content. When you have a certain amount of value to offer, you can justify gating it.

SOIL TYPE

Soil type affects how long the plant’s roots are in contact with water. Some plants like rocky, non-organic soil, others want a large amount of organic material.

Most plants like a specific blend of both. The size of the particles makes a difference too.

The soil is similar to all the research, resources, and elements you put into your content. It’s the hours of research. It’s the images and formatting of the content. It’s the language you use and the quality of your links.

Some content requires a lot of research, specialized graphics, and interactive elements to make them work. With other content, you can get away with more off-the-cuff discussion and opinion.

Soil feeds your content idea and helps it grow. It’s also determining how long it can hold an audience’s attention before it gets repromoted. You want to consider optimizing these components in your content. Think about the words you use and what industries those words align with.

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WATER

The amount of water needed also changes depending on the plant. It obviously affects soil dampness. Some plants get all their nutrients from their water. Watering is also when you’d fertilize.

Promoting content is like watering your plants. Every email message you send out and every social post draw attention to your content. Even internal and external links are a way of keeping your content watered.

Water gives the plant what it needs to grow. Promotion gives your content attention, which is the entire point. After all, if you post a blog on the internet and no one sees it, does it even exist?

The frequency of watering is a critical factor. If you overpromote something, it can get oversaturated.

In plants, this can lead to pests or even make the roots rot off the plant. Likewise, if you overpromote a piece of content, your audience may hide your messages rather than following them to your content.

The appropriate level of promotion will feed your content, allowing it to grow bigger as you put more resources into it.

TIME OF YEAR

Each plant has an ideal time of year where it does most of its growing. For some plants that means you get blooming at particular times of year and you also get periods of dormancy.

It’s like how deciduous trees (the leafy ones) in the Northeast grow leaves each spring and lose them each fall. Other plants do that, but their cycles change.

Your content will likely see similar cycles. Certain content types will be in-demand at certain times of the year. Buying guides and product trials will be popular during peak buying times. Product guides and how-tos tend to be popular between peak purchase times. Of course, content that’s holiday-themed or seasonal will also draw more attention during the related time of year.

In addition, during certain times of the year, your audience will consume more or less content in general. For example, in most of the business-to-business world, the holidays are the slowest time because everyone is too busy eating food with friends and family. Then, as January begins, there are fresh budgets and a flurry of buying to get ready for the new year.

Take note of how these seasonal changes impact your content by collecting and analyzing year over year metrics.

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PESTS

Pests are part of indoor gardening. Sometimes you bring a new plant home with a pest. Other times, a pest will find your plant when it’s dry or damp and decide to multiply on it.

Certain conditions and plants attract particular pests. It’s easier to avoid pests inside because you have more control of the environment, but that doesn’t stop them.

In the content marketing world, the pests are spammers, the data miners, bots, and the fictitious form completions filling your database with dummy data. Pests are sometimes attracted by keyword or by promotion on particular channels.

For pests in plants, you usually do some combination of removing the pest and applying some sort of treatment to prevent it from coming back.

It’s the same in content. You might have to manually clean your data after noticing pests attracted to a particular piece of content. From there, you could consider changing the niche of the post, the keyword set, or where it’s promoted.

PULLING IT TOGETHER

You’ll notice that most, if not all of these different conditions interplay to create the perfect environment for a plant. With houseplants, you try to mimic the environment that the plant grows best in.

You’ll see signs of how you’re doing. Plants will bloom and/or propagate when they’re in their ideal environment. Some plants are tolerant to just about anything but won’t make flowers unless conditions are ideal. In some cases, that is very difficult, requiring an exact amount of light, water, and food to bloom. In other cases, the plant will just repeatedly spawn more plants and flowers with little to no input from you.

To get your content to thrive instead of survive, you have to create content that will thrive in the environment you put it in. This combines all the factors we mention above. You find the ideal mix of placement, promotion, and building blocks to make your content as valuable as possible.

Let us know:

  • Do you like the plant metaphor?
  • Are there other ways this metaphor applies to marketing?
  • What else can you do to boost value in your content?

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