The importance of revisiting solved problems

One “problem” with creativity is that you can start to answer questions that nobody is asking.

With content, this is a genuine concern — in an industry so worried about saturation, it is important to be reminded that education is about helping customers succeed, regardless of how innovative the presentation is.

Eventually, marketers in any industry start to realize that the market for niche information is generally greater than the actual information available.

Put another way, there will always be people who need the answers to “solved problems.”

Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger describes this as the marketer’s responsibility to assume nothing. Don’t assume that people will have already covered all of the fundamentals. Customer success starts with leaving the biggest impact.

Balance is achieved through teaching ideas that work (things that aren’t just interesting) and in making them different/better/more innovative than what’s currently available. As Derek Halpern is fond of saying, you don’t need unique ingredients to accomplish this, you just need a unique recipe.

Creativity matters only after you are sure that you’re touching on topics that will help people get results. Utility, then creativity.

Big players in topics that are perpetually in demand, like Men’s Health in “health and fitness,” have essentially given up on testing what appeals to readers. They already have formulas that work.

Again, demand for such information is greater than the actual information available:

Men's health headlines

To “disrupt” a big player like this, you’d first need to learn a little from them — surprise, if there is one outcome that guys care about most, it’s getting those six-pack abs.

What you do after nailing pillar topics like this is where creativity comes in. Although getting in shape is a “solved problem” on the surface (burn more calories than you consume, lift weights), it is decidedly not a solved problem in practice.

Building a workout habit, maintaining a diet when your willpower is fading, having a few go-to recipes for when you’re traveling, creating a diet plan with enough protein if you’re vegetarian — there is still a ton of room to innovate, but you’d still need to develop your strategy around what guys care about most.

When looking at how you can stand out in the coming content marketing deluge, remember that innovation also means revisiting the solved problems that readers have cared about since time immemorial.

About the author: Gregory Ciotti is a marketer and (embarrassingly infrequent) writer. Previously, he led content marketing on Shopify’s growth team and was executive editor on the communications team.