Is Your Content Good? Test It With These Three Questions

DSCN8165In creating the marketing platform for your book, what counts most is the quality of your ideas. David Ogilvy, the legendary advertising executive said, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.”

An essential task for idea entrepreneurs is sifting through all the content we create and choosing which ideas to develop. Sometimes we’ll float an idea online and ask for initial reactions. But when it comes to going public with an idea over the long term, we need to ask some tough questions.

Following are questions that matter most to me. They won’t surprise you. But are you willing to ask them consistently—and answer them honestly?

1. Is This Idea New?

Perhaps you’ve read a book or sat through a presentation and said to yourself, I’ve heard this all before. When a critical mass of our audience members react this way, we have a problem.

Why would anyone bother with our content unless we offer something new—or present familiar ideas in a fresh and compelling way?

2. Have I Tested This Idea?

According to Ryan Holiday—whom I admire and wrote about here—the most “self-destructive” impulse you have is “believing that thing it took you two seconds to come up with was a genius idea.” He adds:

Contributions come from taking the time to develop a deep understanding of everything at play and more often than not, coming up with gradual improvements and suggestions. They come from the rigor and discipline of really knowing something. Half your ideas get thrown away. More than half deserve to be thrown away. Maybe there is some vaunted genius out there whose every thought is mind-blowing but that person is not you.

That’s in-your-face (and mine), isn’t it? But think about what we ask of our audiences—to invest their precious time, energy, attention, and money in our ideas. They will be tough on us. Let’s be prepared.

I’ve written many times about the why’s and how’s of testing ideas. For example:

The Art of Crap Detection

Before You Publish, Try to Destroy Your Ideas

Won’t Get Fooled Again—Three Levels of Credibility in Self-Help Books

Does Your Personal Experience Prove Anything?

Three Questions to Ask Before Writing a Book

The Ultimate Challenge for Idea Entrepreneurs—Practicing What You Preach

Three Complaints About Self-Help Books

John Butman on Stories, Methods, and Metrics—Three Staples of Nonfiction That Can Backfire on Authors

3. Does My Message Fit the Medium?

One way to develop a book manuscript is to draft it as a series of blog posts—the blog to book method.

At the same time, remember that a collection of blog posts is only a rough draft of your book. Those posts will need a radical makeover before they remotely resemble a book manuscript.

Why? Because online content and books are starkly different media. For details, I’ll refer you to this article by Jakob Nielsen, an expert in user experience research. If you are an idea entrepreneur and read only one thing today, make it this.