When I first started my YouTube channel two and a half years ago, I made a BIG mistake...
I cast my net way too large. I created content on fitness and productivity. My audience was everyone.
By trying to target everyone I targeted no one, because they all went to people creating content that was better, more niched, and more consistent.
I fell into what the Category Pirates call in their legendary business book, The Category Toolkit, the better trap.
In this article I'm going to go through the 7 groundbreaking lessons for content creators I have learned from The Category Design Toolkit. This book is now my favorite business book in front of $100 Million Dollar offers by Alex Hormozi and Superfans by Pat Flynn.
Lesson 1: The Biggest Mistake Most Content Creators Make
The biggest mistake most content creators make, including my past self, is not being niche enough.
This is the trap I fell for when starting on YouTube. It's the reason The Category Pirates hate the terms product market fit advocated for by many business books like The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Product market fit implies you are trying to align your product to fit inside of an existing market. In the content creation realm, it can mean trying to appeal to everyone. This sucks for two reasons.
Firstly, it puts you in the better game.
The better game is played whenever you are competing against someone else in the same market to be better as the primary way of driving customer demand.
This is a losing game. It forces you to always be improving. Stagnation is death because other creators will take you over.
Secondly, customers often don't know what they want.
People's beliefs and behaviors are often misaligned. What they say they want and what they do want can be off. So basing your perception of what to create on a already created market can be foolhardy.
Nobody knew they wanted an IPhone before Steve Jobs came in and made one.
Nobody knew they wanted Uber before it was created.
These two reasons scream for a different strategy which leads to the culminating idea of the book: The Category Pirates advocate for building your own category.
Categories are things like electric bikes, home fitness, restaurant delivery, but in the content creation field they are called niches. Your niche is a mix of your personality, the content creation buckets you do, your thumbnail/title design, your method of storytelling, and more. Creating your own niche allows you to compete with nobody.
When you are super niche as a content creator you don't have to play the better game.
Your audience doesn't come to you because you have the best content, they come because they want your content.
Lesson 2: The Mindset Every Content Creator Should Have
Category designers have a missionary mindset instead of a mercenary mindset.
Mercenaries believe resources are scarce and make money in ways that take away money from others.
For example, gambling institutions make money when you lose lots of money.
Missionaries, however, have an abundance mindset, looking to create categories in ways that can make everyone win.
For example, as a content creator I try and give away 95% of my knowledge for free. You can find it on my YouTube channel, my newsletter, my blogging website, my podcast, or my published notes. It's only for the 5% of implementation that I ask for money.
This way everyone wins.
My audience gets 95% of my value for free, building trust in me as a creator, and making them more than willing to pay lots of money for my value laden products like Obsidian University.
This reminds me of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb says in his seminal book, Skin In The Game.
Having Skin In The Game, means you have something to risk for an endeavor.
For example, in the previous example, let's entertain the idea that my product Obsidian University is horrible. Hopefully, this is wrong, but let's say it's not. In this case, my audience wouldn't be willing to buy the product and therefore it would get bad reviews.
In effect, I would stop getting sales.
Therefore I have skin in the game to create a great product.
I believe every content creator should have a Missionary mindset with skin in the game. Give before you take.
You will paradoxically get more in return.
Lesson 3: Don't Waste Your Time Trying To Appease Everyone
When I first started creating, I tried to appeal to everyone.
I responded to every YT comment, every Discord message, and every subscriber email. The problem with this strategy is not every audience member is equal. Why?
Because of the good ol' Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the inputs account for 80% of the outputs.
Applied to your audience, 20% of your audience accounts for 80% of your revenue. These are what The Category Pirates call your superconsumers and readers of Patt Flynns fantastic book Superfans call your Superfans. Your superfans/superconsumers are the 10% of people that put outsized amounts of their time and money inside of a category.
You don't have to appeal to everyone.
Focus your attention on your Superfans.
They will provide you with way more for the time you put in.
Lesson 4: How To Ideate A Category Of Your Own As A Content Creator
Okay, so how do you create a category of your own in content creation?
If you're just starting out or on the beginning journey, there are generally two strategies:
- Be an architect
- Be an archeologist
Architects craft their category out before even beginning to create.
They analyze other people creating content on a similar niche, and figure out how they can be different. The benefit of being an architect is you don't compete from the get go, but the drawback is you can easily become perfectionist and not get started creating in the first place.
Archeologists, however, carve out their niche over time.
They pick a few things they are interested in, say KALIBUNGA, and go for it! This is the strategy I went with when first starting my content creation journey. The benefit is it's easier to do than being an architect, but the drawback is you might not be different from other creators at the start.
How do you come up with things you might be interested in creating?
My favorite method is the 2 year test.
Essentially, you yourself what problems your 2 year past self had that you have solved now. Than you find a way to solve those problems in a way that is different from everyone else. Ask yourself two questions after finding a problem to solve:
- Would a solution for this problem have a lot of value?
- Am I the right person to solve this problem?
If either of those are a no, you shouldn't pursue it.
For example, I know a ton about Stoicism. But it would make no sense for me to write a book series on it. One, because Ryan Holiday is already dominating that niche meaning the problem isn't as valuable. And two, what makes me the right person to write it? I'm a 19 year old University student without a background in philosophy.
Once you have found some problems you think are valuable enough to solve and you are the right person to do so, there are 8 different category differentiation levers you can differentiate on.
Lesson 5: The 8 Different Category Differentiation Levers
The Category Pirates share 8 different levers in their book, but I'm only going to share the one I found most useful for content creators.
Differentiate On Who, What, When, Why, Where, And How
- Who do you do something for?
- What outcome do you unlock?
- When do you do it?
- Why do you do it?
- Where do you do it?
- How much and how does it cost?
One of the best ways I have found to do this is by doing a "competitor analysis" and finding out how you can be different. Find the creators doing best in a similar niche to your own and figure out how you can do something different on one of the things above.
Changing only one of the things above can potentially create a new category.
Lesson 6: Know When To Change Your Category With The Times
Okay, let's say you successfuly create a category of your own in content creation and start making tons of passive income while building your audience.
Do you ever have to change?
The answer is yes. Even if you create a new category, and successfully market inside of that category, you must respond to headwinds and tailwinds if you want to keep going. Otherwise, you will become obsolete.
One of the best examples of this is my borderline guru, Ali Abdaal.
Ali Abdaal started making content helping medical students study for the MCAT while working part time as a doctor.
For a while, this new category did great for him. There was nobody else creating content like his and he grew exponentially. But after a while his growth started to stagnate. One day, he uploaded a video reviewing the new Apple IPad pro which exploded to millions of views.
Instead of sticking with his old category, Ali Abdaal responded by creating several other tech focused videos.
These got even more traction.
Now Ali Abdaal is creating content on all sorts of things from business to studying to relationships. While the content he creates on isn't that niche, the personality, interest, and storytelling nature he infuses in his videos make him into a category of one.
It's all because he was willing to change with the times.
If you have read this far, I highly recommend you check out The Category Design Toolkit for yourself on Amazon.
It's a fantastic book for all content creators to read.
I know I will only continue to get more and more insights from it as time goes on.