Content marketing is a powerful arm to add to your overall marketing strategy. It establishes you as an authority, it increases your revenue, and has high profit potential. Bill Gates talked about this way back in 1996, as the Internet was starting to come into its own.
Content is not, however, a magic bullet. It is not a rapid growth strategy, often taking months to grow into its potential. It does not guarantee you internet celebrity, or riches beyond your wildest dreams. (In the wrong hands, it can even harm your brand and put off potential customers.) Many businesses blog, or podcast, or post on social media for years and never see a dime in return for all their efforts. They might argue that they’ve built great brand equity, and that they’ve gained authority and credibility in their industry without selling out. Well, that might be true, but you can’t eat brand equity, and you sure as hell can’t pay a team with it.
Now, I’m the first to admit that everything would be awesome if I could just write and write and never have to think about whether it was actually going to generate money in return. Unfortunately, that’s called going broke — it’s not in my 10-year plan, and I’d take a guess that it’s not in yours either.
The only way to make content marketing pay off is to develop a complete ecosystem around your primary content platform (whether that’s your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel), instead of hoping it will just work by itself. Creating a complete system around your content leverages the resources that could help grow your business, instead of wasting them.
For now, understand that every business produces content, whether it’s intentional or not. Every business has at least one expert in it. And it’s that expertise that provides your business with its competitive edge. You must leverage this as the critical resource in your marketing, so let’s dive into how to do that.
To develop any successful marketing strategy, you need to have a clear picture of the goals in your business. This is particularly true of content marketing: sitting down to bang out anything that pops into your head is not a sensible way to approach it. You need to have a consistent strategy for the content you’re producing, so that your audience is engaged, comes to know and respect you as an authority, and will buy from you when the time is right. Let’s look at how to produce recurring content in a way that will help you achieve those goals and keep you motivated to keep producing on a regular basis.
What are the things you really, deeply care about in your business? What are you world class at, and how does that serve your customers? Maybe you believe you have the very best product in your niche and can defend that position. Maybe you go above and beyond for your customers in very tangible ways. Maybe innovation has allowed you to change your industry and is a critical part of how you function. Whatever it might be, brainstorm and explore the things that are most important to you and your business.
Then take a look at your customers: every customer group is different. If you are selling to a fashion niche, maybe your audience takes presentation and style extremely seriously, and want to know what famous stylish people are doing, or what trends they need to be aware of in the coming months. Maybe your audience is very focused on ethical sourcing and production, and want to see transparency and sustainability in the brands they support. What are your customers looking to you for insight about, and how do those topics overlap with the values you outlined above?
What do you want to be known as an industry authority for? A few years ago, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan wrote a book called The One Thing. The core idea of that book is to identify the one thing in your business that will make everything else easier or irrelevant… and the same goes for your content marketing. What is the one thing you can focus on becoming known for that will make it easier to develop, market and sell products that your audience will buy again and again?
Gary Vaynerchuk is known for his no-nonsense prioritization of hustle. You know if you work with him that things are absolutely going to get done. Tim Ferriss is known for his endless self-experimentation. You know if you work with him you’re going to get innovative, uncommon results. Warren Buffett is known for his slow, measured approach to investing. You know if you work with him that you’ll get steady returns over the long term. What is the one thing people should know about working with you?
The simplest way to become an authority on something is to say the same things about that topic over and over again. This is why people like Tony Robbins, Peter Drucker, Charlie Munger and Warren Buffet become superstars in their industries. Firstly, what they say works — it gets the results they claim. But secondly, they hammer on the same things over and over again. They communicate the same messages over the course of their entire careers, and create powerful positioning and profits as a result.
What is the format in which you produce your best content? People will often talk about how you need to tailor your content production to how your audience consumes it. I think it’s better to choose the format that you most enjoy working in, because if you like it, your audience will like it. For example: if you’re awesome at creating long-form blog posts (like Mark Manson or Tim Urban at Wait But Why) but are lacklustre with video, don’t try to wrangle together a YouTube channel. If you get a kick out of creating the content, it will show: it will engage your audience because it’s high energy, it will be focused, and it will address things they care about in a way that shows you care about it too.
But if you have to have five espressos and lock yourself in a distraction-free room for a day just to produce one video, the strain and negativity of that is going to come through. This creates a feedback loop: you don’t like doing it, so people don’t like consuming it, so it doesn’t perform. Don’t do stuff you hate. If you hate writing, do video. If you hate both, do podcasting. Just find the medium that works for you and run it.
What’s your quarterly plan? Last but definitely not least: make a specific plan for the immediate future. Develop content themes to go along with your ‘one thing’, and map out several topics within each theme to cover over the next three months. Pick four themes total, and three topics per theme. Write the headline for each of the 12 topics, assign a date to each one, and use that as your content framework. You can include any sales campaigns or announcements in this plan if you want to.
Simplified, here’s the overview of what should be in your quarterly plan: •A clear statement of your ‘one thing’:
- Four themes you want to rotate through
- Three topics per theme, including key points to touch on for each
- Headlines for each topic (I recommend brainstorming a few variations so you can pick the best one) •
- Scheduled date of publication for each topic
Mapping your content out like this ensures that you can be strategic about your production: you can lead your audience to a certain action over time, you can educate them about a product before you’ve announced it, or you can just give them a complete, cohesive body of knowledge about the things that you all value. Whatever your goal, creating a plan in advance allows you to use your content to achieve it.