Marketers seek a secret formula for content marketing success
Most marketers try to play content marketing by the rules. They seek out:
- Best practices
- Examples to emulate
- Checklists and templates
- A roadmap or guidebook.
But here’s the problem: There is no secret formula for content marketing success. Copying what others do is not a guaranteed path to success.
Content marketing is not a follow-the-rules exercise
Copying someone else’s script or playbook gets you a copy, but it won’t bring success.
Who cares what the experts do if it doesn’t work for you?” asks Jay Acunzo.
To get good at content marketing takes a process. One version of the content marketing process goes like this:
- Learn from content marketing thought leaders.
- Learn more about buyers than anyone else.
- Create your own unique content recipe.
- Experiment and improvise.
- Balance the art and science of content marketing.
Let’s walk through these steps one by one.
1. Learn from content marketing thought leaders
To learn from the thought leaders in content marketing, read books and blogs on content. Participate in conferences. Pay attention to OPC (other people’s content). Here are my favorite books on content marketing:
Top 7 content marketing books
- Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi
- They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
- Buyer Personas by Adele Revella
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Impossible to Ignore by Carmen Simon
- Content Chemistry by Andy Crestodina
- Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi & Robert Rose.
2. Learn more about buyers than anyone else
To be strategic, learn more about your company’s buyers than anyone else in the company knows.
Get your own backstage pass to see what buyers do offstage by performing buyer persona research. You’ll learn:
- What buyers look for
- What buyers’ questions are
- Which content they need for each step in the purchase journey
- Which obstacles buyers encounter and how they overcome them
- How to reduce friction and improve flow by offering the right content for buyers.
3. Create your own content recipe
Now you’ve learned from content marketing thought leaders and know all about your buyers.
Create your own cookbook instead of following someone else’s.
Experiment with batches of content. Give your audience a taste of each batch. Listen closely for feedback, and modify the recipe as you go along. Take advantage of every fresh, available ingredient, every subject-matter expert and every scrap of news.
By writing your own cookbook, you’ll learn something even the experts don’t know yet. That means, pretty soon, you’ll be the expert.
4. Experiment and improvise
Take license to do what hasn’t been done before. Experiment with words, pictures, tactics, timing, elements, voice and distribution. Measure monthly on the back end, so you can see what’s working and what’s not.
Don’t think about content marketing as following a strict script, like classical music.
It’s jazz! Improvise. Be in the moment.
5. Balance art and science
Marketing magic happens where art and science intersect,” Ann Handley says.
Be smart. Take advantage of all science has to offer: automation, tools, big data, bots and artificial intelligence.
Then stir your audience’s senses with all the arts: storytelling, videos, photos, designs, music – the capacity to surprise, the power to stir souls.
In content marketing, science or art can’t get the job done alone. Great marketers keep use a balance of art and science to blaze their own trail to success in content marketing.
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As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.