Secret formula - don't follow the rules. Make them!

Content marketing: Don’t follow rules. Make them!

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.

All are useful tools. That’s why I share best practices, templates and even a guidebook on content marketing.

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

They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
They Ask You Answer offers a brilliantly simple approach to content marketing.
Content Inc. Message Map 1
Content Inc. teaches 7 key lessons.

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.

Much of the drama in the buyer’s journey happens offstage. Buyer personas give you a backstage pass to see what’s behind the scenes.

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.

The unexpected
Use surprise, what’s unexpected, to win audiences’ attention, Carmen Simon says.

Give your content a unique tilt – a mix of what’s expected and a dash of the unexpected. Mixing expected and unexpected elements work best to grab people’s attention, says Carmen Simon.

Don’t think about content marketing as following a strict script, like classical music.

It’s jazz! Improvise. Be in the moment.

Change The Stimulus infographic
Overcome short attention spans. Change the stimulus to hold attention, says Carmen Simon.

5. Balance art and science

art + science = magic
Balance art and science to make content marketing magic, Ann Handley advises.

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 using a balance of art and science to blaze their own trail to success in content marketing.

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