I’m excited to finally be able to share this video of my TEDx presentation last year in Hickory, NC. Unfortunately, due to a number of technical issues apparently caused by my appearance on the stage, it took the team a long time to get the video to its current state of mediocrity. But, you can see and hear it well enough to get the point.
It’s a fun excursion into the power of stories, and what they can mean to the tellers and the listeners.
If you’ve ever been in the path of a tornado, you know how powerful they can be.
It’s one of Mother Nature’s most destructive forces, and the sight of that funnel cloud can strike the fear of God into the heart of the bravest cowboy.
But one of the scariest things about tornadoes is their rarity and their unpredictability.
You never know where or when one is going to show up.
You don’t know how long it’ll stick around.
You have no idea how strong it will be, what direction it’s going to move, or whether it’s going to destroy your trailer or Aunt Jessie’s next door.
You just don’t know.
The Content Marketing Tornado
Please, don’t create a Content Marketing Tornado.
If you have something worth saying, and a target audience who wants to hear it, then give them the courtesy of being consistent and professional.
Don’t come out of a blue sky with a 300 page e-book touting yourself as the world’s #1 expert on organic green tea farming, blitz the heck out of the social media channels with ads for your book, and then disappear just as quickly.
While you’re sitting home, shaking your head and wondering why no one bought your book, the rest of the world’s green tea lovers are wondering just what the heck all that was about!
They didn’t know you, they didn’t like you, they certainly didn’t trust you. And buying your book was not a priority.
You blew in like a tornado, hopped around in their trailer park, did some damage, then disappeared.
The more research you do online about the subject of content marketing, the more conflicting information you’ll find. I’m not going to sit here and tell you my methods are the only way to succeed, or even the right way for you.
But, since it’s worked well for me so far, I’ll let you know how I would do it if I were starting from scratch tomorrow.
Here are a few questions I’d ask myself:
Who is my target audience?
What do they want and need to know about my area of expertise?
How far can I narrow down my subject while still having plenty to say?
What valuable information would people likely be willing to pay for?
And how can I best offer it to them free?
The answers to these questions should give me a starting point for brainstorming content ideas. I would sit down for an hour or two and generate a minimum of 100 ideas that would appeal to my target audience, and can be communicated in ways my target audience will appreciate.
For each of the ideas I come up with, I’d try to quickly outline two or three main points I want to cover under that topic.
Then, I’d think about which content format might be most appropriate for each subject I’ve written down.
Many will work well as textual blog posts. Others may do better as videos, or presentations. Some may include audio, such as interviews with other experts. Many will be able to be re-purposed in multiple formats, which works even better.
Next, I’d need to be brutally honest with myself:
What schedule can I commit to for creating content regularly?
What can I commit to doing to distribute and promote my content?
How long can I realistically keep up the schedule I’m arranging?
These were tough questions to answer truthfully, especially when I was just starting out. But now I’m not surprised at the amount of time it takes to make this happen.
Of course, it could be different for you.
But, unless words flow fast and smooth from your mind to your fingertips, and you know social media like the back of your hand, you’re probably going to find the entire blogging/syndicating/retweeting thing a bit overwhelming.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, many would-be success stories have never occurred because the hopeful content marketers got caught up in one thing or another and found they were unable or unwilling to stick to their content creation schedule.
I’ll stress again, it’s not easy. But it’s so worth it.
Once I had a realistic idea in mind and in writing as to how much content I could produce and how often, I’d set up an official editorial calendar.
You can do this on any paper or on-screen calendar program you like, as long as it’s something you plan to keep in front of you at all times.
This becomes your Bible, where you look for guidance when times get hard.
I’d insert my 100 or more ideas for blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. into the calendar on the days I want to publish them over the course of the next several months, making sure to build in time for plenty of research and rewriting.
Then, I’d buckle down and start pounding out the content using the Instant Expert and Killer Content cycles we went over in previous posts.
This whole series has been about strategy to some extent, but of course I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the more advanced strategy details you’ll eventually want to know.
A lot of those details will come to you through experience, but for more inspiration and information on the subject than I could ever provide you, I’ve included a Recommended Reading page that includes some great books on strategy.
Above all, have fun.
I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: If you’re not having fun, your audience can tell, and they’re not going to have much fun either.
Every strategy is different as it fills different needs and targets different people.
But the bottom line fact is, it’s not quick and it’s not necessarily easy. To be truly effective, it’s going to take a lot of content, distributed far and wide as often as possible. So you’re best off starting as soon as you possibly can.
This entire series has been about creating the foundation for a successful content marketing strategy, but if I had to sum up the “next steps” you’ll need to take after successfully implementing all the suggestions in this book, I’d say this:
“Create as much quality content as you possibly can and spread it as far as you possibly can, right now!”
Because the Internet is just getting bigger while your audience’s attention span gets smaller. You have no time to lose.
Marketing has changed dramatically in the last few decades.
At this point, businesses are going to sink or swim based on their ability to successfully implement a good content marketing strategy.
Small or independent businesses, traditionally the backbone of most free market economies, are in the very best position to leverage of the power of content marketing to further level the playing field in their industries.
Here are a few huge benefits your small business can experience if you’re doing content marketing right:
Search Engine Ranking – By consistently adding quality content to your web presence, whether it be in the form of blog posts, landing pages, social media conversation, online video or podcasts, you’re creating two things Google absolutely loves: relevant information their audience will appreciate, and links that connect your content to other sources of relevant information their audience will appreciate. But, it has to be written correctly and distributed properly to accomplish this vital purpose.
Expert Status – Loads of free, valuable content, distributed widely and ranking high in the search engines, creates a certain aura about you. Your name becomes synonymous with quality information about your subjects of choice, so you become the go-to-person or company in peoples’ minds. Soon, your audience will be seeking you out when they have questions or concerns about your subject, and that’s where the tires meet the road.
Inbound Marketing – Well-planned and strategic content marketing is a huge part of an inbound marketing plan. Unlike old-style interruptive marketing (such as telemarketing calls at dinner time, pop-up windows on websites or TV ads) inbound marketing relies on broadcasting information that your target audience (your hottest prospects) want to consume and share with other like-minded people. This way, when you’re ready to offer something for sale to your prospects, they don’t need to get over the initial “who is this and why are they trying to sell me” phase that always accompanies a telemarketing call or advertisement.
Always remember the inherent value of content marketing, especially when you’re crunched for time and have to choose between polishing up that next blog post or going to bed early.
It’s simply the way of the world these days. If you’re not marketing with content, you’re falling behind.
So it pays to do it, and it pays (even better) to do it right.
Content marketing means different things to different people, because out of necessity, it has to be customized to each individual, organization or industry that uses it.
But, for the sake of our discussion, I’m going to go with the following general definition:
Content marketing is the consistent, strategic production of valuable information, through media your current or potential customers enjoy consuming, in order to help them know, like and trust you, viewing you as a valued source of help at the right time.
A few points that I underlined in the above definition bear some quick elaboration:
Valuable – Content marketing is not about throwing together a few paragraphs of meaningless junk, stuffed full of keywords for the Google robots and telling people something they already know. That’s called wasting time. The kind of content we’re talking about here is information you could easily sell, but choose instead to share freely. Information your customer values.
Enjoyable – To have true value, your customer needs to enjoy taking in your content. This means a few things: first, you need to understand your customer and figure out what type of message she’ll get the most out of. But also, since everyone learns and engages with information differently, this dictates the variety of different types of content you’re going to need to consider creating if you want to reach your target audience effectively.
Timely – One of the most difficult, but rewarding, aspects of good content marketing is its consistency. Producing high-quality content on a consistent basis isn’t easy. Distributing it effectively and working to engage your audience wherever your content goes isn’t easy either. But it’s a blast! And it’s how you’re going to manage to strike the right chord with the right person at the right time, bringing the reward back to you.
Keep this definition in mind at all times.
Print it out and post it above your desk. Repeat it five times every morning.
If you forget what you’re doing when you’re marketing with content, your powerful Content Marketing Hurricane will end up more like a pile of manure hitting a fan.
Then, contained in Step 5 of that formula is The 10-step Checklist for Creating Killer Content:
Think About Your Audience – Targeting your content to solve a problem for your audience.
Plan Ahead – Creating efficiencies and guaranteeing success.
Get Excited – Putting your personal best into every piece.
Write Like You Speak – Making your content conversational and engaging.
Limit or Eliminate Jargon – Avoid one of the biggest problems rookie content marketers make.
Trust Your First Draft – It came out this way for a reason, so trust that.
Proofread – Get the technical junk out of the way.
Read Aloud – Verify the content is conversational.
Trash Your First Draft – Get it right the second time.
Know When to Let it Go – Concentrate on excellence, not perfection.
With each piece of content you create, as you complete these 10 steps, you move back to Step 6 of the Instant Expert Formula and move through that cycle again as well.
By combining the synergistic power of these two cycles, your content marketing strategy will progress steadily from a conglomeration of Disparate Forces to a slowly churning Tropical Disturbance, then to a fast-moving Tropical Depression, and finally…