The 5 Cardinal Rules of Content Marketing

The 5 Cardinal Rules of Content Marketing

Lately, the universe has been bringing me multiple opportunities to assist my friends with their marketing plans and digital marketing efforts.

As I was going back and forth with one of my friends today, she encouraged me to turn the following rules into a blog post. So, here we are.

These are the five cardinal rules of content marketing as I see it.

Rule #1 – Don’t Overthink it

Analysis paralysis can attach itself to the smartest of folks, like a Headcrab from Half-Life.

Half-Life Headcrab

Image Source: Geek Alerts

What’s going to work? What should I talk about? Where should I film my videos? What gear do I use? What time should I post?

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again – even your heroes sometimes make it up as they go.

Even your heroes sometimes make it up as they go. Click To Tweet

I have thousands of published blog posts and articles across the internet. The only reason I know what works for me is because I have the stats.

Even then, I don’t always know what works, and the stats are deceptive, because I’ve written plenty of great works that should have gotten more attention and for whatever reason didn’t catch fire as they should have.

That’s content marketing. Sorry to say, it’s not all within your control. If in doubt, start publishing. You’re probably oversaturated with information already, like a drenched sponge. You can figure out the best automation tools later.

Rule #2 – Be Consistent

Look, things sometimes slip through the cracks. We all miss deadlines, drop balls, or mess up from time to time. It’s human, and it’s okay.

But without consistency, you don’t have a content marketing strategy. It just doesn’t work (also see Rule #5).

You want to generate and publish a specific number of content pieces that doll out at predictable times – especially as applied to bigger pieces of content like blog posts, podcast episodes, and videos. Basically, you want your content to roll out programmatically.

Generally, that means multiple times per week, weekly, once every two weeks, or once per month. Any less than that and you must be a genius like Brian Dean, but I think the odds are slim…

I blog daily. That’s something people can count on.

What’s your plan? Whatever it is, it needs to be consistent to be trackable.

Rule #3 – Always Include a Call to Action

Marketing guru Dan Kennedy says don’t do anything you can’t tie directly to profit.

Dan Kennedy

Dan is the man…

Image Source: ForbesBooks

Correct – but you can’t measure the effectiveness of anything you haven’t done! So, are we talking about the chicken or the egg? I’m not even clear…

You can’t measure the effectiveness of anything you haven’t done! Click To Tweet

You need to get your vehicle in motion and catch a bit of momentum before we worry too much about the payoff. So, fire up that Pinto and let’s get to cruisin’…

But do this one thing and you should see real business results. Include a call to action in every single one of your posts to sign up for your email list. And it doesn’t need to be salesy or in your face. Honestly, it might hurt your chances if it is.

If you’re committed to the regular publishing of content, and want to see real business results from it, prioritize growing your email list through call to actions. Your list is too small right now, and it needs to be bigger before you worry about income let alone other projects.

Rule #4 – Model, Model, Model

In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, next time you catch yourself scrolling through Instagram (which I reckon is often) pay attention to what catches your eye. If it worked on you, chances are it’s going to work on others too, right? So, take the idea and make it your own.

Learn the essentials of copywriting, especially headline writing. The clues are everywhere – magazine covers, popular blogs, the emails you open every day… You’re no Steve Jobs, and you don’t need a new way of solving an old problem.

Whenever I’m making new graphics for my content, I don’t come up with original designs. I’m not that great of a designer to begin with. It’s just that my daily work requires I spend time inside Photoshop. So, I go and find designs I like and model them. Let someone else worry about color theory.

Keep in mind, though – modeling is not stealing. You can get in trouble for plagiarism, so don’t do it! You’ve got to put your own spin on it to make it yours.

Rule #5 – Track

Content marketing can feel like an uphill battle when you’re doing it sporadically, expecting specific results, and not even tracking what you’re doing!

I’m not asking you to invest in complicated analytics software. Go back to the first rule – keep it simple! We don’t need enterprise solutions to get results as content-preneurs.

No, but if, for example, you made three social media videos per week, and posted them to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, over the course of the next six to 12 months, you would see your following increase, even if only by a small margin. No arguments.

If you don’t track, you won’t know. And you’ll be discouraged for no reason. So, no matter where you might be starting from, document where you are now, and return to those numbers in six months (in the meantime, don’t obsess over the stats). Again, you will see results!

Bonus Rule – Read Content Inc.

Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. is the best book on the subject, and it kicks off with a direct to bloodstream injection of espresso-based inspiration. Guaranteed or your money back (no, sorry, I can’t make such guarantees – but hey, it’s really, really, good).

Buy it. Devour it. Take notes. Then commit to implementing everything you learn. Return to the well for watering as needed.

What I’m Discovering in Limbo

What I’m Discovering in Limbo

What do you do when you’re starting to feel burnt out, your bank account is less than ideal, you’re waiting on a payment that’s being held in escrow, you need to move in two months, and as result, you can’t move certain aspects of your project forward?

This is exactly what I’ve been facing. And here’s what I’ve been discovering in limbo.

Clear Thinking & Problem Solving Go Out the Window with Burnout

You have a project, you know what the goal is, even your team knows what the goal is (having worked with you for months).

But some part of you feels responsible for things not moving. And then you feel like you should start inventing work, even if just to keep busy, or to find some ancillary activity that might end up contributing to the project.

The problem is you’re too exhausted to problem solve or come up with good ideas. So again, you return to self-blame.

But realistically, bad decisions are made when you’re tired, so adding to your workload at the wrong time might ultimately be a waste of time, energy, and resources. Only, you won’t realize this until later.

What I’ve recognized is that having a good team makes a big difference. They will help you stay on track when you feel like you’re losing sight of what matters.

A good team makes a big difference. They will help you stay on track when you feel like you’re losing sight of what matters. Click To Tweet

Backup plans can also help. If you can prepare for those times you know you won’t be able to access clear thinking, you won’t have to, because you’ll have structures in place that inform your decisions.

People Don’t Know

There’s someone on the other end of every interaction and it’s altogether too easy to forget. You never know the kind of day that person has had, what’s happening in their life, or how things have changed, even in the last 24 hours.

As we continue to embrace and get entrenched in remote work, perhaps the biggest challenge of all is you don’t know what state anyone is in, and it’s too easy to bypass the conversation altogether.

“Since I can text or email them 24/7, shouldn’t they also be at my beck and call 24/7?” It gets weird headed fast.

I was talking with my landlord just yesterday, who asked me how work was going with a tone that said, “do you ever do anything?”

And the truth is 12-hour+ days have been quite the norm with my leadership program, businesses, musical projects, and freelance writing work. And it’s been that way for months now.

Given the world we now find ourselves in, being considerate in every conversation is a practice we’d all do well to adopt. Because you just never know how others are doing.

Being considerate in every conversation is a practice we’d all do well to adopt. Click To Tweet

Cash Flow Makes Everything Possible

Some of the slowdown I’ve been experiencing is directly tied to the availability of resources. There would not have been any stalling out if cash flow wasn’t an issue.

And this is one of those classic cases I’ve talked about before.

Things are going well for me. I have enough work. And new opportunities are already starting to line up.

So, it’s not as though I don’t have a solid base income. I’d just hit a spell where too much money had gone out, and not enough money had come in. So, my hands were tied for about two weeks.

Money is not required to move every aspect of a project forward. Most of my team, in fact, are working without financial incentivization. But realistically, some things just aren’t going to get done without reinvesting in the project.

Cash flow makes everything possible. When you need to invest in a business app or some hired help, you’ll be able to spring for it. Importantly, if your needs are met, you’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to the project too.

Cash flow makes everything possible. Click To Tweet

I’m Relieved

It’s fair to say that much of the above is already starting to work itself out.

I’ve been off caffeine for four or five days and I’ve been getting to bed earlier. I also haven’t been starting work until 10 AM and hold to a hard cutoff at 9 PM (though I sometimes end earlier). I’m feeling better, bit by bit.

The payment that I’ve been waiting on finally came through. And now I need to go and celebrate.

Best of all, I think, I’ve been able to glean a few lessons from limbo. And in the future, I will have this document to refer to, should I find myself in limbo again.

See what else I’m up to.

The Parable of the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

The Parable of the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

I thought this parable was something every personal development fiend or ambitious person had heard of.

But today, I talked to two people who had never even heard of it. So, clearly, not everyone has been exposed to it.

As I begin to rethink my schedule again, this is the parable that has been running through my mind.

So, what is it? And what can it teach us about prioritization and productivity? Read on.

Rocks, Pebble, Sand, and Water

A University professor wanted to illustrate how each of us can better prioritize and manage our time.

He brought several items with him to class – a jar, rocks, pebbles, sand, and a glass of water.

The professor filled the jar with the rocks and asked the students whether the jar was full? They answered “yes, it’s full.”

But he then proceeded to fill the jar with the pebbles. He shook the jar until the pebbles neatly arranged themselves in between the crevices left by the larger rocks.

“Is it full now?”

This time, his students were sure the jar was full.

The professor then filled the jar with sand, which filled the remaining space left by the rocks and the pebbles.

Without skipping a beat, he also poured the glass of water into the jar as everything neatly settled inside.

The class was astonished.

“Try to fill the jar with the sand first,” said the professor, “and there would be no room left for everything else.”

The Moral of the Story

There are different variations on this parable. But the message is the same:

The rocks represent your greatest priorities.

The pebbles represent important priorities.

The sand represents minor priorities.

And the water represents everything else.

When prioritizing what matters to you, you must put the rocks in the jar first. They will not fit later. And so it is with the pebbles, sand, and water. They only work in that specific order.

For an entrepreneur, that means putting revenue generating activity first thing in your day. If you put it off until later, you will not get around to it. But if you start with it, you’ll either have plenty of time left over for everything else you need to do, or the act of completing a “rock” project will make all other activity irrelevant.

See what else I’m up to.

The 5 Layers of Independent Music Success

The 5 Layers of Independent Music Success

While blazing your trail to independent music success, you might encounter a few roadblocks. But the extent to which these roadblocks hinder you will largely depend on how well you understand the following.

These five layers form the foundation of a successful music career. They empower you when you’re disempowered and show you the way when there appears to be no other way.

Pyramid of independent musician success

Principles / Mindset

Most foundational to your success in music is your mindset. It accounts for 80% of your success. And your mindset should be built on time-tested principles.

Principles don’t change just because you change, and rest assured, you will change.

When all else fails, principles are what will keep you anchored in the real world, not some pretend world where everything always goes right. Because many things will go wrong on your music career journey.

When all else fails, principles are what will keep you anchored in the real world. Click To Tweet

You may not be able to depend on anything else – band mates, gig dates, record contracts – but what you can depend on is principles.

Experience

Your experience as an artist is invaluable. As you perform more, you’ll gain more live experience and become a better performer. As you record more, you’ll gain more experience in the studio, and gain a better sense of what’s expected of you when the engineer hits the “record” button.

But experience isn’t everything. “Every time we play at XYZ bar, at least 50 people show up to see the show.”

That may be your experience, and it may have proven true to this point, but there are factors you can’t possibly know, and this “truth” won’t always remain true.

The bar could shut down. They might stop promoting musical events to their 500 email subscribers. A natural disaster could unexpectedly come along the day of your show.

Some of this might seem far-fetched, but you’re denying reality if you think that nothing could ever change the 50-person turnout.

So, it’s key to know the difference between principles and experience. When you can’t rely on experience, you can rely on principles. But it doesn’t work the other way around.

Branding

An artist’s brand informs all aspects of their mission, image, and marketing activity. A brand might be the hardest thing to figure out, but once you’ve got your finger on the pulse of it, all other decisions concerning your career start to fall into place.

An artist’s brand informs all aspects of their mission, image, and marketing activity. Click To Tweet

A brand cannot take the place of principles because it’s built on principles. It cannot take the place of experience because it’s built on experience.

But it can outclass marketing any day because your brand informs your marketing. If your brand isn’t undergirding your marketing, chances are you don’t have a strategy yet.

Marketing

Marketing is critical. But without a brand, it’s mostly a shot in the dark.

Who are you trying to market to? Where do they like to hang out online? What publications, magazines, or blogs do they read? What podcasts or radio shows do they listen to? What do they like to watch on Netflix or YouTube? What interests do they have?

If you know your reason for existing, your mission, your purpose, you can build your marketing around that, because that is your brand.

But you can’t build your marketing on any less, because then it is reduced to a tactic (shot in the dark) and not a strategy.

Tactics

Tactics are basically the to-do list for your daily marketing activity.

“Send an email campaign to fans every Thursday at 1 PM EST” is the very essence of a tactic. It’s a specific thing to do, on a specific day, at a specific time.

Of course, such tactics are ineffective, or at the very least, less effective than they could be, away from a proper marketing and branding strategy. How do you know you should be sending emails at a weekly cadence, on Thursdays, specifically at 1 PM EST?

Further, who is the email being written to? Why is it being written? What’s the message, and with what voice are you going to deliver it? What action do you want the reader to take having read the email?

These are easy questions to answer if you know your brand and have a marketing strategy. Much harder to nail down without it.

The 5 Layers Are Your Foundation

If you’ve understood the above, then you’ve realized something most artists haven’t – success doesn’t happen by accident. You must be deliberate and intentional about creating your foundation, and you will have a shaky foundation if you don’t understand the five layers of independent music success.

See what else I’m up to.

Why Revenue Over Life is Stupid

Why Revenue Over Life is Stupid

On Saturday night, I experienced the early warning signs of burnout.

I have been “gunning it” for the last nine months, so it’s only expected that, at some point, I would start to feel a little worn down. And yesterday, my body let me know as I was standing in an elevator.

It’s obviously better to catch this early because recovery can happen much faster. I can adjust my schedule, turn my attention to the few revenue-generating activities that matter, and get more rest.

And more than ever, what I’ve recognized is that more work does not mean better results.

More work does not mean better results Click To Tweet

As ambitious creatives and entrepreneurs, we often assume a godlike work ethic will propel us towards our dreams, not realizing the sheer stupidity that follows as we seek to put revenue above life.

Let me show you my work…

Do You Recognize the Hustle as Endless?

When life becomes about revenue, the hustle is near endless. There is always more that could be done if you just had more energy and the willpower to do it with.

In that state of mind, it’s easy to forget that working at a breakneck pace should only be done in spurts. Never in a marathon.

Which basically means this – hustling and grinding is pointless unless you have a specific goal in mind.

If there is no goal, and you’re nowhere within the ballpark of achieving it, you’re hustling and grinding indefinitely, until your body says “stop,” or worse…

You can always find something more to fill your schedule with. But to what end? Is it even worth it? Is it producing any revenue at all?

You’d better take a cold, hard look, because the extra work you do is usually the 80% that’s just taking up time and producing no results. 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort.

Are You Really Prioritizing Revenue?

When you’re in the constant fog of hustling and grinding, it gets harder to distinguish the activity that’s producing results from the activity that isn’t.

At some point, you start creating labels for your work – work that you find fulfilling and enjoyable, work you don’t, and shades of grey in between.

Before you know it, you’re prioritizing work that’s fulfilling and enjoyable, not realizing that this work doesn’t create revenue, at least not compared to the work you say you don’t enjoy.

The labels, then, become completely meaningless. Why hate the work that’s bringing an income and instead put all your time and energy into the work that’s producing hobby level results?

You think you’re putting revenue over life, but upon closer examination, you’ll realize that you’re just putting work above life, not revenue above life.

Are You Sure You Aren’t Comparing?

“I will not be a victim to comparison,” you may say. But you don’t realize just how much you are comparing yourself to those who have a bigger following, are making a greater income, or you feel are more accomplished than you are. It’s why you keep striving for more thinking you don’t have what they have.

“They did it, so I should be able to do it too. Why am I not as far along as they are?”

It’s important to realize that, if you have a vehicle that helps you make a living wage and covers your bills, while it might not appear sexy, it’s much better than a lot of people have it.

You have no idea how many entrepreneurs have a seven-figure revenue with a thin profit margin.

You have no idea how many so-called “influencers” with a massive following essentially live in a yurt.

Look, some people think the Lambo and mansion are what it’s all about. Some of your potential clients might even be fooled by it.

But if you do it right, you’ll be well-positioned to save their neck when they lose their shirt from the $12.95 book, $97 home study course, $997 conference, $1,997 coaching program, and so forth, they bought from the charlatan who was supposed to have a foolproof method for success.

Unless you’ve locked yourself out of the internet, you do compare yourself unfavorably to others. And it’s affecting your judgement severely.

Unless you’ve locked yourself out of the internet, you do compare yourself unfavorably to others. And it’s affecting your judgement severely. Click To Tweet

When Will You Stop & Enjoy Life?

For most creatives and entrepreneurs, financial freedom is but a concept – some random, far-off date, with some random, astronomical figure of money.

But assuming it an inevitably, most will soldier on, day after day, thinking that they will one day wake up to be bombarded with sales orders.

The opposite is just as likely and plausible, though, that their business stagnates, gets on a downward curve, or collapses entirely despite their best efforts.

It’s one thing to find out your idea isn’t going to work six weeks or six months in, quite another to discover six years or 16 years later that your ladder was against the wrong wall.

Working harder assures nothing, as I’ve demonstrated before.

I have no doubt that you derive a certain amount of joy and even fulfillment from the work you do, just as I do. But life is happening now, and if you don’t head out your door to enjoy the weather, the beautiful mountains and beaches, the new restaurant that just opened in town, you may never get around to it.

Even if you don’t have your financial freedom yet, by your own estimation, you do have a certain amount of freedom available to you today. And today is the time to start enjoying it.

You do have a certain amount of freedom available to you today. And today is the time to start enjoying it. Click To Tweet

The Bottom Line

Revenue over life is stupid because when you put income ahead of your wellbeing, you begin making stupid decisions that aren’t in line with your goals. All you end up doing is wasting hours of your life you’re not going to get back.

Limit your working hours. There will always be more to do tomorrow, and it will be right there waiting for you. When you have a start and end time for everything, you will necessarily be more effective, because there will be no other alternative.

See what else I’m up to.