The 5 Cardinal Rules of Content Marketing

The 5 Cardinal Rules of Content Marketing

Lately, I’ve been helping several of 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, at least 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’m not saying you shouldn’t study your audience. The research process is critical. But at some point, you’ve got to start forming your best guesses, and start throwing your hooks in the pond to test your instincts.

I have thousands of published blog posts and articles across the internet. I’m not saying everyone should do that. But it works for me. I have the stats.

Even then, I don’t always know what works, and the stats can be deceptive, because I’ve written plenty of great works based on prior winners 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. Soaking in more water isn’t going to make you any damper. 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… If genius isn’t on your side, make up for it with frequency.

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 you worry too much about the payoff. So, fire up that Pinto and let’s get to cruisin’ speeds…

Before you do anything else, do this:

Include a call to action on all 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 generate tangible business value from the activity, prioritize growing your email list. Your list is too small right now, and it needs to be bigger before you worry about starting another new marketing initiative.

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 to invent a product people don’t know they want yet.

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. My daily work requires I spend time inside Photoshop, though, 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 level 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.

Top 5 Social Networks to Watch in 2023

Top 5 Social Networks to Watch in 2023

Trainwrecks and triumphs. Turnarounds and tragedies. Trickery and tribulation.

2023 is upon us, and a looming uncertainty is moderated with measured excitement.

In the social media space, it could go either way – upheaval, or just more of the same. But I’m honestly counting on the former, if nothing else, for a bit of entertainment, and let’s face it – the validation dopamine hit the kids are so irreversibly hooked on (if there is upheaval, some of my predictions will be proven right).

For good or for ill, the following social networks are the ones to watch in 2023.

LinkedIn

My coach has been saying for years that LinkedIn is a killer platform for sharing video content, mainly because no one else is posting anything that interesting. Like moths to a flame, on LinkedIn, users are drawn to things that are even the slightest bit more interesting than corporate speak and head hunting.

Content marketing speaker, strategist, and entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi is very bullish on LinkedIn, so it seems like, years later, people are finally catching up to where my coach has been for ages.

Blogger / vlogger / digital nomad Tom Kuegler has also been on about the value of LinkedIn for a while, though all signs seem to point to the idea that his confidence in Medium has been restored and he will probably remain a Medium guy for 2023. Then again, he has been known to change his mind ever so often…

Twitter

Well, if nothing else, Twitter should be fun to watch.

It’s funny how they keep rolling out new features and then do an about face when initiatives don’t pan out…

Revue, for example, seemed like a brilliant acquisition on their part, but now they’re shutting her down (I’m so glad I didn’t go further down that track)…

And I don’t know what the hell they’re trying to do with Twitter Blue. Operation money suck, I think, but it seems like they could be offering something of greater value. Some users, I bet, would pay for the ability to edit their tweets.

Anyway, what’s going to happen to Twitter now that it’s in better hands and those hands have already said they’re not going to prioritize Twitter over Tesla? I think that’s what everyone wants to know.

I don’t have a morbid fascination with Elon Musk as a lot of people in this space seem to, but I am at least slightly leaning towards his ownership being a good thing rather than a bad thing.

There’s a very good chance I will continue to use Twitter heavily throughout 2023.

Discord

If there’s one social network that seems to be doing everything right and will probably continue to experience significant growth in 2023, it’s Discord.

With the Clubhouse hangover wearing off, if you’re still over there listening to NFT “experts” saying “we don’t know how this Web3 thing is going to pan out, but it will be an exciting thing to watch” like it was 2020 again, it’s really time to find something better to do… and move yourself over to Discord, okay?

Spotify is poised to overtake audio content in a significant way, but you know who else could mount a sizable attack? Discord.

TikTok

TikTok will be interesting to watch. Not in a positive sense, but rather in an “oh my god, see that trainwreck, look at that trainwreck, oh my god” kind of way.

I mentioned this in an earlier post too, but if you have no idea what I’m talking about, refer to episode 354 of This Old Marketing. TikTok is being banned in the U.S.

Yes, I recognize I’m kind of the bad guy in relaying this less than lovely news, but as they say, “give away all your money to the messenger.” Wait, that wasn’t it…? 🤔

My prediction, if you remember, though, was that either some party would establish TikTok North America, separate from the original, or some competitor would rise to create a rival app.

So, don’t come crying back to me saying you weren’t warned. Your short video addiction cycle may be broken this year, but likely only temporarily.

(And, hey, you’ve still got Instagram and YouTube Shorts…)

Facebook

As with TikTok, Facebook isn’t interesting because of the amazing changes that are coming (honestly haven’t heard of any), but rather because the backlash has been significant throughout the pandemic, and the disdain is still palpable.

It seems people aren’t thrilled about “Meta,” or their new direction, and it’s looking like they may be course correcting in short order.

I can’t say I care too much, because Facebook hasn’t made it into the two or three networks I’ll be focusing on in 2023, but I think they’ve made their own bed and now they get to lay in it.

Final Thoughts

If I can suggest something. It’s all fine and dandy to build on rented land, but we live in unpredictable times. You just never know when your favorite platform could take a nosedive into an abyss never to return (just one of many possible negative outcomes).

If you’re tired of the compromise. If you can see the foolishness in single source dependency. Make 2023 the year you set up your own home on the web. SiteGround is the perfect place to start. Let me know the moment you get your first WordPress site erected. It’s way easier than you might think!

I’m Declaring 2023 the Year of the Podcast

I’m Declaring 2023 the Year of the Podcast

I never quite know where my holiday reflections might take me.

As I shared the other day, I’ve been thinking seriously about a change in direction, specifically in my work life. Chiefly, I’m not happy about one of my partnerships, and I’m going to be letting it go.

I’ve had to think long and hard about my next steps, as I will need to replace a good chunk of my income.

The answer I’ve arrived at surprised even me, because I’m looking at doubling down on two to three avenues, with one of them being podcasting.

Why is that surprising? Because, at times, I’ve felt a little burned out on podcasting (especially in 2022).

But for some reason, I haven’t quite been able to shake the image of myself talking into a microphone (while capturing the sessions on video). As one of my friends pointed out, I am good at it, and I have a ton of experience behind me.

Doubling down on podcasting will doubtless mean creating far more content, not just for one podcast, but multiple podcasts. And I have shared a little bit about one of my new projects earlier this month.

Even with all the burning out, I’m honestly excited about exploring the outer reaches of what’s possible with podcasting again. I’m tired of stagnating and getting nowhere with some of my endeavors, and I could be wrong, but I feel like the only thing between me, and my goals is more visibility. If people knew me and knew about my products, the puzzle pieces would begin to fall into place.

There is no other content channel – at least none that I’m aware of – that allows you to distribute your content to so many places at once without a ton of manual labor. Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, and many others. And, if you’re thinking about live streaming your show (as I am), you can easily roll destinations like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter into your mix too.

So, I’m declaring 2023 the year of the podcast. I’ll be exploring every possible avenue for collaboration, syndication, and monetization. Join me on this journey, won’t you?

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

I still remember the day I discovered the Jetpack plugin and how powerful it was.

I got hooked on the Publicize feature quite early, as it allowed you to connect multiple social media destinations and have your blog posts automatically distributed to your chosen social accounts.

It’s one of the reasons I even prioritized blogging over social media – because I knew that if I published a blog post, updates would be posted to multiple social media channels without my direct involvement.

Jetpack was also the gateway to the handful of presentations I gave at WordCamp Calgary on turning WordPress into a distribution and syndication machine.

Things are obviously changing at Jetpack, because now, they’re looking to charge a fee for their best features, including Publicize, which they now call “Social.” The feature is heavily discounted for the first month at $1.36, but they’re looking to charge $13.50 monthly on an annual subscription.

The Price Tag Puts it in Perspective

It’s Jetpack’s decision to do with their software as they please. They’ve developed what I would consider a great suite of tools for newbie WordPress users over the years.

But $13.50 is well out of the ballpark of what I would consider reasonable, given the rather mediocre results it has produced for me. I’ve experimented with different traffic channels for a decade now, and for me, search engines have always come out on top by a huge margin to the tune of several hundred visits per day. While social media delivers, on average, a meager two to five visits per day.

Yes, I know I said I was excited about Publicize, but putting a price tag on it puts this all into perspective.

To me, social media is only worth it if it’s connected to three key results:

  • Relationships
  • Leads / email subscribers
  • Sales

I don’t care about brand exposure and know all to well how little difference it makes. Traffic is nice, but it’s a vanity metric compared to email subscribers. Views, likes, shares, and even comments amount to little if they don’t lead to relationships, leads, or sales.

Facebook (my top social media channel), for example, has delivered 5,852 visits to Music Entrepreneur HQ since August 2016.

Considering the average conversion rate of a website (2 to 5%), I’ve hypothetically converted 117 to 293 people into subscribers in that time (which might even be a little generous). Those numbers may not be anything to sneeze at, but if I were to 80/20 my marketing, social media probably wouldn’t even make it into the mix.

Open Source Used to Mean Something

This is not a pointed message aimed at Jetpack, or for that matter, WordPress.

But open source used to mean something. I referenced WordCamp earlier, but whenever I shared at such events, I was not paid for my time or hard-gotten knowledge, and I was discouraged from selling my books or CDs.

I love helping people, and if I had to do it all over again, I don’t think I would have done it any differently. Public speaking is fun to me, and I’ve always enjoyed masterminding with others.

But Jetpack is clearly headed in a different direction.

People evolve. Software evolves. I take no issue with any of it. But as I’ve already hinted at, I can’t imagine paying what Jetpack is asking for the privilege of having my posts distributed to social media alone. The functionality is a little too rudimentary. For $13.50 per month, it better do more than publicize my posts (hint – it doesn’t).

There Are Worthy Alternatives

Jetpack has been great to me. And I am grateful for all that it has done for me. But now that there’s a price tag attached to a rather simple function, I’m going to be in search of alternatives. There are still plenty of free and low-cost substitutes out there, including virtual assistants.

I’ve been hearing rumors of Yoast SEO integrating with Zapier, and my impression so far is that it’s not terribly cost effective either, but it does put a lot more possibilities at your fingertips since it connects to social media platforms too numerous to mention.

For about the same amount of money as Jetpack, there’s also OnlyWire, which lets you connect to about 20 networks. And I don’t think their price has changed since their inception.

What do you think? Will you be paying for Jetpack Social? Do you use social media distribution tools? If so, what do you use and what do you like about it?

You Don’t Need WordPress Anymore

Don’t get me wrong – you still need a home on the web.

And this is not some emotionally charged backlash against WordPress or Jetpack. I have had a great experience with both, and most of my sites will likely remain on WordPress.

But more than ever, this sentiment – “you don’t need WordPress anymore” rings true. Most intelligent entrepreneurs and independent creators have found their way over to tools like KLEQ, which work as all-in-one website builders, blogs, campaign and sales funnel builders, course platforms, and membership sites.

You don’t need countless plugins, apps, and integrations to make your store and course platform work anymore. You can do it all from one, central, convenient location now.

And if there’s a feature missing, you can request it. A company that has their customers at the forefront (like KLEQ), will happily add these features for you.

Of course, there is a premium price tag attached to a tool like KLEQ, but compared to the cost of developing a WordPress site from scratch, installing plugins, duct taping software integrations together, and paying for multiple SaaS subscriptions? The cost of KLEQ is moderate.

Marketing is Not a Formula

Marketing is Not a Formula

But assuming that it is, can be problematic.

Over the years, I’ve found all kinds of marketing methods, charts, formulas, strategies, and outlines, many of them brilliant, some of which produced meaningful results.

But as we explore these options, there’s one thing that becomes clear – there’s no such thing as a “perfect” formula.

Certainly, there are personal biases, circumstantial considerations, and resource-based limitations that can come into play.

But what works for one doesn’t always work for another. Read that again.

Some bloggers create six-, seven-figures and beyond without a dime spent on ads or a minute spent on social media.

Some podcasters found their audience trying their hand at a variety of topics with different formats and different co-hosts, weaving their way to an eight-figure internet marketing empire.

Others have used omnichannel marketing with astonishing precision and finesse. They’re able to get their resonant message in front of many audiences across multiple channels with targeted content, and they make it look easy.

But it may not be your experience, it may not be your path.

You can talk to coaches, experts, executives, specialists, you can listen to podcasts and audio programs, you can take courses and seminars, and more. Again, you may have some stellar discoveries. But it doesn’t mean you’ll have found the answer.

Allow your journey to be your journey. Hypothesize. Set up experiments. Execute time-bound campaigns. Monitor results. Adjust and iterate.

It’s a lot for a solopreneur to handle. So, find help. Or keep the scope manageable.

Marketing is not a formula. It can be frustrating when we assume that it is. And that’s not helpful.

What is helpful is to recognize what’s not working and to adapt and iterate quickly. If it’s not a hit, switch.

Marketing is supposed to be fun. You’re doing it wrong if it isn’t. Even spectacular failures can be exciting and enlightening. Many successful online marketers have publicly documented their greatest failures. Read them. Learn from them. Understand that no one succeeds 100% of the time.

Some of my greatest successes were the crowdfunding campaign that raised $15,000 for a jazz artist, a content marketing campaign that drove a website’s traffic from 0 to 800 in three years, and a social media / email / PR / word of mouth campaign that sold 188 of 200 tickets for The 3 Project (more to follow on this).

But my personal graveyard of failed experiments and marketing campaigns continues to grow. I’m grateful for the successes, and I can honestly say I’m grateful for all the failures too. I’m grateful for all of it.

So, don’t worry about the formula. Do some speculation, come up with a game-plan, get into action, and track what happens. Then, if it doesn’t work, adjust course or try something new.

Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark

In business, Noah’s Ark is about having two of everything, because one of anything is a compromise.

Internet connections can go down. Hard drives can crap out. Superstar employees can quit. And if you don’t have a backup, you’ll have to rebuild the infrastructure you worked so hard to set up in the first place.

This is a position of compromise, and smart and experienced entrepreneurs don’t like positions of compromise. They like to address problems before they crop up.

Of course, you can’t know everything that’s going to happen before it happens. But if you have two of everything, it ensures that your business can continue to operate under fire, sometimes without interruption.

Monday morning, I was starting to feel the early warning signs of a flu. Like most illnesses that seem to pass me by, I didn’t think it was going to take. But it did. All the symptoms ambushed me last night – fever, chills, aches, headache, coughing, and runny nose.

Today hasn’t been a walk in the park, though I can be grateful that I’m about to wrap up my day before 10:00 PM, which is good for a Thursday.

But this led me to a key realization. I need a backup for myself.

Until now, I simply couldn’t see how I might be able to make this happen. Now I remember that there’s a lot of strength in partners and duos. When they’re banging on all cylinders, they’re not twice as effective, they’re able to accomplish so much more.

Today, I much rather would have enjoyed staying in bed than working for nearly 12 hours straight. If there was someone who had my back, I wouldn’t have had to do it all myself.

I see now that anything could happen, and if for whatever reason I couldn’t do the work, loss of income and reputation is unavoidable. If I have a trustworthy partner, we wouldn’t have to lose the revenue. We would simply spread it differently among ourselves.

Having a partner would also enable me to free up time and take on other projects. I bet we could find some better paying work.

I can’t do it all myself. I’m about as booked up as I wish to be. There’s no sense in trying to be superhuman all the time. A more sensible plan is to grow my team.

There will be a process to hiring, onboarding, and training, but I can see it being worthwhile if I can find someone I can divide and conquer with.