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.
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.
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.
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.