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Priceless Advice From 10 Content Marketing Pioneers (Part Two)

By Simon CreedComments

Priceless advice from 10 content marketing pioneers (Part Two)

When we published the first part of our pioneer series back in February, we explored the importance of questioning our marketing assumptions. The things we think we know don’t always reflect our reality. There’s also a lot of things we don’t know.

That’s life for you.  

It’s also because there’s always something new to learn when it comes to content marketing. Platforms are constantly evolving, and so is the buyer. So it’s important to stay agile, tuned in and ready to adapt your approach.

Brand new stories and experiences appear online every day — all offering a glimpse into a problem, the journey and its solution.

Even the best find their inspiration from peers and competitors.

We learn from each other.

So here’s five more priceless nuggets of advice from some of the most influential content marketers on the internet right now...

Michael Brenner: More (better) is more

“Create less, promote more.”

The above is a quote from Salma Jafri we shared with you a while back.

And while the sentiment still stands, the ‘create less’ part is definitely debatable.

Less is more is a content marketing buzz phrase that speaks some truth. However, it’s also created a false sense of security. It’s caused marketers take their foot off the gas a little.

It’s diminishing the value of volume and consistency.

So, is less really more?

Not according to Marketing Inside Group’s Michael Brenner.

“Journalists are handed a beat and deadlines. They don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of meeting their quantity-driven deadlines. Publishers don’t wake up in the morning and look around to decide that there just isn’t anything interesting happening that day. Then go off and have a cocktail. Publishers focus on consistently more, high-quality content. Why should content marketing be any different?”

Michael brings us back to the age-old Quantity vs. Quality debate. 

For me, the argument stands that if you don’t have anything valuable to post, don’t post anything at all. Because after all, you are what you publish. 

And yet, there are marketers out there producing quality content with little to show for it.

Why?

Because they’re not creating enough of it to reach, engage, convert and retain an audience.

“In order to be effective, content marketing requires a brand-owned digital destination, a content marketing hub, where you commit to consistently publishing content that is helpful to your audience.”

Without consistency, quality becomes an anomaly.

Content marketing advice

Your football team might win three games 7-0 in a season, but if they struggle to deliver results for the rest of it, they’re not going to win the league.

This is about momentum.

It’s about getting that ball rolling and not allowing it to stop. To realise the full potential of your content marketing, you need to be producing MORE quality content.

Michael finishes by weighing up your only two options:

“...continue advertising and trying to buy your way into the hearts and minds of your customers with interruptions to the content they actually want. Or you can invest in, and truly commit, to consistently producing high-quality content that attracts new customers.”

The choice is yours.

Doug Kessler: Find your ‘sweet spot’

This is old, but gold.

Doug has a great knack for writing content that opens doors in the mind.

I always get something from his content, and this time it’s no different...

“Identifying and capturing your sweet spot(s) is one of the most important things you can do as a content marketer. It tells everyone on the team exactly what it is that you need to be seen as experts in.”

Alright, cool story. But what’s a sweet spot and why should you care?

Doug turns to ol’ reliable Wikipedia for a definition...

"A sweet spot is a place where a combination of factors, results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort."

Every business has their exact area of expertise. So hone in on the one thing you know just as well (if not better) as anyone else out there.

From ecommerce agencies to tire specialists, whatever you do, you need to elevate your specific expertise in each piece of content to get that ‘maximum response’.

“A lot of content marketing tries to chase whatever is new out there; or to hop on to an issue that is important to the target audience but not in the brand's sphere of authority. This is bound to backfire because now you're writing a thin piece on a topic that matters. So you look like a featherweight.”

Content needs to be focused. If you try to spread your efforts across areas you’re not au fait with, you’re going to be ‘writing from the Planet of the Generalists’.

Imagine your sweet spot is customer experience alignment…

Are writing about brand measurement? Good stuff.

Customer journey mapping? You’re definitely on to something.

But once you start writing about growing your social media following or specific digital marketing practices you don’t actually offer as a service, you’re treading on thin ice.

Granted, both examples apply to customer experience. But do you know enough to be preaching about them?

Ultimately, Doug’s message is: Stick to what you know and own the hell out of it.

He recommends you try to describe your sweet spot in just one sentence, get the approval of the rest of your team, and judge each future content proposal against it.

Content marketing advice

And how do you know if you’ve found it?

  • The ideas and best practice advice just flow — it's not a struggle to find things to say.
  • People lean forward when you talk about it (metaphorically or otherwise) they know this is your zone.
  • It's what you do every day – not just the latest bandwagon.
  • You've got lots of data and experiences to support your views.

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Sujan Patel: Fine tune your ideas

If you’re a content creator, you’re an ideas person.

You’re probably the owner of an overactive imagination. Ideas are the lifeblood of a disruptive content marketing strategy. But not all ideas will make the cut.

For those who struggle for inspiration, this is perhaps even more important for you.

So, listen up.

In this recent CMI article, Sujan Patel explores the process of ideation and how by keeping track of your ideas, and fine tuning them, you can boost the success of your content.

Sujan recommends you log every single creative flutter (those small eureka moments that usually get lost to the void), in an app like Evernote.

“Not every idea you write down will turn into an article, but recording those ideas is important.”

He also wants you to sloooooooow down.

“Extend your ideation time so you don’t waste hours in creation.

Ideation isn’t simply a hurdle to jump over on the way to creation.

It’s the reason and reasoning for creation.

If you rush into the content creation process with only a vague idea of what you’re writing/designing you’re going to waste a lot of time faffing.

Instead of spending 15 minutes on ideation, spend an hour or so.

Test the strength your ideas. Poke holes in them.

Get a second opinion and a fresh pair of eyes — or risk ‘idea blindness’. That awkward moment when you think a shitty idea is a good idea, just because it came from you.

We’re all guilty of it, trust me.

Content marketing advice

Once you’ve settled on your idea, turn up the ante.

Sujan explains the four step process to turning your idea into 10X content…

1. Search the topic you want to write about.

Take the chance to broaden (or narrow) your search to get the results you need. For instance, if you were researching for this article, you could search for “best content marketing tips”.

2. Open each of the articles ranking on the first page of the search results.

This assumes all the results are relevant. If they aren’t, skip the irrelevant ones and move on to the second results page. Alternatively, change your search phrase.

3. Read each article carefully.

Write down their best points. 

4. Write an article that incorporates all these elements.

And more.

Start giving your content real legs. Don’t just run with your ideas, jump in at the deep end and see what happens. Justify and scrutinise them.

Because our mission as marketers is to create content that’s more valuable, more relevant and more engaging than everything else on that subject.

Andy Crestodina: Upgrade your content

Sure, writing a blog post can feel like a lonely place at times. Especially if you’re doing it all the time. But Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina sees it differently.

Content marketing is a collaborative game, and should be played just so.

Everyone in your field has different perspectives, alternative knowledge and contrasting experiences — all within your niche.

So why not tap into these reserves?   

Connecting with industry influencers is a fundamental to any successful content marketing strategy. So wouldn’t it’d be rude not to take that extra step and get them involved in your creation process from the start?

“Their wisdom, expertise and insights are gold. And a few of their nuggets can add serious value to your piece. It’s also a fresh voice that breaks up that monotonous thing you were about to publish.”

This is Andy’s message, and I think it’s bang on.

In fact, I know it’s bang on because this is a strategy we’ve used time and again at SupaReal to create greater impact with our content. This stuff works.  

It’s not just the initial added value you’ll take away from this. If people feature in your content, they’re also going to want to share it.

Content creation advice

Sounds great, but how’s it done?

Andy shares 5 tried and tested ways to collaborate in content marketing...

1. Quote and Mention

Add an influencer quote that strengthens your content.

Then all you need to do is reach out to them and let them know you’ve featured them. It could be via email or just simply tag them in the social media post when promoting it.

Done? Sit back and wait for them to engage and/or share your content. 

2. The Contributor Quote

“...a fast and friendly way to upgrade your content”.

Reach out to experts and influencers and ask them for their two cents on the subject. Pick their brain and grab a unique insight gives your argument an extra dimension.

Then simply, let them know when it’s live — and boom!

3. The Expert Round Up

Sound familiar? This is about bringing multiple bites of expert advice together, all under one roof, to really help your readers grasp a topic.

This format can work in a number of ways. But curated or original, you can be sure that each will bring a similar result. Value for your audience and a bag full of promotional opportunities.

Win, win.

4. The deep dive interview

We’ve already explored why interviews pack a powerful punch in content marketing — and no doubt we’ll continue to rave about them.

Podcasts, webinars, blog posts. This content approach lends itself in many ways.

Get one expert on board, make an assault on a particular subject — one that’s relevant to both your audience and your interviewee’s area of expertise — and “...squeeze every drop of wisdom out of them”.

Rinse and repeat.

Content marketing advice

5. The guest post

Guest blogging has many benefits. It helps you to build meaningful relationships with other bloggers, publishers and marketers. It brings fresh perspectives to your audience and opens the door for you to create content for other sites.  

Andy describes this final collaborative caper as “...almost a transaction” — or in other words, it’s one of those ‘I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine’ scenarios.

He offers up a few top tips for getting the most out of this tactic…

  • Give them guidelines: Save time by outlining your requirements
  • Push for more value: Keep your standards high, make sure you get quality content
  • Help them share: Create assets (social media copy, images etc) for them to use

Quick tip: Influencers don’t need to be internet famous. They just need to have a presence in your industry. You’re not necessarily looking for the person with the biggest audience. Accounts with just a few thousand, highly-engaged followers can drive HUGE spikes in traffic.

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Brian Clark: Tell it right

The message in your content — the what — is important. But if you neglect to position it in a way that’ll hook the reader and get them on-side, you’re wasting your time.

“...how you say it can make all the difference.”

Creating buyer personas helps you to attune to your ideal customer and the way they see the world. From there you can begin to shape the way you speak to them and copyblogger’s Brian Clark can’t stress enough how important this is.

People react differently depending on how you tell your story, how you manipulate language and where you place it in the context of their wider world.

This is a lesson of opposites. One of our favourite quotes at SupaReal comes from Gene Simmons: “You have to understand that nothing appeals to everyone”.

In other words: You can’t please everyone, so don’t bother trying. 

“Framing your story against a polar opposite, by definition, will make some love you and others ignore or even despise you. That’s not only okay, it’s necessary.”

Content marketing advice
 

Our role is simple. Reach, engage and inspire the people that matter. As long as our message is resonating with this audience, it won’t matter if you piss off a few people along the way.

Clark explains, “You’ll never likely convert those at the other end of the spectrum, but your core base will share your content and help you penetrate the vast group in the middle and that’s where growth comes from”.

This is about making that emotional connection by empowering the reader with a narrative that’s on a level with them. Send them some good vibrations. Make it resonate.

Clark suggests you spend some time thinking about the ‘premise’. The ‘big idea’ you’re working towards. The central theme of your content that all of your micro-stories are supporting.

He then explores 4 ways to create a winning concept…

1. Be unpredictable

“...nothing kills attention faster than if your prospective reader, listener, or viewer thinks they already know where you’re going.”

Knowing your audience on an intimate level will enable you to throw the necessary curve balls you need to get their attention. You’re clearly not anything special if you’re simply saying the same thing, in the same way as your competitors.

Keep things fresh. Be bold with your message. Be daring.

2. Be simple

No, this doesn’t mean dumbing things down.

It means being as clear as possible when communicating big ideas and complex products and services. Cut to the chase. Reduce the words on the page. If you’re skipping around the subject, you’ll look like you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.

Abbreviate.

3. Be real

We’re big believers in being human. Keeping it real. SupaReal.

And Clark, too, urges you to pump meaning into your content i.e. make your message highly relevant and align it with the core values of your audience.

Readers also need to be able to grasp the benefits of your content. Grandiose, abstract visions and ideas are all well and good. But without immediately actionable, tangible takeaways, your content will lack substance and that all important premise.    

4. Be credible

“You have to hit the gut before you get anywhere near the brain...”

...but once you’ve got the reader with that initial emotional jab, logic will begin kick in. B2B buyers love cold, hard data. So once you’ve got them on the page, be sure to deliver the logic that substantiates your emotional message.

Emotion is the hook. Logic is the clincher.

Content marketing that purrs

Content marketing is a powerful practice. But much like realising you’ve put diesel into your brand new petrol Mercedes — if you’re fuelling it in the wrong way, you won’t get far.

To avoid that awkward splutter and stutter up the road, you need to understand your audience and move them.

Find your sweet spot, then find theirs.

Take time to really scrutinise your ideas. Use others for inspiration, but don’t become a carbon copy. Life’s too short to blend in.

Make sure your message stands out to the right people, don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers and pay close attention to how you’re delivering those consistent sucker punches.

Quality should be the norm.

Get experts involved in your content for added value and then ask them to promote it.

Make your Mercedes purr.  

 

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