Just about every business out there right now is trying to find a way to create content. It’s the buzz word of the marketing world and it seems nobody can even strongly define what content really is. To be fair, they are kind of right. Content is always evolving and what you are doing this year may be irrelevant the next. Starting and maintaining a content marketing component that brings new business and sustains the test of time is really tough. What makes it even more difficult for first timers, is content is completely different for every business out there. It is hard to find good examples and resources when they all are different from what you are doing. There is no formula and we can’t ever prescribe an organization with a simple and actionable plan that hasn’t been highly modified to fit their unique business model and brand. But we also realize there are a lot of organizations out there that want help. They already know content can work for them. They know it is important, especially with the digitally-native consumer becoming a larger segment of consumers every year. And they kind of understand what it is and how it works, but they need some support.
Rather than provide readers with a nonsense listicle (my least favorite piece of content) that doesn’t really help you in any way, we figured, let’s just cover some really important components into what makes content work for your brand. There are hundreds of easy-to-digest resources out there that may help, but this should guide you in the right direction and hopefully motivate you to get started.
Understand that content is difficult and unpredictable. Every unique resource out there will tell you a different version of what you should and shouldn’t do. This isn’t a listicle. This isn’t a rulebook or a prescription, but this is how we think when we create killer content.
Research. Sleep on it. And Research again.
Just like many other processes out there, the best results come from having done incredible prep work. It couldn’t be truer here. While there are exceptions, without the proper prep work, good content won’t be sustainable and you’ll get burnt out. Start with exploring what is going on in the segment. This is a broad question that needs to be addressed both generally and specifically. It’s important to know if there are any outliers, brands doing exceptionally well, and any other trends that may be developing. Further, brands need to clearly understand their audience. Understanding both what you want to bring to the table and what your audience expects is imperative. Content is a tough challenge in that it can be difficult to try something completely out of left field. It definitely can work. Look at Red Bull, for example. But generally, it takes a massive and coordinated effort to stretch into something completely different. Your audience followed you on social media for a reason. What is that reason and how can you affirm their hopes?
Find out where you need to be. I frequently give the advice to build your social platforms tall instead of wide. This means that when starting out, figure out the exact channels you need to be involved in and focus on those first. Many industries and brands simply don’t need to be on Twitter. For others, Instagram may not be that resourceful. Be sure to stretch your perspective of distribution channels as well. The world of social media and content is more than just Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Explore smaller niche platforms appropriate for your needs. Strong designers really emphasize their Behance profiles and good writers may be prominent on Medium. And even beyond that, know that you don’t have to do it all on your own. There people or publications that can turbo boost your content. Make connections with writers and influencers in your industry and use their reputation and following to expand your reach.
Another practice I frequently advise is to ensure you are bringing something new or desirable to the table. Nobody wants to show up at the BBQ with the same salad as somebody else. It’s the same thing for content. When starting out and planning your content strategies, ensure that you are bringing something either unique or much better than what is already being executed by somebody else.
Find an Opportunity. Develop A Tactical Plan.
You’ve probably been told to always start small. Well, start even smaller than that. One common struggle I often see with content is that it is very easy to get fired up on visions and ambitions. We find ourselves getting excited and empowered to go and change the world. We’ve got the vision and we can see the potential and what it will do for the business. But that energy will burn out and before you know it, you’ll be falling behind and the vision that brought all that energy will fade. Starting small will allow you to test things out and find the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy with agility. It’s much easier to make small changes than it is to pivot everything else.
Finally, use the wide world of the internet to your advantage. There are dozens of free tools that can help you stay in control. Build editorial calendars, proof your grammar, edit your photos, and make everything the way you want it with less work. And remember that almost everything is tracked and there are data and metrics to help you. After some time, you will be able to measure important metrics such as audience demographics and predicted psychographics. There are certain times of day, days of the week, seasons of the year that are more effective than others. Do research and take your best guess at first, but once it’s available, take a look at the data and adapt.
Craft And Create
Understand that everything you do matters. You may need to make small investments here and there that may seem unusual to you at first. Maybe it’s working with stock photography or a design style that takes time to build. But when you step back and take a fresh perspective, understand that the consistency and style of your brand can have a powerful influence on consumers. With that said, be careful not to perfectly clone your content and outreach across different mediums. There is a fine blend to understand when and how to tailor content to your audience and each platform. Remember why you chose to be active on one channel versus another and exercise those strengths. Keep things different but consistent enough that when people interact with your brand, they can instantly recognize its unique features and know what it stands for. Find a unique style that works for you and stick to it.
Be Ready To Modify
Just about every process out there involves reflection and recognition of trends or changes. The same rules apply with content. The world is changing and the internet changes even faster. The platforms we are using today may not even exist in a year or two. This change can be really difficult to adapt to and be prepared for, but it’s important to be aware of what is going on and where the new opportunities are coming from.
Lastly, stick to your guns. I get a lot of flak for this philosophy. But I believe it will help, particularly those who are starting out for the first time. Content marketing takes a lot of time to perform and yield initial results. It can take several years before that strategic vision you had in mind comes to fruition. So take your time and be patient. This is one of the most frustrating and challenging realities to face. When we don’t see results, we naturally think something is wrong and needs to change. The challenge is knowing if you were right. That’s why I put so much emphasis on the preparation and strategic planning phases. If you have done the research and can prove your argument with reliable support, your solution has a good chance of success. It may just need time or small tweaks. This is hard to cope, but trust yourself. Trust your ability and work. If you are really unsure, call in some help and get more opinions. Rarely in life are there negative consequences to broadening your knowledge and ability.
Finally, Get better every day.
This should go without saying. You are competing in a very intense and evolving arena. Keep a constant eye on what is going on and make your strategy just that much better. You can have the best strategy in the world, but eventually, somebody will come in and challenge what you are doing. Stay on top of your game and keep getting better. Your brand will thank you.
Content Is Difficult And You Aren’t Alone
There are hundreds of resources out there to help marketers succeed in their content endeavors. It’s a growing industry and people haven’t quite figured out where it is going yet. Look at the brands that are doing it really well and try to deconstruct it. What made Red Bull so dang impactful in the action sports and videography sectors? What made Taco Bell one of the most admired brands on Twitter? What made Daniel Wellington the most infamous accessory brand on Instagram? There are examples to explore and resources to read. Be a learner and see what happens.
I hope this gives some insight behind the curtain of the Drake Cooper content process. Obviously, it gets a lot more complicated than we could ever write for a single blog post. Every client we work with is incredibly unique and takes careful planning to do things right. But when the rubber hits the road, great work happens. If you are feeling like it’s time to take the leap and explore what it means to produce content marketing and organically engage with your audience, we would love to chat.
Until then, best of luck!