There’s this cartoon that I love. It features two dogs sitting next to one another. One dog says to the other: “What are New Year’s resolutions anyway?” The other dog answers: “It’s a to-do list for the first week of the year.”
We all know this to be true, right?
There are literally thousands of articles on how to successfully set and keep goals. All of them offer more or less the same advice: don’t try to change everything all at once, cut a big elephant into smaller pieces, and make goals specific and trackable.
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions (why does it have to start on January 1st? Many of us are nursing some sort of hangover). But on looking back to my years as a content creator and strategist, I do see a few things that I want to pay more attention to in 2019.
I’m sharing these with you. I hope they’ll inspire you to think of a number of things you’d like to change yourself.
Safeguard pockets of non-negotiable ‘study time’
When you’re knee-deep into getting things done and shipping stuff, you tend to forget to take the time to sit back and … study and think. Yet deep thinking is crucial for any knowledge worker. The trick is to build ‘pockets of study time’ (however small) into your day, not as something to do when there’s a lull in work, but as a non-negotiable and recurring task. That is step one.
Next is to decide what to focus on. There are so many resources to learn from, it’s tempting to dive into all of them. I used to have a blogroll of more than a hundred blogs, which was depressing, as I never really got round to reading them all. So I whittled them down to an ‘A-list’ of five, which I do read, whereas the rest got shifted to a ‘B-list’ which I skim if I feel like it.
Next to that, I keep up with what happens in my field of expertise by getting (and staying) certified. In 2018, I subscribed to CMI University (the online university run by the Content Marketing Institute), and got CMI certified. This year, I plan work my way through the extra courses the CMI University offers its students.
My blog – The Content Conundrum – is another way to stay on top of my game. As I have committed to publishing once a week, I really need to do quite a bit of work to keep that up. The most productive time for me to do that, is in the very early morning hours – before I start ‘work work’ – so that’s exactly how I scheduled it. Is that fun? Not really, but I know from experience that every minute before 8 a.m. is worth two, at least for me.
Evangelize, evangelize, evangelize
As I never tire of pointing out, content marketing is still shrouded in a lot of mystery and fluff. Sometimes it’s perceived to be just another word for copywriting (this one really drives me up the wall), while in other organizations, the ‘content department’ is basically a fancy infographic-video-whitepaper-blogpost-pooping machine (excuse my French). And so on.
This, I have no problem admitting, is the ‘fault’ of content marketers who don’t invest enough time in explaining to C-level what content marketing is and isn’t, and what it can bring to the table when it comes to achieving business goals. Content marketers really need to spend more time and effort into evangelizing about and demystifying their craft, warts and all.
This includes having tough conversations with and listening to the people on the business side. An evangelist is by default an attuned listener. Make sure you have your vision and your facts straight, but don’t neglect what the business is trying to tell you. Your case for content marketing will fall on deaf ears if people have the impression they are unheard or misunderstood.
This year, I’m stepping up the evangelist game. I’m not one to sit comfortably in a marketing cocoon anyway. When everyone in an organization understands how content marketing works and does not work, content creators will gradually get more time to work on the high-impact stuff, and the request for the umpteenth piece of content cr*p will diminish and ultimately cease.
Create (more) evergreen content
One of the highlights in my career as a content creator was an Excel file of about 1000 lines. It was part of a template that generated hundreds of sales-ready leads, and continued to do so for three or four years after it was created. In fact, we are currently in the process of doing some revisions, and then the terribly unsexy Excel file will be ready for its second life.
This file is a prime example of evergreen content: content that ‘does the trick’ long after its launch date, sometimes months, sometimes years. The best evergreen content examples all share this: people look and keep looking for it, love it, share it, and are sad (or pissed off) when it is taken away (they were in the case of the Excel file when it accidentally got deleted from our website).
This year I will look for ways to invest more time in content ‘deliverables’ that have the potential to last. Key question here: What is it that would-be customers keep looking, asking or begging for during their buyer journey? When you do the research and talk to a number of people (sales, presales, telemarketers, customers …), you’ll come up with a number of valid ideas to test.
In the case of the Excel file, it turned out to be a template that helped prospects draft a professional Request for Proposal for a new ERP system, at no cost. By giving them something of extreme value (it really gave them a head start, and saved them time and money) we got their attention, made a first step in gaining their trust, and usually ended up being on the shortlist.
So, what are your marketing goals this year?
Do you want your content marketing efforts to have (more) business impact? Subscribe to my blog. I post once a week, and I always strive to make it insanely relevant and highly practical.
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash