The key to content marketing success is based on your ability to create compelling and useful content that connects with your audience (unless you choose to outsource your content marketing creation, which is a viable option as well. But you’ll still need to know what your audience wants to hear about, so keep reading).
In order to be able to produce this kind of content on any regular basis, you need a system in place to keep ideas flowing and your skills sharp.
I like to call these systems “habits”, because they need to be deeply integrated into your routine in order to be effective.
Habit #1 – Read great books & blogs
I’m a huge believer in the rule that in order to produce great content, you need to consume great content. All the time. As much as possible.
And don’t limit yourself to reading stuff that aligns only with your industry and niche. For that matter, don’t limit yourself to only reading.
Take in all kinds of content: videos, infographics, podcasts, and, yes, articles, books and blog posts.
Read all the great books on marketing and business – but also read books on random subjects you find interesting. Fiction books are good, too.
You’ll also need to start hanging around some really great blogs. Choose blogs in your industry, blogs about content marketing and writing, and blogs that are just plain fun to read. Set them up in a RSS reader (since Google Reader is leaving the scene, I recommend Feedly) and make it a daily, or at least weekly, habit to read through the new posts.
Habit #2 – Write as often as possible
A lot of people think writing is one of those skills that you are either “naturally good” at or “naturally bad” at. But the truth is, no matter what natural ability we may or may not have been born with, great writing takes practice.
So if you want to get better at creating great content, you need to start writing as often as possible. Every day would be great, but for a lot of people that just isn’t practical. Find a frequency that works for you, and try to stick with it.
You don’t always have to write a publish-worthy article or blog post. Sometimes you can write about whatever is on your mind. Just practice getting it out of your head and down on paper.
Habit #3 – Set up a “capture” system
If there is one thing you need a lot of in content marketing, that’s ideas. By setting up a “capture system”, you’ll be able to make the most of the ideas you have.
This system can take any form you want. I used to use a plain old notebook that I kept by my computer. Now I use an Excel spreadsheet. You could use an app on your smart phone, or stick scraps of paper in an envelope for that matter. The only rule here is to create a system that is easy and natural enough that you will remember to use it.
Every time you think “That could make an interesting blog post” or “Hey, I should create a special report about that” or even “my twitter followers would really enjoy hearing about this” capture it with your system. Then, when you’re ready to create a piece of content, you’ll already have topics and ideas to use.
Habit #4 – Learn from your past
One of the best ways to make better content in the future is to study the content you’ve created in the past.
We can learn a lot from our mistakes. What topics generated zero interest? Which blog posts didn’t get any comments or social sharing? What would you change if you re-wrote that blog post or re-recorded this podcast?
We can also learn a lot from our successes. If you wrote an eBook that really resonated with your audience, got thousands of downloads, was shared across the web, produced fan mail…well, you should probably create more content just like that.
For most of us, the success of our content won’t be quite that obvious. Here are some signs that will help you distinguish the great from the not-so-great:
- Number of social shares
- Number and nature of comments
- Number of downloads
- Quality links
- Positive feedback
When you’ve created a successful piece of content, re-use and re-purposes it as much as possible. I don’t mean publish the same content over and over again, but rather find different angles on the same topic. Turn that piece of content into a different medium. Expand on it. Get more specific about it. Find similar ideas. Etcetera.
Habit #5 – Learn to listen
If you pay close attention, your prospects and customers will actually tell you exactly what they want to hear about.
People are always talking about their problems, their questions, their concerns. If you listen in on these conversations, you can create content that will solve their problems, answer their questions, and alleviate their concerns.
One of the easiest ways to check up on what you’re target market is talking about is social media. I particularly like to use Twitter, because of the more advanced search options.
Habit #6 – Invest in education
This is the habit that usually receives the most resistance, because it often requires an investment of money AND time. Investing in ongoing education has huge payoffs, though.
If you want to learn to be a great content marketer, you have to keep learning about new practices, changing technologies, and better strategies.
You can choose any type of learning situation that fits your personality, budget, and schedule: books, online courses, live workshops, or virtual seminars.
Some of the best learning opportunities will come with a price tag, but you can also get a lot of good education for free. Pick up books from the library, register for free webinars, and keep an eye out for free community classes or speaking events.
Your Turn: What habits have you established to become a better content marketer? Let us know in the comments below.
photo credit: Michal Marcol