Re-thinking how we do things

For a long time, I have disliked generic content advice on the internet and therefore have avoided dishing any out. Things like:

  • Write a blog once a week

The problem with this kind of advice is that it’s not letting you stop and think if it’s right for your business. Or what you want to achieve.

Let’s take the weekly blogging thing for example. Now, I do write weekly blogs for a couple of clients but that is because it fits into the wider content strategy. But if you were to read that the best content marketing practice was to create a weekly blog — and you went off and did that — what results would you expect?

A blog takes around three to five hours to create on a good day. It might take you more. If you want to write something of quality, it is unlikely to take less. So perhaps you don’t have time to spend five hours a week on a blog. Or if you do commit the time, it means that you need to sell something as a result to cover the investment.

Perhaps, you are better off creating a bigger and better blog less frequently but one that performs better?

I believe business coach, Jen Hall, puts this more succinctly:

“If you are not being strategic with your content then you are being a busy fool heading for exhaustion and seeing no return on your investment.”

Full disclosure here that Jen is a client. So as I recommend you listen to her podcast episode this week, I want you to know that it’s because I think you will find it genuinely useful.

I get the pleasure of listening in advance to the podcasts I work on. As her content manager and strategist, you’d think I would be fully up on everything she has to say about content strategies for 2022. I’ve spoken before about the importance of always learning and there is advice in this episode that I’m going to apply to my own work.

So if we want to re-think how we do content this year, what should we be doing instead?

Customer-centric content

When we talk about creating customer-centric content it is often framed as having the customers’ needs in mind. You write this blog that tells your not-yet customer how they fix X and then you can sell them Y because they now trust you.

But what if instead, we thought about customer-centric content as the journey the customer goes on to identify themselves with your brand time and time again. So that by becoming part of the community, they buy from you multiple times and go out and recommend you to others.

That’s powerful content.

And it’s content that cannot be created by following generic internet advice. It needs a smart and tailored approach.

Maybe, instead of doing something because we think we should do it — because that’s what someone has told us we need to do — we stop and think about it.

In the middle of last year, I answered a post about someone who felt social media did not align with their values. They wanted some advice on how they could market their product without using social media.

I had a great chat with them on the phone. It wasn’t meant to be a sales call, it was meant solely to help them see a way through to their goal of building a brand without social media.

We came up with a solid plan that we can put into action this year to market their product without using social media. This is a great idea because it gives them a big talking point for their content. It sets their values and shows how they have integrity. For the kind of product they sell, this is hugely important.

Now, I want to caveat this with the message that social media does sell sometimes. I bought some mushroom growing kits because of a post I saw on Instagram. I knew nothing about the company before. I don’t even follow them on any platform. But someone whose content I trust recommended them for a recipe. So off I toddled to part with my cash on a product I knew nothing about 30 minutes earlier.

Social media does work

But that person could have put their recommendation on their website and I’d have seen and bought it. They built my trust through their brand and I follow them on Instagram as an afterthought.

There’s no easy — if this, then that — answer to content marketing. And that’s what I find frustrating about online advice about what you should do. Especially if the person giving that advice knows little to nothing about you, your business or the goals.

What they are telling you is that when they posted daily, used those hashtags, sent those emails then they got sales. It may work for you — it might not. You might not have the time and capacity that they have. You might not have the skills and experience to leverage the same results.

I think this is an important message in January.

Consistent doesn’t mean constant

We go into the month thinking we’re going to do everything differently this year. We want to do content differently. Achieve different results. Get better at being consistent. Which is often confused for constant.

But while we want to do it differently, what we find is we’re still using the same advice, the same theories to try and achieve different results. We create a content plan, stick to it for a few weeks and then life gets back in the way and it all goes out of the window by Mid-February if we’re lucky.

And we’re back to chasing our own tails.

This is not to be a doom-monger at all. Quite the opposite. I want you to see this as a call to arms to re-think everything. How you do content, why you do it and what you want to see at the end.

Start with what brings you joy. If that’s not writing, then don’t write. If social media depresses the hell out of you — don’t do it. If you prefer a different kind of marketing but all you’ve ever known is online, then go investigate what else you can do. Because none of it is set in stone. There is no right or wrong way to market your business.

There is no one way to do content marketing.

Instead of thinking about what you want to do this year, what you want to plan and put out, think about how the customer journey fits into this so they can buy from you.

Because approaching it this way will allow you to change up how you do content and give you better results. It may be looking back at what worked before. Or realising that there is a step missing.

Or like the mushroom people who got my cash this week — it might be about forging the right kind of relationships with other businesses and working together. Now that’s a new year idea that I can get behind.

And the great thing about taking time to consider other options is that not everyone does it. Your competitor is probably pumping all their time and energy into that generic advice. That you need Instagram, Facebook Ads, a weekly blog…

While they are busying themselves with that, you could be trying something truly innovative.

Or you can ignore all this advice because it doesn’t apply to your business. Which is the right thing to do with any generic online advice from people who aren’t intimate with what you do.

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Content writer by day, fiction writer by night.

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