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“Create content,” they say. “Make sure you have content marketing in your strategy,” they say.
So there you are, sitting in front of a blank screen, trying to come up with content and a strategy because you have to put a check mark next to that task.
It becomes an endless process, day after day, week after week, trying to come up with new and interesting things to create, hoping that it will fit the grand marketing scheme you were told you needed.
Content is not the problem, and lack of content is not the problem. So what gives? Is there such a thing as too much content? Is it a never ending roller coaster of creating and production, one that leaves you exhausted every time you even think about making something else?
In today’s show we’ll be uncovering some commonly flawed ideas of content marketing and discussing the point of purposeful content in your own brand strategy.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
- Have at least one content marketing outlet where you’re consistent.
- Focus on what allows you to connect with your audience.
- Content marketing is a strategy of getting attention by creating value for people to consume with the goal of generating trust.
- Before you can sell something, people need to trust you.
- At some point, you have to raise awareness if you’re trying to actually market and sell something you’ve made.
- There is no perfect content marketing formula.
- Effective content is better than content quantity.
- If you don’t know what your audience wants, ask them.
- Figure out what your unique advantage is.
- Always seek feedback and listen to people.
- Generate content that’s interesting for the people you’re trying to reach and that’s interesting for you to create.
- 05:43 Cory: We aren’t just talking about content marketing today, but we’re talking about how much content marketing is too much. Is there such a thing as too much content marketing? I was talking with a few people in the seanwes Community earlier this week, and our good friend Daniela said, “I was so hell-bent on the idea of content marketing leading up to my EP for so long,” EP being Extended Play.
- 06:18 It’s like a shorter album. “I was leading up to my EP for so long, daily Instagram posts, weekly blog posts, and a weekly newsletter. I knew that the EP would mean nothing if no one knew it was happening. Then, the EP itself never got finished. I got so wound up and stressed out by content marketing that I forgot or even knowingly distanced myself from actually creating. My plan going forward now is to just finish the thing, but I still have this lingering thought of, ‘What should I do when it’s done?'”
- 06:50 “Should I throw content marketing to the wind, ship it, and move on? Or would that cause the whole thing to fall flat on its face?” She follows up with, “Put more concisely, I’m so sick of content marketing because I did it for so long while losing sight of my main goal, but I’m worried about finally finishing the EP and then having no one hear it if I don’t do any content marketing at all.” This represents such a real struggle for a lot of people.
- 07:23 In fact, we always start a Conversation in the Community at the beginning of our show recordings so we can engage with people, talk, and go through the show live. That’s what you get in the Community. Garrett said, “I have a lot of trouble balancing content marketing with actually creating the things I create.” I think that sentence is so indicative of where a lot of people find themselves, especially people who don’t have marketing teams.
- 08:01 It’s just you, or maybe you have a small company, or maybe it’s just you and a buddy and you’re trying to make stuff. Especially when it’s just you doing all of the things, it’s easy to think, “How in the world do I get ahead with all of this stuff? I’m hearing all this stuff about content marketing. ‘Make the content, do the content, be a content guru, feed the content monster.'” Where do we go from there? That’s what we’re going to talk about.
- 08:32 Kyle: From personal experience, the key is this:
- 08:43 We start this journey of content marketing, and we think we need to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all these different things. The reality is, that creates a lot of work. Is that work actually benefiting anything or your brand? There are two sides of the fence here. It’s important to evaluate where you’re at with this. I mentioned this to Cory earlier, but there’s the side of the fence where you’re not really making content.
- 09:18 Maybe you’re thinking about it, you’re planning it out, you’re writing down some stuff, and you release something once every month or once every two weeks, and you’re like, “Ah, content! There’s so much content to create,” but you’re not on a regular release cycle with content. There’s that side of the fence, where you may be feeling fatigued because you’re not used to creating content yet. Then there’s the other side of the fence, where you’re producing a lot of content.
- 09:47 That’s getting in the way of doing anything else, of promoting anything for your business and making income, which is a trap I’ve fallen into, for sure, in the past couple of years. I have tried to work out of that. Recently, I scaled things back a little bit. I’m making videos. That’s a big focus. I’m posting work on Instagram and Dribbble. That’s my main focus. I’ll occasionally go on Twitter and say something, but it’s not my focus. My main focus is video and sharing some of my work.
Have at least one content marketing outlet where you’re consistent.
Connect With Your Audience
- 10:27 Cory: For you personally, Kyle, do you have a strategy for the content you produce? Why are you doing it? Why even bother?
- 10:39 Kyle: It got to a point where the fatigue of creating content was that I wanted everything to have a specific purpose. It is good to have a purpose for your content, but there’s also a level of engaging with your audience, connecting with them, and creating things that are helpful for them. Perhaps in the future it becomes something you’re marketing towards, but I’ll call it testing the market. You’re creating content that’s helpful to see if people resonate with that, and you don’t necessarily plan for it to be a product in the future.
- 11:13 You’re creating for the joy of creating content and sharing it with your audience. At this point, I feel like it’s a mix of that. I’m creating videos because I love creating videos, and I want to interact with people more. I want to get to know my audience better, which will lead to better products in the future. I’m also working towards a guide/course called Choosing Great Colors. I’ve been working on this for a while.
- 11:42 I was creating so much content that I didn’t have time to finish the thing, ironically. At this point, because I’ve scaled back, I have the margin to get that done. My goal is the end of this month, so there it is. It’s public now, by the end of this month. I have that ready to actually sell and distribute, launched. I’m pushing towards that, but I’m also creating because I want to connect.
- 12:19 What is making that connection seem more robotic in nature? For me, that was posting work, like, “Here are some icons I made.” Maybe I was telling a story of the icons but not much else, and that was kind of distancing me. It was more about the work than it was about, “There’s someone to interact with who posts this.” That has been my approach to it recently.
Take a step back and see what allows you to connect with your audience and what is hindering that connection.
What Is Content Marketing?
- 12:44 Cory: How do you define content marketing? I have some thoughts and a definition, but I’m wondering how you would define it. This is for people who are like, “I’ve heard of this, but I’m not really sure what it is,” or maybe they’ve heard definitions. I want to bring in our perspective on that. In your mind, how would you define content marketing?
- 13:06 Kyle: That’s a tough one. It’s creating content with the intent of establishing your brand and moving people toward what your brand is about. I say that because maybe you don’t have a specific product to market at this point. Maybe you’re just starting your brand, and in that case, it’s probably good that you don’t have a product for that audience yet, a specific one. That’s especially true if you’re working a day job and you’re trying to do this on the side.
- 13:49 You’re working toward going full time with your own thing. For a long time, I released content with the intent of understanding the people that wanted to follow along with the type of work I do, and that turned into getting questions, which turned into talking to people, which turned into understanding their pain points, which turned into creating products that are meaningful and helpful to the audience I have and not just creating a course or something that launches to nobody (because nobody actually wanted it). Content marketing is raising awareness for your brand or a specific product on various internet platforms.
- 14:36 Cory: I like that. That’s great. As you were writing, I thought, “I totally agree,” so I typed out a single sentence that I thought would be helpful. In very simple terms, I would say this:
- 15:28 Cory: I think there are two parts to this. You’re building trust and building awareness. Watching the Community, a lot of the struggle is is this idea of—Allison put it really well—“It’s the balance between, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and, ‘If you build it, they won’t come unless you tell them.'” That’s so true. Often, we see this in very different ways. You haven’t heard from someone in so long, but then they make something and release it, and everybody knows about it.
- 15:59 There’s this guy I follow on YouTube named Bill Wurtz, and he did this video that went extremely viral. It has something like 25 million views. It’s called “history of japan.” It’s this low res, super funny, really witty video. Then, he went silent for a really long time. I think it was a year or a year and a half. No one knew what had happened to this guy. Earlier this week, he released a new video called “history of the entire world, i guess.”
- 16:38 Overnight, it had several million views. Within the first day, it had something like three or four million views. I don’t know what it’s at right now. You look at that, and you’re like, “Okay, he just made something and released it, and all of a sudden, people are going crazy for this video.” Then you have people who create content every single day, and they don’t seem to get anywhere. You’re like, “I have been creating content. I’ve been doing all this stuff.”
- 17:06 There is a purpose behind creating content and content marketing, and if you’re purposelessly creating content that doesn’t built trust and brand or product awareness, you need to shift your strategy. If your content accomplishes neither of those goals, something is wrong. That also helps for people who say, “I don’t have anything to sell.”
- 17:46 That’s why, oftentimes, these brands create content—to stay relevant and generate trust. The struggle, then, is, “I’ve been making all this content, trying to stay relevant, trying to connect and build trust, and I haven’t worked at all on this thing that I’m actually really passionate about.” Trying to reconcile that dichotomy can be really difficult.
Content marketing is a strategy of getting attention by creating value for people to consume with the goal of generating trust and brand or product awareness.
Before you can sell something, people need to trust you.
Effectiveness vs. Volume
- 18:38 Cory: You’re making stuff. You need to be the master of your own time. If you’re just sitting there, dreading creating something, you need to evaluate why you’re actually doing that. Why does it matter that you’re up all night creating all of these things? I do want to say that content does serve a purpose. Creating things for people to consume does serve a purpose, whether you’re marketing a product, advertising something, or just trying to connect with people.
- 19:11 It is really important, but I think there are some misunderstandings about it. Some of the misunderstandings lie in volume vs. effectiveness. Effective content is better than quantity of content, both in how much you produce and in how much content is in each piece.
- 19:43 You could be producing 5,000 words of blog posts every single day. You could be so prolific, but if it’s not actually valuable to the people you’re trying to reach, it doesn’t matter. You could write 150 words and make more of an impact because you’re reaching the right people at the right time with the right message.
Volume doesn’t mean a thing if the content isn’t actually valuable to the person who is consuming it.
Consistency & Connection
- 20:16 Kyle: I don’t believe you can’t create content that resonates with people. I don’t think there’s anyone out there that can’t do that. It’s about whether or not you’re willing to change things and move in a different direction, to say, “This isn’t working.” There is persistence. That’s the tough part. You have to persist through the beginning of things. If you’re a year or a year and a half into doing things constantly and there isn’t much attention being generated around that, there’s something going on.
- 20:51 You have to change your strategy and look at things differently. I’m not even talking about a numbers perspective. Don’t worry about getting your numbers up. Worry about people commenting on your posting, reaching out to you about what you post, or replying to your emails. Those are the numbers you want to look for, because that means that people are resonating with it. Dropping a Like on a video is super easy, but reaching out and saying, “Wow, I loved this. This was great,” or those kinds of things, that’s where you see people actually resonating with it.
- 21:28 They’re compelled to do that. They aren’t just passively watching. I’ve noticed that with some of my content, to be really transparent. For a while, I might get 100 and something likes on a photo but two comments. People are like, “Oh, that’s cool,” and they’re moving on. There’s no engagement or excitement for that content. That’s important to look for.
- 21:59 Even if your numbers look like people should be connecting, views or likes or whatever, that’s not a good determiner of that. Cory mentioned Bill Wurtz, and people see that kind of thing and they say, “See? You don’t have to post on a frequent basis. You don’t have to post once a week. You can post once a year and get these big numbers.” The reality is, if you look back on Bill Wurtz, for the three or four years prior to that, he was doing videos on a very regular basis.
- 22:37 He has almost 400 videos on his channel over the past three years or so. They’re short, but they’re good. They’re hilarious. He kept consistent with what he was doing. He never gave up having that same feel to his brand. He had the same feel to it. He made the same kinds of videos. He kept persisting, and now he’s at the point where he has almost a million people following what he’s doing. If he releases in a year, it still gets attention, because he has had that many people notice his work.
- 23:14 I’m cautioning assuming that you can release things once a year and have people pay attention to that. It’s very unlikely, unless you have already built an audience around what you’re doing.
If you’re wondering why you’re not growing, it’s because people aren’t really connecting with your brand.
There Is No Formula
- 23:30 Cory: I would say one of two things. First off, I agree with that, but there’s a second reality you would need to face if you did release content more spread out like that. At some point, you have to talk about it. Whether it’s before you launch a product or after, at some point, you have to raise awareness, especially if you’re trying to actually market and sell something you have made. At some point, you’ll have to put in the time and put it out there for people.
- 24:04 That can be before or after, but there still has to be time put into it. You could have this really great product that you’ve made. You could go into hiding. You could go into the dark. You could do what so many authors do. They disconnect from everything, get off of social media, they find a cabin in the woods or a hotel that’s super disconnected, that no one knows about, and they sit there and write. They write, write, write, write. When they have a finished piece and they submit it for publication, or even before that, then they start the marketing campaign.
- 24:47 They start talking about it. At the end of the day, there is no perfect content marketing formula. There is no, “Here are the boxes you need to check off. Here is the strategy. Here are the ten steps to perfect content marketing.” Every single audience is different. Every single creator is different, every company. Sure, there are principles that you can learn and strategies that you can learn.
- 25:27 Daniela, I know they’re talking in the Community about your album, your EP. If making content and trying to market it before you’ve made the thing, if that doesn’t matter to your audience as much as having a finished product, you should be focusing absolutely on finishing the product before you do that. It’s going to be relevant to somebody at some point. You’ll have to say, “Okay, now I’ve got it. It’s available, ready to go. I’ve made it. I’ve put in the energy here. Now I can build up to a launch. Now I can put in the three to four months of building up and then launch it.”
- 26:12 That’s the other thing. People make stuff, and then they’re like, “Now I have to ship it. I have to sell it now. It’s all finished. It’s all made.” What if you just change the balance a little bit? As soon as you finish it, you build two to three months of marketing into that, or however long—10, 12, 435, however many. You could do that after the product is finished, for sure, especially if you’re a single creator. I want to speak to that. Making content just to check off a box is a great way to run yourself into the ground.
- 26:57 That’s how I see it. Content looks different for different audiences. For some, it might be video. It might be blogs. It could be newsletters. It could be physical mail.
If what you’re doing isn’t valuable to someone or connecting with people, your content doesn’t matter and you’ll burn out.
The #1 Content Marketing Strategy Secret
- 27:10 Kyle: Can I give the number one secret to knowing how to approach your content marketing strategy?
- 27:17 Cory: Yes, the number one super secret!
- 27:23 Kyle: It’s going to blow your mind, Cory.
- 27:25 Cory: I want to know it.
- 27:32 Kyle: That sounds so simple, but seriously. Whatever field you’re in, whatever you’re doing, go to the people who you intend to be in your audience, who have heard of you or mention you, and seek their feedback. Just yesterday, I met up with a friend here in San Antonio. He and I were talking, and he has seen the videos I’ve been producing. He’s seen my YouTube channel. I said, “I want your feedback. I want you to be 100% honest. Are you with the same person now that you see online? Am I being authentic? Is that coming through? Or do you feel like it’s some sort of scripted version?”
- 28:17 He was like, “Honestly, you’re more upbeat online, but you have to be.” He was trying to do some videos, and he was like, “I sounded super boring, because I was just talking in my normal voice. I wasn’t really trying to present.” He said, “Other than that, the way you carry yourself and the way you talk, it’s you.” That was good feedback, but if he had said the opposite, I would have said, “You know what? I have to change some things here, because I’m not connecting with people.”
- 28:50 “The way I want to present myself is not coming through.” That was a conversation I had last year at seanwes conference. There was someone who said, “It’s great to meet you in person, because I get a different vibe in person than I do with your content. Your content is kind of dry, and I don’t get the same feeling.” That sounds harsh, but it’s good feedback.
- 29:19 Maybe it’s just someone who’s trying to make you feel less than. There are all these things that could be happening. Take that in and ask yourself, “Is this true? Do I actually need to change some things? Am I not really coming through as 100% genuine or reaching the people I need to reach?” That was something I had to face as well. I love making blog posts and I want to get back into that, but the thing that’s really resonating with the audience I have is video.
- 29:50 They’re all in the tech world. They all want to be on the forefront of technology, and video is that thing right now. They’re consuming and watching video. They aren’t necessarily reading a bunch of blog posts. I still want to have that content, because I feel it’s important to have that, especially for more minor things like SEO. Having that content there to boost traffic to the site and raise awareness of things is important. The point is, like Cory said, understand your audience and get their feedback. Talk about it.
Always seek feedback and listen to people.
Take in feedback, even if it’s harsh, and evaluate it.
How to Get Feedback From Your Audience
- 30:31 Cory: How do you get that feedback? What are some good ways to acquire that?
- 30:36 Kyle: Number one for me right now is going to conferences, where the people in my audience are. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to Squares conference in Grapevine, Texas. It’s close to Dallas. That conference is for designers and developers. That’s the audience I want to reach—people who are working on websites or on apps, and they’re using icons, making interfaces, or at least working with interfaces, like a developer.
- 31:20 I got a lot of good feedback. Some people had seen my content, which is good. I got to talk with some people who had actually watched it or read, whatever it is, and they had some good feedback to share, but I also talked with some people who hadn’t heard about what I’m doing. It was good, because I talked about, “Here’s what I do.” They asked me, “What do you do online? What can I follow along with?” I kind of explained that, and I got their reactions.
- 31:46 It’s not direct feedback for the content I’m creating, but it’s the reaction of, “I don’t know that I would sign up for a newsletter,” or, “I love videos. I’ll have to subscribe to you.” By talking to people at conferences, you start to gauge what that audience is actually interested in and what they’re consuming, and even how to position things differently. Maybe you just made your blog post sound super boring and they don’t really want to read something like that.
- 32:10 Maybe they would read it if they knew the kind of content you share. I like doing that. I also like reaching out to audience members and saying, “Hey, what do you think of this?” Or they’ll reach out in a private message. Instagram Stories has been awesome. They’ll reach out and say, “Love this. Love your work,” etc. We just have a conversation.
- 32:38 Cory: That’s so good. We say this a lot, but if you have any level of audience—it could just be your family if you just got started, and the only person who follows you is your mom—talk with her! “What would you like to see me post on my Instagram Story, Mom? What would you want to read about this thing that I made? What would be interesting to you?”
- 33:29 A guy I follow on Twitter who works for ConvertKit, he’s part of the onboarding team and member success team there, his name is Matt Ragland, and he wrote this great article about how they reduced their user churn. Churn is where people sign up and then they drop off, unsubscribe, and cancel their plans. That’s churn. As a company built on that ongoing revenue, any company that has recurring revenue wants to reduce churn so they can maximize their profits.
- 34:09 He wrote this great article about how doing unscalable things reduced their user churn from something like 40% to 14%. I was like, “This is amazing.” I actually sent him a video on Twitter as a direct message. It might have been 40 or 50 seconds to say, “Hey, I read this article. It was really impactful. I really enjoyed it, but I have some follow up questions.” He responded on Twitter with a video message himself.
- 34:44 It was so good. He took the time to connect with me. He even said, “Hey, let’s hop on Skype. Would love to connect with you and talk about this thing. I’m really passionate about it. That would be great.” For him, writing that kind of thing generates interest. For me, I want to connect with him. Then, he wants to continue to do the unscalable and connect with me even via Skype call. That was unbelievable.
- 35:32 We say this so much and so few people do this. Ask a lot of people, because you’re going to get a lot of different answers. Let’s be honest. Hannah said that if she asked her mom what she wanted to see on her Instagram, she would say, “More baby pictures.” Again, go back and ask yourself, “What are my goals? What am I actually trying to do? What am I trying to get people to do? How do I want to help people?”
- 35:59 Care enough about those people that the stuff that you create around building brand awareness, generating trust, and building product awareness, creates value for your audience. Work on connecting with them as you can, even if you’re not generating content. Imagine if you weren’t making content of any kind, but you did a live stream every week as an update on working on your product.
- 36:29 You did a Twitch Stream, Instagram Story, Instagram Live, or Facebook Live, or something like that. That could still be really valuable for people, for them to see the journey and the process. That’s what I come down to. Don’t forget that effective content is more important than the quantity of that content.
Too few people take advantage of the way technology allows us to connect with people directly.
If you don’t know what your audience wants, ask them.
Play to Your Unique Advantage
- 36:50 Cory: I read an article earlier today, and it was a single paragraph, but it was amazing. It wasn’t thousands of words, but it met me right where I was at. I think it’s more important to have a great product than it is for you to spend more time actually marketing it. I know some people disagree with me.
- 37:24 There are a lot of different ways to do it. Some things work for some people, some things work for other people.
- 37:32 Kyle: Also, figure out what your unique advantage is. We talk about that sometimes in the context of the product you sell or the thing you offer, but also with content marketing, you have unique advantages. Maybe you used to do radio a lot, so doing a podcast would be really helpful for you, because you can make a really good podcast. It’s easier for you. You have that skill. You can get on the mic and start recording things, and people will think it’s super polished, but you don’t actually spend that much time on it, because you know how to do those kinds of things.
- 38:12 I looked for this for a long time. I think you know, I’ve searched for things I can do that are… I don’t want to say “easy,” because they’re not easy, they’re still content creation, but they’re things that I can provide for my audience with high value and low overhead on my end, so I can do the other things I need to get done. For a few years, I did photography professionally. That was a thing I did on the side for weddings and even graduation pictures, those kinds of things.
- 38:53 I got used to taking photos, setting up shots, doing compositions, and all the settings on the camera. All those things. That translates well to video, because you’re still adjusting all of those things. There are different factors involved. I was kind of in paralysis of not wanting to approach video. I was a little bit scared of it, to be honest. Since I started embracing that and learning as I go, I’ve realized that that’s a unique thing for me.
- 39:21 A lot of people in the industry I’m reaching aren’t necessarily familiar with photography or video. They’re working on software websites and things like that. When I share an Instagram Story with video that’s taken on my iPhone that I know how to compose and make sure the exposure’s right and all of that, I do some minor edits to them and some transitions, that’s suddenly mesmerizing for some of my audience, and it causes them to reach out and say, “Wow, really love these videos that you’re doing.”
- 39:51 It’s not a huge overhead for me, but it’s something to differentiate things. I make content they’re not used to by providing value in a much different way. The point of that is to say this:
- 40:09 Look at the audience you’re trying to attract. Do they know how to do all the things you know how to do in reference to creating content?
- 40:29 Cory: I think a lot of people are nervous or burnt out on content marketing or the idea of it, but take a moment to breathe a little. Say, “Okay, the world is not going to end because I did or did not create a piece of content.” There is certainly a way for you to enjoy the process of creating content. You just have to find out how to generate content that’s interesting for the people you’re trying to help or reach and that’s interesting for you to create, that you find fulfillment in creating.
- 41:17 It’s not just about checking a box or feeding the content machine. It’s about pouring yourself out into your brand so you can reach and help the people you want to reach and help.
If you have the right product and the right people when you start to build attention and your audience, those things will be well-connected.
Look for the things you have to offer that are unique, even if you don’t think they’re unique.
It’s Okay to Pivot
- 41:32 Kyle: We talked about this a little bit, I think, but focusing a little bit more on video drives and moves me. I don’t know if it’s fresh, but it’s something I’m learning more of as I go, and that feels good. Writing, like creating blog posts and writing newsletters every week, got to the point of content burnout. I think there’s a differentiating factor with that. You can get burned out on what you’re doing in general, or you can get burned out on the content you’re producing.
- 42:09 I got to that point with writing. It was like every week, I thought, “I have to write a blog post again. I have to edit it.” To a degree, you have to just suck it up and do it, but it got to the point where I was dreading that. I think this new approach, where I’m doing something I really enjoy doing, people know that. As you have said in previous episodes, Cory, people are smart. They know when you’re not enjoying something, getting fulfillment out of it, or reaching the right people.
- 42:49 Don’t be afraid to pivot and change things. I know there are people who have followed me for writing, and I want to come back to that. I want to have that somewhere within my content plans, because I think it is important, but right now, I’m enjoying video. That’s okay. People are resonating with that, which is a good thing. Be flexible, and know that you don’t have to do the things that everyone else is doing.
- 43:18 Cory: It’s all about the people you’re trying to reach. That’s where you have to start.