Inspire, educate, entertain.
If you keep these three words in mind while you build your business, you open yourself to tremendous possibilities when it comes to content. Books, blog posts, classes — any creation with which you can provide value — can change your opportunities.
Whether it’s for social media or your website, if you're providing value to your target audience, you are giving yourself a tremendous opportunity to produce something that can send your business to new heights. You may also be inspiring others to do the same.
How One GREAT Piece of Content Can Make a Difference
Years ago, my friend Gaetano DiNardi wrote a timely and incredibly well-written post for a site called inbound.org. I thought it was impressive, so I reached out. I wanted him to write for my website, and he agreed.
Eventually, he ended up writing an epic 10-part case study series for the Single Grain blog called Analysis of 1 Million Backlinks, which showcased how larger companies like Lyft and Airbnb garnered millions of site visits. That one piece got us a lot of brand equity and site traffic.
Unique content generates leads, too. When you put in time and effort and bring the right people to the table, you can create great things that lead to even better things. In this case, we gated his case studies and generated tons of leads, and we also ran paid ads. Through that one piece, we found people who were interested in SEO, which brought us free consultations…and eventually clients.
Back to Gaetano: that was just the beginning of how the hard work he put in on this initial piece of content opened doors he never even considered approaching.
After he wrote this remarkable case study, I referred him to my friend Max, who ran a company called SalesHacker. Max was looking for a VP of Marketing. Gaetano was hired as that VP, a position he had never really considered.
Through another introduction based on the work he did at SalesHacker, Gaetano moved on and became the Director of Demand Generation for Nextiva, a company that's doing well over $150 million a year in revenue right now.
None of this was handed to him. He put the hard work into a singular piece of writing that allowed him to make connections that changed the trajectory of his life. He also kept his options open and took advantage of opportunities when they popped up.
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How Reading One of Neil Patel's Posts Changed My Life
Neil Patel and I co-host the daily Marketing School podcast, which now gets 1M downloads a month:
Before we started the podcast, Neil was a well-known figure in the digital marketing field. I had read a post on QuickSprout (Neil's blog) about link blending, but I'd never heard of link blending so, naturally, I sent him an email.
He responded. I asked him more questions. We went back and forth for a while until he eventually said that we should just get on the phone. That phone call led to an in-person meeting at a Taco Bell in Orange County. It sounds like an odd place, but multi-million-dollar deals have been made in the strangest of places!
That first in-person meeting with him allowed me to make connections that led me to the position of VP of Growth at Treehouse. Of course, I added value in turn by helping him book high-paying speaking gigs. Now we have a symbiotic relationship, and both get brand awareness from the Marketing School podcast.
Here are a few things I learned from the above two examples:
- Teaching as a form of content creation
- Targeting content to be effective
- Writing about topics that will be just as relevant next year
- Less can be more – quality over quantity
- Offering strong opinions
- Creating content that is easy to promote
- Learning from content that challenges your point of view
We Learn When We Teach
When I teach and create this type of material for readers, it helps me articulate my thoughts.Teaching can be a great way to recognize your exact thoughts on a topic, and even to go a little deeper to get to the next level of your understanding. Click To Tweet
For example, if you read a book, you might gain a surface understanding of it. But if you want other people to read it, you’ll write a review. Writing will force you to think about why you want other people to read it, or at least recognize what about the book spoke to you. You then should be able to articulate those points so that other people can easily understand.
Analyzing content on a deeper level and being able to explain it to others is creating content. Even though the source material may belong to someone else, adding your perspective to it for others to consume is part of the creation process.
Not All Content Is Relevant to Everyone
Many businesses, especially when they are newly established, have a problem with maintaining a constant flow of traffic via various social networks. Even if there is a continuous flow, those visitors don’t always translate to viable customers who click through to learn about the product on a deeper level. As a result, businesses end up with conversions that are much lower than expected.
It is important to remember that one type of content will rarely speak to all audiences you want to reach. To find the content that’s going to move the needle for your business, evaluate the type of traffic you're bringing in. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Would these people be genuinely interested in the kind of content you produce?
- Is your content relevant to them on multiple levels: industry, job title, skill set?
- Is the content being used to bring people to your business in line with what they are finding once they are there?
In other words, if you are producing expert-level content, but drawing in a crowd of beginners, they will most likely not understand the material. Missing the target in this manner does nothing for your business and frustrates potential followers and customers.
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Just Getting Started? Produce Remarkable Content
Focus on one thing
In a world of tweets and soundbites that are listened to and then quickly forgotten, it might be difficult to find a way to create a lasting message. If you want to make a difference and produce content that will reach people, focus on writing one great piece.
Take all the time you need.
It could be as few as 3,000 words or as many as 10,000, but put everything you have in the text. Do your research — make it meaty. Mention experts and cite studies; you might be able to get backlinks through giving credit to others.
Make a strong point
Be thorough and get readers thinking about what you've written by adding stimulating and thought-provoking ideas. Maybe take a hard stance, voice an alternative point of view, or disprove something.
Stand the test of time
Ensure that your article is evergreen — or at least involves content that doesn’t ‘newsjack’ or speak only to a passing trend. While newsjacking is a great way to draw people to your site promptly, you won’t be able to stake your SEO on it because it’ll soon be irrelevant. Lasting content needs to rely on a sustainable topic.
Spread the word
Once you publish it, promote the heck out of it. An epic piece of content can create the foundation for your blog. When you’re new, these longer foundation pieces will do much more for you than half a dozen 800-word articles—all good content creators will say the same thing.
Write these posts on a monthly basis. You'll build momentum and a reputation as a thought leader. When you can consistently put out content of this length and quality, people will begin to recognize you as someone who does excellent work and knows their stuff. They may contact you for guest posting opportunities or to drive backlinks to your site.
Andrew Chen is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and has a background of leading companies like Uber to success. Every month, he writes a long essay and posts it on andrewchen.co. His intellectual content (combined with a common sense approach that advocates for action rather than just reading about ways to improve) makes him popular with readers like Marc Andreessen, Max Levchin and Eric Ries.
When you're producing content, it can be used for more than building your own business; it also strengthens your brand. Content can show other like-minded people what and how you think and demonstrate your expertise. That can lead to them wanting to work with you. That's how it has worked for me many times.
Not Enough Time? Focus on Quality over Quantity
I cannot stress this point enough: If you don't have enough time to publish 2,000-word blog posts every day, focus on less frequent, high-quality posts. The 800-word blog post has been the content marketing standard for years, but like many other over-saturated tactics, it doesn’t have the cache it used to.
Think quality over quantity.
As an example, we've created some longer posts. There was one that was 2,000 words. It was respectable. Then we decided to work on it a bit more and get it up to 10,000 words of quality content. Once we made this upgrade, the traffic to the page increased by at least 20x.
It is a straightforward concept to apply: focus on producing one piece of content a month that is in-depth and valuable. It will stand out.
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Believe in Your Point of View
Once you've got the knowledge, you can also offer it in different formats. Look at the Marketing School podcast, for example. Neil and I are both marketing guys, but we have two very different points of view.
This point/counterpoint can make for interesting and thought-provoking conversation. Nobody wants to listen to two people agree with each other for ten minutes. Different perspectives will inspire, educate and entertain for an entire podcast.
There are lots of other marketing podcasts out there, and plenty that feature interviews with marketers and famous entrepreneurs. Nearly all of them are much longer, but they are also much less engaging. The hosts either don't interact with the audience or they ask the same things over and over. And they publish less often. In short: we do things that they don't, and it makes us stand out.
We also don't run ads. We have over a million listeners per month. The podcast could make $1 million with just two ads. But we're creating this podcast for more than just the revenue it could bring from ads; we're playing the long game.
Do something different in a big way or do something different in a dozen small ways—the result is that you're still going to stand out. There is no more effective way to prove that you are more than just noise.
Promoting Great Content Is Easier
When you have something that's so in-depth, that radiates “authority,” you're going to have a much easier time supporting it. That's part of what makes creating this remarkable content especially useful for people who are just starting.
It also increases the effectiveness of your budget. When you are directing all your efforts toward this one thing, rather than five individual things of lesser value, you can afford to do more. Once again, you can focus on just this one thing.
Know where to effectively promote
Go to Facebook. Look for an audience who would love a specific piece. Increasing traffic in this manner is cheaper and more effective, as it's sending the right people to the right content. As I mentioned above, that's one way to make an impact.
When you promote to an audience that's already interested in similar things, it's a lot easier and less expensive than promoting to a cold audience. Another example would be broadening a promotion to include people who are interested in, say, a specific sport or type of sportswear, instead of just focusing on people who have visited Nike.com.
Once you start directing traffic to your one remarkable post, you're going to notice higher levels of engagement, more shares, and other benefits to your business.
The Content You Learn Can Change How You Think
I follow Jeff Bezos. I learned that he makes his entire management team read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. Knowing how successful he is, I went and got the book and it's something that I re-read every couple of years. It is a significant influence on how I approach business in general.
In the book , there are fictional stories about potential bottlenecks in business and how it's up to you to create solutions for them. If you can't solve them, you can't move on to a new set of problems. You won't make progress, and there will always be more problems.
One of the most memorable parables is one about a summer camp. Imagine that you are hiking with a group. At the very end of the group, there's an overweight kid who is a having a hard time and slowing everyone else down. That's the weak link. How do you solve the problem?
If you said to leave the kid behind…well, that’s the kind of attitude that will keep your business from prospering. A better solution would be to put that kid in front of the line. Then they are more motivated. The other kids behind him want to keep going, so they add to the motivation.
A positive resolution will always be better for your business than one that fails people. Reading this book, this one piece of content, made a difference in my way of thinking about business. Make sure you're learning the right things.
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What Types of Content Should I Focus on in 2019?
In my opinion, 2019 is the year of “Live.” YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Instagram Live are all platforms that we are seriously exploring. We're even going to start experimenting with Twitch (a live-streaming video platform which is a subsidiary of Amazon):
Right now, we're using YouTube Live and plan on adding Facebook Live simulcasts. Eventually, we will add Instagram and go from there.
On these branches of popular social media, I can engage with audiences across multiple platforms, on various channels at the same time. Having the ability to respond to comments and answer questions live gives me a complete connection to viewers, which in turn gives me the opportunity to speak directly to them.
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Putting It All Together
When you're new to marketing or building a business online, you should take the time to experiment with multiple channels. You will then be able to see what works effectively for you or your brand. However, you should take care not to spread yourself too thin; you still need to put everything you can into each effort.
In today’s busy world, time is a premium commodity. You can still make the most of it by creating the best content possible and then focus the various channels on leading to that one piece.
Create that 8,000-word, in-depth blog post, then have a live stream that discusses the article. Initiate a conversation with the people mentioned in the post. If you don't have anyone engaging with you, reach out and engage them instead. Take the initiative.
The content that influences you matters. Whether it's a book or a blog post like this one, make sure that you're paying attention to the sources and content types that resonate with you. Reading and listening to quality content can shape your life and help you create better content. Ultimately, this will benefit both you and your business.