If you’ve been chipping away at content marketing for a while now, this “dirty secret” of content marketing won’t be a revelation, but acknowledging it will be a comfort: there is no such thing as instant gratification on content marketing.
That’s good and bad news. The bad news first: there is no flashing red secret button that, when pressed, instantly showers you with riches within 24 hours. The good news is that, even though content marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint, that means you have plenty of second chances to course correct when you’re doing something wrong.
It also means that when it does eventually pay off, it could pay off in a big way.
Now, I don’t want this to be an article that reads, “You won’t see results for 6 months to a year.” That’s also a pile of horse plop in my opinion. In fact, most of our clients see leads and targeted traffic coming in within the first 30 to 60 days of the campaign. But rather, this article is to illustrate that while the returns can be seen quickly, the true payoff really comes when you stick to your guns for a long-term campaign.
Turning Off Our “Instant Gratification” Switch
As Quinn Whissen of Marketing Land so nicely sums up, content marketing is about the system, not the goal. As Whissen explains:
The more pages and posts you have on your website, your traffic and leads start to exponentially grow…You’ll see a hockey stick effect on the graph right around 300 total published blog posts, which doesn’t happen overnight…This strategy of small margin gains is often referred to as the 1% rule. The thinking is that if you can make 1% progress every single day, it can result in a significant impact over time.
It’s about creating a compound effect. Nurturing that mentality can be a difficult in a culture where so many things are about “What can you give me now.” Human nature tends to take the path of least resistance, and in this context, the path of least resistance — the lazy way out — is craving short-term gains that give you an immediate sense of ROI.
The 9-Day Cycle: Why Not Blog Like Marathon Runners Train?
If content marketing really is a marathon and not a spring, then why not approach your process of content creation — your schedule and your pacing — the way a marathon runner trains?
One of the most well-known systems of training for a marathon — fleshed out by running sites like Elite Marathoning — involves a 3-day cycle. It’s simple: the runner does a “stress day” in which she does heavy running. The “stress day” is then separated by two “easy days,” in which she does two easier workouts. Runners will play with this pattern and combine them into long stretches of training. This trend has led to popular training cycle routines like the 9-day cycle, in which you emphasize a different focus with each 3-day pattern over the course of nine days.
Why not try the 9-day cycle with your content creation? It would look something like this:
- Day 1: Heavy blog writing — maybe write multiple posts in one day and schedule them.
- Day 2: Easy blog writing — maybe just write one post or do some client engagement on social media.
- Day 3: Easy blog writing.
- Day 4: Heavy YouTube content creation.
- Day 5: Easy YouTube work.
- Day 6: Easy YouTube work.
- Day 7: Heavy newsletter work.
- Day 8: Easy newsletter work.
- Day 9: Easy newsletter work.
Of course, instead of changing your emphasis every three days, you can focus on one task — article writing, YouTube, graphics, newsletters, webinars — for all nine days but just use the pattern to pace yourself.
That’s really the key for content marketing: find a system that makes you consistent in the long haul — something that is sustainable for months and years, helps you keep a good pace, and accomplishes that 1% gain each day toward a compound effect.
If you spend any time reading that Elite Marathoners site mentioned above then you will notice one obvious thing: marathon runners are extremely organized. They plan very far in advance. They kind of have to. If you’re not a runner or you’re not training, you can’t really just throw on some nifty runner’s shoes and drop in on a marathon. Unless, of course, you know, you want to die.
So stay organized. Do what editors do. Come up with a weekly, monthly, or quarterly theme ahead of time and follow those themes. Do this far in advance. It takes away some of the brain work you have to do when you sit down to write. It relieves writer’s block. It gives you a guided path to follow.
Follow The News Cycle
Always follow the news cycle, especially the cycles relevant to your industry, and add your own voice to those news stories. If you’re not a news junkie already, this might not come naturally, but it’s a helpful habit to build. (Though, frankly, sometimes the news can be excessively soul-crushing, and it’s good to unplug from it and take a break from time to time.)
The other wonderful thing about the news cycle: it’s a long-distance runner too. It will always be there, like a pace runner, there for you when you need a topic for a post.
Consider Publishing Your Editorial Calendar
That’s right. Put it out there for the world to see. Although it’s most often used to lure advertisers to buy ad space for your site or magazine, it’s fun for readers too. They can see what themes you have in store. It creates a sense of anticipation. Here’s an example of a public editorial calendar for some obscure magazine called “Rolling Stone.”
Knowing your grand plan for the year is out there for the world to see also motivates you to stick with your plan and keep producing content consistently.
Hack Your Campaign For Quicker Results
For those marketers who have an impatient board or C-Suite, then you may want to use social promotion as a quick fix to getting immediate results. By utilizing LinkedIn sponsored posts to disseminate your content to a targeted audience, you’re ensuring that only the right people will see your message and visit your site.
But you don’t stop there. Make sure to “gate” your content behind forms that require an email. Don’t use these for content like your blog or infographics, but for eBooks and whitepapers it’s a completely acceptable practice.
But wait . . . there’s more! And remember that remarketing and retargeting are a content marketer’s best friend. If you’re driving the right traffic to your site, then you need to be capturing that traffic in order to continue marketing to them. So ensure that you have your remarketing/retargeting cookies installed on every page of your site.
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- Content Marketing: Why You Should Write Blog Posts in a Series