Content marketing is a long game.
In one way, that’s excellent — because all of your lazy or undisciplined competitors are going to drop out.
In another way, it sucks, because we all have days when we’re lazy and undisciplined.
In the early days, we can get by on adrenaline and enthusiasm. But as the months pass, we need some strategies to stay in love with that blog, video channel, or podcast.
Here are 10 strategies I’ve found helpful when you don’t want to quit, but you need to get a little bit of the magic back.
1. Read outside your topic
When you’re mastering a new subject, it’s only natural to immerse yourself in it.
You’ll read, watch, and listen to content obsessively while you pick up nuances and new ideas.
It’s a bit of a honeymoon with your topic … you can’t keep your hands off of it.
But honeymoons don’t last forever, and an obsessive focus on only your topic will quickly become boring for you … and for your audience.
Recognize when it’s time to turn your attention outside your topic, like when I got a bit obsessed with urban sketching — and that sparked hundreds of insights about creativity and the artist’s mindset.
When we decided to add a puppy to our household, my obsessive immersion in research on puppy training gave me ideas about persuasion and shaping audience behavior.
Focusing outside your topic will make you smarter inside your topic.
It will also keep you interested and engaged.
2. Incorporate a new medium
Reading outside your primary topic will give you all kinds of new ideas to create content around.
But you can also create content in a new medium or format.
If you’re a terrific writer, have you ever thought about launching a podcast or video channel?
Shaping your ideas to a new format will make you look at your topic with fresh eyes — and that keeps things more interesting for everyone. It helps you play to your strengths.
3. Keep a “sketchbook”
Remember my urban sketching obsession?
Lots of visual artists keep sketchbooks handy all the time. They can capture a compelling face or gesture, an entrancing cityscape, or just an interesting collection of shapes and lines in a group of coffee pots.
I’d advise any content marketer to keep a journal for capturing ideas on the fly, scraps of dialogue, names or URLs of content you want to check out, and even the occasional doodle.
It’s our job as creative people to “make something out of nothing.” And that, of course, is an illusion. We create content out of our observations and the connections we make between them.
It’s a lot easier to do that when you make a consistent habit of capturing those observations.
4. Get a new outfit
For most of us, our site design should be clean and classic … but that doesn’t mean (at all) that it needs to be boring.
Sometimes, sprucing up your site with a new design can make you see it with completely fresh eyes.
5. Hold a Q&A session
One of my favorite content energizers is a simple Q&A session.
An audience Q&A can make all the difference if you’re:
- Bored with your topic
- Struggling with impostor syndrome
- Not sure what your next (or first) product or service should be
- Trying to find topics to write about
- Unsure about a big decision for your business or website
Holding them is easy. Make a broadcast to every channel you can reach — your Twitter following, your email list, your Facebook page, all of them.
Let your people know that you’re going to be answering their questions about your topic.
Collect the questions in advance. That gives you time to research the ones you’re not 100 percent sure about and weed out any that just aren’t relevant to most of your audience.
Deliver the answers during a webinar, or a conference call, or a series of podcast episodes, or a series of blog posts, or a video series … you get the idea.
Collecting questions and answering them is an efficient way to get a lot smarter about your topic. It also lets you know exactly what your audience is having problems with.
And it’s a fabulous confidence booster to realize that you actually can help people who are struggling with your subject.
So much creative work is about putting your head down and getting it done. Doing the writing, the scripting, the recording.
Focus is a beautiful thing. But you need to interleave your focused time with a wider view.
How could you spend some social time in your space? Is there a live event you’ve been meaning to go to? A monthly Meetup in your town? A group of content creators or business owners you could join for coffee every couple of weeks?
If face-to-face is impossible, try to put together a small group that gets together over Skype, Google Hangouts, or a group call.
Humans need other humans. Look for ways to connect more meaningfully with folks who do what you do.
7. Highlight your community
Along with making time to connect regularly with your fellow humans, it’s also energizing to make time to celebrate them.
Are there folks in your audience doing amazing things? Write about them! Give them a platform to share their successes.
Who are the key players you admire in your topic? Highlight their work, link to their content, invite them on your podcast.
Telling your community’s stories is a time-honored way to remember why you loved your topic in the first place.
8. Play to your strengths
Maybe you’re gifted with words, but your design sense leaves a lot to be desired. Or the other way around — your design skills are great, but the word-put-togethering isn’t so hot.
We’re all good at some things and lousy at others. Getting good isn’t usually a matter of innate talent — it’s a question of putting the time in to go far beyond the ordinary.
But we don’t have enough time to be wonderful at everything — and there are always tasks we just don’t particularly like.
When you can, try to focus your site around your strengths.
If writing is your strong suit, you might leave video content for later. If you have a great speaking voice, or you can draw well, or you’re fantastic at creating systems, leverage those skills on your site.
Figure out where your strengths are, and then figure out how you can use them to craft your competitive advantage.
9. Out yourself
Been trying to play it safe? Maybe you’ve been hiding something that matters deeply to you, because you’re afraid of chasing your audience away.
That’s not how this works.
I’m not a fan of sites where every single post is a rant — but those sites have lots of fans. If that’s who you truly are … rant on.
And even if you aren’t, letting the world know where you stand, talking about some of your most deeply-held values, will bring incredible energy to your work.
Exposing the real stuff is scary. But so is obscurity. Hiding behind a mask of blandness won’t protect you; it will just become your prison.
And here’s the one that will make all of the others work better:
Remember to play.
If life’s not a game, you’re doing it wrong.
Have fun with your writing. Challenge yourself with your content. Experiment and noodle. Play around, goof around, try things. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
This isn’t a call to be trivial … far from it. Play can be deep, too.
But we’re intelligent critters, and intelligent critters play. It’s how we get smarter, it’s how we connect to one another, and it’s how we create lives of meaning.