7 things I’ve learned about content marketing

Musings of a content marketing newbie, including why online guru Seth Godin is wrong!

Sorry Seth, but...

Lucy Rodrick is a super-smart history undergraduate student from Bristol University considering a career in marketing. She’s been on work experience with us for the last few weeks and we’ve loved having her around. Here are a few ideas Lucy’s picked up in that time – some really interesting insights here for content marketing newbies and experts alike I reckon. Look out Seth Godin – here comes Lucy!

“My experience at Valuable Content has been just that: valuable. With the help of words from top writers and marketeers I’ll outline 7 lessons I’ve drawn from my fabulous fortnight with Sonja and Sharon.

1.     Make your message clear

These weeks have had me scrolling through dozens of websites and pieces of content. From this I’ve learned that in the world of content marketing, black and white always trumps grey. Our culture of smart phones, instant messaging and Google means we want answers immediately, and we need them to be clear. At a glance, explain in concise terms what your business does and how it can help the reader. If your message is precise then there’s no need for a sales pitch.

‘Clarity trumps persuasion’ –Dr. Flint McLaughlin, Meclabs.

Clarity trumps persuasion

2.    You can beat writers’ block

Ever been asked to write something and found your usually-active mind has gone completely blank? When Sonja first asked me to write an article that’s exactly what happened. But for fellow marketing newbies who may have been asked to create content, do not fear. There is a solution: action. Content can only have meaning if you are writing about something you have witnessed and experienced. So I rolled my sleeves up, got stuck into some research for client Project One, and the words just followed.

‘Either write something worth reading about or do something worth writing about’ – Benjamin Franklin.


3.    Marketing is both art and science

Artistic as it can be, there is a science to marketing and content creation. I’ve noticed that combining creativity and data can make for powerful marketing. Writers can let humour, imagination and compassion shine through in stories, whilst all the time ticking the SEO boxes to guarantee that people will read them. A logic and structure can be applied to writing, and keywords can be weaved into the narrative to ensure readers get their questions answered. Check out Noisy Little Monkey’s post on how to do SEO.

Think about what your user is going to type’ – Matt Cutts, Google.


4.    Websites really are the new shop window

It’s said that the culture of ‘just Google it’ has killed off the pub debate, but it has saved many businesses.  Overly-dependent on the internet as we may be, it provides the perfect platform to make companies accessible and visible to anybody. Having to quickly familiarise myself with a multitude of organisations this fortnight, I’ve found myself repeatedly frustrated at spending five minutes on a website and still not knowing what that company does. Think of updating your website as the same process as designing a shop window. Professional Services firm Hyman Robertson have recently made this analogy too. It’s your business: show it off! Let your customers see what you’re all about.

‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’ – Beyonce.


5.    It’s important to enjoy what you write

Remember, you can write for the love of it. The best content I’ve come across during this experience has been entertaining and engaging. More importantly, you can sense that the creators enjoyed creating it! Not all content has to be directly, or even indirectly, advertising. A by-product of writing about issues you care about will be a sense of authenticity. And authenticity breeds trust. Innocent Drink’s Twitter account is the perfect example of enjoyable, authentic content!

‘Writing is its own reward’ – Henry Miller.


6.    Regular writing will help you gain trust

We now live in a society that is suspicious of marketing and hostile to hard sells. Marketers would do well to remember that content marketing isn’t a sales pitch. It should be used as a tool to create and maintain relationships with prospective or existing customers. So here’s an example of a bad quote.

‘Marketing is a contest for people’s attention’ – Seth Godin.

Sorry, Seth, but marketing is a contest for people’s trust. Anyone can get attention, but how do you ensure this leads to further levels of engagement with the customer? Share consistently, compassionately and convincingly.

Marketing is a contest for people's trust

7.     Don’t make things up, do your research

I have been heavily involved with writing up and analysing the feedback that clients and employees of Project One have given VC. This will help form the basis of Project One’s marketing strategy, and so far it has been fascinating. Such extensive collation of feedback is one of the most valuable services VC provides. So, if you find yourself stuck for words: ask, interview, question. What stories does your organisation want to tell? What questions do your readers need answering? Probing will help you to create concise content that represents your own values and meets the needs of your customers. Don’t make things up. Dig, and you may find some golden nuggets of inspiration.

‘Who questions much, shall learn much’ – Francis Bacon.

Lucy Rodrick

Lucy Rodrick

So, I’m a marketing convert. The marketing world is about more than just outrageous publicity stunts. It’s more intellectual, empathetic and crucial than I could have imagined, and I’d like to be a part of it. So thanks, Sonja and Sharon for such an exciting and insightful experience.”

Cheers Lucy! There’s no doubt you can write (and love the Beyonce quote). We’d like to wish you all the best for your final year and please keep in touch. For those of you more experienced in marketing and business do leave any feedback or advice for Lucy here, or make contact via LinkedIn. This woman will go far!

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  1. Glynis Ward

    Great article Lucy.

    Thanks for your analysis of our research which is proving to be very insightful. You clearly have ‘the knack’. Good luck with the rest of your degree and whatever follows.

  2. Lucy Rodrick

    Thank you for your kind words, Glynis.

    I hope the research is useful, I’ve really enjoyed helping with it! Project One are a great company so best of luck with the marketing strategy.

  3. Joakim Ditlev

    Excellent post, Lucy. You’ve picked up a lot of important lessons already – so thanks for sharing.

    The “Why Seth Godin is wrong” line caught my attention to this blog post and made me click this specific link out of hundreds of others in my feed. And that’s the core reason why his quote still holds true. With so many companies starting to publish more and more content, you need to be more creative about marketing your content and catching the attention.
    I’m not talking about shouting out even louder, but about making sure you can trigger attention in a smart way. Like being the first purple cow among all the brown ones (just to maintain the Seth Godin lingo).

    And of course it should lead to trust at the end. But how can you build trust if nobody is looking at your content?

  4. Kate Johanns

    Love the concept of website as shop window.


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