Friends, today we are talking about the crown jewel of marketing and business development – content marketing.
A year and a half ago, I wrote about ideation as a transformational process, as opposed to a copying process.
I wrote it partly because I was annoyed at LinkedIn marketers encouraging stealing others’ work as a form of content marketing.
Because copying doesn’t actually work, for one thing.
Mantra: if you can find your marketing strategy on Google, it won’t work. Because your audience has already seen it and it doesn’t fit you.
So instead of copying, you transform old ideas into new ones.
By the way, that article I wrote was inspired by a statement on the creative process by a Nobel Prize-winning author.
I’ll reprint the entire statement now and then make some remarks about how to apply it to your content marketing strategy.
…most everything is a knockoff of something else. You could have some monstrous vision, or a perplexing idea that you can’t quite get down, can’t handle the theme. But then you’ll see a newspaper clipping or a billboard sign, or a paragraph from an old Dickens novel, or you’ll hear some line from another song, or something you might overhear somebody say just might be something in your mind that you didn’t know you remembered. That will give you the point of approach and specific details. It’s like you’re sleepwalking, not searching or seeking; things are transmitted to you. It’s as if you were looking at something far off and now you’re standing in the middle of it. Once you get the idea, everything you see, read, taste or smell becomes an allusion to it. It’s the art of transforming things. You don’t really serve art, art serves you and it’s only an expression of life anyway; it’s not real life. It’s tricky, you have to have the right touch and integrity or you could end up with something stupid. Michelangelo’s statue of David is not the real David. Some people never get this and they’re left outside in the dark. Try to create something original, you’re in for a surprise.
The last sentence is ambiguous so I have to pick it apart. It means that the best and greatest ideas can not be created through effort alone. You cannot “try” to get them. Instead, you summon them. Or condition your mind to receive them.
It does not mean you can’t create something that at least has the effect of being original; he is just saying that a try-hard effort doesn’t get you there.
things are transmitted to you
He – Bob Dylan, if you hadn’t already guessed – is saying that an original idea is always an echo of prior ideas. Michelangelo’s David, for example, was an echo King David of biblical lore, but also of an echo, of sorts, of a now-unknown studio model with a pretty nice physique. That was the real David.
How to apply Dylan to your content marketing
Content marketing isn’t an easy problem to solve. How can you entertain and inform your specific client audience about a given subject – for a long time?
First, keep in mind that content marketing ideation, as with almost all forms of BizDev and marketing ideation, is more about little ideas than big ones. Less about home runs, more about base hit, base hit, base hit.
If baseball metaphors don’t work for you, this article explains the little ideas approach. It’s not that big ideas don’t matter, it’s that they don’t do the bulk of the work.
So that’s the (shocking, I know) caveat – content marketing for niche B2B firms is different than writing songs that win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
But here’s the advice you can apply – start by noticing the details.
More than that: notice details no one else notices – that are somehow connected to the problem you’re trying to solve for your clients.
Dylan buries this advice right in the middle of the quote, by citing 5 or 6 sample details to notice:
- you’ll see a newspaper clipping
- or a billboard sign,
- or a paragraph from an old Dickens novel
- or you’ll hear some line from another song,
- or something you might overhear somebody say …
- something in your mind that you didn’t know you remembered
I won’t tell you where to find or how to organize the details that your content marketing strategy needs. Because it’s not just about where to look, it’s about your state of mind – in which you can connect everything to the problem you’re solving. How do you relate everything in your life to the major problems you solve for your clients?
Taken to its extreme, you arrive at the state of mind Dylan describes:
Once you get the idea, everything you see, read, taste or smell becomes an allusion to it.
Imagine that – imagine nurturing a content strategy idea so fully that you can’t eat dinner without thinking about it.
Good luck with that and as always – let me know how it goes,
 There are exceptions to this rule, such as what creatives agencies would call brand strategy and what strategy consultants would call points of view. When thoughtfully conceived, both can transform not just an organization but the organization’s audience as well. They are big ideas… yet they often result from the work of producing 1000’s of little ideas.