Getting Started

Getting started with your own content marketing

The beginning is nigh – of unlockdown, of major tech conferences going virtual anyway, and of thousands of new business models, new careers, new companies((“the beginning is nigh” comes from a chat with a friend and reader of this list who also observed that our job as marketers is to transform our clients, “from Frumpy Lumpy with a broken kazoo into the Pied Piper for their industry!”)). 

Shortly before the last economic crisis, I remember the fear of leaping from someone else owning my work (employee) to me owning it. I remember putting it off for a couple of years, calculating and recalculating my options and my budget. The risk stayed the same no matter how much I dallied.

I wish someone had told me then what I know now: the most reliable way, in the long term, to reduce the risk of owning your business is to transform from being a consumer of content to a producer of it. That you spend less time on the IPad and the phone, and more time on the keyboard. 

How do you do it – how does anyone do it? When you design a content marketing strategy, the output is an editorial calendar. Every one of you should have one – even if you’re still working for someone else; especially if you someday plan to work for yourself.

My editorial calendar is simple but ambitious:

  1. 3 to 4 issues per week of this newsletter and the revised and copyedited blog posts that go with each issue.
  2. Producing one audio recording per week; that’s been a long, painful process for me but it’s happening. I’m finally getting started have started – I feel the itch.

That’s not everything I create but it’s all the content I put into the market on a regular basis ((Real artists ship,” and yes, they do have to ship something, or else they’re not artists. But they don’t have to ship everything they know. That’s because they’re artists, and they’re not a shipping service.
Bruce Sterling)).

Producing this quantity of content nearly every daily is probably too much for most of you who run a business. I know it feels as though it is. I think it’s a good idea, at least temporarily, but I also acknowledge that most of you will never do it and I don’t see the point of haranguing in vain. 

But you have two or three good alternatives to daily publishing – and two pretty bad ones. These will help you and your business get started producing your own content marketing:

  1. Good- decrease cadence
  2. Good – decrease volume
  3. Ok- decrease involvement 
  4. Bad – do nothing 
  5. Bad – fake it for a few months, then revert to 4

Decreasing cadence is an excellent alternative to daily publishing but much harder than it looks. But some business owners get it done.

Dries Buyteart has published a blog over the last 14 years which mostly consists of writing about once or twice a week. He uses his blog to question and set the vision for the enormous Drupal project he created. His blog regularly creates substantial and important comment-thread conversations. He also uses it to influence the worlds of open-source software, enterprise software, and startup B2B software.

He’s managed to do that while leading Drupal (which has 10s of thousands of software developer “contributors” from around the world) from a hobby project to one of the world’s biggest open-source software products. Meanwhile, he starting and sold a billion-dollar venture, Acquia. Among other things.

Dries was able to do all this because of his content marketing practice, not in spite of it.

Another excellent model of weekly-cadence content publishing is the prolific SEO authority and entrepreneur, Rand Fishkin, who has published an important, thoughtful, and influential blog all while creating and launching SparkToro.

But publishing longer content pieces on an irregular basis takes enormous self-discipline and itch.

What’s easier is decreasing your volume but not your frequency. Most attempts at short-form blogging fail – except for this and one other I know of – so this is about Twitter and LinkedIn 

In both cases, the bar is still higher than casually posting to those platforms:

  • you start the conversations
  • you constrain the subject matter around your points of view
  • you say something helpful to a specific audience
  • you do it with consistency

If it’s not scary and pushing out of your comfort zone, you’re not pushing hard enough.

Qwil CEO and founder Johnny Reisch is a master of short-form posting on LinkedIn. I don’t know Johhny’s story as well as I know Dries, but Qwil is a good product that solves the problem of invoicing, payments, and accounts receivable for independent contractors. I have had only good interactions with the people he has on his team. And Qwil has evolved rapidly into a B2B payments platform and Johhny seems to be a good steward of the 100+ million in VC capital that’s been entrusted to him. 

Like Dries, he has achieved all this because of, not in spite of, his content marketing practice.

The trick is finding your footing – I hope one of these two paths will work for you.