Forget the Glamour, Focus on the Grindstone

by Andrew Hanelly |

A kindergartner came home excited after his first day of school. Talking a mile a minute, he began telling his mom about all the fun things he did: finger painting, arts and crafts, alphabet games. The list went on and on as he breathlessly detailed each moment, the story goes.

Bright-eyed and encouraged, his mom asked him, “So, are you excited to go back tomorrow?”

His shocked and frightened response: “You mean I have to go BACK?”

In another corner of the world, the late comedian Greg Giraldo had a routine where he talked about how working out is really a drag. To paraphrase his notion: “You know getting in shape would be a hell of a lot more convenient if you could just do it all at once. But you have to keep going back. Like, ALL the time.”

Amish farmer plowing fields with mules
Image via Wikipedia

The concept of consistency isn’t a new one, but it’s still a hard one to put into practice. Ours is a culture raised on stories like “the ant and the grasshopper,” quotes like “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and slogans like “just do it.”

But in the world of content marketing we fall prey to the thinking that we are one big idea away from our breakthrough. One hit post, one brilliant infographic, or one key mention in the right publication away from notoriety, stardom, Klout and fat paychecks.

The truth is, there are no overnight successes, and there are no accidental billionaires, in fact, success comes to those who continue to work as hard as humanly possible (and sometimes harder).

As Thomas Edison famously said: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Who’s going to argue with the inventor of the light bulb? Apparently we do.

If we keep thinking that we’re just one big idea away from our breakthrough, we’ll be separated from our goals indefinitely. Because it’s really not about the glamour, it’s about the grindstone. Putting forth the effort on a daily basis is the big idea that many aren’t willing to do. It’s not always fun and there aren’t a lot of celebratory moments (at first), but it has the payoff in the end.

It turns out that the “big idea” is really just the aggregate effect of a bunch of little ideas.

So, what does this mean for content marketers? It means we should come up with a strategy that is feasible given our resources, serves a need in the market, builds on itself, and helps achieve our goals.

1. Take inventory of what you have.

Have subject matter experts in-house? Have frequently asked questions that you frequently answer? Ever present information in Powerpoint at meetings? Ever done a customer survey? Figure out what content is at your disposal (and what could be created, given your resources) and list it out.

2. Create an editorial schedule – and stick to it.

The power of putting something on paper (or in Google Docs) is phenomenal. Instead of creating content as an afterthought, it’s now a “to-do,” and your work ethic will likely treat it with a lot more respect. Set aside a specific amount of time each business day to work on your content development.

Plus, it will help you stay consistent and help you plan your approach. And as you build up tolerance to the extra work, you’ll be able to see opportunities for plugging in additional ideas like “best of” posts and timely analysis on breaking news items. (Here’s a great post on setting up an editorial calendar.)

3. Avoid analysis paralysis.

Keep your list of metrics short and sweet. The temptation to delve into data will be there but keep your focus on one or two that really matter. Think in business terms instead of analytic-speak. For instance, you probably want to know how many people are being exposed to your content (unique visits and pageviews) and how many are converting into customers or deepening their relationship with you (conversion rate and email addresses collected).

These are just examples, but the idea is to keep your metrics tight and focused. And don’t obsess over your numbers, check in monthly and tweak as you see fit. More than that and you’re distracting yourself from other work you could be doing.

4. Give it time to grow.

If you hold your breath waiting for a parade in your honor, you’re going to be lonely and probably hyperventilate. If at first you don’t succeed, you’re probably not giving yourself enough time to really find out if you will. Building traction takes a while, but as they say “luck is the residue of design.” (See how long the process was in this case study.)

5. Be consistent. Don’t spend a lot of time changing direction or chasing shiny objects.

A lot of new technology will come out in the next year. Most of it won’t apply to you. Keep your focus and stick to your strategy. If you want the building blocks to add up, you have to stack them in the same place.

Alright, back to work.

Enhanced by Zemanta

About the Author

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.