By Joe Pulizzi published March 20, 2012

7 Content Marketing Lessons from Napoleon Hill

ThinkAndGrowRich-Napolean-Hill-133x230Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich was first published back in 1937. Now, in its 75th anniversary year, Mr. Hill’s lessons are still extremely relevant and valuable, even today.

I had the opportunity to dust off my version of Think and Grow Rich (from 1960, with dog-eared and coffee-stained pages) last week during a brief golf holiday.  In its relation to content marketing, I noticed some clear takeaways that most corporate marketers simply do not embrace. In the book, there are 15 powerful chapters that are helpful to all individuals, but seven chapters were spot-on relevant to content marketing.  Here they are with my notes.

Desire

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”

You can talk about all the things good content marketers should do to attract and retain customers – content strategy, content planning, content organization, content integration, etc…but desire is numero uno. Everywhere I speak I hear the objection – most marketers simply do not have the desire to be THE informational resource for their customers and prospects – they don’t want it enough. They talk of content marketing as a chore, not as a core service to customers that is necessary for the company’s survival.

Look, you are competing not only with your competitors, but the media, Google and every other distraction in your customers’ lives. To be THE go-to resource for them, you have to want it more than anything or anyone else. This is never easy, but is much easier for smaller businesses headed by passionate people like Marcus Sheridan, Brian Clark and Shama Kabani. In larger enterprises, there must be a content marketing champion that has the real desire to be the best, and be given enough latitude to experiment and possibly even fail multiple times.  Most large companies aren’t willing to do this, which is why smaller businesses have the ultimate opportunity when it comes to content marketing.

Faith

“Faith is the ‘eternal elixir’ which gives life, power, and action to the impulse of thought!”

Wanting it is one thing, but actually believing you can be THE informational expert for your industry is another. When we first started Junta42, now the Content Marketing Institute, we firmly believed that we would be the informational resource for our industry. It was unquestioned.  It was only a matter of time, energy and persistence.

Rarely do you see this kind of faith with non-media companies. Corporate brands should take a page from media companies in this respect.  When I worked at Penton Media and would meet with the chief editors for our brands, they believed without question that their brand was the leading provider of information in the space. It was a non-issue…it just was. That is exactly the kind of faith you need to be the expert in your field.

Specialized Knowledge

“General knowledge, no matter how great in quantity or variety it may be, is of but little use…”

One of the biggest failures when it comes to content is a lack of specialization. I see HVAC companies blogging about the town festival next week. I see manufacturing companies creating articles on HR best practices.  It hurts to see this.

To be the expert in your industry, you must first define your customers’ pain points and the niche industry you will cover that will make a difference in your business and in your customers’ lives. Get laser focused. Think of yourself as the trade magazine for your industry. Cover that. Be the expert in that area. If you are a large enterprise, you will need separate content strategies, not one broad one that makes no impact on anybody.

Imagination

“It has been said that man can create anything which he can imagine.”

As Mr. Hill says, ideas are the products of the imagination. For content marketing to work, you need to embrace not just being a factory for content, but an idea factory. Just as news organizations cover the ‘news of the day’, you need to cover the news as it relates to your  industry. Take the content that you have and think creatively about storytelling concepts – visual, textual and audio – in new and compelling ways.

The best way I’ve seen this work for brands is to do something creative and new at least once a month.  That could be an eBook, an infographic, a how-to video, etc. that works in conjunction with the regular content you already produce (blog, enewsletter, etc.).

Organized Planning

“Align yourself with a group of as many people as you may need for the creation and carrying out of your plan…”

Should you use employees for your content creation efforts?  Yes

Should you use customers for your content creation efforts?  Yes

Should you use outside freelancers and partners for your content creation efforts?  Yes

Folks, there is no one way to be the leading content expert for your industry. That said, if you have the opportunity to apply resources from a number of areas internal and external, do it.  Brands doing it right have a chief content officer (leads the content strategy), a managing editor (oversees the process), content creators (internal and external), content producers and content listeners.

Right now, we are in the midst of a marketing department revolution, where the marketing department is starting to look and feel more like a publishing operation. As a marketer, you need to recognize this trend now and start organizing around the stories you tell and will tell.

Decision

“Procrastination, the opposite of decision, is a common enemy which must be conquered.”

In the book, Mr. Hill profiled hundreds of the most successful people in the world. Every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly, and of changing these decisions slowly, if and when they were changed.  Unsuccessful people, the book says, have a habit, without exception, of reaching decisions, if at all, very slowly, and of changing these decisions quickly and often.

This is the type of mentality you need to bring to your content marketing operation.

Persistence

“Will-power and desire, when properly combined, make an irresistible pair.”

Without a doubt, the biggest reason why a content program does not succeed is because it stops. I’ve seen brand after brand start a blog or enewsletter or white paper program or podcast series and stop after just months. Content marketing is a war of attrition. It’s a process. Success does not happen overnight.

The campaign mentality of content marketing needs to stop.

When we first started our content marketing strategy in 2007, we had less than 1,000 total visits in the first six months. Now, we see approximately 100,000 visits each month.  That’s five years in the making. Persistence is key.

If you want immediate results, put all your money into immediate and direct response (which is very expensive). If you want to create an informational annuity that will pay off for years, even decades, invest in content marketing.

Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich is available now at Amazon.com for 95 cents.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • http://www.ContentEqualsMoney.com Amie Marse

    I’m loving the point that small business has more options. Frankly, I believe small business has the golden ticket when it comes to moving people from visitor to advocate faster than ever. Big brands just can’t compete when you have a small business feel/connection to your customers. 

    Great post – as always!

    • http://blog.junta42.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Amie…really appreciate it.

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com/ Marcus Sheridan

    Freaking awesome article Joe. Seriously bud, well done.

    • http://blog.junta42.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Marcus…just working to get close to the passion that comes from your blog posts.

  • http://twitter.com/HongKongVisas HK Visa Handbook

    Joe – right on the money as always. As they say, content is the annuity that just keeps on giving. Loved your point about blogging irrelevancies. Even though I have been a content marketeer since 1996 (without realising it) it’s only 3 months ago that I woke up to the importance of blogging as a conduit to ongoing consolidation of expert status. Such a profoundly simple concept is still eluding the mainstream. I agree it takes significant investment of resources effort energy and time (it’s taken us 3 months to get to the point of blog launch and we’re still not there yet – so much to learn in the meantime!) but I can hardly sleep at night thinking about the amazing possibilities! Keep up the great work on your mission Joe. I devour everything you put out!

  • http://outcareyourcompetition.com/ Jordan J. Caron

    Joe,

    Really good post and nice tie into a very good book. 

    Persistence is the one that many businesses fail to grasp. The internet isn’t going anywhere and those businesses who stick it out and stay consistent with their content marketing will be the ones crushing their competition. 

    Display specializing knowledge is also important. Many businesses or individual service providers don’t want to give away their knowledge for free. They fail to see that giving away some of their knowledge is a way to build trust and establish themselves as authority.

  • Michael Balzano

    Thanks, Joe. I have read this book a few times, but honestly haven’t had it logically and “with purpose” explained like that.  I think I need to read it again! Well done.

  • dennis

    What a great post!It is so refreshing having read that Classic book.