By Joe Pulizzi published January 23, 2017

The 7 Traits of Successful Content Marketers

traits-successful-content-marketers

One of the most influential authors of my personal and career journey is Napoleon Hill.

Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich was first published in 1937. Now, in its 80th anniversary year, Mr. Hill’s lessons are still extremely relevant and valuable.

I had the opportunity to dust off my copy of Think and Grow Rich (from 1960, with dog-eared and coffee-stained pages) a few weeks back during the holiday break. In its relation to content marketing, I noticed some clear takeaways that most corporate marketers simply do not embrace. In the book, 15 powerful chapters are helpful to all individuals, but seven chapters were spot-on relevant to content marketing. Here are quotes from the seven chapters with my notes for each one.

Caution from Joe: The book is extremely chauvinistic. If you read it, just prepare yourself for that.

1. 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 documentation, content integration, etc., but desire is numero uno. Everywhere I travel 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 … as a checklist of things to be done during the day, not as a core service to customers necessary for the company’s survival.

Look, you are competing not only with your competitors, but also with the media, Google, Game of Thrones, 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 it is much easier for smaller businesses headed by passionate people. Simply put, there is little to no politics to deal with, and a change agent can push through and make change happen.

In larger enterprises, there must be a content marketing champion who 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.

Marketers have to want to be THE informational resource more than anything or anyone else, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

2. 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 started 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 (a large B2B media company) 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.

3. 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. I see manufacturing companies creating articles on best HR 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 for separate audiences, not one broad initiative that makes no impact on anybody.

Remember, if your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody.

If your #content is for everybody, it’s for nobody, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

4. 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 being an idea factory, not a content 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 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 quarter. Robert Rose calls this a “pillar” piece of content – something that makes a major impact on the industry and stands the test of time. That could be a book, an infographic, a documentary, etc., that works in conjunction with the regular content you produce (blog, e-newsletter, podcast, etc.).

Do something creative and new in your #content at least once a quarter, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet
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5. 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 not only recognize this trend, but also begin to operationalize your storytelling for the future, including developing a business model that drives direct revenues from the content you create. (Note: Robert is working on this for our next book coming out in September.)

The #marketing department is starting to look & feel more like a publishing operation, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

6. 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 very slowly, if at all, and of changing these decisions quickly and often.

Successful #content marketers reach decisions promptly, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

Reaching decisions promptly and changing them slowly if at all is the type of mentality you need to bring to your content marketing approach.

7. 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 an e-newsletter or a video series or a podcast series and stop after just months. Content marketing is a war of attrition. It’s a process. Success does not happen overnight.

The biggest reason why a #content program doesn’t succeed is because it stops, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

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 have over 180,000 subscribers and see 25,000 visits per day. Persistence is key.

If you want immediate results, put all your money into immediate and direct response. If you want to create an informational annuity that will pay for years, even decades, invest in some kind of content marketing approach.

Joe shares a fresh insight in a letter each week available only to CMI newsletter subscribers. Make sure you’re on the list.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Geofrey Crow

    Great article, Joe. I like how you say that content marketing is a war of attrition instead of just a momentary thing or an afterthought. Because it’s important that we recognize that content is a process, and there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to getting it to work.

    I guess the real key to the whole equation is the desire, though. Because somebody’s got to want it badly enough to make it real, or else nothing’s going to happen. Somebody’s got to want it bad enough to fight that war of attrition till it starts paying off. Because content marketing really has a “water wears away a stone” kind of existence, you know? Or would you agree?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Most enterprises fail because of a) not telling a different, valuable story or b) consistency. Your point is all around consistency…and pushing through when others would give up.

  • Marvin Cloud

    Thanks for the information and insight. It will certainly help as I began to create content for my company’s niche. Ironically, I dusted off Think and Grow Rich over the holidays as well.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      It never gets old.

  • Karen Nazluyan

    I like the way you put the qualities that a professional marketer must possess.

    However, I think you forgot to mention one of the most important skill that any marketer should have – experience. How can a person, calling himself a marketer, write about marketing and have no experience at the same time? Professionalism is about practice. You may know much theory about surgery, but that will not make you a great surgeon. The same thing is here.

    Generally, the article is very informative and useful, especially for the beginners.

    Keep doing what you do!

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

    Inspiring article.

    My key idea/resonant point was: “Think of yourself as the trade magazine for your industry.”

    How about following up with “The 10 key Characteristics of a Trade magazine,” or “10 Lessons Content Marketers Can Learn from Trade Magazines?”
    Roger

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Roger…I’ll put it on the list 😉

  • http://gearboxmagazine.com Brian Driggs

    Love this. It speaks to the core of content marketing. If you don’t believe in it, if you don’t have faith that you can move the needle and build those lasting relationships, if you don’t have a semblance of a plan for how to do it, if you don’t have a vision for that could be if you forge this path forward–how can you expect any remarkable results?

    Thanks, Joe.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Love it!

  • http://consultantstohelp.co.uk/ Paul Alves

    Spot on again Joe! Napoleon Hill is extremely relevant, concise and valuable book to read, specially if you’re looking to step up whether this is in personal life or work place. Yet, when it comes to create epic content, you’ve extracted all the good points 1-7. Saying that, I am still reading the book, going through chapter 3 (allow me more time) but I can see that you listed the essential points as they’re are all interconnected am guessing. Desire and Faith are the core elements that will autosuggest the brain to be creative and Persistence. It helps and keeps you focus for the long run. Organisation skills are needed, but as you mentioned above, anyone can do it. Well written and to the point. I also like the end bit – it makes sense when you mentioned “if you want quick results, put all your money in…”
    I’ve got one question Joe – could you please recommend which Napoleon H. edition to read first?
    Thanks again Joe! 🙂

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Excellent Paul…my edition is really old…from the 60s or something, so you might know better than I. Let me know what you think of it when you are done.

      • http://consultantstohelp.co.uk/ Paul Alves

        I see, thanks Joe.
        Not really sure if I know more or less as the “T.G.R” edition am reading (ISBN:0091900212) revised by Arthur R. Pell only has 290 pages.
        Whereas in N.H 4th edition – the originall revised and compiled version, by Ross Cornwell (ISBN-13:9780990797609), it has far more useful learning material “added value” and bigger (412) pages. That is why I asked you in the first place.
        Many sellers omit to upload the right book image and when reading reviews/comments the majority of people do not add the book’s ISBN making it harder for us to judge the book (by its colour) if you see what I mean. I will buy the fourth edition. I will let you know after reading this one. I would appreciate If anyone else has tips/recommendations feel free to leave a comment.

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