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Two Critical Actions That Distinguish Great Content Marketers

pen with papers-written lettersFor a long time, I didn’t feel successful — though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t really know what success was.

I graduated from Bowling Green State University (just south of Toledo, Ohio) with a degree in interpersonal communications. My major had been “undecided,” until the beginning of my junior year.  The only reason I chose Interpersonal Communications at that point was it was the only degree where I could actually graduate on time (with a few additional courses).

As I came close to graduation, I felt like sports marketing was something I’d be good at. I was lucky enough to get an internship with the Cleveland Cavaliers after graduation. But after finding out that all the money went to the players (the operations team works very long hours for very little pay), I decided to go to graduate school.

With two weeks left before fall semester, someone dropped out of the teaching assistantship program at Penn State University, leaving an opening for yours truly. I taught four semesters of public speaking and ended up with a master’s degree in communications.

Overeducated and under-experienced, I traveled to Cleveland to find a job. After sending out hundreds of resumes with no luck, I actually took the master’s degree off my resume and started to do temp work. After a few month-long work engagements, I ended up getting full-time work at an insurance company working on internal communications projects.

It was shortly thereafter that I read the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It made a huge impact on how I defined success and what I really wanted to do with my life. Though I read the entire book, cover to cover, there was one passage that I felt particularly compelled to remember:

“Opportunity has spread its wares before you. Step up to the front, select what you want, create your plan, put the plan into action, and follow through with persistence.”

It was then that I started to set goals for my life.

Next, I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The second habit listed is “Begin with the End in Mind,” which means:

“… to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”

It was then that I started to write down my goals for the first time.

Fast forward to 2007. I decided to leave my role at Penton Media (where I was Vice President of Custom Media) because I didn’t feel I had influence over the direction of the company after a recent merger (one of my written goals was to have influence at whatever job I was currently in). It was then (April 2, 2007) that I started what was to become the Content Marketing Institute.

In that same year, research conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University showed that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33 percent more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

It was at that time that I started to share my goals with others; but more importantly, I reviewed those goals on a daily basis. That’s right, every day I would read my goals, making sure I was staying on track.

A few years later, after reading the book, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone, I separated my goals into the following six categories:

  • Financial
  • Family
  • Spiritual
  • Mental
  • Physical
  • Philanthropic

The difference in the direction my life took from that point on is beyond remarkable to me.

Two actions, and their impact on content marketing

I’ve been blessed with more than my fair share of fortune for many years, but in thinking back, I’ve found that those two daily behaviors I mentioned have likely made all the difference: writing down my goals, and consistently reviewing those goals.

Why am I telling you this, and what does it have to do with content marketing? Well, everything.

In the next few weeks, we will be releasing our first (of many) Content Marketing Institute/ MarketingProfs content marketing benchmark reports for 2015. I can’t share all the details yet, but there are two key findings I can share a preview of:

Upon getting the initial results, we looked deep into the data to see if we could determine what differentiates the great content marketers (those who state they are effective with content marketing) from everyone else. While many characteristics came to the surface, we only found two critical differentiators. Great content marketers do two things differently than the rest:

  • They document their content marketing strategy in some way (written, electronic, etc.).
  • They review and consistently refer to the plan on a regular basis.

It seems so simple, yet I’m amazed that I still find that so few marketers are doing these two things consistently. If you are struggling with your content marketing effectiveness, perhaps you aren’t doing them, either.

What’s even more amazing to me, though, is that they are the same two actions that made all the difference in my life’s successes, both personally and professionally.

Take the next step now. Get that strategy out of your head and get it on paper. Then review that plan consistently, and be sure to share it with your team.

I’m excited to be able to share the full results of our research with you in the next few weeks.  Until then, I hope you’ll take my advice on these two actions to heart.

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Cover image by bloomingmimosa via