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3 Aha Moments to Improve Your Content Marketing in 2018


When you have been in any industry for awhile, it’s easy to feel a bit burnt out on the topic.

As the former head of editorial at CMI I’ve read thousands of articles, written hundreds of posts, and had countless conversations about content marketing. Still, I continue to have aha moments that impact how I approach content marketing.

This article is a potluck of my top lightbulb ideas in 2017 that I hope will help you evolve your content marketing programs in 2018. I’d also love to hear your favorite new ideas that will shape your plans in the coming year.

Quantity should trump quality (sometimes)

“How often should I publish?”

Marketers (including one of my clients just a week ago) frequently ponder this question.

I usually answer with the non-definitive, “It depends,” and throw in a dash of, “We all know how important quality is in the age of so much noise.” And then I point to our research showing that 75% of the most successful B2B marketers always or frequently deliver content consistently compared to 59% of the overall sample.

75% of most successful B2B marketers always/frequently deliver content consistently via @cmicontent. Share on X

In short, create quality content consistently.

I was thrilled to read a recent article from Steve Rayson on {Grow}: New Research Answers: Is Content Marketing Sustainable?

While I suggest you read the full article, the summary is this: Steve looks at a wealth of data from BuzzSumo and hypothesizes, quite correctly, I believe, that marketers should look at how mature a content topic is when deciding how often to publish on that topic.

For instance, when the number of average shares per post is declining – as you see in the chart about content marketing – your “content market” could be saturated. When this occurs, it is – and will be – increasingly difficult to get attention organically.

When a topic gets too mature, it’s difficult for content on that topic to get attention. @MicheleLinn @BuzzSumo Share on X


If you are in this situation, Steve suggests several options:

  • Create “radically different and exceptional content. Less is more when it comes to content production.”
  • Increase content promotion, especially paid promotion. Instead of spreading your promotion budget over days or weeks, put the full budget on a single day for your best content to help propel it to the story of the day.
Tip: Do your paid promotion for a single day to propel your content to story of day, says @SteveRayson. Share on X
  • Get more niche. Find an area where you can specialize within the broader topic.

On the other hand, if you are in a space without a lot of competition – or you get more niche –ramp up your content creation efforts quickly to create “content shock” and become the market leader in that category.

Note: Of course, an emphasis on quantity does not give you license to publish junk, but understanding the need for speed can help you prioritize efforts. Though it should go without saying, you must have an empathetic, audience-first mindset in deciding what to publish. Having a distinct mission is also key to help you stick to your defined focus.

You must have an empathetic, audience-first mindset in deciding what to publish, says @MicheleLinn. Share on X

How this aha moment can shape your content marketing in 2018

Next time you are faced with the question of how much to publish, think about where your content is in its life cycle:

  • If you are in an untapped market – or you can move into one – you may find that the velocity and amount of content you are publishing is key (with a focus on content that is useful to your audience, of course.) In this case, it may make sense to publish more often.
  • If you are in a crowded space, don’t jump in with more content that will be lost in the ether. Instead, your mission is to create exceptional, original content that is promoted with a thoughtful approach. In short, you likely need to publish less often.

Aeration instead of perfection

The past fall, I was lucky enough to spend a day with friend, fellow content marketer, and agile marketer extraordinaire Andrea Fryrear. As we were exploring her hometown of Boulder, Colorado, the topic of aeration came up. Andrea and I coincidentally had participated in a webinar on the topic by Andrew Davis and it led each of us to think differently about content creation efforts.

“What is aeration?” you may wonder. Let me explain.

Andrew explains that every presentation is an opportunity to test ideas. Instead of thinking about everything we present – or publish – as the end, see each finished piece as an aerator – an opportunity to air out an idea and allow the story to evolve.

See each #content piece as an opportunity to air out and evolve an idea, says @MicheleLinn via @DrewDavisHere. Share on X

This concept may seem simple, but if you are the type of person who constantly tweaks and never feels finished (I know a lot of us out there!), it is freeing. You can make a conscious decision to say, “This is an idea I’m aerating that may evolve,” and stop being paralyzed by thinking, “I better tell this story perfectly as I only have one chance.”

Of course, aerating doesn’t give you license to throw something at the wall and see what sticks. It does give you permission to publish your content in an effective way at that time and then grow your thinking about the topic or format.

Rainmaker Digital’s Sonia Simone explains the importance of a growth mindset and being more confident:

No matter what you do or who you do it for, we all need to launch more experiments. To be willing to put something imperfect out there (without pretending that it’s flawless finished work).

No matter what you do or who you do it for, we all need to launch more experiments, says @soniasimone. Share on X

Personally, it’s been amazing to see what happens when my mindset shifts from trying to find the perfect way to explain an idea or process and instead to think of a content piece as a single step, not the entire journey.

Earlier this year, I wanted to address the idea that traffic isn’t the be-all, end-all way to evaluate a website’s effectiveness. I planned to present on the topic at the B2B Marketing Forum in the fall, but first crafted two blog posts to air my thinking.

(Hat tip to Andy Crestodina and Kyle Akerman whose ideas and help were instrumental in my thinking. I published 4 Google Analytics Reports Every Marketer Should Use and Where Should You Spend Time on Your Website: 5 Data-Driven Opportunities. The latter post included this chart:


After the posts were published, I refined my thinking on the topic and created a presentation for the B2B Marketing Forum that advanced my early ideas and included an improved chart:


Is this story done? Absolutely not. But, each time I tell it, it becomes more refined.

How this aha moment can shape your content marketing in 2018

If your ideas never seemed finished (or finished enough) for publication or presentation, shift your mindset to recognize that you are aerating ideas that can evolve over time.

  • If you are a speaker, consider every presentation to be an iteration in which you can test something new – perhaps telling a new story or reframing a concept in a new way.
  • If you are blogger, remember revising content can often be a great strategy. Publish your articles, but plan to refine and update the posts that resonate well with your audience. (You can read about CMI’s approach to republishing.)

Original research is an untapped opportunity for marketers

Earlier this year, CMI partnered with the folks at SmartBrief on a research initiative. The SmartBrief audience consists of people in the B2B buying process, and the company wanted to better understand what types of content influences that audience.

While the full findings are worth a read, one stat immediately rose to the top for me: 74% of B2B buyers consider original research to be influential in the buying process. This is second only to peer recommendations.

Right after WOM, original #research has most influence on a purchasing decision-maker. @SmartBrief @cmicontent Share on X

CMI was, in no small part, built on the back of its annual research with MarketingProfs now in its eighth year thanks to a phenomenal research director, Lisa Murton Beets. It was encouraging to see what a positive impact research has for buyers as well.

But get this: only 37% of B2B marketers are using original research as a tactic in their content marketing mix. Publishing original research is a huge opportunity for marketers in 2018 – and, in fact, it’s the one area I predicted will grow this coming year.

Publishing original research is a huge opportunity for marketers in 2018, says @MicheleLinn. Share on X

How this aha moment can shape your content marketing in 2018

Does your audience ask questions you can’t answer? Are you looking for ways to get mentions by influencers and media and earn backlinks to your site? (Steve Rayson explains why backlinks are far more useful than social shares.)

If so, consider conducting original research. With the fresh data, you can publish unique insights that get attention and answer your audience’s burning questions.

I’d love to learn from you: What have your aha moments been, and how will you apply them to your content marketing in 2018? Please share your piece of advice in our comments.

How many aha moments can you have at Intelligent Content Conference? Find out March 20-22 in Las Vegas. Register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute