Connect with Your Audience, Connect to Your Power

You may have noticed that our content this week shifted forward a day — we took Monday off to honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Then on Tuesday, we started talking a lot about connections — especially the connection with our audiences. Brian kicked things off with a post about one of my favorite topics — our ability to attract the kind of customers and clients we want, by thinking carefully about the type of messages we create.
The first step is to get very clear about who your people are (and aren’t). Brian has some specific exercises for you on how to do that.
Fear is the great enemy of connection. On Wednesday, I offered — from my viewpoint as a lifelong coward — some ideas about how to find the courage to be more genuine and how to handle some of those tricky days in a healthy way.
On Thursday, Robert Bruce, who’s been working hard behind the scenes at Rainmaker FM, emerged to break his long, public silence. If we’d thought this through, we would have timed it for Groundhog Day. Never mind — he shared his thoughts on some of the deep habits to cultivate when we want to create something worthwhile.
Over on the Unemployable podcast, Brian talked with Andrew Warner about how to become a (much) better interviewer. On Copyblogger FM, I gave some detailed thoughts on how to leave blog comments that truly build connection. (Sounds simple,

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The Subterranean Foundations of Any Good Content Marketing Strategy

Let’s go deep for a moment.
Below the surface, not in the 20th-century French existentialist sense, but to a much more simple understanding of depth that can actually start to make things happen for your content marketing strategy … whatever it is you’re trying to do online.
As Mr. Sartre once said, “Words are loaded pistols.” I happen to believe that is a true statement. But today, without a largely invisible foundation that amplifies your words, they may as well be as impotent as an unloaded .38 Special.
Here are three simple “subterranean” lessons I’ve learned (and imperfectly used) over the years, that you’ll find might make all the difference in the visible strategy you employ out there in the world.
1. Be consistent
Take a minute to think about your favorite TV show.
It airs once a week (I’m not talking about binge-watching Netflix shows here) and in some small sense, you really look forward to it.
At the appointed time, you’ve got your setup ready on the couch or in bed, happy to just check out for an hour after a long day. You click the box on … only to find that it’s not airing tonight. It’s a rerun. Or worse, it was preempted by some “special” political event.
No question this is a first-world problem, but it’s also annoying. Maybe a better example for you would be a canceled lecture or concert, or some other live event you got tickets for that’s since been rescheduled.
You get

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How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content

“Hello, I’m a Mac.”
“And I’m a PC.”
You remember Apple’s “Get a Mac” series of commercials that ran from May 2006 to October 2009?
The commercials were short vignettes featuring John Hodgman as the sweet-yet-bumbling PC and Justin Long as the creative, hip Mac.
Those 66 short spots were named the best advertising campaign of the previous decade by Adweek.
The success of the long-running campaign leads one to believe that Apple certainly knows who its ideal customer is. Of course they do … because they chose their ideal customer, right from the birth of the Macintosh itself.
That doesn’t mean that everyone responded favorably to the ads. While researching for this article, I ran across a commenter who maintained that the campaign had “backfired” because the PC character had actually been more appealing to him.
No, the campaign didn’t backfire (no one runs a series of ads for three years if they’re not working). Instead, Apple chose who not to attract as much as they chose who they hoped to convert.
Apple knew they were never going to get hardcore PC people to switch to a Mac. Instead, Apple used these 66 humorous little stories to target those who were more likely to “swing” toward Apple, after being educated about the benefits by the contrast between the two characters.
Sounds like really great content marketing to me. In fact, given the nature and duration of the Get a Mac campaign, it resembled serial online video marketing more than traditional

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Let’s Get the Strategy Party Started

Last week, Brian Clark announced he was going to be joining us regularly this year on the blog.
On Monday, Brian actually came back to the blog. (We’re very happy.) He offered us a post that outlines three simple steps to crafting a content marketing strategy that works. Since “simple” steps aren’t necessarily “easy” steps, look for lots more details from Brian in the weeks to come. But this one will get your engine started.
I also published our “Content Excellence Challenge” prompts for January. I hope you’ll join us on these — they’re two fun (and not too tough) challenges that will make you a better, more creative professional. The prompts will change each month — and at the end of the year, you’ll be 16 percent taller and 73 percent better looking.
Or, perhaps more realistically, your content will be a lot better. Which is nice as well.
Those same prompts are also in this week’s Copyblogger FM episode, so you get to pick your poison.
On Tuesday, Jerod Morris proved that he’s definitely losing it — and so are you (and me). “It” is our ability to focus. He tried some strong measures to address his problems … and they’re working. Think you’d be able to do the same?
On Wednesday, I talked about the dangerous notion that we have to give up being “strategic” in order to be “authentic.” In fact, you need to be both … and if you exclude either one, your content marketing

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The One-Two Punch of Authenticity and Strategy

We all know how we feel when we run into creepy, pushy salespeople, right?
Manipulated, pressured. Slimed.
In fact, the last thing we want to do is make a purchase from that person.
High-pressure salesmanship rarely works online. It’s so easy to just click away.
That’s the promise of content marketing — to deliver a relevant business message without becoming a total saleshole.
And yet, too many companies pump out massive volumes of content without seeing real results. Where are they going wrong?
Let’s start by looking at where content marketing came from … and some misreadings of its key ideas.
Content marketing has two dads
Today’s content marketing was informed at the beginning of the new century by two massively influential books.
The first was The Cluetrain Manifesto, published in 1999. Many of its “95 Theses” could be published in any good article about content marketing strategy today:
“1. Markets are conversations. …
3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. …
32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language. …
68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around … in the press, at your conferences — what’s that got to do with us? …
75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change. …
80. Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind.”
– a few of the 95 Theses from The Cluetrain Manifesto
Cluetrain helped us

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The Simple 3-Step Process for Creating a Winning Content Marketing Strategy

Strategy … we all know what it means, right? Just for grins, let’s look at a simple definition:
A plan of action designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
Clear enough. So why would the majority of content marketers have no documented strategy, according to Content Marketing Institute? And by “documented,” I mean a plan that you literally write down.
This is what happens when you document your strategy, again according to CMI’s research:

You’ll be far more likely to consider yourself effective at content marketing.
You’ll feel significantly less challenged by every aspect of content marketing.
You’ll generally consider yourself more effective in your use of all content marketing tactics and social media channels.
You’ll be able to justify spending a higher percentage of your marketing budget on content marketing.

For many small companies, the “marketing budget” is simply the time you allocate for content creation and promotion. And wasting time can often be more painful than wasting money, so let’s not do that, okay?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it
Before we get to the steps, we need an objective for our strategy. Our “major or overall aim,” per the definition.
The major or overall aim for commercial entities is sales.
Even if you’re a nonprofit or charitable organization looking for new or repeat donors, it’s dolla dolla bills, ya’ll.
“But Brian,” the voices in my head object. “What about branding, engagement, social sharing, SEO, comments …”
“Let me stop you right there,” I tell the voices. Which is awkward, because I’m in

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Get Back to Basics to Crush It in 2017

One week from today, Copyblogger turns 11 years old.
In some ways, it feels like only yesterday that I came up with the concept for this blog in December of 2005 and launched it the next month. Except that I was 38 at the time, and now … I’m not (ahem).
There was plenty of emerging talk about commercial blogging going on back then, and Copyblogger was specifically designed to add to the conversation in a way that wasn’t being addressed. Fortunately, I had spent the previous 7 years figuring out how to build online audiences that built businesses.
Today we call that content marketing, and in this sense, a lot has changed in the last decade or so. Content is now a multi-billion-dollar industry churning out a massive volume of content — content that’s too often massively undifferentiated and uninspired.
In other words, much of it is missing the mark.
It’s (Still) All About the People
Compared with a decade ago, we now have all of this fabulous technology that allows us to implement automated conversion funnels, adaptive content experiences, and powerful segmented email marketing. To add to that, you’ll hear a lot about AI-driven chatbots, web-based virtual reality, and machine learning in 2017.
And yet, none of that matters without the basic stuff that we learned as bloggers all those years ago. It’s the human element that’s important, first and foremost.
At the foundation of what we do as digital marketers is influencing human psychology, telling creative stories, and delivering

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Getting Ready for a Powerhouse 2017

Am I jumping the gun a little bit? 2016 is still right here, after all. Staring me in the face.
Let’s just call it getting a head start. On Monday, I launched a new series for the blog and the podcast … which I’m calling the 2017 Content Excellence Challenge.
It works like this: Every month, we get two prompts. One is creative (about becoming a better writer) and one is productive (about getting more work done).
We’ll take these prompts and turn them into habits … habits that support better and stronger content.
The Copyblogger FM podcast this week is about the Challenge as well, so you can pick text or audio. (Or both, if you’re into it.)
It’s about, to use Cal Newport’s phrase, getting so good they can’t ignore you. It’s about embracing change and growth and mastery, and being willing to put in the necessary work.
Careful, because I may burst into an inspirational song at some point here.
On Tuesday, Pamela Wilson helped us on our mission to Get Great by showing us how to coax your editorial brain and your creative brain to play nicely together.
And on Wednesday, Raubi Perilli outlined how to match content goals with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow us to see the results of all our hard content marketing work.
Thanks for reading and listening. I hope December is treating you well so far, and I’ll catch you next week …
— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer,

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A Strategic System that Produces Powerful Content Marketing Campaigns

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun parts of content marketing. Being creative, writing articles, and seeing a post go live are all exciting and enjoyable parts of the job.
So, a lot of us jump right in, quickly publishing and sharing without taking much time to think about what we are doing and why. We are just excited to get our work out in the world.
And this is a problem.
Because effective content marketing that drives pre-planned business goals is strategic — not just fueled by initial excitement.
Let’s look at a system that will help you incorporate the fun parts of content marketing with a thoughtful plan to track your results.
Why smart content marketing is goal-driven
Goals differentiate strategic, results-driven content marketing from random, haphazard publishing.
When you approach content marketing without goals, your content marketing strategy is based on guesses. It’s difficult to see if your content produces value for your business.
And key performance indicators (KPIs) turn that guessing game into a strategic plan.
Goals and KPIs help you see where you are going, how you will get there, and if you took the right route to the finish line.
At the beginning of a campaign, they help you create a plan and decide:

What type of content to create
How much content to create
How to promote the content
Where to promote the content
How long to wait for results

And at the end of a campaign, they help you reflect on your work and:

Measure your success in concrete numbers
Determine your

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What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?

According to Google Trends, interest in content marketing has been on the rise since January 2011.
But this should not surprise anyone. We all seem to be awash in content marketing.
What’s surprising is that many content marketers don’t have a documented strategy.
So, let’s fix that. Today, content marketer, we’ll help you get a plan in place.
But first we need to clear up a little confusion about content marketing strategy.
Content marketing strategy defined
Some people like to make a distinction between the terms content strategy and content marketing strategy. The distinction, they suggest, is best explained with a Russian doll: a smaller strategy is inside a larger one.
In this case, content marketing strategy is the smaller strategy inside the larger one, content strategy.
There is some truth to this.
Content strategy, according to Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, involves the planning, creation, governance, and maintenance of content, whereas content marketing strategy focuses on the narrow discipline of marketing content.
Fair enough, but I think this distinction is confusing and needless because we can also talk about content marketing strategy as the planning, creation, governance, and maintenance of content … and not lose any sleep.
I’d like to proceed with a clear definition of a content marketing strategy.
So, if strategy means “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result,” the specific goal or result for content marketing would be “building an audience that builds a business.”
For our purposes, then, let’s define content marketing

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