My favorite law of marketing is the “Law of Shitty Clickthroughs.” Coined by Andrew Chen, this law states that every marketing channel is effective until, like overfishing a lake, competition relentlessly drives the channel towards zero.
Content marketing is no exception. Content marketing is a wonderful example of every single person in the world marketing their product through the same channel.
It’s really easy to find good content online. It’s everywhere. In fact, there is just so much of it that sometimes I can’t find an example of bad content.In the past, this good content would have been more than enough to catch the attention of an audience and effectively market a business or product. But that was before we overfished.
I think about content all the time in my daily work at SimpleTiger. How can our team consistently deliver exceptional content? How can we achieve 10x content and beat the law of shitty clickthroughs?
In content marketing, it’s no longer enough to be good. You need to be exceptional. To be exceptional, you need to master the fundamental skills of the craft. And the fundamental skill of content marketing is writing.
When I talk about writing, I don’t mean grammar, or structure, or spelling. I don’t even necessarily mean words on the page. A speech, video, or presentation — each of these likely began as writing, and I think improving your writing will help you tell stories through any medium more effectively. When I talk about writing, I’m talking about communicating your message.
The fundamental skill of a content marketer
is to communicate your message.
To write well.
Each year, it seems a new author tops the bestseller list with a book written about excellence. It’s a favorite topic of American writers, who have explained excellence through genetics and innate talents, hard work and determination, top-class training regimens, and everything in between.
Studies of excellence endlessly contradict one another. Malcolm Gladwell’s rule of ten thousand hours became famous, only to be immediately challenged by studies revealing that quality of practice trumps quantity of practice, which in turn are challenged by studies revealing that the quality and quantity of practice needed to achieve mastery vary wildly by the individual. Innate talent has a big role to play, after all.
But one truth is always present: you can only become exceptional by mastering fundamental skills.
Content marketing is a complicated field, just as calculus is a complicated branch of mathematics. I believe the best way to learn to communicate your message is by rigorously studying the craft of writing well, just as the best way to master calculus is to first master algebra. To communicate effectively, learn your tools.
When I am asked for content marketing advice, I focus on writing well above all else — or finding someone who can. All of the techniques and knowledge of content marketing can be built on top of this foundational skill, but focusing on tactics, Wordpress plugins, and growth hacks won’t make your content exceptional unless it communicates your message well in the first place.
So if you market with content, and you want to become exceptional, focus on what matters most: the writing.
A Short Reading List
Writing can be hell. Luckily, that’s helped foster a robust literature around the art of writing well. These books have given me a little help along the way in becoming a better writer myself, and I hope you’ll like them, too.
Note: None of these are affiliate links.
Bird by Bird
Telling True Stories
The Sense of Style
A Technique for Producing Ideas
James Webb Young
On Writing Well
The Elements of Style
Writing Down the Bones
The War of Art