Plan, Do, Study, Act To Be A Great Content Marketer

Harsh truths in content marketing

We have all seen it before. A friend tells you to check out his new site. He is talking about big dreams for the future, about all the plans and the goals of making money. Couple of weeks later you see the same friend, ask him how the new project is doing, and you hear that same old excuse of not having had enough time to work on it. There are some harsh truths that your friend needs to know and the method that will empower him to become a great content marketer.

The fear of starting

One reason for this is the fear of starting. It is a very common problem for people. They are unsure on what will happen when they post something. They are insecure about the quality and the value of what they have to say. They are shy thinking about what their friends and family will say. They think that nobody will care about their site. Nobody cares about you or your site, everyone is too busy thinking about themselves. Get on with it.

Think also what are the potential consequences of making mistakes. We often exaggerate these and that makes us fear more. It is much easier to hide yourself and not publish something than it is to trust in your own ability and your own words and get them out there. Realize that the potential consequences are of no big importance in the big picture. Few weeks or months down the line you will not even remember any of it.

Dreaming about building a large audience and a name for yourself is not enough. Don’t be one of those people who would rather dream and be safe, than to actually act on the dream a have a chance of failure. Don’t be happy and content with the status quo. To give life to your dreams, you must start doing it and start doing it now. The more you think about it, the more time it will take you and the less probable is it that you will do it.

As a blogger you put your thoughts, your advice, your life out there for the whole world to see. The nature and openness of blogging attracts interaction and engagement and with the comment form straight under individual articles you are open for anyone to comment on your work. There are even sites like GOMI (Get Off My Internets) that are only there for people to post bad comments and slam big bloggers. You have to learn to stay confident in yourself and what you believe in, despite being doubted by others. By publishing your work you share your ideas and you get feedback from people in the real world. You will learn if people engage with your work, if there are readers interested in your work. This feedback will help you improve, learn, and refine your work and give you ideas for projects you didn’t even think about.

Don’t wait for a masterpiece before you publish something. Some people have a phobia of clicking on the “Publish” button. They always seem to have something to add, something to change, something to polish, some more research to do… thinking like this usually never stops and you drag the process on and on. Spit first, shine later.

What people need in situations like these is a bit of a motivational push to click that publish button. When you do click on that button and your first post is online for the world to see, you realize how silly it was to have any fears and how you should have published that post a long time ago. Just go for it really. Close your eyes and publish that first post.

Find your sweet spot, know what you want to achieve, get the minimum viable site live, start publishing content and get the message out there. Measure, learn and improve as you go along. Some spend months on research, on planning, on the design and other details. I do not find this a valuable way of spending so much important time on. These are weeks and months spent without writing, without creating content, without marketing, without connecting to your audience, building a name and testing things in the real world. Don’t fall into the analysis paralysis. This process can be much faster.

"Plan do study act"

Your first post will suck

Be realistic. Your first post will most probably suck. Only your mother might like it. Your analytics report might say you had two visitors only. No one would click on the Twitter share button or the Facebook like button. This may sound a bit harsh but even the biggest bloggers published posts that sucked early on in their careers.

Do not worry and do not panic when you don’t see any comments at all. I guarantee that there are more people paying attention to you and your content than you realize. There is a simple explanation for the lack of comments. Blogging and social media are great places for people to stay in touch and consumer information without needing to do anything actively. Blogging and social media allow people to passively consume your content. There are many lurkers out there. There is no obligation for people to respond to you in your comments area or @reply to you on Twitter, on Twitter people don’t even have to follow you publicly to get your updates (they can list you on a private list or just stop by your profile once in awhile).

Some stats suggest that only about 1-2% of visitors actually comment on blog posts, and if you require people to write in their real names, like for example when using Facebook comments like I did not too long ago on my blog, the number goes even further down. The recent New York Times Innovation Report showed that only 1% of their visitors write comments and only 3% read comments. All in all the web allows for passive consumption of content so a lack of feedback and noise shouldn’t bother you too much.

There are things you can do to increase the number of comments on your site. Some bloggers spend quiet a lot of time on interacting with other bloggers and influencers by commenting on their blogs and retweeting their updates, and get reciprocal activity as a return to increase their own comment and other interaction numbers artificially. These don’t normally result in as much to your bottom line as real organic visitors do though so these activities may not be necessary and you might just as well focus on getting organic visitors.

Starting is not the end, it’s the beginning

When you start a project is actually where you hit the reality and realize that maybe the plan you had has to be changed, or the dream you have will need a lot of time and effort to be reached. After starting that site or after publishing that first post you realize that the work is only starting. Visitors won’t just come after you publish, you will have to go out and get them.

Starting a site is not the end as many people see it, it is just the beginning of a process. You cannot expect just to launch your site, publish the first post and have visitors come to you in any numbers. It does not work like that. The real work actually starts after you have launched. That is when you need to put in the effort and time. Without doing that your project will surely fail. This should not discourage you from trying though.

Don’t just give up after couple of weeks if you feel like you have not reached your high expectations, but manage your expectations better. We have all heard too many success stories about people starting sites and making products and then selling them and earning tons of money. We have all heard about people that started posting content online and ended up with book contracts and lucrative speaking engagements. We see people traveling the world and having great lifestyles thanks to their online projects.

These stories are possible but they only happen to a small percentage of people. Keep this in mind in order to have a more realistic expectation of your project. This will keep you grounded and will help motivate you to put in the effort that is needed over a longer period of time before you start seeing any progress.

Learn to accept failures

A lot of us have heard stories about some very successful bloggers. Someone who ends up having a lucrative book contract, someone who sells tons of books through self publishing or stories about people who travel the world thanks to their sites. You have to understand that blogging is not going to get you rich quick. You have to manage your expectations in order not to be disappointed. Big things are possible and you should dream about reaching them but do not expect it to happen to you overnight.

Blogging is not easy and not all the blogs become hits. Not all the talented writers get an audience. Sometimes even the most promising project fails. There are many reasons for why this happens, but most bloggers and other entrepreneurs blame themselves for not succeeding. Writing is a difficult path to take in terms of earning money and making a living with one’s work. Only a few bloggers actually end up with a successful site, only a few budding writers actually end up publishing and selling any books, even less people actually become popular and rich from doing it.

Having a low barrier to enter and a high barrier to succeed results in a lot of people starting blogs and giving up shortly after because they are not prepared to do the work and put in the effort that is needed to succeed. Many stop even before publishing their first piece of content. Just being a prolific Twitter or Facebook user will never allow you to shape public opinion. Instead you need to be the one that is creating the story that other people are consuming, talking about and sharing.

Failures are hidden deep beneath all the positive buzz and the success stories that are drawing people in. We never hear much about all the failures – most sites become inactive within few weeks of the launch, most never get any readers, not to talk about making money. For anyone wanting to start blogging this is important point to realize.

Failing is normal. Everyone fails all the time. Everyone fails much more than they succeed. Most books are failures, most sites are flops, but this should definitely not discourage you from trying. Understand this and make sure you have realistic expectations when starting in order to give yourself good chances of success. Move past your failures and don’t let them hold you back. Don’t be scared because of a failure. Don’t let failure stop you from trying to do more in the future. Keep believing in yourself, in your skills and your ideas. Instead of giving up and blaming yourself learn from your failures.

What separates the best bloggers from the rest is that while failing they were learning the fundamentals of creating immersive content. And this is what counts. Getting experience, learning how to write better, improving the way you present your content, getting more comfortable about reaching out to people and promoting your content. These skills are key skills that you need in order to build a successful site.

Make sure to learn from your failure so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. How do you keep track of your learnings? The best way is to keep a note of all the learnings you have had. This way you can open the document any time you are working on a project and use it as a checklist in order to make sure you tick the boxes you might not have been able to do in your former projects. If you do this a few times it will become natural and you will memorize all the steps you need to take. Then it will become a much easier and efficient process.

Focus your time and efforts on learning the craft of blogging. Learning how to create great content is the most important lesson for you to become a successful blogger. The content and the way you present and promote that content, determines how well your project will do. It takes a lot of time to master all these activities. It is natural that you will be starting from almost zero and building your way up, learning from all the bad content you put out there and all the experience that you gain.

It is a marathon, not a sprint

The real work of a content marketer is about performing consistently day after day and building an audience few people at a time. It takes time to become a successful blogger. It is a lot of work, takes up a lot of your day and is hard to get away from. It is a marathon, it is not a sprint. There is a long road ahead and your first post is just the start of your blogging journey.

  • Keep creating great content, the best content you can think of
  • Entertain people, inform people, educate people… make them love and share your content
  • Keep posting regularly and consistently
  • Keep connecting to people in your target group
  • Keep promoting your content wherever you can
  • Keep networking with other authors, entrepreneurs and influences
  • Keep measuring, learning and improving your efforts

I truly believe in skills and intellect when working on something and when trying to achieve something. I truly believe in being smart, clever and knowledgeable to get the most out of a project or an opportunity. I truly believe in dedication and hard work. I truly believe that it is possible to find all the answers if you are really willing to look for them. I believe in the American dream no matter what country you live in or what nationality you are. When someone is smart, knowledgeable, has the skills and works hard he or she surely cannot fail.

Focus on what you can control. My internal world is completely within my control. Only thing I can surely do with 100% certainty is work at getting better at my craft, get better at what I am doing. I also keep complete control of my own resilience. I have to keep trying, keep pushing and keep hustling. The best I can do is put myself in a better position for when conditions do change, because things will inevitably do change.

What is your main motivation for having a site or writing a novel? How important is the fact of getting your work out to the public to you? Does the fact of getting your work to the public matter at all? Would you still be writing and publishing content if no one was reading? Why you are actually writing could be the key to becoming a success. For some writing is a reward on its own, it feels good to write, it helps get your thoughts together, helps you form an opinion and even therapeutic for some. On the other hand some get the validation only from the fact that other people read, share, engage with and like their content. There are also those for whom the only thing that matters is money and getting compensated for their writing is the key metric. If becoming famous, successful and rich is your main motivation it won’t get you far in those long, hard days, months and years where you are supposed to be putting a lot of time and effort without seeing too many benefits. Extrinsic motivation will not be enough to stop you from quitting.

Before starting a new project think of your motivation and your goals. Try and find some internal motivation one way or another, something that does not depend on any external factors, something that will keep you going no matter what situation you get into. Only this way you will be able to push through any adversary and pushing through the difficult situations is the only way to actually get attention and maybe even start becoming a name that ends up publishing that bestseller novel or builds a site that is read by thousands of people. In the end I hope you are able to answer “yes, I would still be writing if no one was reading”.

We control our output. The content we produce, what the content focuses on, how it looks like, how it is presented and marketed to the world and to our audience. It is all completely within our control. When we do click on the publish button, that control becomes weakened and the content has to stand on its own feet. How many people consume the content, how many share it, how we rank in search engines, how many click on affiliate links, how many buy what we sell, how good the conversion rate it – all these we can work on optimizing and improving but we are not in complete control over and in many cases depend on luck, randomness and other external factors.

By taking these steps you will already achieve more than most people do. Other people keep talking and dreaming and you are not one of them. You have started a site. You have published that post despite being fearful of the feedback. You are actually in the field working. Only doing the actual work can help you, it will improve you, it will teach you what works and what doesn’t. Slowly but surely your site will grow, your reputation in the industry will increase, you will be growing an audience and will start seeing the benefits of having a successful site. You will not stand still like you would have if you were only talking about it and thinking but not doing it.