How much should you give away in content marketing? Part 2 of 2

In the last post, we discussed a basic tactic for determining what you should and shouldn’t give away in your content marketing strategy. Let’s look at a more advanced strategy that’s derived from the old ninja clans of ancient Japan.

In the lore of the ninja, one of the most prized items held by the headmaster of the clan was the densho, or scrolls of martial techniques. These densho held descriptions of the clan’s secret fighting techniques, along with illustrations of how to perform the techniques, construct the tools, etc.

Winchendon Martial Arts Center

Their value was priceless and could mean the difference between literal life and death for the practitioners of that clan’s martial arts. As such, the techniques were closely guarded secrets, and were encoded in a very special way. Each technique was encoded in such a way that an uninitiated practitioner would read the technique and if they attempted it, as written, they’d end up getting themselves killed. The way the techniques were written was wrong.

Only those initiated by the clan’s master teachers were told exactly how the techniques were written down wrong, so that they knew what to adapt, ignore, or adjust to make them work. Sometimes it was enough to simply know that a technique should be on the reverse side; other times, the name of the technique gave a hint as to what it should feel like, rather than the written description.

We can take this technique and adapt it to our content marketing in a less harmful way. What can you safely give away? Give away the basic techniques, tactics, and methods, but make your content incomplete. Anyone who doesn’t work for your company or brand gets value, but doesn’t get the whole picture. For example, take a look at this simple recipe for cake. Ignore that there are no proportions; they’re unimportant for this example.

Eggs
Milk
Sugar
Flour
Cocoa
Yeast

If you were to bake up a cake with this basic recipe, you’d get a decent chocolate cake. However, there are two ingredients missing that could turn this average cake into a great cake – vanilla extract and salt. A pinch of salt drastically alters how our taste buds perceive flavor, and the vanilla adds a lot of depth to the flavors.

If I were working for a company that made cakes, I’d publish the basic recipe, while holding onto the “secret ingredients” for my company’s cakes that made them superior. The cake you baked with our recipe would still be good enough for when you just wanted some cake, but if you had a special occasion, you’d know that there was always something a little extra from a cake bought from our store.

No matter what your product, service, or company, there are likely basic and advanced recipes. Take a look at what recipes you have, determine what you can omit and still deliver a passable result, and use that as the basis for your content marketing. You can even tier your content marketing; a while back, I wrote a blog post about benchmarking in Google Analytics, but only premium subscribers to my newsletter got the advanced recipe.

Try this method of content marketing strategy to deliver value to your audiences without giving away everything!

…Of course, that does make you wonder what I left out of this post, doesn’t it?


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Marketing sophistication and the Art of War

Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Today, knowing yourself and your competitors when it comes to digital marketing is easier than ever. With freely available tools, you can quickly ascertain the sophistication of a company’s digital marketing capabilities, from your own company to competitors to prospective customers.

Let’s look at an easy way to get started. Assuming you’re using the Chrome browser, head to the Chrome app store and install these two free extensions, BuiltWith and Ghostery.

Ghostery tells you what kinds of marketing and tracking tags a site is running – who else is getting visitor information about you. Generally speaking, sites who are thinking about analytics and monetization have more stuff installed. For example, here’s Chris Brogan’s site:

chrisbrogan_com_—_Building_the_Digital_Channel_-_Beyond_Social_Media

Note that there are relatively few extensions running on it, just a handful of software packages providing tracking. (I should clarify that in no way do I think of Chris as a competitor, opponent, or enemy, I just needed a non-work-related site to compare!)

Now compare to all of the stuff running on my site:

Christopher_S__Penn___Awaken_Your_Superhero_-

All of these tools are gathering data about your visit. What does this tell you about these two sites? The primary message is that I measure more stuff than Chris does. That’s neither good nor bad in itself; however, if you were looking to sell analytics tools to either one of us, you’d be faced with two very different potential customers. I might be more receptive to what you’re selling because I understand the value of analytics, but one or more of the tools I’m already using might solve my analytics problem, and thus you’d be trying to do a competitive sale. Chris Brogan might be less receptive to your initial pitch but might have greater need because the relatively small handful of tools he’s using leaves more opportunity.

The second tool, BuiltWith, requires you to manually assess each site from a little button in the Chrome toolbar. Let’s take a quick look again. First, Chris Brogan’s site:

chrisbrogan_com_—_Building_the_Digital_Channel_-_Beyond_Social_Media 2

Note that it picks out that he uses InfusionSoft for marketing automation and runs WordPress with its stats module. He also uses Shareasale and Avantlink for revenue. This tells you something about his business model and what he’s promoting. His website is a direct commerce engine, powering his business; we know this because InfusionSoft is a higher-end small business marketing automation system.

Now compare with my site:

Screen_Shot_2014-07-16_at_6_41_57_AM

I’m using lots of analytics tools to measure my audience but doing relatively little with them. There’s an entry-level marketing automation system, LoopFuse, which indicates that I’m not running this website as a business, just a personal blog. I’m studying my audience carefully, but not investing heavily in the tools I’d need to make the website a full-time business.

From a competitive analysis perspective, who constitutes the greater “danger”? Without a doubt, Chris Brogan, in the sense that he’s taken the time to invest heavily in his site to make it a real business. My site is personal in nature and while I measure lots of stuff, I’m clearly not intending to do much with it at the moment.

Once upon a time, in the era of Sun Tzu and the ninja of old, you would need to send spies into enemy encampments to understand what was going on. Today, just install a couple of browser extensions and know what you’re looking for – we’re all giving away our secrets right on our homepages.

Check out your own site. Check out your competitors’ sites. See what they are telling you!


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On choosing mentors and teachers

Finding mentors and teachers today is both easier and harder than ever. It is easier because the digital age permits us nearly unlimited access to information and people. Paradoxically, it is also much harder for this very reason – finding the correct teacher is incredibly difficult amidst much noise.

11 years on the path

One of the most important aspects of finding mentors and teachers is knowing what you need. Often, this can conflict with what we want. We may want cheery motivation and gentle support, but what we really need is a solid boot in the butt to get us moving. Or, we may think we needs to go through a hard-core boot camp or “man up”, but what we really need is to take it slowly so as to reacclimatize ourselves to difficult working circumstances and adversity, whether at the gym or at work. I’ve been in both situations!

How do you know the difference between what you want and what you need? Chances are, you know the difference deep down inside, if you are truly honest with yourself. It is the nagging voice in your head that says, you really should do this. You really ought to do that. It is the voice that says, this isn’t the healthiest or smartest choice, or the voice that says, that’s not going to be comfortable, let’s just put that off until tomorrow. The hard part is accepting the honesty you have inside yourself.

Once you know what you need, look for mentors or teachers who are living the results you want to achieve. It’s that simple (but not easy). Look at their lives and see what results they’re getting. If their life looks like what you want your life to look like, then ask to study with them. Be sure, however, to look at the big picture! Someone may be an incredible martial artist but the rest of their life may be a disaster. Someone may be a phenomenal marketer but they may have a miserable family life. Do unrelated things matter, if they’re achieving the goals you want? Absolutely, because their perspective on life will tend to infiltrate yours, and so will their bad habits. Look at the big picture and make your choices from that.

Choose your teachers wisely!


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