Fail Your Way to Content Marketing Success

do you remember your first epic content failure I’m not talking about the first time you missed a deadline I’m not talking about that typo that you found in the deck as you were presenting it I am talking about fall on your face punch to the gut ego crushing failure I do I’m in my late 20s and I just started at the number one advertising agency in Phoenix I am over the moon I am so excited I finally feel like I am where I need to be and where I want to be I’m getting to work on big new clients I’m getting to work on fun campaigns life is amazing in fact I’m getting so much praise and we’re doing so well that they offer me the chance to lead a huge new project for a new client I am going to be the sole strategist and writer for a sports equipment manufacturer now don’t get me wrong this was a huge client and I was so grateful for the

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opportunity it’s just that my knowledge of pro sports really revolves around knowing where the shortest lines are at the beer carts at Chase Field in Phoenix and what’s on tap at each so nonetheless I am still excited and I am ready to take on this project and I am bound and determined to keep my winning streak intact so I take that project I go back to my desk I sit down and nothing nothing but writer’s block for the first time in my career I have absolutely no clue what to write in what does make it to the page is absolute garbage delete but still that deadline keeps coming and my writer’s block isn’t going away I don’t know how I did it but at the 11th hour literally I reach down and I pulled every ounce of willpower I had and every piece of creativity I had in my entire being and I wrote that content at the end of the day I knew with absolute certainty that I had tried my best I also knew that content was not my best with a heavy heart and a stomach full of knots I turned it in and as I turned it in I said to myself it’s okay it’s just round one right it’s a draft you’ll get their feedback you’ll work it into round two it’s okay round two you’ll knock it out of the park no big deal fast-forward about a week later and I’m in my boss’s office and we’re chit-chatting and we’re hanging out and we’re having a great time we had a really great rapport so we’re joking having a great time and of course he’s doing what he’d always does which is multitasking he’s checking his emails and we’re chit-chatting when all of a sudden his happy smiling face drops and he goes completely silent I think you better have a look at this he says as he turns his monitor to me it’s an email from the client and it says yeah I don’t know who you had write this but this is completely wrong this sounds like diner menu copy do we get a sign of hashbrowns with this devestated doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt in this moment I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me it suddenly became really really hot in that room and I felt like I was 2 inches tall after several very awkward moments of silence my boss excuse me from his office called the client and gave the project to another writer I never got around to you know one thing I did realize though after I spent about a week googling adorable exotic animals like this cloaca to try to bring myself out of my content failure funk by the way the coca is adorable right it’s native from us to Australia if anybody doesn’t know if you’re having a really really terrible day Google this little guy he always looks like he’s smiling he has no known natural predators and also he loves to take selfies so seriously if you’re having a really terrible day quota promise it’ll make your day so after I spent about a week googling adorable exotic animals like this quota here trying to bring myself out of my content failure funk I realized that I could all of a sudden very clearly see every step as well as every misstep I had taken on that path to failure and two things became really clear on why I failed one I didn’t want to let anybody down I was brand new I felt like I had something to prove I was still trying to fight my way into the the writers circle and I wanted to win right I shouldn’t have said yes to that project because I wasn’t right for it there were other writers that would have been better but I didn’t want to say no on the other side I tried to be the hero I had the worst writer’s block of my entire career but I taught I thought if I could just muscle through it and power through it would be fine unfortunately my ego got the best of me and that didn’t happen obviously but the thing also that I realized is that that failure helped me so very clearly see so much more than any successful project that I have ever been a part of now I know that the concept of failure to success isn’t new to anybody in this room and it’s not even exclusive to just content but it’s something that we don’t talk about really ever and the funny thing is is have you ever noticed how easy we make content seem like if we just create it it’ll work and everything will be ok right but not necessarily in order to really get on to the path of content wins we need to first embrace our failures and understand why we fail so we can better position ourselves in the future that failure moment being said that I created diner menu copy that is stuck with me for the rest of my entire career and now I know to never put myself in that same position again it helps me lead to better paths to success so we need to start embracing these failures and we need to start understanding how to fail productively and when we do that we’re gonna win and we’re gonna talk about how to do that today but first before we do we need to address the fact that as content marketers we have an intense fear of failure and I think you’ll agree because this room is full so obviously we’re interested in this topic but marketers in general have a very intense fear of failure it’s just not something we talk about it’s not something we highlight it’s not something that we really like to bring up we will happily get up and we’ll talk all day long about our case studies and our successes and all of these amazing campaigns we’ve even received frameworks here at this conference for how to create more successful content on the surface everything is a-ok now not to diminish anybody there are definitely some people having a lot of success with content a lot of people in here are having success with content it’s not that we’re failing completely it’s just that we’re not talking about our failures as much as we should everybody who won an award last night everybody was nominated absolutely deserving of those rewards that’s not what this session is about what the session about is about is helping everybody bring it up a level and find that path to success through our failures now the reason why this piqued my curiosity in the first place is because one I’ve been through it personally in firsthand and talking in very small circles and talking one-on-one other people have as well this is not an anomaly this is something that is widespread and furthermore we have data to back this up as well I know everybody in here is familiar with this report if you’re not its Content Marketing Institute’s annual benchmarks budgets and trends report now this is the B to C report that we’re going to be going through on some numbers for those of you in the room who are b2b just know that the numbers are very very close so these numbers that we’re gonna go through still apply to everybody in this room so we have actual data to back that so many of us are failing or so many of us are experiencing struggles every single day and let’s talk through some of those data points right now so every year this report is published and the story is pretty much the same it doesn’t really change what we find is that pretty much everybody is doing content marketing approximately 86% on the b2c side on the b2b side it’s actually higher it’s around 91 or 92 percent so everybody is doing content marketing in some way shape or form over the next 12 months people have actually indicated that they are going to be investing more about 37% said that they were actually going to put more into content over the next 12 months right so we’re doing content marketing and most of us plan on doing more some of us plan on doing more what do you think the percent is of those who are doing content marketing rated their efforts on content as extremely successful any guesses Wow five percent rated their efforts as extremely successful oh that’s a different story than what we’re getting up and talking about now there were people who indicated that their content was mildly successful but extremely successful think about that like an actual success 5% that is harsh and in addition when they polled other people as well only 38% had a documented content strategy so the story basically every year that I look at this report is we’re doing content marketing we’re doing a ton of it we’re going to be doing even more we’re gonna be putting even more budget into it but we don’t really have a plan on how to do it and we don’t actually know or think it’s really that effective this is why we need to talk about our content failures is because of that 5% because we are currently experiencing failure we’re just not talking about it so if there are so many of us out there who are looking to find that path to success why are we sharing more of what doesn’t work so we do know what does work well that’s because there is an intense psychological stigma around failure think about it going to school especially here in America what was our grading system A to F for failure we’ve literally been trained our entire lives to avoid failure at all costs if you’re failing you are not doing what you’re supposed to do that is bad you need to go for an A every single time right we literally train ourselves from a very young age to avoid failure the other thing is we are very uncomfortable with our own failures if it makes us do things to ourselves and it gets in our head and it wedges in there and it makes us doubt everything about ourselves right when we fail when we don’t succeed we think horrible things we think things like what are people thinking of me maybe I’m not even capable right am I even cut out for this when when that client said I wrote diner menu copy I doubted every single part of my ability all of my success up to that point any piece of praise I had ever been given and it made me doubt myself for months it was ego crushing and this happens all the time even if we’re comfortable with our own failures what about our teams right when our teams fail are we setting them up to embrace that and to understand how to correct that or if our teams fail do we blame ourselves right I know when I was a manager and my team would fail I would think things like oh my god did I not dye them enough did I not give them enough instruction what is the CEO gonna think when he hears about this right we have this tendency to internalize these failures as just our own and that it’s going to be the end of us but it doesn’t have to be that way so what I want to talk to you about today is what I’ve dubbed the content marketing fail-fast framework over the years I’ve been able to adopt a couple of coping mechanisms and some exercises that have really helped me through a lot of failure and really helped me get through those bumps in the road with various teams in various clients and there’s going to be three pieces to this framework today and with each piece I’m gonna end it with an exercise that is so easy and so quick to do you could literally do them on a piece of paper right after the session ends now I can’t guarantee that this framework is going to prevent mistakes from happening or prevent failures from happening but it will hopefully help everybody fail a little bit faster and become a little bit more productive and embrace it and get back onto the path to success faster all right this is everybody ready to dive into the framework okay piece number one ask why such a simple simple piece of the framework right a little more difficult than it sounds sometimes I first learned the power of

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Y from this book content strategy for the web by Kristina Halvorson it’s actually in the introduction and she talks about the power of asking why right even just sitting down and being asked to do something question just say why not in an accusatory way but in a powerful digging deeper kind of a way you’ll have better conversations for those of you who are not familiar with this maybe you’re familiar with Simon’s neck start with why write the entire concept that people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it why is an incredibly powerful tool that we are just not accessing and utilizing enough why has actually become one of my favor non four-letter words over the years because it really gets everybody to stop take a quick second and think a little bit more critically about what we’re doing how and why now oftentimes when I work with clients many of them don’t even know why they’re doing content in the first place they say things to me like well because we need to show our competitive advantage they say okay okay let’s take a quick step back why do you need to show your competitive advantage like what about it isn’t coming through today why and they’ll you know kind of sit there and think for a second and ponder why and they’ll come back usually with something like well because our competitors are outperforming us okay okay that’s valid but that’s not really tangible right this is just sort of more of the same we still don’t really know why we’re doing anything so I asked him again say well why why are your competitors outperforming you and they say something like well because they have better brand recognition but we can actually walk the walk right so digging deeper asking why that’s where you get to those aha moments that’s where you start to say this is why we’re doing what we do this is why we are actually even putting effort into this in the first place and if you just keep digging and asking why you will get deeper and deeper into that onion and you will figure out exactly why you should be doing what you’re doing

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