“The Value of Being Valuable” business marketing book

The Right Way to do Content Marketing

An interview with Len Markidan based on his book “The Value of Being Valuable”

Interview Summary

There’s tons of information out there on how to do content marketing. But most of it is conflicting and confusing. Len Markidan has been developing and executing content marketing strategies for years, and wrote a book to help content marketers focus on the 1% of the advice that’s actually useful, and what they NEED to be doing.

What’s the problem with all the advice on content marketing out there?

At its core, content marketing is NOT complicated, and what you need to do to succeed is quite simple. The problem is that much of the advice is complicated and is about optimizations at the margins. Whereas most people searching for answers will be much better served by focusing on the core, foundational principles.

So what SHOULD you focus your content marketing efforts on?

Success in content marketing has very little to do with having the right tactics, the right tools, the right editorial calendar. It’s mostly about developing a deep understanding of who your prospect and reader is. And then, delivering an overwhelming amount of value to them for free, so that when they’re ready to buy, it’s a no brainer to do business with you instead of anybody else in the competition.

Why should we focus on content instead of converting our audience into buyers right away?

No matter what you sell, the chance that most of your market is ready to buy it today is very, very slim. Desire to buy simply doesn’t work that way. But if your product or service is great, then the chance that most of your market will be ready to buy it at some point in the foreseeable future is much higher.

Doing content marketing – and doing it correctly – is the best way to ensure that when that day comes, when they’re ready to buy (and they might be considering their options), you’re the one they think of FIRST because you’ve already invested in them before they needed you.

Focus 100% of the early stages of your content marketing on deeply understanding your customer. Don’t worry about the tactics, don’t worry about the tools, don’t worry about the tricks. Deeply understand your customer. Have as many conversations as you can, 30 to 40 conversations are recommended, before you even start writing anything. And then, from there, focus on creating the best possible solutions, for those problems, on the internet. If you can solve those problems, most of everything else will take care of itself.

But how can you deliver such “incredible” value with content marketing?

The “incredible” value is all about giving solutions to your audience’s problems. And that comes from your team’s expertise, the experience you have in the realm of what your customer is struggling with.

For example: Let’s say that you find out that one of the biggest things that your prospects struggle with is coming up with an idea for a book. This is something that keeps them up at night. They just can’t think of an idea. They know that they could be a successful author, they just can’t come up with an idea.

So, you can create for them a guide – whether it’s videos or downloadable materials or a really, really in-depth how-to article… a definitive guide on how to come up with a really great idea for a book: how to brainstorm, how to validate an idea to find out if people actually want it, how to choose – once you’ve brainstormed multiple ideas – how to pick the very best one, frameworks around how to do that.

Just make it the most valuable resource you can for solving that problem, and that’s what overwhelming value is.

What’s another example of great content?

At my current company, Podia, we’ve created a Course Guide. We spent around 200 hours on it. That includes the customer research, the development, the design and the outreach to promote it. It’s a massive investment. We did that in late 2017 and even today, that single piece of content drives approx. 20% of the traffic to our website. And from there, to trials and paid accounts. This is an example of a massive investment in a piece of content that has paid off dramatically!

With all the proliferation of content, where do you stand on the debate of: quality vs. quantity?

There are media companies and blogs that make money just by virtue of being a blog, and we assume that that’s how content marketing works. BUT if we’re selling products or selling services, volume is NOT the answer. The answer is to find a way that we can deliver outsized value and focus on that entirely. It’s absolutely not about volume and 100% about quality.

The interview

What inspired you to write this book?

Len Markidan: Very often, I think people write books because there isn’t enough being said about a subject. There aren’t enough people talking about it, and they feel like they need to start a conversation of some kind. This book, The Value of Being Valuable, is actually the opposite. There is so much that’s been written about content marketing, and much of it is… it’s conflicting, it’s not substantive, it’s confusing. A lot of it is very self-serving to the author. And I was talking to person after person and meeting client after client, that really wanted to succeed at content marketing, but they were overwhelmed. There’s so much information out there, and they’re overwhelmed by just that sheer amounts of information, and didn’t know how to even sort the good from the bad, yet alone build something successful. And so, the purpose of this book is to essentially separate what you actually need to be doing, from what 99% of the advice out there tells you that you need to be doing. … Read more

What bad advice is out there?

The worst is just, simply, if you search for content marketing tips, you’re going to get… It’s literally in the hundreds of millions of results, and the bad part about that is, it’s a self-feeding cycle of increasingly less valuable information because at its core, content marketing is not that complicated. It’s quite simple, actually, what you need to do to succeed. However, because there’s this mass of information, if people want to stand out when they give content marketing advice, they have to do something that’s outside of the norm, that’s contrarian, that’s tactics that haven’t been tried or seen before. And so, that’s what people end up writing. They end up writing things that they think will be different from everything that’s out there, and they do that in order to get ranked higher in Google and to get people to click on things that might surprise them. But, the reality is, all of this new information isn’t actually helpful. These are all optimizations at the margins, whereas most people who are actually searching for answers will be much better served by focusing on the core, foundational principles that simply wouldn’t get enough clicks if you wrote a new article about it today. That’s the bad part of the advice. It’s just that everybody’s optimizing towards the edges, and the good part is there is still good advice out there. There is still good advice about those foundational principles, it’s just getting harder and harder to find.

What advice would you recommend?

I think that’s probably not why there’s so much bad content marketing out there. I think that’s really just the reason why there’s so much bad content marketing advice out there. There’s a lot of bad content marketing out there, for a lot of other reasons. Primarily, because everybody is a content marketing consultant now. There are a million and a half content marketing agencies out there, and they’re selling content by the pound, and so, there’s just this huge commoditization of content, which I think is one of the biggest reasons there’s a lot of bad content marketing out there. But, the reality is, success in content marketing has very little to do with having the right tactics, the right tools, the right editorial calendar. I believe, from what I’ve seen in the content marketing operations that I’ve built, from clients I’ve worked with, it has everything to do with developing a really deep understanding of who your prospect is, who your reader is, and delivering an overwhelming amount of value to them for free, so that when they’re ready to buy, it’s a no brainer to do business with you instead of anybody else in the competition.

How do you deliver incredible value?

So, the incredible value is the solutions to those problems. And that comes from your team’s expertise, that comes from all the experience that you have in the realm of what your customer is struggling with. So, let’s say you find out, using that author and company example, let’s say that you find out that one of the biggest things that your prospects struggle with, is coming up with an idea for a book. This is something that… they want to write a book, it keeps them up at night that they just can’t think of an idea. They know that they could be a successful author, they just can’t come up with an idea. So, you can create for them, a guide, whether it’s videos or downloadable materials or a really, really in-depth article on how to… a definitive guide on how to come up with a really great idea for a book. How to brainstorm, how to validate an idea to find out if people actually want it, how to choose, once you’ve brainstormed multiple ideas, how to pick the very best one, frameworks around how to do that. Just make it the most valuable resource you can, for solving that problem, and that’s what overwhelming value is.

What are some key lessons from the book?

The key lessons from the book really are around this idea that no matter what you sell, the chance that most of your market is ready to buy it today is very, very slim. Desire to buy simply doesn’t work that way, but if your product or service is great, then the chance that most of your market will be ready to buy it, at some point in the foreseeable future, is much higher. So, doing content marketing, and doing it correctly, is the best way to ensure that when that day comes, when they’re ready to buy, and they might be considering their options, you’re the one they think of first because you’ve already invested in them before they needed you. And so, from that, the specific lessons are focus 100% of the early stages of your content marketing on deeply understanding your customer. Don’t worry about the tactics, don’t worry about the tools, don’t worry about the tricks. Deeply understand your customer. Have as many conversations as you can. I, typically, will recommend having 30 to 40 conversations before you even start writing anything. And then, from there, focus on creating the best possible solutions, for those problems, on the internet. If you can solve for those two problems, most of everything else will take care of itself.

What’s an example of great content?

I think the best example of that content is actually the Create A Course guide. So, it’s a massive, massive guide that, when we built it, our team has spent around 200 hours on this piece of content. That’s including the customer research that we did for it, the development that we did on it, the design that we did on it, the outreach that we did to promote it. And it was a massive, massive investment. We did that in late 2017. Today, that article, that single piece of content, in its several forms that we’ve transferred it into, drives, I would say, 20% of the traffic to our website and to our content. And from there, to our trials and to our paid accounts. That would be an example of a massive investment in a piece of content, that has paid off dramatically for us.

Is quality better than quantity?

We look at media companies, and we look at these massive blogs that make money just by virtue of being a blog, and we assume that that’s how content marketing works. But, if we’re selling products or we’re selling services, volume is not the answer. The answer is, find a way that you can deliver outsized value in one way or two ways or three ways or four ways, and focus on that entirely. It’s absolutely not about volume and 100% about quality.

Len Markidan author of "The Value of Being Valuable : Creating Meaningful Content That Will Win over Customers for Life"

Len Markidan

Book Author

Len Markidan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Podia, a content marketing strategist, and a speaker. He has spent the past fifteen years as the brains behind successful content marketing strategies for a wide range of clients, from high-growth start-ups to Fortune 500, 100, and 50 companies, including Prudential, Jet.com, Mutual of Omaha, Chegg, Groupon, and Healthline. Len’s work has been featured in Forbes and Entrepreneur.

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