How to build a content marketing machine

Inbound marketing needs to get content to get customers

Inbound marketing should engage more than 10% of your organizations brain.Content marketing needs more than 10%

In today’s world of inbound marketing, we have to get content to get customers. At different times and in different situations consumers are looking for insight, data, and entertainment. If we want them to find our content we have to share it. Our content is the stories we tell, the problems we solve, and the information we share through every connection with our customers and throughout the organization. That means getting content is a team effort that involves the entire organization and not just an agency, a singularly creative individual or the marketing team.

Each member of your organization is responsible for its success. There is a popular urban legend that humans only use 10% of their brains. Due to functional magnetic resonance imaging technology we know this is not the case.  However, it may be true that collectively, organizations use less than 10% of their brains when it comes to sharing insights and knowledge in ways that add value to customers and optimize their share of mind and market.

Building a clock is better than telling time

Build a content marketing machineBuild a content marketing machine

For an organization to be wildly successful at inbound marketing, you can’t rely on the efforts of a single individual. You’ve got to build a machine that continuously generates the content you need. Jim Collins famously expressed this in his book Built to Last with the analogy of building a clock versus telling time. He said, wouldn’t it be amazing if an individual could look at the stars and tell you the exact date and time?  But, wouldn’t it be more amazing if that individual built a clock that that could tell the time forever even after they were gone.

page 214 Nervous System

Content nervous system

The content generation machine needs to be built into the DNA of the organization and become a living part of every connection. It must grow and adapt as needed.

To function, the machine requires a central nervous system. Data from each part of the organization is transmitted and centrally stored. That data is filtered and organized into usable chunks of information that can be expressed in stories, conversations, and publications. In a healthy organization a feedback loop acknowledges receipt and expresses gratitude for the time and effort it took to create and share it. This reinforces the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that led to the sharing event.

Continuing with the nervous system analogy, if a member of the organization who shares content senses disapproval, unfair treatment, or rejection they will feel social pain. Hurt feelings can be just as painful as physical pain. Writing is personal and writers are likely to take feedback personally, so managers need to be using their best feedback skills. If the person is ineffectively told that their ideas don’t align with business strategy, are out of scope, or are just plain wrong, then that person and those who observe the feedback may never share again.

On the other hand, social pleasure which comes from being accepted and valued by your own group is also very real. Most people would not predict that social rewards could be as pleasurable as financial rewards, but they are and only require a bit of time and thoughtfulness. Something as simple as, “I liked what you wrote today” can make a huge difference in somebodies attitude about writing and sharing.

The central repository for all share-worthy content is the blog and is the hub of all of you content creation efforts. A blog post can be shared again in a number of ways. You can publish links to your blog posts through micro-blogging sites like Twitter.  You can post links to the blog on Facebook, or Linkedin discussion groups.  A series of blog posts may become a whitepaper or an ebook. A Whitepaper can be broken into pieces to become a series of blog posts. Any of these can be converted into videos, podcasts, or webinars. Finally, you can use these as the basis for press releases, the content of newsletters, infographics or whatever you want. In this way your content is part of a living and growing ecosystem of content that can be re-imagined to provide nourishment for new possibilities.

Next post: Building a content pipeline


The Principles of Inbound Marketing Design

Marketing under the influence

Drinking may make your content look better but why not try a little planning instead?

Have you ever been the victim of marketing that felt less like premeditation was involved and more like alcohol was a contributing factor? Good marketing doesn’t just happen. It has to be designed. Borrowing from the principles of graphic design I thought I’d share a few ideas for inbound marketers.


Balance is achieved when inbound marketing communication feels like a conversation. There are many ways to achieve balance, but a good way to lose it is to be manipulative, take what you want from your audience, and give nothing in return.


Establish a a rhythm of regular posts or touches so that your audience knows what to expect and has a sense of where the relationship is going. You can set the tempo. Create a sense of anticipation, certainty, or progression it’s all up to you.


As a marketer today you have a remarkable variety of tools available to you. In choosing the right marketing mix its important consider the experience of the user. Over reliance on one mode of communication leads to monotony.


Make sure your value proposition is clear. Direct your reader to the most important information. Make it easy to consume. Give your key points the most weight. Ensure that subordinate ideas get their due without hijacking the message. Repetition, bullets, and graphic elements can help clarify your key points without making the audience think too hard and losing them.


Unity describes the relationship between the individual parts of a whole and arises from the way the human brain stores information. I believe, communication is most naturally organized in the human brain through conversation and story-telling.

One of the keys to making communication feel like conversation is a sense of order. The sequence of messages need to naturally follow what came before. If not, a confusing experience will result. Inbound marketing is not a natural conversation the audience is going to have to fill in missing information for themselves. It’s a good idea to anticipate questions that are likely to arise and answer them when they are likely to occur.

It’s also important to recognize the reader may move in a different direction than your were originally taking them. Be aware of this so that instead of letting the conversation end, you can move to a new topic when they do. This can be achieved through means as simple as links to related topics or as sophisticated as marketing automation tools that read their digital body language.