Brad is the founder of Codeless, a long-form content creation company who’s content has been highlighted by The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and hundreds more.
Some days, it wears on you. It’s been slowly building for awhile.
Douchey LinkedIn vlogs. The same-old, obvious links on Twitter.
Decades-old, appropriated tactics, but New and Improved 2.0 with some catchy North Star Name. 🤮
Can. We. Just. Please. Stop?
We’re better than that. Or, at least, we should try to be. Here’s why.
❌ Not this: Hype
Let’s begin at the beginning.
This is the big one. The main crux.
Apparently, you can’t publish marketing content today without stuffing it chock-full of brown-nosing puffery, Trump-like exaggerations, or National Enquirer-sensationalism.
Like, The Branded Marketing Tactic.™️
Yes, the Skyscraper Technique is legit. A shitty metaphor, but a nice tactic.
Except, here’s the issue:
Really? 500 visits? That’s what we’re all lusting over?
Yeah, I know – long-tail variations. Yeah, I know – they’ll pick up another ~500 or so for that. Yeah, I know – coining a brand-able category term can transform into INBOUND.
But here’s the thing:
INBOUND ain’t inbound unless Permission Marketing, which predated inbound by a decade.
Ok. What about Topic Clusters? The “Next Evolution of SEO,” according to this guide published in 2017?
Yes! GIMME ALL DA SEOS TRAFFIX!
Now, where have we seen this before? Hmmm.
Oh, like hub pages? The internal topic + linking structure that old-skool, Emeritus SEOs were raving about nearly a decade before 2017.
Keep going. It’s everywhere you look. And it’s time to drain the swamp.
Some “1XX+-point guide” that contains zero numbers or defined points.
Some make-money, LinkedIn dbag who’s both “the global leader in B2B marketing,” and “the King of B2B marketing.” Despite the fact that nobody knows this fool.
Take this exact topic: content marketing.
Did growth hackers growth hack it? Did HubSpot invent it? Did Coca-Cola perfect it?
No, nope, and not.
The Furrow was introduced in 1895 by John Deere.
1895. By a tractor company.
So get off your high horse. Get over yourself.
The loudest person in the room, or on the internet, isn’t right.
(Unless you’re running for president, apparently.)
✅ But that: Thorough
Years of reporting. Engrossing narrative. Interactive elements.
“Thorough” doesn’t always have to mean length. But it can. When there’s a point to be made.
Our content creation services guide is over 13,000 words. It probably didn’t need to be. But now, you can’t possibly argue with the results. Try to poke holes in it. The facts are the facts.
The initial idea came up over a year ago in 2017, but we didn’t have the time or resources to pull it off right. When we finally did, it took weeks to produce and thousands of dollars internally. (Multiply those costs 2-10x if we did it for a client.)
The point is that thoroughness should, in theory, hopefully, one day, shine through all the other puffed-up bullshit out there. Content is, or should be, in theory, hopefully, be an asset — not an expense.
❌ Not this: Obvious
Marketing content production is getting good. Sexy UX, high-res assets, interactive elements, and more.
All amazing things.
What the F happened to the angle? Or, the writing? You know, content creation 101?
Take this marketing statistics post. (We’re not going to touch on statistics posts in general, because my blood pressure can’t take anymore stress.)
It’s a beautiful piece overall. The title draws you in with “538% more” productive or something. They surveyed 1,597 marketers to compile this data. It all sounds super promising.
Until you read the very first takeaway:
“Marketers who document strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.”
The very next graphic says:
“4 keys to successful marketing: strategy, research, process, goals.”
You’re really going to go to all the trouble to run a 1500+ person survey, and prepare all of this amazing design, to tell us an obvious point that businesses have been following for centuries?
No kidding. Like, B.C. centuries.
“It turns out that wetting Egyptian desert sand can reduce the friction by quite a bit, which implies you need only half of the people to pull a sledge on wet sand, compared to dry sand.”
A processes improvement to cut costs in half without decreasing production? Sounds a whole helluva lot like “strategy, research, process, goals” to me! ‘Cept, ~4,000 years before this survey was even a twinkle in some marketer’s eye.
Do you really need another stat to tell you that goals are important? Images make content more engaging? People want to watch video, not read? We’re talkin’ basic, common sense.
I <3 tech peeps. Y’all are smart. But also, pretty naive.
Re-read the section above. None of this stuff is new. Or particularly earth-shattering. Growth hackers didn’t invent distribution. Marketing’s had that under control since the 60s.
Strive to provide insight. The world doesn’t need anymore info.
✅ But that: Original
What is the definition of “good” content?
It’s tough. It’s tricky. Because content is subjective.
To some, it means “written well.” It means “grammatically flawless.”
To me? It means you have something interesting to say. Something that stands out from your screen that’s already overflowing with the bile and vomit of pseudo influencers everywhere.
The mere mentions of “bile” and “vomit” probably made you retract. The shot at ‘influencers’ (heavy, heavy air quotes) probably rubbed you the wrong way.
Guess what? It was supposed to.
I don’t write this way because of misfiring synapses. (At least, not only that.) I do it because it stands out. It’s different. Un-copy-able. I’m trying to get a point across, loud and clear, differently than you’ve ever heard (or read) it before.
The other way to be original is to stop talking about things and start doing them.
We’re not an advertising company. Far from it. Yet, we’re doing advertising content better than advertisers because we’re actually doing the hard work. (See: “Thorough” above.)
The best part is that this isn’t exclusive to anyone. You just need to stop living by influencer gospel, use your brain to come up with your own ideas, go test them, then talk (and write) about them.
❌ Not this: Tactical
The vast majority of marketing content online is tactical. Like, “click here,” “change that.”
There are a few issues with this. (Not the least of which, is that the ‘doers’ who consume tactical stuff aren’t the ‘payers’ in an org who sign the checks.)
No, the problem with overly-tactical content is that it’s almost never gonna work, as prescribed, for any of the readers.
Usually, the tactics suck. They’re desperately clinging on to stuff that’s well past its sell-by date, like all those “XX copy and paste email templates” for your cold outreach. (No seriously, good luck with that.)
Or, more worryingly, is the (lack of) context.
What works for one won’t work the same for another. Leaving you with varying degrees of crap.
Even the Holy Trinity of Content Marketing, the aforementioned Skyscraper Technique, is prone to bombing.
It matters what industry you’re in, how long you’ve been around, how many people know you and you know, how well you’re capitalized, how well you’ve timed the trend, and of course, a little bit of luck.
✅ But that: Better
Small-time affiliates make me chuckle. So secretive about their sites and niches and programs and ideas.
They’re afraid of copying. Mimicking. Reverse engineering.
You know why? Because their stuff is probably not that good. So it’d be easy to rip off. Generic content, with a generic link profile, can (and will) be copied ASAP.
Paying crap prices for content or links or whatever is only going to get you crap. Which means it’s only a matter of time until someone better swoops in and knocks you off your perch.
The only sustainable strategy, in my view, is to be so good they can’t ignore you. Produce content, and promotion, that others can’t copy.
There are different ways to do this. Different avenues to “be better.”
Tim Ferriss is a smart dude. Not an excellent investor, but an investor with an excellent track record. There’s a distinction there.
He developed an unfair advantage that meant (almost) nobody could compete against him. Not head-on, anyway.
Therefore, his investing philosophy will work (and has worked) brilliantly for him. And it’ll completely fail for pretty much anyone else who lacks the same advantages he honed over time.
Call him what you want. Deride him if you wish. Just don’t copy his tactics. ‘Cause you’re lacking the principles, strategy, and context that make it all work in the end.
❌ Not this: Vapid
Step 1. Peep this: 15 Words and Phrases Millennials Use but No One Else Understands.
Step 2. Recognize that it’s on Inc. You know, the ‘tech-savvy’ publication.
Step 3. Read suggestions like “phubbing,” “dipset,” and “it me” (as a shorter version — by two characters — of “it’s me”).
Step 4. Notice that this dude is a contributing editor of this ‘tech-savvy publication.’
Step 5. Now, go ask all of the millennials in your office how many times they used “phubbing” or “dipset” this week. Don’t bother bringing a pen or paper, because the answer will be zero.
#Sorrynotsorry, John, but this shit is garbage.
✅ But that: Valuable
There’s enough shit online already.
Let’s just be better
The point of this wasn’t to piss people off.
I don’t really care if it did. But that wasn’t the catalyst for the rant.
We all mess up. We’re all guilty of the above. Especially me.
But let’s try to be better.
Because, otherwise, we’ll just keep circling the drain.
And 50 years from now, all of our customers will tune us out.
And we’ll have to figure out something else to do all day.