When you love your job, it naturally seeps into everything you do. You think about it at odd times. You see parallels in seemingly unrelated things. And suddenly you’re writing about content marketing and professional football.
At least that’s how it happens to me!
As an avid football fan (and owner of a stellar fantasy team, I might add), my mind wandered one day and I started to notice the interesting parallels between the game of football and the game of content marketing. The similarities are fascinating; the insights are priceless.
Since you came to read this article, you are likely a football fan. In that case, I hope you enjoy the football chat, but stay for the powerful content marketing lessons.
7 Ways Content Marketing is Just Like Professional Football
1. You Need a Strategy
Midway through the third quarter in Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots trailed 28-3 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcon’s players could already feel championship rings on their fingers, but the game wasn’t over yet. Quarterback Tom Brady went on to lead his team to the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. A 28-28 tie pushed the game into overtime, where the Pats clinched the win with a final touchdown.
It was a historic Super Bowl, for sure, but not an unheard of feat for the Patriots or Tom Brady himself, who was at the helm for almost 20 of the team’s 50 biggest comebacks. Even in close games, the Patriots have a habit of making those last-minute connections that earn them the win.
These comebacks and victories do not happen by chance. It’s not random, and it’s not luck. The Patriot’s success is a result of countless hours of training, reviewing films, practicing, and playing out these hypothetical scenarios, so they know what to do when it happens for real.
#Strategy: It’s the secret to a successful #NFL team AND to a successful #contentmarketing program! Click to tweet
If you want to ‘win’ at content marketing, you need a strategy too!
Too many small business owners jump into blogging without first planning things out. To develop a winning strategy, you should consider:
- Who is the target audience, that is, the readers that you will be speaking to in your blog posts?
- What topics will resonate with them and how can you present these topics in a helpful, engaging way?
- How do you use an editorial calendar to plot things out in advance and remain consistent?
- What social media channels should you use to promote your latest content and deliver it to your target audience?
- How can you incorporate other forms of marketing into your strategy—paid advertisements, emails/newsletters, influencers, guest posting, etc?
- Who are your biggest competitors? What are they currently doing in content marketing and how can you stand out as unique?
- What tools can you use to enhance your efforts or save time (WordPress plugins, social media scheduling software, email marketing, or CRM programs)?
- Who will do the work of writing, uploading blog posts, creating social media posts, and managing your content marketing efforts?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Just like football players and teams need practice, planning, and strategy to reach superstar status, so too does content marketing.
2. It’s Noisy in the Stadium
If you’ve ever been to a live college or NFL football game, you know how loud it can get. It is estimated that the average crowd noise at an NFL game is between 80 and 90 decibels, but fans can certainly scream louder than that.
In fact, in 2013, the Seattle Seahawks set a Guinness World Record of 137.6 decibels, which registered as a minor earthquake on a University of Washington seismometer. Later in 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs captured the record, reaching the 142.2-decibel level at Arrowhead Stadium. To put it in perspective, that’s just a bit louder than hearing a jet engine take off from 100 feet away. As NPR cautions, this noise can literally be deafening.
While pandemonium erupts when the home team scores or makes a big play, the noise is also used to manipulate the game in a way: the crowd often roars loudest when the opposing team has the ball on fourth down, while they get eerily quiet when their home team faces clutch situations. The combination of using noise for home team support and opposing team distraction may help explain why 58 percent of all regular-season games are won by the home team.
And it is noisy in the stadium of content marketing, too.
Content marketing works, which is why so many smart businesses are implementing it as a strategy for building their online presence. 2017 research by Clutch found that 71 percent of small businesses have a website. Meanwhile, 60 million businesses have a Facebook page, and 4 million companies use Facebook advertising. Everyone is screaming for the attention of potential customers, and with all the competition (plus many other distractions on the internet) it is common for business owners to feel like they ‘can’t be heard over all the noise.’
The content marketing stadium may be loud, and you can’t change that, but there is one thing to keep in mind: when you’re tending to your blog, posting on your social media pages, and sending a newsletter to your email list, you’re playing on home turf.
The people are there to see you, and it is your job to show them what you’ve got. Delight them with informative content. Let them meet your team, see your values, and feel your authenticity. Form relationships and show them that they are valued. These are the ‘wins’ that will make them want to come back to the next game. Who knows, they may even become season ticket holders.
3. You Don’t Need Everyone to Love You. You Just Need a Group of Loyal Fans
The Dallas Cowboys are fondly referred to as “America’s Team.” With 8.75 million Facebook fans, they have more followers than any other team, and they have also been awarded the title of the ‘team with the best fans’ in a Forbes analysis. Other NFL teams are wildly popular across the country too, including the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburg Steelers, and New England Patriots.
Here are 7 ways the game of #content #marketing is an awful lot like professional #football! Click to tweet
But every team has fans, even the bad ones. Like me, you probably know of people who root for the 49ers, the Bears, the Jets, the Browns, and all the other NFL teams that struggle with wins. Every year these fans start out September with an ‘it’s our year!’ attitude, and every week they cheer on their team even when the odds are stacked against them.
Every team has fans. When you approach content marketing, you must keep this in mind too—and use it to your advantage.
Coming to terms with the fact that you’re never going to please everyone is the best thing you can do for your small business.
- It pushes you to think about who your target audience is and what your true fans look like.
- It focuses your marketing messages because you’ve let go of trying to ‘reach everyone’ and instead create content that will resonate with your specific audience.
- It allows you to identify true fans who are singing your praises so you can reward their loyalty and give them the VIP treatment.
When it comes to content marketing success, your ability to connect with the fans you have is often much more important than the objective number.
4. Sometimes You Won’t Like the Call on the Field, but Screaming at the Television Won’t Help
As fun as football is, it can also be incredibly frustrating. Every week close plays, poor coaching decisions, and questionable ref calls have millions of Americans standing in protest as they curse at the screen in front of them.
What’s more, the rules are always changing too. Each year, based on input from coaches, owners, and players (and sometimes even because of past controversial calls), the NFL Competition Committee contemplates potential rule changes. Once approved, these changes impact the play of the game and sometimes even the outcome.
Bad calls and rule changes happen in content marketing too.
Consider Google algorithm changes. According to Moz, “Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times,” and while most of them are minor, there have been over 50 major updates in the past five years. As each new update is announced, there is a wave of confusion, frustration, and anger because marketers and business owners know that the changes can significantly impact their SEO strategy and practice as well as their ability to rank well in Google searches.
And this sort of thing happens everywhere in content marketing: think of Facebook and all of the changes that affect your ability to reach followers with organic posts, email spam filters that might route your newsletter directly to the spam box, software changes that affect the design and functionality of programs you have become familiar with.
In these cases, screaming at the screen won’t help either. While you can’t prevent these changes, you can take action in ways that empower your business:
- Stay current on new advancements so you understand the changes and how they will impact you.
- Follow best practices and document your processes so when changes happen you can review and find ways to adjust.
- Educate yourself by reading articles and participating in free webinars.
- View the changes as opportunities to experiment with new ideas and find a better strategy.
In content marketing, flexibility and a positive attitude will allow you to go with the flow of the game, no matter what changes are thrown your way.
5. Don’t Bank on a Hail Mary to Win the Game
A Hail Mary is a long pass directed toward the end zone. It is typically thrown in desperation as a ‘last chance’ to win the game. It has been a popular term since 1975 when, in this play, quarterback Roger Staubach says he closed his eyes and said a Hail Mary before throwing to Drew Pearson to win the game.
A Hail Mary is arguably the most exciting play in football, but it is a rare move and one that is incredibly difficult to pull off. In one study of college football, it was found that in 7220 games from 2005 to 2013, there were 403 games that included a Hail Mary throw. That is only 5.5 percent. Of those 403 Hail Marys, only ten resulted in a touchdown. Therefore, while it is exciting, a Hail Mary isn’t the best situation to be in, nor will it likely result in a win.
You shouldn’t count on a Hail Mary in content marketing either.
In this case, when we say ‘Hail Mary’ we are referring to ‘going viral’—the sweet but pretty much unattainable dream that something clever you do in your marketing will catch on, spread like wildfire, and push you to overnight success.
Stanford University research shows that while there are 5 billion pieces of Facebook content per day and 500 million tweets, less than 1 percent of content goes viral, so clearly putting your efforts into ‘going viral’ is not a good content marketing strategy.
Instead, focus on the well-paced and steady approach that more often wins games. Consistently plug away, pushing out content on a regular schedule and always moving forward. Set smaller and more attainable ’10 yard’ goals for follower growth and engagement. With patience and time, you will gain yards and reach the longer ‘touchdown’ goals that you set for your business.
6. When You Score a Touchdown, It’s Okay to Dance
Before 2017, the NFL had strict rules regarding players celebrating after scoring a touchdown—a group dance and even making a snow angel was an offense punishable by fines and penalties. After criticism by players and fans alike, the league decided to relax these rules in 2017.
As Commissioner Roger Goodell explained, this change would allow players “more room to have fun after they make big plays.” While celebrations that are offensive or hold up the game are still banned, the new guidelines allow players to do group demonstrations, use the football as a prop, and to celebrate on the ground. Players have embraced the change, and fans are delighting in the creativity and playfulness they see on the field as teams pretend to play baseball, duck-duck-goose, hide and seek, potato sack racing and more.
In content marketing, remember to celebrate your big wins too!
Whether it is publishing a blog post that you are particularly proud of, watching the numbers in your Jetpack stats climb, or getting a positive review on your Google Business account, make sure to reward yourself for your efforts and use the experience to power more positive results in the future.
7. Remember, It’s a Team Sport
Tom Brady. Le’Veon Bell. Julio Jones. All are excellent players, but none of them can win a game on their own. Success requires a coordinated effort by all players, each with his own unique skills and specific role to play. In other words, “It’s not the team with the best players that wins. It’s the players with the best team that win.”
Here at VirTasktic, we know that content marketing is a team sport, too.
We thrive because we have team members who have strong individual skills but who come together to play their specific roles that help us execute projects and ‘win’ games.
Writing, editing, publishing on your blog, updating your website, managing social media, email marketing, advertising, online marketing campaigns… are you trying to do it all yourself? You’d likely find greater success, and feel less stress if you got more people in your business involved. Not only will this mean a better end product because each person can focus on his or her strengths, but it also develops comradery and allows everyone to share pride in the company wins.
Don’t have the bandwidth to handle content marketing on your own? Hire the experts at VirTasktic to be your content marketing team and start celebrating more touchdowns!