Content Marketing

The Importance of Learning in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Child opened a magic book

If money and time were non-factors, what would you absolutely love to learn about?

Taking a step further back, how do you feel about learning in general?

Some people love it. Others can’t stand learning by trial and error. They want to get it right the first time every time, so they spend a lot of time with books and strategies trying to work everything out to the T, sometimes even getting stuck in “analysis paralysis.”

But life is messy, and it’s constantly changing the rules of the game on us as we go. Your willingness and ability to learn is really a measure of your willingness and ability to grow.

Think about it: Have you stopped learning? Stopped growing as a person?

Have you given up changing?

Be a tree, not a wall.

When a man builds a wall, it’s a finished thing. A brick wall doesn’t grow. It doesn’t adapt. It just is.

On the other hand, a tree can live for thousands of years. And during that entire time, what is it doing?

It’s growing. Pushing new leaves out of old branches every year, expanding its trunk, shoving roots down into soil, seeking nutrients and water, thickening its bark, and pushing ever taller.

A growing tree adapts to circumstances, sometimes growing sideways to get to the light, sometimes breaking concrete to get to the soil underneath…

Or even destroying a brick wall if necessary.

That’s life in nature. Life never settles. Life never reaches a point where development stops.

How does this affect your content marketing?

If you’re hoping to create and grow a viable content marketing strategy, your attitude toward learning in general, and learning about your chosen topic(s) specifically, is going to have a huge impact on how successful you are.

Content marketing is an evolving field based to a large extent around the fact that you can never finish learning. For that reason, someone who is dead set against learning new things, new ways of operating, and new methods of success is not going to make it in content marketing. They’re simply not a good fit.

That doesn’t mean that success in content marketing has any specific connection to your IQ or your level of book smarts. And it’s not connected to a degree or level of formal schooling either.

It has to do with your willingness and desire to learn and, by extension, to help others to do so.

So, let’s strip away the theoretical baloney and get down and dirty with an action plan for making ongoing education a part of your busy schedule:

1. RSS is your friend.

Sure, it’s a little old-school at this point, and there are hundreds of mobile and online apps that put their own little spin on it. But finding quality information in your areas of interest and having it automatically delivered to you is absolutely priceless.

Set aside a certain amount of time every day to scan the headlines from your personal list of trusted sources and read at least a few articles in depth.

2. Curate the best of the best.

As an addendum to the last tip, review these blog posts, videos, and podcasts with an eye toward finding that “diamond in the rough” that really resonates with you and your audience as well. Then, pick it out, shine it up, and share it!

Approaching your feeds with a critical eye will help you consume information with a more discerning and active mind, rather than just mindlessly scanning. And, as a bonus, it boosts your social media output and thought leadership.

3. Stay on top of trends.

As you know, marketing is a dynamic industry. If you’re not talking about the newest and best in your given niche, you’ll lose credibility quickly. Use Google Trends, Talkwalker Alerts, and any of the numerous social media search tools available to keep an eye on trends in the industry. Then, when creating your content, you’ll know what items to discuss, what areas are probably saturated at this point, and how to differentiate your content from everything else that’s flying around out there.

4. Invest in yourself.

Arrange your business budget to allow for at least one major educational effort per year: a conference, a class, a coaching program. Whether this means convincing your boss or allocating dollars from your own earnings, invest a portion of your company’s revenue or personal income in learning. I guarantee you’ll see return on that investment.

5. Scout out the free stuff, too.

There are always free and low cost opportunities popping up for educating yourself in your chosen niche or more general business and marketing topics. Free webinars abound, white papers are published, and excellent books and ebooks are written every day. In-person events in your local community are often free as well – just do a search within the listings on Eventbrite and Meetup. Try to include at least one new resource of this nature each month. More, if you can.

6. Give back.

Many content marketing pros can tell you that they learn at just as much as their audience does every time they write a blog post or host a webinar. So, although it seems obvious, take conscious advantage of this little perk of doing what we do: As you create engaging content, learn from the entire creation process as well as from the response you receive. Then turn those valuable lessons into more valuable content.

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  1. says

    Love this post! I have more than 400 sources in my RSS feed so I cannot read everything which comes in but I read let’s say 15 to 20% of it.

    I think I got where I am thanks to the time invested in readings and relationships and I also think this is going to get me where I want to be one day :-)

    If there is a post which makes me think that I should continue, it’s this one, so thanks 😀

  2. says

    This is a great post. I think that investing in one’s self is important. Too often I’ve seen people where I’m at become stagnant and are happy with the status quo and don’t want to expand their horizons and its hurts the business overall. I know I encourage my staff to try to attend some trainings/conferences each year especially into new areas. I also like the part about giving back because sometimes I think we become so focused on what we need to get from customers/clients that we sometimes forget that even if its just a small token acknowledging them goes a long way.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right. In many cases, those educational opportunities that cost something are viewed strictly as expenses rather than investments, and bosses or bootstrapping freelancers find them hard to justify. But it’s an attitude shift: viewing education as a valuable investment with real ROI.

  3. Melissa Coombs says

    Great article! I really like to comparison of a tree and a brick wall. I could not agree more with you about the important of learning and how it is linked to growth. Having started my new job only a couple months ago I have learnt so much about content marketing and feel I have grown so much over that time and it has improved my marketing abilities and knowledge vastly.

  4. Amanda Hoffmann says

    Thank you Justin for an informative and we’ll structured article. Illustrations make an important point and have impact. Your comparison between a tree and brick wall really resonated with me.
    I am learning to curate and appreciated your tying that into good content creation.
    The challenge is using enough tools to allow effective time management.

    • says

      Thanks very much. Tools are definitely a difficult problem. After all, there’s no way we can be everywhere at once like we have to be these days without relying on them, but at the same time, if we really too much on them, we can lose the benefits. Let me know if you figure that one out! :-)

  5. Ali Swerdlow says

    Great post, Justin! Too many people get comfortable doing the same things day-in and day-out and never take the time to branch out. It’s ok to be uncomfortable when learning something new, but you’ll get through it! I can definitely be resistant to change, but I’m always happy when I’ve completed a new challenge. Honing new skills and understanding new concepts not only helps me, but it helps my team and my company. Swerd up!

    • says

      Thanks very much for the comment. I couldn’t agree more. And you make a good point about your team: your example encourages them to do the same and vice-versa. If just one person per company picks up the torch and starts pushing for more learning-related investment, think of the powerful movement that could create!

  6. says

    Excellent post. I definitely agree people should learn from the content they create just as much as the content they read and curate. It keeps it interesting and can lead to additional content opportunities you can piggyback on. I especially like the “Be a tree, not a wall” mentality; it fits in well with one of my company’s mentalities of evolving with your brand/your clients brand, to identify and cultivate constant areas for growth and achievement. Will pass this along!

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