By Bethany Jurns


One of the great things about content marketing is that it doesn’t take a lot to understand the basic tenets. I often find myself explaining content marketing theory to people over coffee, at cocktail parties, on the bus--in fact, pretty much whenever I have that “what do you do?” conversation with a new acquaintance.

Knowing the theory and applying the theory, though, aren’t the same thing. When I was a little marketer, just getting started, sometimes I found myself lost in what--when you’re looking down the barrel of a deadline--can feel like surprisingly abstract ideas. In fact, sometimes I still do. When that happens and you wonder if you’re on the right track, it helps to remember some of these golden rules of content marketing.

Find Something to Say

When content marketing first hit the big time, there was an idea that as long as you’re generating content, it doesn’t really matter whether the content is any good. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can’t have content without content, by which I mean you actually need to have something to talk about if you want people to listen.

Fortunately, there’s something to say about pretty much everything. There’s no widget so minor that someone out there isn’t interested in having a conversation about it. The goal of good content marketing is to start that conversation. Get to know your audience. Learn what they’re thinking about and join the discussion.

Find an Authentic Way to Say It

Tone is important. It conveys a sense of your humanity, your personality, your professionalism, and whether you’re worth listening to. Choose a tone that works for your audience and your industry, but also one that works for you. Be authentic, even if you have to do it in formal language. Authenticity shines through and makes your words relatable and engaging.

Many companies worry about being too casual in their content and projecting an unprofessional image. While this is a real concern, too often it results in content that’s been whitewashed until there’s nothing left but language so generic it could be coming from anybody, or so stilted that the life is gone.

Find Out How It’s Working

You aren’t creating in a vacuum, even though it can definitely feel like that sometimes. Track your data. Be data-greedy. What content is getting a response? Who’s engaging? How are they engaging? Where are they engaging? What are they saying? What are they asking? Ask those questions every day and let the answers shape your content generation. Find your ideas and inspiration there.

Be brave and try new things. Experiment. Use A/B testing, social analytics, whatever you can find. Every day, your data is helping you create a map of the world according to your audience. Be a bold explorer, and keep track of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

And Finally...

The big one, the one that really sums up the whole thing--market to others the way you want others to market to you. Take a minute to assess the kind of marketing content that people send your way every single day. What worked on you? What caught your eye? What left you feeling frustrated or unwilling to continue engaging with a brand? Analyzing your own experience and how you wish it could be better can lead to valuable insights about what you can do to make it better for your audience as well.

What are your marketing golden rules? Share them below in the comments!

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Bethany Jurns

About the author

Bethany Jurns was formerly a Senior Consultant for SmartBug Media. She combines a background in creative writing with a passion for technology and data-driven strategy to help companies grow their business and realize their full marketing potential. Read more articles by Bethany Jurns.

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