Are You Sure Your Content Marketing
Strategy Is a Good Fit?

big_boy_bed

When I was on vacation a few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with my friend Isabel. She wore a simple dress and a really cute cotton hoodie. Ever since I got home, I’ve been trying to find a hoodie just like it.

So far, no luck. Why?

  • Isabel doesn’t pay a lot of attention to what clothes cost. If a designer hoodie costs $750 but it looks good on her, she doesn’t really worry about it.
  • Isabel shops all over the world. She might have picked it up in Barcelona or Bangkok or Buenos Aires.
  • Isabel is maybe a size 4.

None of these traits is true for me. So I’m taking a garment that looks terrific on someone else and trying to make it work for my very different situation. And it doesn’t.

For some reason, this surprises me.

Ever do that with your content?

Ever try to imitate someone else’s attitude or writing voice? How many of us started out trying to be Seth Godin? (raises hand) Or Chris Brogan or Darren Rowse or Naomi Dunford?

We admire these folks because they do great work. We chase someone else’s audience, someone else’s business model, someone else’s persona, and then we’re puzzled when it doesn’t fit us very well.

You can learn a lot by modeling someone who’s doing what you want to do. But before you can make any real success with it, you’re going to need to learn to sing with your own voice. Their model is always going to be too tight in the elbows and too baggy in the rear, because it doesn’t belong to you. You’re just borrowing it.

Who defines you?

Are you letting other folks dictate how much selling you do? Telling you you’re “too salesy”? Or maybe that you aren’t selling hard enough?

Do you get one unsubscribe to your email list and start second-guessing yourself based on their parting comment?

Are you doing something on your blog because a blogger you admire said everybody had to? Are you sure it’s working for you? Are you sure it’s working for your audience?

Are you using a technique because “it works,” even though it makes you sick to your stomach?

Virtually every successful blogger or business owner you know had to throw away some piece of conventional wisdom. They may not have an elevator pitch, or a traditional USP. Their email newsletters might be too long and their sales letters too short.

Because they tried it out for themselves, and this is what worked for them. Worked in terms of their goals, which might have been bigger than “bump up conversion” or “increase leads.”

Their goals might have included creating a better relationship with their community of customers, going for quality over raw quantity. Their goals might have been 10-year goals rather than 6-week ones.

Their goals might have included just not feeling like a slimeball.

Taking advice is smart, and there’s plenty of good advice out there. But advice is the starting point, not the end.

Every one of us needs to draw our own blueprint. If yours ends up looking pretty different than the model you started with, don’t let it worry you. That’s how you can tell you’re doing it right.

Comments

  1. KatFrench says:

    You’re right, of course, I know. But it’s hard not to try to copy someone else’s voice when someone comments on a post you spent hours editing that he loves your “stream of consciousness posting style.”

    Dear God, if that much editing still came across as Steinbeckian, there may be no hope for me mastering brevity…

    All that aside, more smart, timely advice, as usual. Carry on.

  2. Carole says:

    This is great advice! My blog is only two weeks old. I started it upon my graduation from grad school, and I’m using my thesis (Conservation Gardening and Sustainable Landscaping) as a foundation for discussing this topic on my blog. The trouble is, it’s really kind of hard to switch from “thesis” speak to normal speak. Thanks for the tips about finding my own voice.

  3. Kelly says:

    Sonia,

    Spot-on. It made me laugh to think of it, though. Maybe one of the advantages of starting a blog older (at least in Internet terms) is that I’ve been reading so long, and writing so long in so many other formats, that I already knew there was no chance of writing like Seth Godin. His books have stared at me for years from my shelves and I’ve never come up with zingers in his wonderful way.

    I’ll never be as pithy as Seth, or as surprising as Naomi (as lyrical as Hemingway, as powerful as Mamet…). But the bright side is that they’ll never be as me as me.

    Nice reminder to look within.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  4. I’d say my challenge would be the opposite. I’ve been marching to a different drummer since I was born (Yes, I was a challenge to my poor parents) so it never occurs to me to use someone else as an example even when it makes sense and makes life a lot easier.

    As I’ve been learning more about marketing however I’ve been picking up tidbits from others and integrating their drumbeats into my own rhythms…

  5. This is something I try to teach job seekers – amazing how many of them don’t really look or ‘sound’ like themselves on paper…and then complain that they don’t stand out or look unique!

    I wonder what you think about those bloggers that seem to have no filter…smart (because it’s unique) or dumb (because they’ll only appeal to a narrow readership?)

    Great post and advice…

  6. Steve DeVane says:

    Greetings,

    You make an excellent point. It’s good to learn from those who are doing great at what we want to do, but it is easy to get carried away with it.

    It reminded me of a quote by Leo Buscaglia that I heard recently – “You are the best you. You will always be the second best anyone else.”

    Thanks for a very good post.

    Steve DeVane

  7. Lindy Asimus says:

    I think it takes a while for people to find their voice writing. Some give up long before they do.

    But this does remind me of one of my favourite quotes so I’ll share this here.

    “Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it” – Tallulah Bankhead

  8. so true! it happens that we often try to mimic some one’s style or flair, but the best shot is when you develop and flaunt your own…It would always have a USP :P

  9. This is so well-written! It took me years to recognize that I even had a style — I was so busy learning from others. When I finally relaxed enough to embrace my own work, I was delighted with the fact that although a lot of the information out there is the same there is still that group that will resonate with the way that “you” say it.

  10. Great post!

    We can all benefit from reading other people’s work , because it helps us determine which qualities we admire and which we don’t.

    When what I wanted my blog to be like, I spent a lot of time visiting successful sites. I enjoyed blogs that were well-laid out, used appropriate photos with each post, and those that said what they needed to say in an interesting way. I took those preferred elements and used them in my own blog.

    That said, I’ve tried very hard to write in my own style. When I come up with a headline, I don’t look around the internet for who’s done something similar. You can be sure someone’s already had the same idea, and I don’t want their style or content to influence my own post.

    Do you think it’s important to see how other people have covered a topic before you write about it, or would you agree it’s better to just do your own thing?

    Thanks

  11. FutureExpat says:

    So true. Sometimes it takes a while, but if you want to succeed as a blogger, you have to find your own voice.

  12. CherylBinnie says:

    Ooooooohhhhh, goodness!
    Speaking of speaking in your own voice, now that I’ve been listening to all the (fabulous!) Marketing for Nice People lessons, I can’t help but hear your voice in my head when I read your posts. Kinda like how you get used to hearing how someone phrases things, the timing and inflection, y’know? I can sooooo hear you saying everything that you write.

    When I realized what I was doing, I thought to myself, “Ha. It’d be funny if she was eating enchiladas while she wrote this.” Then I couldn’t help but hear your voice (in my head) pausing and interrupting yourself because you were eating enchiladas again (in my head).

    A bit off topic, I know, but for what it’s worth, I can totally hear your actual voice in your writing. It fits!

  13. I’ve just spend the last 1/2 hour mindmapping your content marketing posts on Copyblogger and I thought, “Gee I’d better see what Simone is doing on her blog before I start rewriting my own website”

    ..and of course you have a post about my next problem. This is something I struggle with and I guess the only way to find my own voice is to just start writing.

    I think sometimes we get too overwhelmed trying to see how others are doing it that we just get paralysed and do nothing so I’m going to shut down all your blogs and get back to work……(except for yours Simone..love your work)

    Ed

  14. Terry Heath says:

    I think to some extent we’re drawn to people who have made something out of a characteristic we have within ourselves. We’re drawn to people we can relate to, so we probably share some common spark with those who engage us. The thing is, if we start imitating that person we relate to we’re building a castle on too small a foundation; the part that relates is only a small part of who we are. If we let these people inspire us, and combine all those inspirations in a unique blend, we’ll come up with a “hoodie” that probably fits pretty well.

  15. Sonia Simone says:

    @Scott, I don’t think it’s smart to have no filter, because to me you come across like some random homeless guy, rather than as someone I should listen to. I think a lot of people confuse authenticity with oversharing. :) But sometimes it’s hard to tell from the outside, too. For example, believe it or not, Naomi (http://ittybiz.com) has a filter. So her persona is over the top and feels very “naked,” but actually she does think about what she should & shouldn’t include.

    @Suzannah, I’m always a fan of doing my own thing, but I also do look at what others have done and see if I can incorporate it in my own way. So I guess my answer is “both.”

    @Cheryl, laughing. I am never living down those enchiladas. They were worth it, though.

    @Edmund, exactly, “just start writing.” It’s the best way to find your real voice, IMO.

  16. Rab says:

    The cat and the big-boy-bed…. have you by chance been reading Skippyjon Jones?

  17. Jack O'Keefe says:

    Great ideas, especially for a writer trying to find a publisher. It’s so easy to lose hope. Thanks

  18. Martin says:

    The picture is great. Its work a thousand words; could be more though :)

  19. Great lead in. And I love the picture. Very good ‘fit’ for the article.

  20. I am agree with you.We should make our own voice to stand up in the crowd.
    We have seen MJ.His style of dancing,his rocks,his shocks just like power 440 Voltage.
    Even Darren,Chris and TechCrunch ,they are alive due to their own and different voice.
    They didn’t copy to any business or any folk.

  21. Phil says:

    In addition to the fact that there’s hardly any picture that could fit in better than this one, I think this is a great and very helpful article. Reminds a little of the one about the 7 deadly sins at Coppyblogger (no, I’m not the crazy stalker across the street hiding in the bushes, it’s just that until 60 seconds ago I had no clue that erm… you are you), but still really nice.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on my projects for a long time, being so busy with work and study, but texts like this really give me the urge to write and be read :)

    Regards,
    Phil

    Unfortunately,

  22. Sonia, thanks for some great points. My blog is pretty young, but as soon as it started gathering steam, people started showing up to (shrilly!) point out that I was doing some things wrong.

    I didn’t know any better, so I started looking for fixes I could make, even though my traffic was increasing steadily, subscribers were shooting up every day, and all evidence pointed to me doing things correctly.

    I tried to implement some of the changes, and suddenly blogging wasn’t as fun. I couldn’t look forward to writing as much as I had previously, because there were boxes to check and rules to implement.

    I’ve found a happy balance, as your article suggests. I especially like the part about not getting freaked out by losing one subscriber.

    thanks for another thought provoking post.
    Take care
    Josh

  23. I think that blogging or any kind of writing is about speaking from your heart. Keep the writing simple as if you were having a coversation with your best friend. In this way, you’re writing as you speak without bells and whistles. Clarity will come easily this way. Less is more.

  24. Jeff Sauers says:

    You’re SOOO right! As a marketing teacher for massage therapists, I try to teach my students to use their own unique personality in their marketing – whether it be their sales letters, web site, blog, etc. THAT’S what attracts and keeps clients. Great post!

  25. Great tips, what works for one company might not always work for your company, sometimes there is a lot of trial and error in finding what will work!

  26. Imitating someone else’s writing style is not a good thing especially if your not good at it, stick to what you are good at and develop your own style and you’ll see the positive result.
    .-= Texas Divorce Online´s last blog ..What are the grounds for divorce? =-.

  27. Poor Cat!!

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