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I’m an avid runner. Running is something that brings me immense joy on a daily basis; it also provides me the opportunity to compete against myself. Recently, I ran the Grand Rapids Marathon. After completing my first marathon last year (and not being overly-thrilled with the results), I knew I needed to rethink my approach to training if I were to reach my goal. I needed to follow a plan, and trust it.
A successful content marketing strategy has striking similarities. You have to follow a plan, and know that if you put in the work, your business will see results. Here are four ways a successful content marketing strategy will mimic a marathon training program.
It Takes At Least 16 Weeks
Most marathon training plans are 16 weeks. Usually, it’s expected that you are running some mileage prior to starting a training plan. You won’t start seeing results right away, but as you continue and progress through the training, you’ll begin to notice small results a month in.
Similarly, content marketing will take at least 16 weeks to really be effective. If your business is currently putting out content on a monthly basis, first increase to weekly, then to multiple times a week. Like with any new plan or routine, It will be hard at first, but it will get easier and more familiar as time goes on. Good content is any content that brings value to your audience. For example, a video or blog about headlight replacement would be perfect for an auto repair store. Sit down and brainstorm content that would be helpful for your audience. Utilize media, blogs, graphics and videos that provide value to your audience. Post the content on your website and social media channels. Create a regular schedule and stick to it.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
I struggled with this rule the first time I trained for a marathon and ended up getting burnt out. 80 percent of your training should be easy, and 20 percent should be a hard effort. It’s fun to push yourself, but you can’t do it every run. I made sure to keep my heart rate low during easy runs, building aerobic fitness you can’t get with a hard effort. Keeping your easy days easy lets you recover quickly and push yourself on the hard days.
With content marketing, following the 80/20 rule will keep you on track. 80 Percent of your content should be easy to create. It should still be valuable to your audience, but it should be something you could produce quickly. It’s difficult to stay consistent if every piece of content takes a significant amount of time to create. By keeping most content easy, you’ll stick to the plan, and be able to put in effort on the hard days.
1 Long Run Per Week
This is probably the most important part. The long run conditions your body to handle the force it has to endure over a 26.2 mile race. Start at 10 miles, and build up to a 20 mile run before tapering off. Most of your improvement will stem from your long runs.
In content marketing, the long run is your cornerstone content. Content that is extremely detailed and valuable to your audience. For example, a lawn & garden store could put out a detailed guide on lawn care before winter. How low you should cut your lawn, the types of fertilizer you use before the first snow, and other tips and tricks. This sort of content establishes trust with your audience and makes your brand an authority on the topic. Keep up with your long runs, and soon you’ll have a full library of valuable content for your customers to refer to.
Trust The Taper
2-3 weeks before the race, most plans have you back off on your weekly mileage. This is to let your body fully recover before the big day. This was difficult for me. After decreasing my milage, my body felt sluggish, and my legs felt heavy. I wanted to keep running the milage I was before, to reassure my mind that I was prepared for my goal. But I stuck to it, knowing that because I put in the work, it would pay off.
You will get to a point after starting content marketing that you will question the effort. Sure, you’ll see results from day to day, but you might question if you’ll hit the overall goal. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Channels, and Email lists all take a long time to grow. Content marketing is like a long sales cycle. Trust in the plan.
You’ll Sign Up For Another One Within 24 Hours
18 miles into the race, I knew I would hit my goal because of my training. Last year, I went out too fast. This year, I ran the first 18 just under my goal mile pace, with intentions to speed up in the last part of the race. Hitting the turnaround point at 18, I emptied the tank for the remainder of the race. It was indescribable coming in under my goal time. The training plan paid off and I felt on top of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I was exhausted, but on the car ride home I was already looking for a spring marathon.
With content marketing, once you see the results coming in, you won’t want to stop. The work you put in 4 months ago is now showing up #1 on Google. Your videos are getting recommended on YouTube. Customers are choosing your business because of the value you bring them. Content Marketing takes a lot of work, but it pays off dividends if you follow the training plan.