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Break the Rules of Content

What’s in this article:

  • Knowing when it makes sense for your brand to break the rules when it comes to content marketing is what will help your brand stand out from the pack
  • Check out the six top content marketing rules you can (and should) start breaking today

Imagine every marketer is handed a rule book when they start working with a company. Maybe it includes rules on how many SEO keywords each blog should include, how long the blog title should be, or the exact ratio of images to text. With the multitude of blogs out there on content marketing dos/don’ts and best practices, I’m starting to wonder if a rule book does actually exist.

Even if it does, I’m here to tell you not all rules are made to be followed. In fact, you can (and should) break them sometimes. Just hear me out. If every brand followed the rules, there would be no innovators, no Facebook, and no Uber. No two companies are alike, so why should your content marketing strategy be?

Embrace your inner rule breaker and consider axing these six content marketing practices. You might just be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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1. Keep doing what works.

In theory, this rule sounds great. Figure out what works — like through A/B testing your email campaigns — and do more of that, right? While there’s nothing wrong with doing what’s brought you positive results in the past, but you also shouldn’t be afraid of stepping outside of that comfort zone. That’s especially true with how quickly content marketing, technologies, trends, and other strategies can change.

Your content marketing strategy should be versatile and reactive to new channels and the constantly evolving consumer base you’re trying to reach. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Sure, not everything will work for your brand, but those new techniques might also be wildly successful. And those are things you would never know if you continued only doing “what worked.”

2. Do what your competitors do.

When many brands first start out, they tend to see what their direct competitors are doing to get a feel for the industry and what they’re up against. There’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on the other guys, but if you hold yourself to their same limitations, you’re selling your brand short.

Take brokerage firms, for example. Their industry might seem a bit old-fashioned and stuffy on the surface, so one company played off of that idea and showed how it was the complete opposite. Charles Schwab ran a series of advertisements, commercials and other content marketing campaigns showing what set them apart from other brokerage firms. They used the line, “a modern approach to wealth management,” to show consumers they are the best option in today’s times.

Their commercial, “Asking Enough Questions?” focused on how they broke away from the stigmas of their industry, and it had a 99-percent positive sentiment with audiences. We’d say that was pretty successful.

Figure out what people assume about your industry and turn that notion upside down with your content. Plus, doing something different from your competitors will allow you to be more successful. Because if they’ve already done it (and done it well), you’re unlikely to achieve that same level of success.

3. Create content just because.

Throw out any requirements or goals that demand you to post a certain number of blogs each week. Content for content’s sake is not a good thing. Each piece of content, whether it’s a blog or email campaign, should have a specific goal. Don’t simply churn out content to meet your quota or schedule because your audience will be able to tell.

4. Stick to your formula.

Do you have a set checklist for all of your marketing content? For example, are all of your blogs 1,000 words with six photos and a CTA button? Or do you use the same template for all of your email campaigns and website copy? Having set parameters can be a good starting point, but it’s no substitute for what your actual target audience wants.

Relying on your “formula” can prevent you from asking the important questions like:

  • What does our audience want and need? And has that changed?
  • Have they changed the way they are interacting with our site or emails?
  • What can the brand do differently to better engage consumers?

If you continue doing the same thing, you’re probably going to keep getting the same results. Even if those results are good, don’t you want to take some risks that could lead to an even larger ROI?

5. Write about current events.

Sure, you want your content to be timely and valuable to your audience, but that doesn’t mean you have to cover every event that’s going on in the news. It doesn’t make sense for a dog food company to write about the effects of COVID — unless they are talking about those effects in dogs.

Too often, brands try to stay current by posting something about the pandemic, politics, or other current event and end up sounding tone deaf. If you don’t have an educated stance that makes sense for your brand to take, don’t say anything at all.

6. Only create short content.

Sure, people have short attention spans. That is, if the content isn’t catching their attention. But don’t be afraid of creating long-form pieces if you have the insight and expertise to back it up and provide value.

Actually, longer, in-depth blog posts generate nine times more leads than shorter ones. However, only 18 percent of companies’ blog posts are more than 750 words. Time to break the “short-and-sweet rule.”

Start breaking the rules

In writing, you’re taught to learn all of the rules so that you can one day know when it’s OK to break them. That’s how some of the best writers are able to create unique pieces that work. And knowing when it makes sense for you to break the rules when it comes to content marketing is what will help your brand stand out from the pack.

So, don’t be afraid of breaking a “rule” some other marketer made because that might not be what’s best for your brand. After all, it’s what makes your brand unique that’s going to make it successful.

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