What Content Marketers Can Learn From Snipers

sniper

Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

I was born a gun nut. My dad, his dad and my mom’s dad were all great shots, and I grew up in a house full of long guns. Hunting and shooting were a part of life. As a kid, nothing lit a fire under me more than bass fishing, plinking or reading science-related books.

However, unlike my dad, who was an excellent shot, I needed lots of practice to make long-distance shots accurately. So, during the summers, I fired thousands of rounds to get better.

By my early teens I could hit plastic bottle tops at 80 yards with frequency.

Sucking At Something Is No Excuse For Not Trying

This train of thought occurred to me last week, as I talked to a few of my law enforcement friends, one of whom was a SWAT team member for a large municipality. When I lamented having never made a shot longer than 500 yards, he chimed in.

“It takes time,” he said. “You have to remember, the guys who’re really great at making those 800- to 1,000-yard shots are shooting a lot, like every day and for years and years. And they aren’t just shooting. They’re focused on little things, like windage, elevation, obstacles, etc. You can’t expect to get good at something that difficult by practicing here and there.”

Hmm…

Why can’t content marketers get this? We seemingly expect to start out great at everything, or we consider it a failure.

  • “I’m not good at blogging, so why should I even bother?”
  • “My first email campaign was a complete bust.”
  • “The new website has yet to show any significant ‘returns’ despite an enormous investment.”
  • “Why are we even doing social media, when we don’t have but a few hundred followers after three months?”
  • “If our SEO efforts are really a success, why aren’t we ranking better for our main keywords? It’s been six months.”

Sound familiar? If not, you’re one of the rare few who understands that success takes time.

Passion Doesn’t Correlate To Immediate Results

No matter how great we think we are, immediate success is the stuff of movies. As I’ve said and written before, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” No matter how much I loved guns, becoming a better shot was not instantaneous.

With content marketing, correlating frequency with quality can also be a problem. We write blogs daily and then grow frustrated that the posts lack traction. No one reads them. No one is sharing them. No one is commenting on them. All you see and here are crickets. When you step back, however, you see the real culprits:

  • No one is reading because you have not committed to outreach, community building.
  • The lack of sharing is owed in large part to your refusal to share others’ content.
  • There is no commenting in because you’re not active on social media, so next to know one even knows your content exists.

We must stop confusing action with efficacy.

Doing something is better than doing nothing, yes.

However, the key to honing your skill is to make “practice” efficient. Set a small goal, then do all the little things required to see that goal through to fruition. In this way, the practice is made as much of a priority as the goal itself.

I call this skill development. For example, if your goal is to grow the readership of your blog, you might do the following as part of “perfect practice”:

  • Set a target for the minimum number of blogs you’ll write per month, religiously sticking to that schedule.
  • Become active on social media daily, making it a priority to share others’ content and be a part of relevant conversations.
  • Create clear calls to action on all of your content.

This is just a start, but each of these steps is in line with your overall goal. If nothing else, taking these small steps helps drive home the fact that getting to where you want to be in business takes time. That’s a lesson we can all stand to learn, in business and in life. The talk with my friend certainly helped me regain perspective.

“You may never be a 1,000 yard shooter,” he said. “But here’s what we know: If you practice a lot, you will get better. And the better you get, the more distance you create between you and the competition.”

About Ronell Smith

I'm the director of strategy and content strategist for Advice Interactive. When I'm not meddling with client's content, I'm usually ranting about user experience, PR, SEO, branding, product innovation or content marketing. Otherwise, I'm just a boring nerd who dreams about disruptive innovation, long-form feature writing, physics and sniper rifles.

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