Something we’ve focused on from day one at our technology startup is content marketing. Granted, it’s become a bit of a buzzword subject over the past year or so. With everyone jumping on the bandwagon it can feel well, a little meaningless.

Here’s why it’s not.

When Content Marketing Works

The thing about content marketing, like social media, is that everyone’s hot on it in the early days (“we need a blog”, “we need Facebook”) but this fades away after a few weeks or months. Why? Because content marketing does not pay back straight away.

There’s no miracle guaranteed-to-work method, and for that reason, it’s easy to get bored or believe it’s not working.

This is exactly why most startups or businesses fail at content marketing – They give up.

Social media scheduling tool Buffer is perhaps one of the most famous content marketing success stories. You know how long it took before they had a successful blog attracting leads? Two years. In that time they wrote thousands of posts, some receiving almost zero traffic, until they refined their methods and found the content that worked.

Now, when Buffer calls for applications for new content crafters, they receive over 900 applications in a week. That’s how powerful their content is.

SaaS tool Groove HQ is another example, where regular, consistent content marketing strategies took them from $0 MRR to $400,000 MRR.

Content marketing is the only marketing channel they invest in, and while it also took some time (two years to be exact), it clearly works.

Content Marketing And Building A Brand

Successful content marketing is about the commitment to what it means and why it’s the right thing to do. Gary Vee, another content marketing pro, has been banging on about this for years. If you look at the patterns of behavior, it’s obvious why traditional forms of advertising don’t work anymore.

People don’t click on banner ads – I read somewhere that they’re more likely to die in a plane crash than click on a banner ad. Then you have ad blocking which makes it even harder for ads to break through.

The thing about traditional advertising is that it’s too far away from storytelling. People don’t want cool features or apps – there are too many and it becomes noisy. So how do you differentiate? You have to stand out and make people want to like you. Investing in things that drive people to want you to win.

Content marketing achieves this because it builds out a brand. It uncovers who you are and shows readers if you’re in tune with their ethics and ethos.

If a company had awesome features but were clearly evil, then some people wouldn’t work with them. Some of the biggest brands in the world have become easily tarnished by reputation, even though their products are actually great.

Take Plenty of Fish, a UK-based dating site as an example. This site was free, run by a guy who was a data scientist. Being a bit of a stat nerd, he started a fascinating blog where he would crunch the stats of his own dating site. For example, finding how the data showed racial bias in dating. He began producing really fascinating long-form articles using real data basically saying this is how humans operate. From that, he could tell the absolute optimal profile picture, or the number of characters in the perfect profile description that would lead to the most amount of dates.

That’s how his site, which was free and didn’t have investment, became one of the biggest dating sites in the world. People thought ‘I really like this guy I’m going to give his platform a go’.

Goodbye Instant Gratification

The key is to believe in the power of content marketing. You have to live off this belief , instead of the instant gratification you’ve come to expect. If you want instant grat, turn on Adwords. You’ll start to get traffic immediately. But just remember, as soon as you turn it off again, it’ll stop.

When you begin content marketing you may have zero traffic. At ScreenCloud we’ve found that the earliest posts are now some of the most successful historically (despite getting no traffic to begin with). Then, after that, you can see clear peaks when we’ve found a topic that really hits the spot with our audience. Now, more than half of our lead acquisition is through organic search traffic alone. This is from 18 months of constant blogging. I’m talking four posts per week, every week, written well, answering customer questions and optimized for search.

Here’s an analogy that tells a similar tale.

While training for a marathon, I was being supported by an awesome marathon runner who would come out with me on my training runs.

As I was getting more and more tired, he would tell me tips and the difference between the people who could do a marathon and those who couldn’t. One of the tips is that it’s mental strength over physical.

The one thing he would do, is that he would never let me stop. He would say, we’re going to keep going until literally there’s nothing left, and when you think there’s nothing left, you’re actually only halfway until there’s nothing left.

I would say I’m knackered; he would say “but you’re still moving”.

Then I’d go down to embarrassingly slow. Where I was probably jogging slower than I would walk but still I didn’t stop. I kept the motion of jogging; I didn’t turn it into walking.

The key was to trick your brain into thinking you’re running. Even though you’re now at a geriatric speed, it will still be easier to pick it back up again to a run than if you’d stopped or walked.

So here’s the thing with content marketing. You may be getting no views. You may be going as hard as you can and still not seeing any results. But you have to keep going.

Even if it’s basic, even if it’s small, if you put in enough effort, learning, and repetition in – ultimately, you will be able to pick it up again.

You may even get to the finish line.