What St. Patrick Can Teach Us About Content Marketing

Do you sometimes feel your content marketing efforts are a waste of time? Well, you’re in good company. According to a new study commissioned by Copyblogger Media, 94% of all small business B2B marketers use some form of content marketing, but 55% feel their efforts don’t produce results. And yet, the research reveals a surprisingly positive trend — one you can use to get better results. Can it work for you? You bet!

But before we dive into theory, let’s talk reality:

Content marketing is nothing new.

Oh sure, there are lots of new ways to produce content (blogs, ebooks, case studies, reports) and innovative ways to distribute it (RSS, social media, and our favorite — email marketing).

But just for a moment, let’s ignore the technology and take a look at what content marketing really is:

Content marketing is publishing information to promote an idea.

The idea could be a book, a business, a nonprofit or, as in St. Patrick’s case, a religion.

The basic concept doesn’t rely exclusively on the Internet. Traditional printed books have been used to promote ideas for centuries. And before that, for who knows how many thousands of years, human beings used a powerful method that still works today — the spoken word.

The spoken word is how St. Patrick did his work and, in so doing, made a name for himself that continues to inspire us today. Could he be considered a content marketer? Let’s find out…

Authority

St. Patrick studied to become an expert in his field, working as a cleric in his native Great Britain, later as a missionary in Ireland, and eventually serving as the first bishop of Armagh.

Today it’s easier than ever to learn about any subject but far more difficult to establish yourself as an authority. One of the most successful methods is to publish high-quality content about your subject regularly.

A reported 75% of B2B small business marketers are producing more content than they did one year ago.

Simplify

St. Patrick taught complex religious ideas but used simple analogies his unschooled audiences could understand. For example, he used the three-leaf shamrock to help explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Some content marketers are notorious for taking a simple subject and making it complex. Why would you do that? Instead, develop a reputation for taking complex ideas and explaining them in simple ways.

What’s your shamrock analogy?

Encourage sharing

Here’s where simplicity paid off for St. Patrick. His followers were able to share his shamrock analogy with their friends and family, helping St. Patrick spread his ideas.

Like St. Patrick, you’ll need to come up with something memorable — images and messages people will love to share. Then you’ll need to give them a good start on their sharing journey in multiple channels.

B2B small business marketers use an average of 13 content marketing tactics.

Convert

I’ll bet St. Patrick was a fascinating speaker, but he was no mere entertainer. His true purpose was to convert the entire land of Ireland to a new faith.

Without a conversion strategy, your readers may show up to be entertained — then leave without so much as a backward glance.

Conversion doesn’t necessarily mean selling something (although there’s nothing wrong with that.) Your conversion strategy might be to ask them to click a link for more information, fill out a survey, or sign up for your newsletter.

Fun

No one forced masses of people to show up to hear St. Patrick preach. He had to attract his audience. That’s why I think he must have had a touch of the showman in him. Can’t you just see him pulling a shamrock from his sleeve?

St. Patrick was talking about a serious subject. You probably are too. But audiences won’t sit still for a dry lecture. The most successful content marketers entertain as they instruct.

You’re allowed to have fun.

Strategy

Centuries later, we can only guess what strategies St. Patrick had in mind. But this much we know is true: he spent his entire adult life preaching and writing about his faith for the purpose of converting Ireland.

Content marketing is a long-term game. It won’t do to hop from one strategy to another.  Your audience will get confused, stop reading, and lose track of you.  Your best bet is to develop a written content marketing strategy and stick to it.

One of the most encouraging trends is an uptick in planning, with 48% of B2B small business marketers saying they have a documented content strategy.

Building communities

On St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a touch of Irish in everyone. People wear funny green hats, attend parades, eat traditional Irish dishes… and then there’s that green beer — how do they do that?

These customs are fun and they serve a meaningful purpose: they are rallying points for celebrating, promoting, and preserving the Irish culture. And perhaps for some, those who are searching for deeper meaning in their life, the celebrations circle back to St. Patrick’s original mission

Your content, too, can become a rallying point for a great idea — maybe not for any entire culture, but definitely for the community of like-minded people you’re meant to serve. And it just might circle back to your original mission — to build a community of loyal customers.

So after all the hoopla of St. Patrick’s Day subsides (and beer is back to proper shades of amber color) dive into the “written strategy” trend. Spend some time thinking deeply about what you want to bring to the world. Make it something extraordinarily useful — something with the potential to change lives.

Then map out your strategy, commit it to writing, and get a sense of mission into your content marketing program.

Or are you still a doubter?

Doubt isn’t a bad thing; it means you’re still digging for something — digging for meaning, for value, for truth.

And that’s one of the great values of content production, one that isn’t discussed often enough. It forces us to ask questions and dig for answers.

The world needs answers. Your answers!

Don’t let us down.