Okay, you might be thinking “Really, content marketing and gardening? That’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it?” The idea for this post came to me while I was turning my compost heap. I realized that compost and content have a lot in common. Then I realized that the metaphor could be extending to gardening as a whole.
What I mean is that some of the core principles of gardening are the same as those we apply to content marketing. Gardening is something I love to do as a hobby. We live on two acres, but even before that, I gardened where I was. I had a container garden that lived on my townhome deck for two years.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about taking fruits and vegetables you grew yourself and putting them at the dinner table.
I get a similar feeling when people comment on my content, reply to my emails, or discuss ideas on social media with me. I put something out there that stimulated my audience’s minds. When you see my content online, you know I’m giving you something great. You trust me to give you something great. So thank you.
Now let’s get into why you’re here.
1. You Plant Based on Long-Term Potential
If you’re a gardener, January is often when the seed catalogs start arriving in the mail. You order seed catalogs to give you more choices about what to plant each year. Yes, your local garden store or Home Depot has seed packets to pick from.
However, if you order from the seed catalogs, that’s how you’ll be able to bring the heirloom purple and green tomatoes into your garden. It’s easier to go to the local store, but you’ll be able to grow a unique garden when you select your plants from the catalog.
In content, you may not have the purple and green tomatoes in your organization. Sometimes, you have to look outside of your company in order to find that perfect writer to support your needs.
Any content you create now, blog posts, videos, ebooks, white papers, all of it has the potential to do a lot for your business. Does it happen immediately? Well, when was the last time you planted a seed and got an instant plant? Oh right. Never.
One of the biggest content marketing mistakes businesses make is quitting too early. Content is like a perennial plant in your garden. Like asparagus, content will keep giving, year after year. You have to hold up your end of the bargain though. Tend to it, and it will grow.
You want your content to get more views? Well, what does your distribution strategy look like? If your website has 0-100 monthly views, one blog post won’t boost you to 5,000 monthly views. Just like one watermelon plant won’t feed your family for the week. Or one meal.
According to Hubspot, businesses who blog see 55% more traffic than businesses who don’t. I’m not saying you have to blog 16 times per month to make it worthwhile. But if you blog weekly, and each of those posts generates 50 site views, then that’s 200 site views you didn’t get the month before.
That’s four new pieces of content you can share with your social media and email audiences.
Like a Garden Plan, Your Content Needs Planning Too
You have to create your content with an eye for its long-term potential. Just like you plan a garden each year, plan your content each year as well. At a minimum, plan out each quarter. Line up your content with your business goals.
Hosting an event about new inventory management technology in June? Then your content plan should have content about:
- Inventory management
- Its role in a profitable business
- Techniques to make it better, and
- Anything else related to inventory management that you can think of
Keyword research will help you generate ideas too!
All of this content relevantly ties into your event, which you can gently remind your audience about as you distribute the content.
Repeatedly posting and emailing about the same thing over and over will just irritate your followers and subscribers. Gentle reminders interspersed with direct event promotion will seal the deal. If you really think ahead, you could have your special event guests do guest posts or video interviews. Then include that they’ll also be at the event you have coming up.
2. You Consistently Show Up and Nurture What You’ve Started
A lack of consistency is another mistake businesses make with their content marketing. If you plan your garden, plant all of the seeds, get cute labels for each plant type, build a (mostly) deer-proof fence, and then forget to water it, what are you going to end up with?
Dirt. You have a nice fence and clever labels for dirt.
All of that planning is for nothing if you can’t consistently show up. If you want a flourishing garden that bears fruits and vegetables from the late spring through the fall, you have to show up. You have to water your plants on rain-free days. You need to plant cover crops during the rest season (late fall through winter).
Bugs are going to try and annihilate your garden (I lost all of my bell pepper seedlings one year because I couldn’t figure out what was eating them). You have to get out there before the sun comes up to catch the little devils.
Weeds are going to come and steal nutrients from your garden plants. You have to get in there and pull them out.
You can create the best content plan, but you have to execute it. Even when business is booming, you need to make time to write new content. Even if it’s short, make time. You need to sustain your content efforts. Sure, you’ll have more time when your client workload lightens up, but a light client workload doesn’t feel good does it?
It can be easier to maintain your content marketing if you bring in help. In the case of my garden, my oldest child is 7. He knows what a weed looks like, and now, I don’t have to do it all on my own. My grandpa is my favorite person to have in my garden, because he knows so much more than I do.
Bringing in help for your content may be the best decision you can make for your marketing plan. It needs to be nurtured by someone who cares about it as much as you do.
You can’t expect results from your content if you don’t have any. That’s like me wondering where the zucchini are when I haven’t watered my garden for two weeks. Make your content plan, and then execute it.
3. A Garden is Affected by Many Factors
Pretty much everyone knows gardens need water, but they can get too much and drown. Likewise, plants need sunlight, but too much heat will kill them. Some plants thrive in acidic soil (blueberries, I’m looking at you), while others need more alkaline soil. Certain bugs are great for your garden (ladybugs, butterflies, bees), while others won’t even leave you with a leaf to your name (snails, stinkbugs, hornworms).
Your content is much the same. People like short social media (most of the time). So you want to be clever and succinct. Trying the same strategy with your blog won’t give you great results. Blog posts answer questions, and the best posts do it with detail.
Emails are another beast; sometimes they should be short, sometimes they should be long. You have to really know your audience to maintain engagement in your email marketing.
Then something like an ebook or white paper, well you had better have included your best writing there, because people normally give their contact info in exchange for awesome downloadables! It needs to be thought-provoking or incredibly actionable. Or both.
While Each Content-Type is Special, It’s a Connected Ecosystem
One year, I overwatered my peas. They got root rot, which I didn’t know until too late. The only sign was discoloration of the leaves and stem from the ground up. Once I pulled up the plant though, I found ugly, slimy, brown tumors growing on the roots. Dismayed, I pulled up the pea plants, and wondered what to do with that spot in my garden bed.
Deciding on something easy, I planted dill. My husband loves dill, and if I let some of the dill plants flower, the bees and butterflies would love it too. Pleased with myself for filling the spot, I didn’t give it another thought until my dill plants started turning red. Turns out, dill and pea plants are susceptible to the same types of root rot, and the spores were in the soil, so….. Sad face. 🙁
You can write blog posts, social media, email, and gated content, and treat them as if they aren’t connected. But you’d be making a mistake.
A strong content strategist will plan to take your blog, distribute it on your social media channels, in your emails, and use it to generate interest in a gated piece of content (like a case study or white paper). Maybe in 6 months, you’ll turn your best-performing blogs into slideshows for videos and for LinkedIn’s SlideShare.
Sometimes, you’ll send emails that don’t have to do with your blog. You’ll share content on social media that’s not yours. You won’t have an ebook for each blog you write. That’s okay. But every piece of content should be tied with a business goal.
That’s another thing a content strategist will plan for. So if you hire one, be prepared to help them get familiar with your business. A great content plan can’t be created without this knowledge. Just like you need to know your soil to plan and grow a truly productive garden.
Gardening and Content Marketing… Who Knew?
I mean really, who expected gardening and content marketing to have so much in common? Gardening isn’t for everyone, just like not everyone can be an expert content marketer. But I know that content marketing can work for any business. Its a long game though that bears fruit over time.
You don’t generally get instant gratification from content marketing, but you do receive dividends based on how much you invest into it. Gardening doesn’t deliver edibles until weeks or sometimes months later. If you plant fruit trees, you won’t get a good amount of fruit for a few years (which is why I’m mad at myself, because I STILL haven’t planted my fruit trees).
Treat your content like a garden. Plan it. Nurture it. Then allow that sense of satisfaction grow inside as you earn your clients trust and generate more business.
P.S. If you liked the images in this post, you should try Stencil, an image creation app. I use it every day to save me time on my social media and blog image creation! Yes, that’s an affiliate link, but I only recommend it because I use it!