4 Overlooked Habits of Highly Effective Content Marketers

This day and age everyone wants to understand how to use content to achieve measurable success. Do you want to be a successful content marketer? Do you want to know the secrets to creating great content? Well who wouldn’t, right?

After working with a handful of brands ranging from Fortune 500 companies to mom & pop shops on their content strategies, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some great content marketers. Some of these marketers found success unintentionally (typically small business owners) while others have gone from one company to the next creating great content.

Recently, I started to think… why are some of these brands and content marketers so good at what they do while others struggle to tell their story effectively? And after thinking about it, I concluded that it came down to these 4 habits.

1. Effective Content Marketers Value Storytelling

content marketers

If I asked you when was the last time you read a book, would you have to look back beyond 2 months? What about the last time you read an entire white paper, editorial or eBook?  How about a novel or short-story? My point is this, content marketers enjoy stories. They enjoy the process of storytelling and enjoy deconstructing the way a story unfolds.

In content marketing, you’re constantly building the story of the brand you’re working with. You need to think through the process of that story and determine what characteristics are going to shine through in every status update, video created and tweet. Furthermore, you need to evaluate what kind of story you want to represent the brand as a whole. The best way to create a captivating story is to develop your imagination by reading the stories of others. Whether it’s reading books about advertising or reading some of the most famous fiction novels; reading is everything.

Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss. ~ Nora Ephron in I Feel Bad About My Neck

2. Effective Content Marketers Take Risks

There’s a saying in poker, “You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em”. In content marketing, you’ve got to know when to hold onto an idea and fight to bring it to life and know when to fold an idea and let it dissolve. At the end of the day, not every idea a content marketer comes up with is going to be a homerun hitter. Some are going to be awesome while others are going to simply generate a little ripple in ocean.

If you want to create great content though, you have to be willing to push the envelope! Furthermore, if you’re a consultant you have to align yourself with clients who are looking to have their enveloped pushed. Sometimes you’re going to be in a situation where it’s like jumping off a cliff and building a plane as you fall. That’s just the way great content works.

Now by no means am I saying that you should do anything that will risk your clients integrity or trust, what I am saying is that you have to learn to chase the great ideas and fight for them. Encourage those on your team to hold no expectations and to constantly strive to be above the status quo.

3. Effective Content Marketers Build a Network

John D. Rockefeller once said “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” In a space where there is tons of content being created and shared every minute, it’s important to build a network who value the content you create. The content marketers who find the most success focus not only on creating great content but also on creating great relationships that result in a network.

Content marketers build their network through a variety of different ways. Whether it’s through a face-to-face interaction that happens at a conference or a few back and forth conversations in the comments section of their blog; relationships are a key piece of the puzzle. A content marketer with a network who loves their content and shares their posts/story without hesitation is a marketer who’s value is higher than average.

For me, building relationships with others through channels like Twitter, Triberr, SteamFeed and Reddit – I’ve been able to build a network that helps my content get shared. It’s a huge part of what helps me generate a consistent flow of traffic to my personal blog without buying ads. The more relationships you establish, the better off you are.

4. Effective Content Marketers Embrace Data

The easiest and most effective way to shut up someone who is basing a decision on assumption is with numbers. Now, being able to identify which blog posts generated the most traffic is one thing, but if you don’t know why or can develop a hypothesis on why this content was successful, you’re out of luck. The last thing you want to do is spend your efforts creating content that generated results because you confused causation with correlation.

An effective content marketer thinks about what content not only drives views, but also drives conversions. A content marketer who strives to perfect their craft recognizes how they can use web analytics to create new content. And most importantly, they think about the return on investment as it relates to every piece of content they create.

Content marketers need to focus not only on creating great content. It’s important for our industry to spend time learning about web analytics and focusing more on valuable metrics like revenue, leads and downloads instead of page views, visits and uniques. And don’t stop there… keep learning about what metrics will apply best to your business. Commit yourself to using data to make decisions and watch your results triple as you focus on what really counts.


If you already follow these habits then you’re already one step ahead of the crowd. You’re doing what you need to do to be effective and ensure that the audience you’re creating content for will find it valuable.

That said, don’t worry if you’re just getting started and have yet to build these habits into your day-to-day. Focus on the ones you’re the weakest at first and build that habit into one of your strengths  It may take weeks, it might even take months before you fully embrace these habits and stop making simple content marketing mistakes. The effort will be worth it in the long run and as a result, you and your clients will reap the benefits.

What else makes a content marketer effective? Please leave a comment below!

Ross Simmonds
Ross Simmonds is a digital strategist, public speaker and entrepreneur. He's currently writing  Stand Out: A Content Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs which highlights how businesses can use content marketing to drive meaningful and measurable results
Ross Simmonds


  1. says

    That's it exactly! Excellent thoughts and well put.

    I did notice that the title promised 5 habits … and you only had 4. :) Thus, allow me to add the fifth:

    5) Effective marketers understand their customer sand competitors. By knowing what customers value, and how to position your company against your competitors, you create a better understanding of your uniqueness that customers will pay for / engage with. Get into a rhythm of measuring customer satisfaction through relationship surveys that feed into strategic planning, as well as ongoing transactional feedback to fix executional tactics. When you correlate this subjective customer data with objective operational data like web analytics in 4), then BAMMM! — you've got ignition.

    I do a lot of online go-to-market stuff through consulting: http://www.stephdokin.com @stephdokin. Also, CEO of TCELab.com @TCELab … wherein we do exactly what I describe in 5). Cheers, Stephen King

    • says

      Stephen, great points – Thanks for catching that! Effective marketers definitely understand their competitors and embrace the relationships they have with their existing customers. In doing so, they are able to use this information to deliver content that is relevant, timely and speaks directly to their needs/wants. Thanks for the comment!

  2. says

    Content Marketers have to think beyond what they have now, to make their content do the selling. This profession calls for exemplary content delivery skills as well as doing thorough analytic to tune content for the target audience.

  3. kevinmsaunders1 says

    Nice article with great information. All the things you mentioned are definitely what makes a good content writer. Thank you for sharing.

    Curious why not add comment luv so that people get backtracks.

  4. says

    Good thoughts Ross. It is true that as a content marketer, you have to network! network!! network!!! It is true in business and it is true in content creation. Thanks for sharing.

  5. says

    Whatever the type of content you are producing, make sure it doesn’t try to skin too many cats.

    It is the most common problem that people have when addressing an audience through online content. Whether it’s company news, an email campaign, social media post or webinar, the content must stay on point. We all have lots to say, but the best content delivers one call to action. It answers one question or solves one problem. No one piece of content – web page, blog post, white paper, etc. – should try to be the mother of all marketing agenda’s. Retain perspective on what it is you want to achieve and don’t mix messages.

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