Creating Content Should Never be Step One
by Joel K

If I were to chart out the way I feel like most marketers and businesses see the content marketing process, it’d look something like this:

  • Step 1: Create great content.

  • Step 2: Promote that content.

  • Step 3: ?????

  • Step 4: Profit!

It might be funny, but I’m not joking.

The majority of the businesses who contact me start out our relationship with one thing in common:

All of them think they’re ready to start creating content – and almost all of them are wrong.


They come armed with project ideas, budgets to stick to and a timeline to deliver on. Some even come with a list of keywords or a design template.

And yet, one little three-letter word seems to quickly deflate all of that:


Part of my onboarding process is digging into the “why” – the underlying business problem we’re trying to solve. I don’t just want to know the thing you need created – I want to know…

  • Who is this for?
  • What will it help you accomplish?
  • Why is this specific project the right project to help you accomplish that goal?
  • What comes next?

When I start asking these questions, the truth comes to the surface, and the “Aha!” moment happens.

  • They don’t really have a plan.
  • They don’t have a good rationale to support what they want to create.
  • They don’t have a documented strategy.

What they do have is a loose understanding of who their customer is, what they think that customer wants (or at least a keyword phrase they think is relevant to that need) and a burning desire to create something, ANYTHING that might get them the traction they’ve seen others earn.


Marketers have heard “Create great content!” so many times, they’ve forgotten that “create” is not step one.

The first step should always be strategy, and it’s surprisingly unpopular.

It’s not fun to create customer personas – especially if you believe you already know all there is to know about ’em (you don’t). Sitting down to map out the buyer’s journey and the pain points at every stage? Yawn.

They want to !~*create~*!, rushing ahead to the tangible  part of the process where they hit publish and start seeing results.

Except when you approach it this way, there’s no guarantee those results will come.

I want to ask you to do just one thing:

Trade off a single day of boredom for a year of exceptional returns. -Just ONE day tackling the ugly stuff that answers the “who” and the “how” and the “why”.

Because you know what else I’ve found to be true with virtually every client who is willing to work through this stuff with me? They get even more excited to create.

They connect the dots between the approach we’ve outlined and their business goals, and suddenly, they see exactly what they need to create (and why) to get ’em from A to B. “Content” stops being a collection of vague ideas or cool-sounding titles.

It becomes a battle plan, complete with recon, tactics and a mission to be accomplished. Something unifying. Something motivating. Something real.

Do you need to do this stuff?

I can’t stop you from playing darts in the dark. You might even hit the target once in awhile. But you’ll never play as well as the person who’s willing to walk across the room and switch the lights on first.

Photo Credit: D E M via Compfight cc

  1. Evan says:

    Have definitely been there. Coming from a writing background (as opposed to marketing), early on I wanted to believe that great writing & storytelling would get the job done on their own. But the longer I do this, the more I realize that without a great strategy in place, you’re just spinning your wheels. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen beautifully written pieces fail to move the needle at all.

    • Joel K says:

      Yeah, the strategy element is critical; you can’t just create and hope for the best. Even great stories need to be (tactfully) marketed.

  2. Sonia Pitt says:

    I can’t agree more. Indeed, strategy building is one of the most crucial parts of any marketing process execution. A clear view of who, why, what, when and how to target can give lots of good ideas about how to starategize things like content creation and marketing campaigns. Being an internet marketer and entrepreneur I always try to give equal importance to both the strategy building and execution.
    But personally, I feel that monitoring the results and measuring the ROI are more important because these give us the data about how to change our things to get the maximum benefits from the assigned resources.

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