Why Ignorance is Genius When it Comes to Content Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

genius content

Have you heard the phrase “Big Data” recently?

Chances are, you have, as an entire industry has popped  up over the last couple of years stating how they use “Big Data” to solve business problems and achieve great results.

But if I may be completely candid, almost none of these companies (except for my friends at Health Catalyst) have been able to crack the code to successful content marketing, and it’s all because they can’t seem to get out of their own way.

  • They can’t speak in a way average Joe business owners understand them.
  • They can’t communicate clearly how they do what they do.
  • They can’t seem to instill in other businesses the problems they can solve for them.

In other words, they don’t have the ability to have communion with the “ignorant consumer”—a fact that prevents most from achieving great success.

This is why, when it comes to effective content marketing, ignorance truly is bliss.

Why is this?

Let me explain…

The Power of the Ignorant Thinker

Over the past couple of years, my company has worked with businesses of various sizes to help them build their business, brand, and bottom line through content marketing.

Some of these clients have literally made millions because of their efforts.

Others wasted their money.

The difference, almost every single time, came down to what I feel is the great divide in this industry—the one element that seems to determine incredible success or disappointment: The Ignorant Thinker

In other words, do the people producing content for your company have the ability to think, act, walk, and talk like a consumer (who isn’t yet fully knowledgeable about a product or service) or are they simply too engulfed in “what they do” that they’ve essentially lost touch with reality.

When I teach a workshop on content marketing, my entire thought process is driven by one question:

Am I communicating in such a way that my audience understands what I’m saying?

It’s in these moments that the furthest thing on my mind is that of trying to sound smart. (To see an 60 second example of what I’m talking about, just watch the following video.)

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In fact, as I’ve stated before so many times, if I’m trying to sound smart with my words I’m going to end up looking dumb to my audience.

Becoming a Genius in Your Space

Genius, when it comes to marketing, isn’t achieved by making a consumer think long and hard over complex questions.

Rather, genius is accomplished when communication is so good the consumer is left with only way option—a nod of the head and a feeling of complete understanding.

If your company truly wants to be great a content marketing, I’d challenge you to become obsessed with simplicity in your communication. Learn to say things in such a way that everyone can understand you.

By taking the “ignorant” approach, you’ll end up looking like a genius, and ultimately, your bottom line will experience incredible benefits as well.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Altman June 5, 2014 at 9:22 am

If you can’t clearly explain why your customers might need what you offer, don’t expect then to figure it out on their own. Get rid of the jargon, and as Marcus demonstrates, speak in your customers language.


Marcus Sheridan June 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

I want to speak Ian Altman’s language ;-)


joe June 5, 2014 at 9:25 am

Marcus, great article. I had the example of talking to a potential contractor/prospect about helping them rewrite their web site.

He started out by saying “I want to totally refocus our goals and be an omnipresent force wherever the prospect turns for guidance on remodeling their home.”

I said really, John, you talk like that all the time.? Let’s be like Denzel Washington in Philadelphia…”Explain it to me like I’m a 5 year old” then we’ll go from there.

It seems, even with me at times, we want to get in “our writing mode” we go into some type of trance or mindset, really it should be when we document our conversations with ourselves and others.

As always, nice post. I think you’re getting the hang of it.


Marcus Sheridan June 9, 2014 at 9:22 am

Joe, what a GREAT example man. Wow, “omnipresent,” that guy was realllllly missing the mark. :-)

Appreciate you dropping by and hope business is well for you bud.



Ryan Hanley June 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm


It helps when you don’t know any big words… boom.

Seriously though dude, this is piece too many companies are missing, the “Educator” as you call it. Helping to help, not helping to profit.

The funny thing is, helping to help ultimately leads to more profit.

Great stuff.



Marcus Sheridan June 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

Yep, you’re on to it my man. The truth is, my vernacular is completely barren of any words over 7 letters, which is why I speak on this subject of simplicity all the time. It’s my ploy to eventually look really, really intelligent. ;-)

Excited for you and the book buddy!!!



Jeremy Abel June 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Hey Marcus,

Great article- this is a future-proof lesson that applies across industries (and departments). People don’t buy what they don’t understand, right? So with a clear message that resonates with our audience, we help businesses understand what they’re buying; this increases the chances that they’ll do business with us, which in turn, allows us to continue helping them.

In sales, I’ve found there are consultants who listen and those who wait to speak; after taking the former approach, I can attest the listeners tend to win every time as we use the information we hear prospects saying to deliver relevant responses, and then guide the conversation in a way prospects understand. Honestly, there’s nothing extravagant about this, but as the saying goes, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Again, excellent perspective Marcus. Always amazed by how consistently your content ties back to strengthening the “They Ask, You Answer” theme.



Marcus Sheridan June 9, 2014 at 9:18 am

Love how you said “there is nothing extravagant about this”—yes, that’s the thing. That’s the essence of the best communicators Jeremy, be it writing, speaking, whatever. That’s also why you’re going places brother :-)

Big smiles,



ronell smith June 14, 2014 at 11:03 pm


I think it’s fitting you used Einstein to make your point here. I studied nuclear physics in college, and I was always impressed with his belief in simplicity. To paraphrase one of my favorite AE quotes, “True genius lies not in seeing what no one else sees. True genius is in seeing what everyone would see if they only looked more closely.”



Marcus Sheridan June 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Ronell, LOVE that quote man. Perfectly says what I was trying to say in way fewer words ;-)

Thanks so much for stopping by,



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