33 Irrefutable Laws of Content Marketing that Will Outlive the Internet

by Marcus Sheridan

content rulesYou’ve heard me say this before, but content marketing isn’t new. These days, we just call it something different than we called it before, which is fine.

Heck, about 2000 years ago a group of like-minded people all worked together to write a book that was full of stories, answered lots of questions, and was loaded with calls-to-action.

Today we call that book “The Bible.

Yep, the principles that made the Bible successful are no different than the principles that separate good from bad content marketing today.

It is for this reason I decided to write the following 33 Laws, as I truly feel that if all companies understood what content marketing was as a “principle”—their ability to have success and then implement it would increase exponentially. That being said, here goes:

The 33 Irrefutable Laws of Content Marketing that Will Outlive the Internet

1. They Ask, You Answer (If your company has ever been asked a question from a prospect or customer, it’s your moral obligation to answer it.)

2. The goal is to be helpful…not appear intelligent.

3. Great listeners never run out of content.

4. When you ask people to do something, they’re more inclined to do it. (i.e. Calls to Action)

5. If you’re biased in the way you communicate, you won’t earn trust.

6. People will remember “stories” over “facts” any day of the week.

7. All this marketing stuff we talk about is essentially the act of listening, communicating, and teaching. The rest is just fancy words.

8. The best teachers will always gain the most trust and respect from the audience.

9. Enthusiasm  and passion always beats dry and boring.

10. Insourcing content almost always beats outsourcing in terms of results.

11. The world is looking for leaders, in every industry.

12. Leaders sell more stuff.

13. Some “just OK” content that is published will always crush “awesome” content that never gets published.

14. “Get Better” is more important than perfection.

15. Great content marketing companies don’t allow their competition to dictate what they do and do not write about. Their sole guiding light is the ideal customer—and no one else.

16. You have to produce average content to learn how to produce great content.

17. Everyone has a story to tell—most just don’t realize nor appreciate their story.

18. Amazing stories pertaining to our industry are all around us—if we can just see them unfold.

19. Content Marketing as a “culture” will always beat content marketing as a “program.”

20. Industry thought leaders put their opinions out there and are strong enough to take it from both sides.

21. The best content marketers embrace who they are NOT just as much as they embrace who they ARE.

22. The more red tape, lawyers, and bottlenecks a company has, the more they stink at content marketing.

23. Consumers see the world in terms of their “problems”—not your company’s “stuff” or “products” or “features.”

24. Great companies don’t care that others have addressed subjects. They want the world to know *their* doctrine on the subject matter.

25. “Useful” will always beat “Amazing”

26. Not all questions have a direct answer, which is why great content marketers understand how to explain the magic words—“It depends.

27. If top to bottom buy-in for content marketing doesn’t exist within an organization, the chance that a company will fail with content marketing is very, very high.

28. The greatest content marketers have a keen ability to think *exactly* as a consumer.

29. Content marketing success is a journey, not a destination.

30. Honest, transparent content will always be the minority—making it one of the most powerful trust-building methods in the world.

31. If you try to sound smart, you’ll look stupid.

32. People learn different. Some want to read text. Others want to watch video. And others want to hear words. Great content marketing companies don’t fight this, they embrace it.

33. Platforms come and go. Principles never die.

Your Turn:

So there you have my take on this subject folks, but I’d be very curious to hear yours as well. Are there any points above you do not agree with? Why? What would you add to the list? I’m sure there are plenty I missed, so take a moment to add whatever is on your mind below.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Zive October 30, 2013 at 9:39 am

Running with your Bible analogy Marcus…and given these ‘laws’, does that make you Moses? Lead the way, wise one :).

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:24 am

Hahahaha Ruth! Actually, Moses needed Aaron to be his mouthpiece because he wasn’t too crazy about public speaking…so maybe I’m Aaron! ;-)

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Bob London October 30, 2013 at 10:33 am

Marcus, great stuff as usual. The reason I really like this one is because what you seem to be doing is (a) disconnecting content marketing from the idea that it is a trend and buzzword and (b) highlighting that it is really based on sound marketing principles and is, therefore, timeless.

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:23 am

Well that’s exactly it Bob. It is timeless. We give it a title (content marketing) that fits where we are present day, but ultimately, it’s based in principles that have been around since literally the beginning.

Appreciate you stopping by bud,

marcus

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David Trees October 31, 2013 at 11:21 am

Yes, Bob. Well said. As the pastor of a church and someone who helps coach start ups and young entrepreneurs in our church and in a small way, in our community. I agree with both of your gentlemen. Go for timeless, tried and tested every time. Its protein for business life, not just a sugary five minutes fix…

Thanks for sharing/writing this Marcus and thanks for commenting too Bob. It was really well said/written in both cases. All the best. :)

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Debra November 24, 2013 at 11:47 pm

You’ve nailed it, Marcus!

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Marcus Sheridan November 25, 2013 at 8:20 am

Appreciate that Debra :)

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Walter Pollard October 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

Marcus – Fantastic as usual!

I love the way you refer to this as a principle to your ongoing marketing efforts. This is not a fad, but a solid foundation to the way you perform in your daily business.

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:22 am

Thanks for that Walt. I think principles are the only things that really matter in all of this, yet most miss the principles entirely, getting lost in the latest and greatest this and that…Hopefully that just means I’ll have stuff to talk about for a long time ;-)

Have a great week bud,

Marcus

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Bella October 30, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I’m printing this out and putting next to the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership! Ennius and good to reference. LOVE that u brought the Bible into it!

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thanks Bella!! Appreciate you!!

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Ryan Biddulph October 30, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Hi Marcus!

Super tips :) 3 is incredibly easy. I published 3 posts today. I watch. I observe. I listen. We can solve an unlimited amount of problems and churn out content like a machine if we simply listen to people.

Thanks for sharing!

Ryan

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:21 am

3 posts Ryan? Dang man, that’s impressive, really impressive!

Thanks for dropping by bud,

Marcus

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Craig McBreen October 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hey Marcus,

Love all of these, Marcus, especially 6, 8 and 9! Oh, and I often harp on #17 ;) So true.

Here’s what I believe …

1. Think Like a Teacher (Not a Marketer).

2. Listen More (and Get in Touch with Their World).

3. Embrace Story (To Help Your Audience and Improve Your Game).

Thank you, Sir!

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:20 am

LOVE your 3 Craig. I wish more folks based their business on such a strong foundation.

You rock my man.

Marcus

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Jenny October 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I love point 23, Consumers see the world in terms of their “problems”, it’s so true, solve a problem for them and they’re yours….

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:19 am

Exactly Jenny, and if we don’t bring it back to their problems, then, well, we’re going to lose them.

Keep up the great work!

Marcus

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Steve Freeman October 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Marcus – I’m going to bookmark this page. This is something I need to keep in front of me. Getting better at content marketing is always the goal.

Finding a voice, for me has been quite a challenge. I am getting much better and feel like it’s okay to show others my personality, instead of me trying to show a personality I think they want to see.

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:18 am

And that’s what it’s all about Steve. We are all on the same journey you speak of. And frankly, I suspect, if you’re like me, you’ll never find your voice. Rather, you’ll just keep observing it change, again and again. :-)

Smiles,

Marcus

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Jason Diller October 31, 2013 at 7:26 am

Just sent this to all of our interns. Just awesome stuff here Marcus.

Have a great weekend.

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:17 am

Appreciate you my friend, keep spreading the good word! ;-)

Marcus

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STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) October 31, 2013 at 8:34 am

Very compelling list here. I looked all the tips but #24 was especially helpful. I talk about tax and estate law and someone has probably already said it. But my spin and experience and insights are what I need to stay with and feel that others will find it interesting and informative. Thanks for the list.

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Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:16 am

Glad you liked it Steven. And yes, too many companies and individuals don’t say/write/discuss how they feel about certain subjects just because so many others have. This, in my mind, is a tragedy.

Marcus

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Neil Ferree October 31, 2013 at 10:55 am

Excellent compendium of CM “truisms” Marcus. #13 is by far my favorite!

13. Some “just OK” content that is published will always crush “awesome” content that never gets published.

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Alex Osenenko October 31, 2013 at 11:17 am

Excellent collection. We embrace and use every one of these principles to help our clients produce top notch edu content. It is not easy though. One of the toughest things we face is #28 – think like a consumer. Business owners tend to focus on what their product/service offers rather then giving straight answers and advice. The only viable way we found is to actually sit down with a client and hand-hold them through the whole content creation process – I truly wish everyone would read your blog Marcus, it would make our job much easier and improve the end result: Earn trust = More business. Thank you for all you do, I’ve been following your blog and living out your principles for 2+ years now.

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Sheryl Kurland October 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Maybe an adder…

Long shelf life. The immense effectiveness of Content Marketing is cumulative and compounds over time, guaranteed to far outpace and outlast traditional marketing strategies.

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Davina K. Brewer October 31, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Sing it sir. Sing it. I am PR, I am Communications so this is all in my wheelhouse for sure. To add a few more, FWIW:

- I’ll paraphrase David Ogilvy (see also 2, 14, 23, and esp. #7): “great [content marketing] will only make a bad product fail faster.” You can have the bestest blog, SEO, bells, whistles and social trimmings .. if what you’re schilling is crap, IMO you’ll only get so far.
- I’ll turn to Tom Hanks for this one: “It’s supposed to be hard, the hard makes it great.. if it were easy, anyone would do it.” This isn’t about being ‘awesome’ and ‘perfect’ – I agree w/ you there. This is about the fact like anything, if CM is worth doing, it’s worth doing well – which will take a lot of Hard. Work. (And yes, Time.)
-Think this one isn’t said enough (a la 1, 19, 27, 33): There’s a big difference in good leadership vs. good management. IME, it takes both. Smarter companies, better brands 1) insource, embrace one of the best (and often, most under-tapped) resources a company has: their employees; and 2) they outsource wisely, tapping experts as needed to 3) build a good team, a strong culture, a better business.

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Katherine October 31, 2013 at 8:24 pm

This list rocks! The only thing I’d add would be authorship. You discussed the trust factor several times, and I think authorship is a key component of building that relationship. People feel more comfortable when they know you’re a real person, not a ghost writer in Shri Lanka.

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James Seo November 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Spot on list here. I love #13. From personal experience, generating awesome content is not an overnight process, but something that requires advance notice, tons of planning, and a flexibility that would make Stretch Armstrong blush!

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dave November 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

Love all of these tips. Just superb really this is an excellent post. Thanks for it and keep sharing!

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Arbaz Khan November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am

If you are being helpful then no one will be able to touch you in your journey.
All of the above 33 points were awesome (I didn’t read some) but still I would say that following these points will surely impact us.
Principles never die ;)

Thanks for sharing them with us :)

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