Most small businesses use content marketing not just as an awareness and advertising tool but also to form the basis of their inbound marketing efforts -- or, as HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah likes to call it, selling to humans -- to naturally attract potential customers.
But of course that means you need to create content that people not only love but will also share.
And of course that's far from easy.
So I decided to get tips from an expert: Hiram Garcia, the Vice President of Production for Seven Bucks Productions, the company co-founded by Dany Garcia and Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson. One of their latest projects, Clash of the Corps, a docu-series on Fuse about the competitive world of Drum Corps International, debuts on October 5th... and that makes this the perfect time for him to share ways you can find the right ideas and tell the right stories for your business.
Here, in his words, is Hiram's advice on how you can create great content, regardless of your budget:
1. Always start with what you would love to see.
First and foremost, our team are fans of entertainment and storytelling. We grew up fans of great movies and great stories. That's what has taken us to the point we are today.
So the first thing we ask ourselves is, "Would we stop to watch it?"
If you wouldn't, why are you creating it?
2. And then decide how much you care.
No matter what you're creating, you hope it will hit big... but it still must have a thread that connects to you. The "Moneyball" aspect is important, where you use analytics and research to try to determine what your audience wants to see, but you should never just be a machine that pushes out content.
All of our projects have a thread to someone in the company. We hold meetings where we look at a potential project and ask who is incredibly passionate about that project.... and sometimes the room gets quiet and regardless of analytics we realize we need to let that project go.
And if one person is passionate about the idea...
3. Use the rest of your team as the voice of reason.
When one person has a strong connection to an idea, the rest of our team serves as a check and balance. We function as a group: Dany and Dwayne always expect everyone else to weigh in.
That way we can combine passion with objectivity. You get the passion of the person driving a project and the rest of the team is there to hold that person accountable and keep them on track.
Turn a project over to the person who cares the most, but don't turn away. Help, guide, assist, and offer suggestions. It's easy to get so passionate about a project that you don't notice ways to make it even better.
4. Always stay authentic.
The next question to ask is whether a particular piece of content is authentic to your company, your brand, your team, and the person charged with creating it. If not, you aren't creating content with a heart -- you're creating material that is impersonal.
People love content that has depth and authenticity. People don't love material that isn't true to who you are.
5. Avoid the crowds.
We try not to simply ride a trend; we look for ideas that don't fit into what everyone else is doing. We look for an idea, or a story, or a property that turns an established premise on its head.
We like to surprise people. We like to introduce them to worlds they may not realize exist. People like to be entertained and informed.
6. Let your audience inside.
The old school mentality is just sell, sell, sell. People today are so savvy and sensitive to that. They know instantly when you're selling.
So don't sell. Give them a peek inside. Let them come along on the journey. Let them see what fun you have because you love what we do.
Then they want to go along for the ride. Take Dwayne. He posts behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the set to create fan awareness long before a film opens -- and to show why the project matters so much to him.
You can do the same thing. Don't be afraid to let people inside. They want to know you care. They want to know you enjoy what you do. They don't just want to know your company. They want to know you.
7. Decide what success looks like.
Success may not be a million views. Success may not be going viral. Both are nice, but there are many types of success, so know what your goal is before you start.
With Clash of the Corps, our goal is to create an ongoing series where ultimately we can cover a multitude of Corps, not just two. Our goal is to tell fascinating stories and shed light on the fascinating team and interpersonal dynamics involved.
Ultimately, if we could make Corps mainstream, that would be awesome. Sure we're hoping to create a hit show, but we're also hoping that millions of people will see just how awesome these young men and women are.
8. Constantly evaluate your ideas...
Think of it in terms of the music business. Say you create content and it gets "great reviews." The people who see it give you great feedback.
If you make a movie and you get great reviews but the box office is weak; you may have gone wrong with your marketing. Or you might open great but then the box office drops off quickly; in that case your marketing was probably solid but your movie let the audience down and didn't deliver what you hoped.
It's not always easy to decide whether content fails to attract an audience because of the idea or the execution. The key is to take a step back and see it from your audience's eyes. Is this something they wanted to see? Did your content deliver on your headline's -- or your marketing's -- promise?
9. ... and your execution.
So many things go into producing great content. The idea is just the start. Creativity, technical expertise, relationships, marketing, awareness... if you feel like you had a good idea, figure out where your execution was lacking.
But always focus on the idea first. A great idea with poor execution may still perform well. Even the best execution won't save a poor idea.
Bringing it all together.
Here's an example of how the process can work.
I've worked on scripted and reality TV productions, but my focus is features. I've never been that much of a "reality guy."
But then the idea for Clash of the Corps came along. I was a former music major, both Dany and I marched in bands for many years... I'm a fan of documentary series like Hard Knocks... and here was this incredible world of drum corps that takes the common perception of what a marching band and a "band geek" is like and flips it on its head.
They're musicians, they're athletes, they're in incredible shape, they play with incredible power and passion... but hardly anyone knows about them. We started playing with the concept and Dwayne really responded: he loved their passion, their dedication, their drive, and the whole spirit of "getting after it."
Right away that ticked a number of boxes: I was fascinated by this world and wanted to know more; there is a thread to people in our company; other people in our company loved the idea; it flips a preconceived notion on its head...
So as we talked about it everyone's eyes started lighting up. We really wanted to shine a light on these kids. They already have fans, but there's a broader audience that has no idea that they blend such incredible musicianship with amazing athleticism.
This isn't band, this is band on steroids.
What does success look like? Our ultimate dream for Clash of the Corps is that it becomes an ongoing series that honors and showcases the rest of the Corps, sharing their music, letting people see their performances... we'd love to make it a staple of society. We want these kids to be stars. They deserve that kind of attention.
We definitely want to create a hit series, but because there's a thread that connects us to their world and we're such fans of what they do, we also want to show the world how wonderful these kids really are.
When you have a great idea, one you believe in and connect with, that makes it easier to work incredibly hard on the execution... that's the starting point for creating great content.