The hit series “Shark Tank” (ABC) wraps up season 7 Friday night, and never has this front-row view of entrepreneurship been more intriguing than during this past year. A quick run-down for the uninitiated: The show’s contestants are entrepreneurs with an idea for a product or service, and they’re looking to attract investment from the “sharks” (judges), who are titans of industry in their own right. Viewers tune in for fast-paced deal-making and epic trash-talking, but the show also acts as a mini MBA for marketers. Here is some of the best advice that content marketers can glean from the Sharks’ own mouths.
1. Embrace the grind
While content marketing works, it also takes work. Seventy-six percent of B2B marketers planned to produce more content in 2016 than they did the previous year, according to the B2B Content Marketing Trends report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Blunt billionaire Mark Cuban exalts the value of hard work — grinding — as the best way to get your footing. Cuban told Inc. that his business regrets come from times when he didn’t grind hard enough, and putting forth strenuous effort is how he regained control. It’s also how a small marketing team can edge out a bigger competitor.
2. Good ideas aren’t special — well-executed campaigns are
A lot of times on “Shark Tank,” contestants will share their original ideas and the investors only yawn in return. As shark Kevin O’Leary reminds us, ideas aren’t special. It’s the execution that rules.
This is especially true with content marketing, where good ideas gets “borrowed” and repeated a million times over. Content marketers must execute well for each campaign, because content grows legs and travels to the intended buyers. Those who read the content might comment on Facebook or share an image with a friend or Mom, saying “Must have now!” Ideas serve as inspiration, but execution is still everything.
3. Provide value
Practically everybody is in the content marketing game, creating blog posts, ebooks, infographics, video, podcasts, etc. But many companies are losing at the game despite spending more money. Critics say poor content is at fault. It’s too long, humdrum, hipster, needs more cowbell — but it comes down to this: You need to be providing unique value to your target audience.
Many brands stumble here, because they never got a good understanding of their audience in the first place. They publish content they think their audience wants, without ever asking them what their biggest problems are. Send out a survey, pick up the phone, ask for their pain points when they come to your site — and then create content that solves those problems. This is the ultimate value.
4. Abandon perfectionism
“Shark Tank” judges aren’t afraid to spin famous quotes to seem wiser. In this case, Cuban gives us his take on philosopher Voltaire’s quote most often translated as, “Great is the enemy of the good.”
Sometimes the “we can do better” attitude is wrong-headed when a “good enough” philosophy will do. Content marketing isn’t like the Olympics, where only the absolute best will yield gold. In marketing, good strategy coupled with solid execution is difficult enough on its own.
Perfectionism rears its unwanted head when doubt and insecurity arise. Rather than taking the 20,000-foot view of the playing field, oftentimes marketers zero in on what they can control — the content itself. This leaves little room for flexibility in your content plan; sometimes, changing direction is wise when it will make the campaign better meet its objectives. But don’t confuse that with micro-managing and stopping the assembly line to polish the rough edges in the content itself. Cuban’s advice reminds marketers to know when it’s time to call the work done.
5. Successful people fail often
Content marketing campaigns flop for many reasons, ranging from budget and execution shortfalls to Google updates that upend the chess game. It’s how you handle failure that predicts whether you’ll succeed or disappear into obscurity. Some have taken talking about failure as a PR tactic and are humblebragging about it to stretch their fame farther.
Content marketers have little time to spare in the schadenfreude of others’ flops. Use failure to weed out what’s not serving your goals and move to what works better. Thus, content marketing is more about testing and having frequent, small failures that yield information for future success.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve heard on “Shark Tank” — or from any TV show? Join the conversation on social media using #ClearVoice.