I have a confession to make. It’s a little embarrassing.
About a month ago, I started playing a super nerdy, Dungeons & Dragons-esque (let D&D fan protestations begin) iPhone game called King of Avalon.
I am 35 years old.
Here’s a surprise: It turns out KoA weirdly correlates to six secrets to successful content marketing. Who’d’ve thunk?
WHAT THE CRAP ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, MATT?
I know. Follow me on this.
KoA is one of these real-time strategy games. You have a bird’s eye view of your walled-in Medieval city, your stronghold and farms and stuff. Outside the city you see a map of the area dotted with cities of other players, monsters to fight and so on. You fight and grow to gain points, get stronger, do more.
If you’re feeling totally out of your element right now, you now share the sentiments of most of the conversations I have with small business clients about content marketing.
Content marketing is just another game I’ve been playing for a few years. I’m inviting you to play.
Allow me to put myself into your shoes and share what I’ve learned as a newbie to my new game.
- You just gotta start.
When it comes to content, I’m often just like the throngs of nerds who gush over these MMO (massive multiplayer online) games, who you overhear talking about FINALLY donating enough magic dust to open the interdimensional portal so they can fight the monster and collect rewards …
And you’re like, I’m glad you’re so excited. Enjoy. I have work to do.
I did not think a game like this would be worth my time. You might not think creating an “inbound strategy” or “business blogging” or “email marketing” will be worth yours. At some point, you just gotta want that excitement the nerds have. It can be yours. Just try it.
- Identify goals or you will never win.
Starting to play this game was pretty overwhelming. It guides you – build a farm! now a sawmill! now a university! now barracks! – but I wondered, why? Wait, and you can actually spend real money on this? Why would anybody in their right mind do such a thing?
I realized this was not the kind of game with a single pre-defined goal. Nobody plays King of Avalon to, like, be King of Avalon. You’re competing against thousands (millions?) of players. I needed attainable goals along the journey to enjoy. Upgrading buildings, slaying barbarians and whatnot.
You don’t get into content marketing expecting to rule the world. You start with a modest goal, and work from there. Like generating 10 ideas for what to write about. Maybe you don’t even have a blog yet. You’ll get there.
- You will spend time on the wrong things.
Just like in real life (or “IRL” as the kids say – geez, I’m old) time is a highly valuable resource in this game. You have windows of opportunity to gain points in exchange for gold by gathering resources; to slay monsters; or sometimes to attack other players.
I learned pretty fast that I shouldn’t bother taking the time to train troops just before the “kill phase”. That’s when seasoned players come by and obliterate you with a few thumbs taps from the comfort of their international toilet seats.
That sucked, but I learned. You will learn to stop writing on topics your customers don’t care about; to spend less time writing emails and more on a list-building strategy; to just take a darn photo yourself instead of searching for hours through stock images. Learning and growing is fun. Enjoy the ride.
- Real people are your most vital resource.
I was invited to join an alliance almost immediately. I hesitated to respond. Actually interacting with other players? Geeking out over magic crystals and leveling up my dragon? I’ll pass.
I’m glad I accepted the invite. I learned so much by connecting with other players. And it turned out that interaction with real people, engaging with a team to defend against enemy alliances and gather resources to benefit the entire alliance, is really the most rewarding part of the game.
Yes, content marketing is about attaining “points” – increased traffic, ebook downloads, email opens, conversions of readers to customers – but it’s the connection with real people that will help you the most. You help them with valuable content, they help you with feedback and inform your strategy.
- You will lose “soft” progress, but nobody can take away your “hard” gains.
Once you get into this game, you start to get really attached to your resources. It’s no surprise that when an enemy alliance starts burning and pillaging, players get legit pissed. Long lines of asterisks in the chat box where the game has automatically blocked out cuss words abound.
Looky here. Losing ground is part of the game. Enemies stall your “soft” progress by killing and stealing. But once you level up anything – dragon, buildings, city – you can bounce back faster, train new troops and produce resources faster. That “hard” progress is fixed.
When busy-ness, competitors or writer’s block stalls your content and traffic disappears, it will suck. It’s a soft progress setback, but nothing can take away your hard, foundational progress. Because of what you have learned, you will bounce back with fresh new content that will blow your audience away.
- Progress is gradual. Your own accomplishments will sometimes surprise you.
King of Avalon is not about getting to the end. It’s just about getting to the next milestone, enjoying the journey, building camaraderie with other players, teaching, learning and getting stronger as you go.
One day, you wake up and realize just how strong you’ve gotten, how much of your corner of the map you and your alliance have conquered, how much momentum you’ve gained.
Yes, you should track conversions, but you can’t always track what leads to the sale: affinity, quality of life, gratitude, relationship. These immeasurable gains you get when you engage people with content that helps them solve problems will lead to bigger sales, longer term customers and referrals.
Do what I did and just get started. Dive in. Instead of putting little buildings into your city without any idea why, you’ll do this:
- Write down 10 questions your customers need answers to. Pick one, write 500 words or so to answer that question. Write it like a thoughtful letter to your best customer.
- Publish your article with a nice picture. If you have a blog, put it there. If not, get a free WordPress account, or maybe publish it on LinkedIn. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, email.
- Now go back and pick another one of your 10 questions. Do the above again. Give yourself a deadline. Can you only handle once a month? Great, get it done in 30 days. Repeat.
- Just enjoy connecting with real people through content. Enjoy the comments, shares, offline compliments. Keep the end goal in mind, but don’t be overly concerned with it yet.
- Don’t get discouraged when you fall behind. You’ve learned more than you realize. Keep at it. Expect organic conversions of readers to followers, to customers, to advocates.
- Develop your strategy as you go. Eventually you will house your blog on your own website; use a giveaway to entice people to subscribe to your email list; utilize email for sales. Eventually those subscribers will become your most loyal customers and an army of referrers.
Eventually, my stronghold will be up to Level 35. That’s going to take a while.
Oh well, I’ll get there. So will you.
Dedicated to the Freeforall alliance of Kingdom 504, Lunar Group, KoA. Most of which, I assume, are young enough to be my own children. Can anybody send me some wood?
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