The success strategy

April 13, 2012 7:28 am

Learning from others is a recipe for content marketing success

The Sydney Morning Herald’s MySmallBusiness section recently ran an insightful article by Nabi Saleh, the founder and executive chairman of Gloria Jean’s Coffee. In it, he talks about how having ‘a strong vision and valuing the input of those who serve and buy your product is vital to success’.

It’s a message that all small businesses – in fact, businesses of any size – would do well to keep in mind, but Mr Saleh’s points also have specific relevance and resonance for content marketers.

On success

‘The question that we get asked the most is “How did you create your success and what did it take to get there?” Our response is always the same – we set a clear vision, agreed on the values that would underpin the vision and stuck to it.’

On forming partnerships

‘Establishing [the vision] before the business started also helped us be very clear on the kind of people we wanted to form partnerships with.

‘When we refer to partners we mean our employees and our franchisees – they are the business and they are also responsible for its success. So we actively looked for partners who were aligned to our values – people with passion, commitment, ownership and purpose.’

On learning from mistakes

‘We opened our first two stores two weeks apart based on the American model, which was take-away style with no food or seating and a gift shop selling coffee merchandise. We quickly realised that this was not working.

‘Our guests told us they wanted tables and chairs and snacks to go with hot drinks. So we revisited the whole model, removed the gift shop and made coffee our hero.

‘The result is the style of coffee house you see today. The shocking reality is that we could have been out of business if we didn’t listen to our guests.’

On striving for improvement

Nabi Saleh (Image from

‘As a company we make a conscious effort to regularly connect our vision and values. At business planning time our leadership team are challenged to review how aligned their part of the business is to our vision and values. This process always uncovers areas for improvement plus reconnects everyone with our purpose.

‘It also results in our leadership team working on the business to ensure that all those employed in our teams are enjoying themselves. We encourage the leadership team to always look for the best in people – focus on their strengths, recognise them for the good that they do and never belittle them for their mistakes. This has been a key factor in our success, as it brings out the best in people and also creates an enjoyable workplace.

On having a focus

‘As a business owner and a leader you must stand for something, otherwise it is very easy to fall for any new idea – and a lack of focus creates confusion within a team.

‘Our values have shaped our focus on the community and our belief in people, building and changing lives. To be respected and loved you need to have an impact that is more than just yourself – what you do must have a greater impact.’

On laying solid foundations

‘Starting and running any business has an element of risk, so it’s important to lay a good foundation. A clear vision, mission and values along with an understanding of the culture you intend to create supported by a business plan, budget and cash flow will help set you on a path to success.’

So let’s see how those points apply to content marketers…

Success in content marketing

Having a clear vision is crucial. You need to know what you want to achieve and how you’re going to use your content to do it. If it’s increasing traffic to your website or social media sites, create engaging content that your audience will want to read or see and, better yet, interact with.

Fun, interesting articles, polls, questions, seeking feedback, competitions, requests for user-generated content and the like show your consumers that you not only work on their level, but you’re genuinely interested in their thoughts, opinions and suggestions.

As a result, you’re engaging them – and people want to do business with people they like.

Forming partnerships through content marketing

Content marketers need to form partnerships – with clients, with company employees who can help get the message across and, most importantly, with the consumers who will be receiving that message. Engage with them all and find out what they want to be in the best position of ensuring you – and your product – is able to give it to them.

Learning from mistakes in content marketing

Everyone makes mistakes; the trick is to learn from them. Look at the way Qantas mishandled last year’s plane-grounding debacle through its online and social media content. It seems the airline is yet to learn from its mistake, but others certainly can.

Not that mistakes have to be as large – and as public – as Qantas’. If you’ve posted content that doesn’t attract many reads or comments, consider why it hasn’t hit the mark with your audience and adjust accordingly. Similarly, learn from the content that has worked. And, when necessary, a genuine mea culpa can ensure lasting damage is not done.

Striving for improvement in content marketing

Laurel-resting may have worked for Roman emperors (although history would suggest otherwise), but it has no place in content marketing. A successful strategy has to keep evolving and simply repeating what was done before isn’t going to cut it in the ever-changing online and social media worlds.

The goal should be to attract new customers, not simply retaining existing ones, and that demands constant evaluation and not being afraid to try something new.

Having a focus in content marketing

Nebulous content serves no purpose. It has to be relevant to your audience, creating the engagement that will translate into sales or increased traffic or a larger market share. In other words, all content must be created with a clear goal in mind.

Solid foundations in content marketing

You must know your audience and you must be able to engage with them on their level. This is what the best writers, musicians, filmmakers, advertisers and marketers have always done. Your personal tastes are irrelevant – it’s the tastes of your audience that counts.

Hit the sweet spot that tantalises their metaphorical tastebuds and makes them wanting more and you’ve got a recipe for content marketing success.


The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.


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