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#ContentMarketingShow: How Poker Can Help You Become A Better Content Marketer

As a relatively new SEO creative, chronic word fanatic and 24/7 running fountain of weird imagination, I got to explore the minds of the most creative of them all – the thought processes of the content marketing world experts’ in London’s annual #ContentMarketingShow. They advised us to trigger emotions, use social currency and make things personal when creating content or sharing it with whole wide world. As expert as their advice was, one struck a chord higher than the rest: poker.

Now, let’s start off by saying that I’m not a hard core poker player. I’ve played it once or twice, managed to bluff once in a blue moon, even won a few times but mostly lost on countless occasions. Why? Because I was too focused on my own game and didn’t pay attention to the surrounding poker faces. Don’t get me wrong, every now and again I’d try to figure out if someone was bluffing or debate whether the sweat drops on their forehead meant they were extremely nervous or super excited but if you don’t read all the cards visible to you, your chances ain’t good. So how can you make your “luck” better? And how on earth does this have anything to do with content marketing? Let me explain…

Once upon a time (the time frame is a little blurry here but let’s assume we’re on the 21st century), Andrew Tipp – a writer, a strategist and a full time human being, according to his own words – came up with the idea of viewing the marketing world as a poker field. He put one and one together (harder than you think) and started playing with the possibility that by thinking like a poker player, one can become a better content marketer. Sounds odd, right? As it turns out, not really. To borrow Tipp’s words “inspiration can come from anywhere – we can learn a lot by looking at how pro gamblers approach things like data, information, strategy, competitors and results”, and turn that into successful marketing content. Let’s begin with data.

A Little Devil Called Data

Data is a double bladed sword; it has its perception and its reality. When you look underneath the fluff of perception, you find the reality – the reality that data tells a story from the beginning to the end, be it a straightforward story or not.

Next, Tipp asks, “What is poker?”

David Sklansky, a professional poker player, answers: “A game of decision making in the face of incomplete data.”

In other words, in poker, you must trust the so called poker tells, the insightful traits of poker mastering:

  • keep an eye on people’s betting pattern
  • their speech fluidity
  • hand gestures, facial expressions, the lot

Focus on the information available to you and what it’s telling you. In marketing terms that would mean, for example, Google’s tells: algorithm updates, evolution of semantic search and content gap opportunities. It’s incomplete data, but it’s data – in the creative world, that’s the best we’ve got.

The King of Expectations

Now, what should you expect from this data and tells? The expected value, quite simply. It can be positive or negative, but it should always have a long-term value. We all know, at least by now, that a pair of kings beats a pair of queens (in the game of poker that is, not in real life), so be sure to bet with the right hand when the hand is on your side, to make content with positive expected value:

  • create a 12-month strategy instead of prioritising activity over strategy
  • sell clients long term results instead of chasing quick wins to impress them
  • focus on the end game, don’t knee-jerk based on early metrics.

Sounds easy.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

However, in real life one can’t always have the winning hand – we have opponents in the game. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. This doesn’t mean company fusing or stealing ideas, the key is in researching your competitors in order to find out where they’re outplaying you.

  • Who are they targeting?
  • What’s their strategy?
  • What content are they producing?
  • What formats are they using?
  • Basically, what and how are they doing better than you?

Never undermine the power of your opponent as we can all learn from each other. And never ever, play the game the same way. As Tipp quotes “The most adaptable player will survive”. No client is the same and no content is exactly the same so why use the same strategy over and over again until it’s as dry as the Sahara? Instead,

  • create original content and strategies for each campaign
  • tailor your strategies
  • don’t rely on branded templates
  • create unique customer profiles and, most importantly, be prepared to adapt.

The client will benefit from it, your company will profit from it and you will grow from it.

It’s About the Little Things

And remember, it’s not about going all-in, it’s about the small wins. Follow the 70/20/10 principle:

  •  70% of content should be the bread and butter
  •  20% door-stop sandwiches
  • 10% experimental cooking

So when you do lose (and we all lose at some point), “avoiding the big losses is as good as creating the big wins”. Optimise your battles by minimising your losses.

If your brain isn’t all mushed up and can handle one more important poker game citation, “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em”. If the ideas simply aren’t good, don’t persist with them. We are all precious of our ideas and can’t face the idea of letting go of them because, well…the idea might have worked before, it came from the content audit, the client has already paid for it or it quite simply, was your precious idea (or the only idea!). Don’t use it – nobody wants to produce shit content. There, I’ve said it. Now, let’s become poker pros and take this to the battle ground.

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